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On April 27 of this year, craigslist, the online classified advertising behemoth, carried this small notice: “I am requesting information on Jeffry Wetzel from Poway, CA. We invested $135,000 with what he calls a hedge fund. MAXXUM EQUITY FUND LLC is a Nevada corporation. We have been trying to get our money back for over a year now. If anyone knows if he is a crook or a con artist please contact me immediately.” The identity of the person who placed the ad was not given, but he or she could be reached through an email link. The ad has since been taken down.

Gripes by people being fleeced in San Diego are routine, but there are two salient factors about Maxxum Equity Fund. First, Wetzel confirms, there are people who want out of this fund. And second, one investor in the fund is San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders. His statement of economic interest, filed under penalty of perjury with the City of San Diego, reveals that he has $10,000 to $100,000 invested in Maxxum. The mayor’s statements going back to 2005 also list the same investment.

The road by which Sanders got into the fund raises new questions about his ability, or willingness, to do due diligence, the process that a prudent investor undertakes to investigate the operations and management of an institution into which he intends to plunk money.

Sanders did not respond to requests for comment regarding this story, but Jeffry Wetzel, proprietor of Maxxum, did, describing how he met the future mayor and became his broker and subsequently his money manager.

According to Wetzel, before going into Maxxum, Sanders was investing his money through the now-shuttered Centex Securities, one of the smelliest brokerage houses in San Diego history. Wetzel was a stockbroker at Centex in 1998. Sanders’s Centex account “was reassigned to me” after a broker departed, says Wetzel. That’s important, because some of those brokers went to jail. Wetzel says he doesn’t know the name of the person who formerly handled the Sanders account.

It’s almost impossible to conclude that Sanders did his homework on Wetzel and Centex. Court records reveal that Wetzel has an alleged history of doing just what Centex was infamous for: engaging in rapid-fire buying and selling, or churning customers’ accounts to maximize brokerage commissions, and putting elderly people in wholly inappropriate, speculative stocks.

Wetzel claims he knows nothing about the craigslist ad. “I don’t know where they get $135,000,” he says. “Is somebody playing a joke?” But Wetzel admits some investors want to get their money back. “There are people who want to get out — they say, ‘Work us out as the market allows.’ ” He is hoping for a market recovery that will permit him to return the funds to investors without them getting skinned.

The market has been volatile, and Maxxum Equity Fund has suffered some losses, he allows. “I am trying to get people out without having the market take them out. My ultimate goal is not to have any new investors. The goal is that I will trade for only myself and my family.” (In his filing with the City, Sanders calls Maxxum a hedge fund and says he is a “partner” — a curious designation for a limited liability company, or LLC. Wetzel says that Maxxum is really a private equity fund, not a hedge fund, and Sanders is only a passive investor, having no role in ownership or management. The parent company, Maxxum Equity Holdings LLC, is registered in Nevada but is listed by the secretary of state’s office there as being in “default.” However, it does not appear that Maxxum Equity Fund has filed a securities registration in either Nevada or California.)

There may be investors who want to get out, but not at the slow pace Wetzel talks about. Certainly, the person who placed the craigslist ad, if the account is accurate, would be one. Thomas Vincent Moore of La Jolla earlier worked with Wetzel at Centex. Moore knows of someone “who has been trying to get his money out for the good part of six months,” he says. That investor has tried to learn the current status of the fund. (Wetzel wouldn’t tell us how much money is in the fund.) The investor has received some of his money but allegedly not what he requested.

We located the investor, who didn’t want to speak. Another person close to the investor says that Wetzel recruited him to join Wetzel’s insurance business. (Both Wetzel and his wife Kimberly, a stockbroker at Morgan Stanley in Rancho Bernardo, have insurance licenses.) But the insurance deal didn’t pan out.

Sources say that Wetzel told one investor wanting out that he could get his money as soon as more funds came in the front door. Wetzel strongly denies he said that. He also denies that he is paying an out-of-town investor $20,000 a month as a way of easing him out of the Maxxum fund.

According to one source, Wetzel boasted to potential clients that the mayor of San Diego had money in the fund.

