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Thursday, January 29, 2004

NY Post: Martha Stewart’s Westport Friend Battling Financial and Legal Problems

The New York Post reports that the Westport real estate agent described as Martha Stewart’s best friend, who has been called to testify against her in her stock fraud trial resuming today in Manhattan, is a “mercurial” Connecticut real-estate agent battling her own financial and legal problems.

Mariana Pasternak, 50, who the Post said “lives in a tony beach house in Westport,” has known Stewart for more than 20 years.

The newspaper said its research into her background included a check of records at the Westport Town Clerk’s office.

Stewart is the godmother of two of Pasternak’s daughters, Monica, 20, and Lara, 17, and once took them on an exotic trip to the Galapagos Islands, the newspaper said.

“They’ve been close for a long, long time, so I don’t know how they’re going to handle this can of worms,” said one acquaintance quoted by the Post.

Government prosecutors told jurors Tuesday that Pasternak would deliver important testimony about Stewart’s sale of almost 4,000 ImClone shares while the pair were flying to Mexico for a vacation in December 2001.

Apart from the stress of having to testify against her pal, Pasternak is knee-deep in financial problems, according to records filed at the Westport Town Clerk’s office, the newspaper said.

Two federal tax liens have been filed against her property for a total of $380,000.

Another two liens show Pasternak hasn’t paid more than $12,000 in taxes to Westport. the Post said.

A local builder, Juno Filho, of Southern New England Renovations, is also suing Pasternak for an unpaid $83,000 for renovations, the files say.

One acquaintance said Pasternak has recently put her Westport property on the market for $1.7 million.

She bought the property for $908,000 just over three years ago, around the time she split with her husband, surgeon Bart Pasternak.

“Mariana is a mercurial type of person. She’s demanding and she looks after herself first,” one acquaintance said.

Sources told The Post last year that Stewart stepped in to pay tens of thousands of dollars of legal bills for Pasternak just before she began speaking with the government in 2002 about Stewart’s ImClone sale.

The fees arrangement could raise problems with witness credibility, but the government hopes Pasternak will back up the testimony of star witness Douglas Faneuil, the rookie broker who handled Stewart’s ImClone stock sale, the newspaper said.

Faneuil, who begins his testimony today, will say Stewart sold the shares after he told her ImClone founder Sam Waksal was trying desperately to dump all of his family’s shares, the government says.

Pasternak will testify that Stewart told her Waksal was selling, the feds say, according to the newspaper.

Pasternak did not return calls for comment, the Post said.

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Posted 01/29/04 at 11:24 AM  Permalink



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