HOUSTON, Oct. 31 -- Texas health club tycoon Richard Minns, who fled the United States 12 years ago after his girlfriend was shot by hired gunmen, goes on trial Tuesday on passport fraud charges. Minns was accused by his ex-girlfriend Barbra Piotrowski of plotting to have her slain when she ended their romance, though he was never charged in the attack.
She was awarded $28 million in a 1987 civil lawsuit, but has never collected any money. The government charged Minns with obtaining U.S. passports under phony names, unlawfully attempting to procure citizenship documents and falsely claiming he was a U.S. citizen. Minns founded a chain that eventually became President and First Lady health clubs, but federal authorities now allege he deals in false travel documents. Piotrowski was shot four times in the back of the head as she and Minns parted company after leaving a Houston doughnut shop on Oct. 20, 1980. The attack left her partially paralyzed. Two men were convicted of hiring the gunmen and sentenced to 38 years in prison, while two other men convicted of carrying out the attack were found guilty and given 35-year terms. Piotrowski alleged in her suit that Minns masterminded the attack. He left the country shortly after the shooting and remained abroad until customs agents arrested him July 19 as he got off a plane at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport during a stopover on a Cancun, Mexico-to- Vancouver, Canada flight.