Wetzel touts his track record — one at which savvy investors should cock an eyebrow. It shows Wetzel making 10.6 percent on the fund’s money during the last three quarters of 2001, a time of a vicious bear market. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index, the best measurement of the performance of the broad market, plunged 11.89 percent that year, including gains from dividends.

Wetzel claims his fund made 12.11 percent in 2002, a year in which the S&P 500 plus dividends plummeted 22.1 percent. Wetzel asserts he made the money being short — that is, betting that stocks would go down. Shorting stocks, however, is a treacherous business, even in bear markets. Any potential investor should check those 2001 and 2002 trades very closely.

Wetzel says he went to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, but didn’t graduate. He worked construction jobs for some time, then became a stockbroker with several firms. When he landed at the downtown La Jolla office of Centex in early 1998, he brought some of the accounts he had had while working with other firms.

But he got into trouble pushing cheap, speculative stocks on the elderly. According to allegations made in a San Diego Superior Court lawsuit, Wetzel, while with Torrey Pines Securities, sold conservative bond funds in an 81-year-old woman’s account and put $181,500 in a penny stock. After he took the account to Centex, he sold the penny stock for a $123,000 loss. He loaded her account with an inordinate pile of stock in the former Bank of Commerce of San Diego and rapidly bought and sold stock options. This was generating big commissions for Wetzel but not pleasing the elderly woman, who wrote the firm and instructed it to cease the trading activity.

“Apparently, Wetzel went to this terminally ill lady’s home and had her sign a form letter countermanding the instructions” of her earlier letter, alleged the attorney who pushed the lawsuit. In 2002, an arbitration panel assessed a sum of $110,625 against Torrey Pines and Wetzel and $91,633 against Centex and Wetzel. Torrey Pines and Wetzel paid up. But as late as 2004, Centex, which by that time was closed, had not paid its portion, and neither had Wetzel, according to documents. We have not reached the attorney to determine if the sum was ever paid. Wetzel insists it was.

A similar complaint, filed in San Diego Superior Court in 2004, concerned Philip Boad, who was in his mid-80s when Wetzel took his account to Centex. According to the attorney in the case, Wetzel sold conservative municipal bonds and loaded up Boad’s account with Bank of Commerce stock that eventually was sold for a loss of $212,000. (A former bank official does not remember Wetzel, Centex, or the incident.)

The suit states that Wetzel was engaging in rapid-fire buying and selling of speculative stocks and stock options — hardly appropriate for an elderly gentleman who wanted safety of principal. This old man asked that the trading cease, and Wetzel went to his house and allegedly talked him out of it. An arbitration panel in 2002 told Centex to pay the victim $139,715 plus interest and Centex and Wetzel to pay $163,789 plus interest. In 2004, the money had not been paid. Again, Wetzel says he has settled up, but we haven’t been able to reach the attorney or the old man’s survivors to confirm that.

Centex is a story in itself. Throughout its existence, it had a reputation as a bucket shop. It was shuttered by the National Association of Securities Dealers in 2001 for failing to pay fees from 23 arbitration proceedings. In its 14-year history, there had been 13 regulatory actions against Centex.

Before it was shut, its chief executive, Bruce Biddick, attempted to bribe a mutual fund manager to pay above-market prices for two stocks. The kickback was to be $2 million, and one-fifth of that sum would bounce back to Biddick. The transaction was to be disguised through an entity in that haven of original financial sin, Switzerland. The mutual fund manager, however, turned out to be an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent in a government sting called Bermuda Short. Biddick was sentenced to four months in prison.

Centex had other brokers who ran afoul of the law, including Ron Brouillette, who got nailed for running a pump-and-dump scheme. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Brouillette created phony trades to inflate a penny stock, then told lies about the deal to customers. Other Centex brokers were notorious on the San Diego penny stock scene, including Marshall Klein, who pleaded guilty in 2004 to wire, mail, and securities fraud, and Marvin Susemihl, who got into trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission in a golf promotion.

In 2003 in New York, an associate of the Colombo organized crime family was charged with running a stock scam out of a Centex office.

“Centex was one of those places you try to forget about,” says Wetzel. “I never did deals that Biddick had offered — not one single share. I wouldn’t know Brouillette if I passed him on the street.”

