Jun. 14--EX-STOCKBROKER FACES EMBEZZLEMENT SUIT: A San Diego widow in her 70s is suing a former Escondido stockbroker for embezzling $75,000 from her account.The Superior Court suit charges Robert Ira Ballon with fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, unjust enrichment and conversion. Also named is the brokerage that employed him at the time of the alleged offense, Tower Equities of Dayton, Ohio.As related in this column April 2, Tower fired Ballon in February after investigating a complaint by San Diego attorney Douglas Jaffe that Ballon had told widow Jerry Unitt he would buy her an annuity; he instructed her to put the $75,000 check in his name.After a San Diego broker investigated the matter, Ballon admitted he had not bought the annuity, and had pocketed the money. He promised to pay her back, according to Jaffe and Unitt, but has not done so.According to the suit, Ballon previously was fired by the Linsco/Private Ledger brokerage for misappropriating funds of senior citizens, and Tower was supposed to monitor his activities but permitted him to operate out of his home.National Association of Securities Dealers records show Ballon was fired by LPL in February 2000, but they don't indicate that he had misappropriated funds. The firm says he was an independent broker, technically not employed by LPL, and he was fired for selling an unapproved product.In February, Tower was handling a similar complaint, according to Donna Jackson of Escondido. Ballon had misappropriated a $50,000 mutual fund of her then-dying, 89-year old father-in-law, now deceased, says Jackson. Ballon also had the older man give him a check for $6,000.In February the same time as the Unitt problem Jackson complained to Tower, and was told "something is wrong," she says. After complaining to Ballon, she received a $56,000 check.She is being interviewed by investigators from the NASD and the Department of Corporations, she says. Jaffe, who is serving of counsel to attorney King Aminpour, has also been talking to an NASD investigator, he says. Tower previously said it is cooperating in the NASD investigation. The NASD won't comment on the matter.Tower's attorney says he can't comment because he has not seen the suit.Neither Tower's chief executive nor Ballon responded to requests for comment.INTERNATIONAL THUNDERBIRD GAMING officials who resigned last week and retracted the move this week are facing new troubles: A Nicaraguan merger deal has blown up.Privately held Hopewell Limited of Nicaragua says it has terminated a planned merger because Thunderbird couldn't come up with money for the deal.Hopewell will continue to operate four casinos."We did not issue that press release," says Albert Atallah, Thunderbird's chief operating officer and legal counsel. "We have a different perspective. We would not proceed (with the merger) based on the due diligence we did."Alex Winch, former chairman who had resigned from Thunderbird in late April, claimed last week he represented roughly half the company's outstanding shares in demanding the officers resign. Atallah, chief executive Jack R. Mitchell, and other board members and officers did so.This week, "Winch's attorney sent me a letter stating that Alex Winch and the dissident group will not be filing a dissident proxy," says Atallah. So on Wednesday, the resignations were reversed.Winch had wanted to move the 10-person headquarters from Rancho Bernardo to Toronto. Now, the company will remain in Rancho Bernardo, says Atallah.The stock, which was suspended this week by the Toronto Stock Exchange pending more information, remains suspended.Thunderbird now concentrates on Central and South American gambling.Mitchell was involved with American Indian gambling here for a long time.Thunderbird was corporately involved, too, and continues to pursue claims against two California tribes regarding receivables from discontinued operations.