He's being pursued by creditors and accused of fraud, but Psychic Friends Network founder Michael W. Lasky isn't letting that keep him from possible thoroughbred glory.
His horse, Hot Wells, a 30-1 long shot, is entered in today's Preakness. A victory would pay about $750,000, which might make Hot Wells fans out of Lasky's lenders if they seek those winnings to help pay off the outstanding debts.
Lasky, a former tout and longtime racing enthusiast, says he doesn't care if his winnings, or the horse, end up in the hands of creditors as long as he's got a shot at being a Preakness victor.
"If someone wants to take away the medal they can," Lasky said. "But I still would have the feat. That's what matters. They could never take that away."
Lasky learned to handicap horse races from his father, who published a tip sheet at the New York tracks under the name Harvey Ames. Lasky did the same in Baltimore using the name Mike Warren, expanding the business to include other sports-betting advice.
He's owned horses for many years. His operation, So What's Nu Stable, has about 10 horses split between stalls in Kentucky and at Pimlico, down from a high of 25. He bought Hot Wells for $12,500 at a claiming race in Kentucky in August. The gelding has turned in a mixed performance in some stakes races this year, including a fourth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby.
"I think he's good enough to win this race. I really do," Lasky said.
That would not be inconsistent with Lasky's other investments, which have overcome long odds to win big until recently. He built Pikesville-based Inphomation Communications Inc. into an infomercial powerhouse, using singer Dionne Warwick as a celebrity spokeswoman and "900" phone lines to ring up big bucks by pairing callers with the company's telephone psychics.
But his luck has not been as good recently. Inphomation filed for protection from its creditors in bankruptcy court Feb 2. A federal judge, citing evidence of "concealment, dishonesty and less than full disclosure," ordered the company put into the hands of an outside trustee, Paul Michael Sweeney.
In a separate case in March, NationsBank sued Lasky and Inphomation, seeking repayment of a $1.5 million personal loan and a $5 million line of credit and alleging that Lasky fraudulently pledged some assets as collateral. The bank is seeking $2.5 million in compensation and $5 million in punitive damages.
Earlier this month, a Baltimore Circuit Court judge entered a judgment against Lasky in the NationsBank case, court documents state. A collection plan has not been set, sources XTC say.
James Vidmar, Sweeney's law partner, said the idea of Lasky saddling a horse on network television for the Preakness may not sit well with creditors.
"I'm sure it doesn't give them the warm fuzzies," he said.
One creditor, Pennsylvania businessman Anthony Lubrano, declined to comment.
If his stable becomes embroiled in the legal actions, Lasky said he would move on.
"C'est la vie," Lasky said. "It's the best of times and the worst of times."
Pub Date: 5/16/98