Moore, Wetzel’s former coworker at Centex, has an equally low opinion of the company and its brokers. However, Moore has gone on to financial troubles of his own. He became a salesman for Universal Money Traders, in Solana Beach, which told suckers it could make them huge returns through its trading of foreign currencies. In 2005, the California Department of Corporations slapped an enforcement action on the head of the firm, Mark Todd Hauze, along with Moore and two others. The action “was an error. I was not a principal,” claims Moore.

In 2007, Hauze was indicted on 19 counts of fraud. Moore was not indicted, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office won’t comment on the reason. The U.S. government charged that Hauze was using new money that came in from clients to pay off investors who wanted to withdraw their funds. That is a Ponzi scheme. “I had put my own brother and father into Universal Money Traders,” says Moore. “It turned out it was a very, very poor investment. Myself and my clients lost millions. We had no knowledge of what Mark Hauze was doing.” (The case has not yet been resolved.)

In 2004, Moore went bankrupt with assets of $31,000 and liabilities of $425,000. He owed the Internal Revenue Service, Franchise Tax Board, credit card companies, and collection agencies and had not paid an assessment of $126,000 from a dispute with a customer while he was with Centex.

Wetzel admits that on one occasion, he paid Moore a finder’s fee for steering a client to Maxxum. Old Centex colleagues keep the fires of friendship glowing, it appears.

This isn’t the only time Sanders has been involved with edgy investments. In 2002, after resigning as chief executive officer of United Way of San Diego County, Sanders became president of a company named Virtual Capital of California, set up to exploit high-tech advances. Sanders owned 10 percent. So did William Robert Bradley, cofounder of the scandal-plagued, bankrupt Metabolife, maker of pep/diet pills containing the deadly ephedra.

Bradley had gotten his stake in Virtual Capital by turning over Las Vegas land. The land was accepted in lieu of cash three years after word of the criminal pasts of Metabolife’s founders had hit the news.

When Sanders was a cop, he knew Bradley, who was then a tow-truck operator. Cops and tow-truck operators get very chummy. Bradley’s two Metabolife cofounders, Mike Ellis and Mike Blevins, should have been well known to cops. They got busted in 1988 for making methamphetamine in Rancho Santa Fe. Ellis got probation, and Blevins went to the slammer. Later they founded Metabolife, which prospered handsomely.

But as customers got ill and died from the product, the government stepped in, particularly after Ellis falsely said the company had not received complaints. The company went under as the feds closed in.

In 2002, an affidavit by an Internal Revenue Service agent charged that Bradley, along with his two Metabolife cofounders, was skimming money out of Metabolife and stashing it in offshore tax havens. Bradley pleaded guilty to seven counts of tax evasion in 2005 and the next year was sentenced to six months of confinement.

Virtual Capital never went anywhere, and according to its founder, Coronado investor Tom Stickel, the investors lost their money.

Even though Metabolife’s putrid past had become public long before Bradley was recruited to invest in Virtual Capital of California, Sanders apparently felt no qualms about reuniting with his old tow-truck friend. Are they still chummy? Sanders isn’t talking.

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Don Bauder May 28, 2008 @ 2:05 p.m.

Response to post #1: Yes, Matt and I have looked into Willow Creek. Thanks for the additional information. Agreed: Sanders's private sector investments have proved he is not qualified to handle a city's finances. Best, Don Bauder


JohnnyVegas May 28, 2008 @ 3:44 p.m.

Wetzel better be careful the DA is not lurking around the corner with a financial elder abuse indictment, because based on what I have read here he is a prime candidate for getting slammed with some serious felony charges that could put him away for decades.

The type of conduct he engaged in is despicable. Ripping off old men and woman, living on fixed incomes trying to enjoy their final years. This guy is a scumbag. Wetzel, you better save some of that scam loot, because I am going to send a link of this article to the DA's office as soon as I post this.

Ron "RD" Brouillette was an assistant manager at precious metal broker Monex in the late 80's when they had a UTC office. Has a son named Todd Brouillette who was one of the top salesmen at Monex.


Fred Williams May 28, 2008 @ 4:01 p.m.


The more we learn about Sanders, the more there is to dislike.

Even dreadlocked Eric Bidwell is better with finance than Sanders.

