John B. Torkelsen’s lavish offices on Vaughn Drive had light oak
parquet floors, built-in light oak cabinets, simulated oak ceiling
beams, and a unique mirror design – mirrors that bounced off mirrors,
as many as five lined up so those in the executive office could see
The luxury of this office paled when compared to Torkelsen’s home on
an acre of land in Princeton’s expensive Western section. It had 17
rooms, including seven bedrooms, 7.5 baths, a 35-foot living room, two
solariums, a pool, and a two-story luxury cabana with a Lalique
On June 22 Torkelsen checked into the Federal Correctional Institution
in Morgantown, West Virginia, a minimum security prison. He had been
sentenced to 70 months in prison on one criminal charge: Making false
statements to the U.S. Small Business Administration on February 10,
2002. He must also pay more than $1.9 million in restitution to the
SBA and be subject to five years supervision after he is released.
Next week Torkelsen is scheduled to receive his work assignment, which
might be groundskeeping, food service, orderly work (cleaning),
plumbing, or painting, but he could also be assigned to tutor a fellow
inmate. Inmates can take vocational training in computers, graphics,
or welding. According to a Forbes article on "Best Prisons," the
facility also offers classes in leatherwork, wood carving, and art.
Formerly the Kennedy Center for troubled juveniles, Morgantown was
converted to a federal prison in 1969. It has several dormitory-style
housing units and it also has some two-person rooms. Most of the 1,300
male inmates are here for drug offenses, according to Veronica
Fernandez, public information officer. She notes that though
Torkelsen’s sentence is 70 months, he might get that sentence reduced
for good behavior.
A minimum security prison has the most relaxed rules in the federal
system, yet the regulations for visitors seem restrictive. Visitors
may not wear khaki clothing or sleeveless blouses, and they may bring
only three items: a small clear change purse, $20 in currency to use
in vending machines, and nitroglycerine pills.
The prison is a couple of hours away from the facility where Martha
Stewart served her time. Earlier Torkelsen had been slated to go to
the minimum security prison in Fairton, New Jersey, 92 miles south of
Torkelsen and members of his family had been charged with the theft of
$1.9 million of Acorn Technology Fund monies and the misapplication of
$32 million in federal funds. Before starting the fund Torkelsen was
an expert witness who valued technology companies for plaintiff
securities firms, particularly Milberg Weiss. Torkelsen was convicted
in November, 2005.
Pamela Torkelsen, his 44-year-old wife, has pleaded guilty to
interstate transportation of stolen or fraudulently obtained property.
With this plea the former owner of an antique shop in South Carolina
agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the investigation of alleged
theft of more than $1.9 million in company funds. Torkelsen’s son Leif
was named in a civil complaint, along with his father.
John Torkelsen had been a favorite expert witness for Milberg Weiss
attorney William Lerach, the recognized king of shareholder
class-action suits. His former company, Princeton Venture Research,
provided valuations and appraisals of both public and private
companies, primarily for the financing of small technology companies.
Torkelsen had funded at least three Princeton firms – Mikros Systems
Corp., Princeton Video Image, and VeriVoice. At one point he had 47
people on Vaughn Drive plus an office in San Diego.
The Torkelsens’ 6,000 square-foot home on Library Place brought just
under $3.5 million at a sheriff’s sale.
`The history of the world has been changed by very small factors,"
says David Wanetick, CEO of a Forrestal Village-based executive
education firm, Incremental Advantage. "Hitler was almost run over by
Also, says Wanetick, the leading partner in a law firm may earn five
times as much as his cohorts, but he cannot work five times as hard as
they do. It must be the star’s "incremental advantage," the "little
extra something," that makes the difference.
Wanetick uses the "very small factor" stance in his pitches to high
level executives, who are notoriously very difficult to educate
because they already know so much – or think they do. His company
stages 25 conferences and seminars on a variety of topics for
executives from all over the world. Costs range from $800 to $1,200.
