Sweat-lodge guru's net worth of $2.4 mil clouds hearing

The Arizona Republic/February 24, 2010

Camp Verde - Self-improvement guru James Arthur Ray didn't get his $5 million bond cut Tuesday after the hearing on the issue turned into an exchange over his financial information.

Ray has been in jail here since Feb. 3 after his arrest on three manslaughter charges in connection with the deaths of three people at a sweat-lodge event he ran near Sedona in October.

His attorneys have complained that Ray's bond is unfairly high and have pushed for a faster hearing on it in Yavapai County Superior Court.

Ray's attorneys objected several times Tuesday as a forensic accountant ran through the numbers on Ray's financial statement and questioned many of them.

There was so much squabbling about Ray's finances and a backlog of victims who wanted to testify that the two-hour hearing had to be continued. It starts again today in Prescott, where Ray will once again see if he will be able to leave jail.

Ray's attorneys say he's not a wealthy man and cannot pay the $500,000 in cash nor pledge collateral worth $5 million that it would take to meet the $5 million bond.

The accountant, Richard Echols of Rocky Mountain Information Network, estimated Ray's net worth at $2.4 million with the caveat that there were such things as furnishings in Ray's homes that had not been totaled.

Court papers have presented Ray as someone with $234,000 in assets, at best. Tuesday's testimony suggested he could have several million dollars more or several million less, depending on how much liability he has in money-losing enterprises.

Ray attorney Luis Li objected to nearly every number that Echols stated until it became clear that Judge Warren Darrow was going to allow them into testimony.

"This is just a laundry list for the media," Li said.

Ray appeared at the hearing in a dark-blue pinstripe suit and a white shirt open at the collar. He was not wearing handcuffs or ankle shackles. He didn't testify.

Other highlights from the testimony:

  • Echols said Ray cashed out accounts to put nearly $1 million on deposit for his defense with his Los Angeles law firm.

  • Ray's attorneys said his company, James Ray International, laid off an undisclosed number of people and may face foreclosure on its offices. The company was listed as having $920,000 in assets but more than $5 million in liabilities. Echols, though, asked how much of that liability Ray was personally responsible for.

  • Li sarcastically asked Echols if he'd heard anything about the housing collapse when Echols said Ray's numerous properties were undervalued by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  • Echols said Ray has $1 million in equity in the Beverly Hills house he's trying to sell for more than $4 million.

  • Echols said Ray had nearly $5 million in adjusted gross income in 2008. He also asked what happened to the revenue flow into the company that handles Ray's seminar, book and video sales. Li mentioned that Ray stopped working after the Sedona deaths.

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