Time to Change San Diego before it's too late.


JohnnyVegas May 28, 2008 @ 5 p.m.

Eric Bidwell is not just better than Sanders in finance, he is light years ahead of Sanders in finance.

I also suspect, based on his frugal spending and being self supporting on $500 a month, that he is the only candidate for Mayor that could acutally balance this Cities budget.


Don Bauder May 28, 2008 @ 5:28 p.m.

Response to post #3: The Ron Brouillette who got in trouble with Centex, and later with the DA, is the son of the Monex Ron Brouillette, I believe. I didn't know the father had another son named Todd. Best, Don Bauder


pennyjunkie May 17, 2012 @ 12:53 p.m.

And Brouillette is out of prison and back in business.


Don Bauder May 28, 2008 @ 5:33 p.m.

Response to post #4: The key question with Sanders is this: what was he doing as a Centex customer in 1998? That firm was a slimeball operation during its entire existence. It pushed penny stocks on customers, particularly the elderly. What stocks did Sanders buy when his account was at Centex? Highly speculative junk stocks? Was he in on other Centex monkey business? Why did he let Wetzel handle his account after Centex was closed up by authorities? I think Sanders should come forward. He won't. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder May 28, 2008 @ 5:36 p.m.

Response to post #5: I think that Steve Francis, having been a CEO of a large publicly held company, could handle the financial duties of being mayor. And maybe Bidwell could, too, as long as his hair didn't get caught in the computer. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder June 4, 2008 @ 12:44 p.m.

Response to post #11: Forecasting elections in San Diego is a parlous business. Don't ever put money on an election outcome. Best, Don Bauder


historymatters May 29, 2008 @ 2:57 p.m.

Are you looking into how Willow Creek Partners is involved in the 400 million Blackwater scandal? Raymond Lutz of Citizens' Oversight that has been looking into the Blackwater situation says:

"At this point, we believe it is in the public's best interest if the inquiry is expanded to include the inaction of Mayor Sanders who delayed the stop-work order for three weeks so that Blackwater could complete their facility, have it inspected and approved by the GSA and then land an extended contract for paramilitary training in the facility."


Don Bauder June 4, 2008 @ 12:46 p.m.

Response to post #12: I don't remember your saying you would go to Hong Kong if Sanders won, but you may have. Best, Don Bauder


anony_mous June 4, 2008 @ 1:59 p.m.

Sorry JV, but by including your post it should be obvious I was refering to that specific post, in which you were 0 for 2. If I recall correctly, you have been quite vociferous in your predictions about Sanders' demise over the last year or so. Also your strong predictions about the failure Prop C, especially your $50 wager, come to mind, especially in light of the overwhelming vote in it's favor. As a sidebar, if I remember correctly, for many months you were predicting an outright victory by Aguirre. It has only been in the last few weeks that you have amended your stand to include the possiblility of a runoff victory. Could it be that your confidence is beginning to waiver just a bit? You've taken to using the phrase " if Mike wins" lately. Although I hate to say it, in my opinion Aguirre faces some pretty long odds that a majority of the 70% of voters that voted against him this time will come over to his side in November. As for Hong Kong, well.....

" Like I said last year-Sanders is history-he will not be re elected, and if he is re elected I am moving to Hong Kong, or some other responsible and booming City that has their act together." By JohnnyVegas 7:45 a.m., Apr 4, 2008.

It's not that I disagree with every opinion you have. Nobody's perfect Johnny. But despite what you may think you're just not any closer to it than the rest of us.


JohnnyVegas June 4, 2008 @ 4:34 p.m.

Hey, you can't win'em all.

As for Hong Kong, it is generaly considered to be the "Capitalist City of the World", and as such is also the most expensive city in the world.

I could never afford Hong Kong, but if money were no object I would move there, if I could handle the rain.


JohnnyVegas June 4, 2008 @ 8:49 a.m.

4 more years of Col KFC Sanders...I cannot believe he was re elected, boggles the mind how anyone could vote for Sanders again after these last 3 years of nothing-and now we are stuck with him for another 4 years....Oh Brother.

On the bright side Carl DiMaio will bring a positive balance to the clowncil's pro public union slant-and although Mike did not get the margin of victory I thought he would, he still did his job- with no campaigning.