"If we can give these executives a little advantage, that is magnified
several fold," say Wanetick. His 10-person firm moved in June from
Manhattan to Princeton Forrestal Village and is hiring a marketing
person and a conference sponsorship director. Bill Barish of
Commercial Property Network represented Wanetick in the lease
negotiations. For his IT paraphernalia, he turned to Princeton
Computer Support, and Office Furniture by Barringer is providing the
The son of a surgeon in San Francisco, Wanetick majored in economics
and political science at Bucknell, Class of `88. He worked for Merrill
Lynch in New York, then went off on his own, focusing on research, to
do his own publications and newsletters. He wrote two books on the
method of conducting industry analyses and taught this subject for 11
years; he has lectured internationally and has made three appearances
If you want to know the metrics to evaluate pharmaceuticals, says
Wanetick, you need different tools from those used to analyze an oil
company. "Mine are the only two books that walk investors through
these," says Wanetick.
"I concluded that what was taught in business schools is too generic.
When I applied to teach at the New York Institute of Finance, I didn’t
know what I wanted to teach but I showed them research – I had broken
down my notes into different industries, such as pharma, energy, and
retail. `Just walk them through your notes,’ was the dean’s reply, and
we developed a course called industry analysis." At that time he was
writing the book, and it was synergistic – the book fed his lectures,
and vice versa.
Detailed industry analysis, Wanetick claims, is still not taught in
business schools. "It is extremely difficult to grasp or to give real
life examples," he says. One instructor would have to be up on many
different industries that are constantly changing. Most analysts spend
their careers in the same industry. And students don’t necessarily
want to apply themselves that much. "In the real world you have to do
original thinking and that is not always what students want to do."
Senior level executives, on the other hand, welcome such challenges.
"Teaching them is part entertainment, but they are demanding, and they
want real life examples."
Wanetick’s business used to be partnered with the Wall Street
Transcript. Before that, it was housed with the New York Society of
Security Analysts at the World Trade Center.
"We believe that Princeton is close enough to New York and Washington
to provide us with a very high-caliber talent pool. As a
research-centric business, access to a highly educated labor market is
of critical importance," says Wanetick.
IncreMental Advantage, 116 Village Boulevard, Suite 309, Princeton
08540; 609-919-1895; fax, 347-438-3218. David Wanetick, managing
Randolph Hanks has left Wachovia Bank to found First Choice Bank, the
first new community bank in Mercer County since 1999, and he aims to
open on Whitehead Road in Lawrenceville. First Choice Bank is in the
organization stage, having made its application to the state, and it
is rehabbing a building formerly occupied by Fleet Bank.
As Wachovia’s director of business banking, Hanks met the movers and
shakers who have invested from $50,000 to $200,000 toward the
$1,500,000 required by the state to establish the bank. They exceeded
the minimum, reaching $1,750,000.
If Princeton’s track record prevails, the organizers can expect a good
return. "Carnegie Bank and First Washington, for instance, had healthy
returns – it’s been a good market for small banks in Mercer County and
New Jersey overall," says Hanks. And the next newest bank in Mercer
County, Hopewell Valley Community Bank, opened in 1999 and now has
The organizers who will also serve on the board: Herbert Ames, former
county economic development director and now with the Devin Group;
Steven Doerler of Doerler Landscapes; Nancy Dudas of Innovative
Commercial Interiors; Geoffrey Morsell of Sharbell Development;
Matthew Pribila of WithumSmith+Brown; James Radvany of Source One
Services; Luis Rivera of Avila Construction; Munish Sood of Princeton
Advisory Group; Charles Stines of KQI Marketing Group; and Richard
Weise of Xerographic Document Solutions. Also investing are Gregory
Blair of Nottingham Insurance; David Fried of Tricor and also the
mayor of Washington Township; Michael Mann of Pepper Hamilton; and
Gregory Scozzari of the construction firm V.J. Scozzari and Sons.
Hanks, the son of a U.S. Army sergeant first class who won a Bronze
Star in Vietnam, graduated in 1988 from Rider University and began
working for what was then called New Jersey National and is now
Wachovia. He and his wife, Judy, have one son.
Hanks follows Sean Murray out the Wachovia door. Murray had left a job
as Wachovia’s director of wealth management to open Wilmington Trust’s
Princeton office (U.S. 1, June 21). The grand opening for First Choice
will be later this year.
First Choice Bank (in Organization), 669 Whitehead Road, Lawrenceville
08648; 609-462-2684; fax, 609-631-8803. Randolph Hanks, president and
CEO. Home page: www.firstchoice-bank.com
Philadelphia Insurance has moved from 3525 Quakerbridge Road, Ibis
Plaza, to Lenox Drive, going from 25 to 33 workers, and from 4,500
feet to 6,500 feet, With $2 billion in assets, it has 37 branches in
32 states, but has its headquarters in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. Of
the 33 employees here, seven are in sales.
The firm writes commercial property and casualty insurance and it
focuses on health clubs, nonprofit groups, schools, hotels, shopping
centers, and professional liability for lawyers and accountants. In
addition to the usual areas, such as employment practices liability,
discrimination, sexual harassment, and wrongful termination, it
provides identity theft, workplace violence, specialized loss control
services, and terrors in travel reimbursement coverage.
"Over the last 10 years, it has been one of the most profitable
companies in America," says Brian O’Reilly, regional vice president,
"because we offer value added coverages in specific niches. We are
competitive, but not the cheapest game in town."
A native of Hamilton Township, O’Reilly was a history major at
Lafayette College, Class of 1990, and has been with the firm for 16
years. He and his wife, Chris, went to Notre Dame High School. They
have a school-aged son and daughter. One of O’Reilly’s two sisters
works at New Jersey Manufacturers.
"I was looking for a job out of Lafayette, and they were looking for
young sales reps," he says. "I interviewed with Jim Maguire, founder
of the company which he had started as a one-man agency in 1962." At
Metropolitan Life, Maguire had made his reputation as a young
salesperson by learning sign language, and he set records selling to
the hearing impaired. "He found a niche within the life insurance
industry, and that is how he built this company – by getting into
"We are the premiere writer of nonprofit organizations and health
clubs nationally," says O’Reilly. "We insure a board for the decisions
they make. For a nonprofit, most of the exposure is for is
employment-related practices, sexual harassment, and discrimination."
O’Reilly’s own special niche is the nonprofits. They need training for
everything from how to avoid abuse and molestation issues to how to
safely drive a 15-passenger van. "We do schools and daycare centers,
and we found out we that included some churches, so we just started a
church program in the last year." At the firm’s website
(www.losscontrol.com) clients can get training manuals and aids to
help them manage their exposures.
Chris Bieberbach of Brandywine Realty in Mount Laurel represented the
landlord and John Comp of NAI Fennelly and William Deasey of NAI Geis
Realty represented the tenant.
"The average client stays with us for 10 years, and we have zero debt
on our balance sheet. The only thing that could hurt us is writing bad
business, and we are tough up front," says O’Reilly. Unlike one of its
competitors, New Jersey Manufacturers, it does not write workers
compensation. Says O’Reilly: "It is a tough area to be profitable in."
Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY), 1009 Lenox Drive, Suite 107,
Lawrenceville 08648; 609-512-3140; fax, 609-512-3141. Brian O’Reilly,
regional vice president. www.phly.com
Lt. Keith J. Hillman, 40, on July 5. He was a lieutenant in the West
Windsor police department.
Michel Jean Martin, 62, on July 14. He was a vice president at Huber
Inc. in Havre De Grace, Maryland, and had been CEO of U.S. operations
for SNPE Inc. on College Road East.