Peters and Brian M are finished in public life. Phewwww, glad the are history at least.


anony_mous June 4, 2008 @ 2:18 p.m.

Don, I agree with you completely. Goldsmith will likely get both labor and business to support him. And, probably just as importantly, their money. Aguirre has said he prefered to let voters judge him by his record since 2005 in the City Attorney's Office. I just don't think there is any chance that organized labor will support him, given his attacks on their precious pension system. It seems that it will be difficult for Aguirre to raise much money and I don't think he has the personal resources either. Since about 3/4 of the voters voted against him (and his record), things don't look too good for him come November


Fred Williams June 4, 2008 @ 3:09 p.m.

Don't feel too bad Johnny, I have a long track record of supporting losing candidates.

I'm considering opening a political consulting business. For a fee, I'll support the other side, thus guaranteeing their defeat.

It's demoralizing to see through these scams, recognize how badly it could all go wrong, do my utmost to sound the alarm and get people out to vote, and always lose.

Well, I've got very portable job skills, including a lifetime work permit issued by the Swedish government. They're eager for me to work on moble software and pay their taxes. I can also go back to Prague anytime, and since I speak the language get a very nice position and enjoy some of the best beer in the world.

But, dammit, I love San Diego and care deeply about our future here. I know that Cassandra got nothing but grief for being right about things, and perhaps I deserve the same fate, but I can't help doing whatever I can to try to avert what is coming at us. Watch out for 2009. There's big trouble looming.

I'd rather stand and fight than slink away.

So in a few months we've got the general election and I'll be right back out walking precincts, knocking on doors and talking to voters. We may not win but I'll know I did my best.

Still, I'd rather win occassionally.


anony_mous June 4, 2008 @ 10:26 a.m.


Prop C is DOA-especially after the Reader/Don Bauder weighed in today. Stick a fork in Col. Sanders, he's done. By JohnnyVegas 12:54 p.m., May 15, 2008

0 for 2. JV Must be feeling pretty bad to day. So Johnny now that Sanders has won are you getting ready for your move to Hong Kong?


Don Bauder May 29, 2008 @ 8:30 p.m.

Response to post #9: Yes, I saw Lutz's note on that. Matt and I have looked at Willow Creek before. I don't know that it has any relationship with Blackwater. But it's worth checking again. Best, Don Bauder


JohnnyVegas June 4, 2008 @ 12:03 p.m.

Not 0 for 2.

I also had Mike winning (or going on to November), same with Marti and Carl.

So I was 3 for 5.

I must say though, the Sanders loss is a very tough pill to swallow.

Did I really say I was going to move to Hong Kong if Sanders won?????


Don Bauder June 4, 2008 @ 12:42 p.m.

Response to post #10: Sanders has four more years, but he may not enjoy them. You can only get by with smoke and mirrors for a time. In the city attorney race, Goldsmith will get the backing of both labor and business, and the money of both. He will be loaded with money. I can think of few politicians who took on both labor and business during a reform incumbency. Aguirre did, and seems to be paying for it. But there are several more months before the election. The telling vote was the overwhelming victory for Prop. C. If you have ever wondered why crooks take up residence in San Diego to prey on the residents, this vote tells you all you need to know. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder June 5, 2008 @ 7:37 a.m.

Response to post #16: In making his predictions on Sanders, Aguirre, and Prop. C, Johnny was betting against the power of San Diego's big money. That's a dangerous bet in a plutocracy. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder June 5, 2008 @ 7:44 a.m.

Response to post # 17: The big money (both business and labor) will overwhelmingly support Goldsmith. So will Sanders. However, Sanders's support of Goldsmith may well work in Aguirre's favor. The public will correctly perceive that Goldsmith will be in the pockets of the real estate developers, where Sanders resides. I'm not sure that the support of the MEA will work in Goldsmith's favor that much. San Diegans are beginning to realize that excessive pay and pensions of city workers, particularly safety workers, are draining the city financially. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder June 5, 2008 @ 7:47 a.m.

Response to post #18: As I have said in another post, some people have long pondered why crooks set up business in San Diego. The reason is that they view the election returns and see what suckers the people are. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder June 5, 2008 @ 7:50 a.m.

Response to post #19: The rain is only one of the things you have to dodge in Hong Kong. You also have to watch out for the financiers. Best, Don Bauder


JohnnyVegas June 5, 2008 @ 9:09 a.m.

Mike Aguirre was OUTSPENT 30-1 on the prmary.

Mike did not even campaign and he still pulled 29% to Goldsmiths 32%. So I am not worried about November.

The real question is who are the swing voters (the other 40%) going to vote for???

Also remember that November is a PRESIDENTIAL election, and the voter turnout will be sky high-this will work in Mike's favor (I think). The turnout for this past primary was for us, hardcore voters who know the issues inside out.

So, hello November!


Don Bauder June 5, 2008 @ 2:30 p.m.

Response to post #25: The Democratic Party will probably back Aguirre, who barely missed getting that support in the primary. But many Democrats such as the MEA will oppose him. The November national election should be a plus for Aguirre. Best, Don Bauder


selfcntred March 20, 2009 @ 12:22 p.m.

Does anyone know if this Wetzel guy is still taking peoples money under Maxxum Financial Group? I think my father-in-law might be involved in the same scheme.


selfcntred Oct. 14, 2009 @ 2:01 a.m.

Jeffry James Wetzel and his wife Kimberly Wetzel of Morgan Stanley are filing Chapter 7 Bankrupcy.

Also, found this from Nevada:

COURT ENTERS FINDINGS REGARDING JEFFRY WETZEL The Commission announced that on March 17 the United States District Court for the Southern District of Nevada found that Jeffry Wetzel (Wetzel) violated and aided and abetted certain of the antifraud and books and records provisions of the federal securities laws. The Court found that Wetzel failed to act with the requisite intent to violate certain other provisions and, based upon Wetzel's lack of intent, as well as his agreement to make restitution in the amount of $48,000 to certain customers,denied the Commission's request for a permanent injunction against Wetzel. The Court found that Wetzel, while employed at two brokerage firms between 1987 and 1988, offered and sold securities in a penny stock company to investors without informing them of a manipulative scheme involving the securities, that he vas receiving excessive commissions for selling these securities, and that the investors could experience difficulty in selling the securities unless Wetzel found a buyer for an equal or greater number of shares. Furthermore, the Court found that Wetzel arbitrarily completed an opening account form with information which he had not obtained from the customer. [SEC v. Jeffry Wetzel, et al., CV-S-92-l083-HDM, LRL,USDC, SD Nevada] (LR-14038)


bartk March 15, 2010 @ 8:21 p.m.

I still don't understand why this Jeffry Wetzel in not in jail. Meanwhile his kids all have paid college tuition at the expense of others in a Ponzi scheme. Where is the justice? I guess crime does pay.


SurfPuppy619 April 7, 2010 @ 8:48 p.m.

I still don't understand why this Jeffry Wetzel in not in jail

i wonder the same thing.

Hopefully the authorities are working on something, but for this clown to rip off the elderly for as long as he has is disgusting, it is the bottom of the barrel.

He not only needs to be stopped, but IMO incarcerated ofr a few decades.


selfcntred May 17, 2010 @ 2:17 p.m.

Talking about the Mayor and his ties with towing companies:

What is with this tow happy city? Maybe they should change it from Americas Finest City to just Americas Fine City.

My family went down to volunteer for The Navy’s 24th Original Bay Bridge Run/Walk on May 16, 2010. What a great event and we had a good time. Only to come back and find our car had been towed. The reason was because of a Padres game. I don’t mind being ticketed for not reading the teeny tiny sign that said you can park here all Sundays and Holiday except for TODAY. But I do mind having my car, with my handicap placard, towed and paying a $180 tow charge (the tow yard is a mile away) and the City adding on a $120 charge plus the initial ticket of $40. I have been here during Padre games and normally they put out temporary signs on the street stating no parking because of an event.

As I found a way to get to the towing yard I found many other people that got stuck in the similar situation. On the street I was on there were six spots to park. Instead of the confusion why don’t they just make it all no parking. Because the City would lose out on at least $840 every Padre game. I am done with San Diego and the mayors contract with the towing companies.


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