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As Jack Bauer he's saved the world seven times . . . but he failed to spot a pyramid scheme

HIS on-screen character, the terrorist-swatting Jack Bauer from the white-knuckle action drama 24, is not the kind of man you would readily want to double cross having saved the world seven times over at the last count -- each in the space of a single day. Come to think of it, the real-life Kiefer Sutherland is no push over either.

However, it's emerged that the Anglo-Canadian son of 60s screen hero Donald Sutherland is facing a bill of $869,000 (€620,000) after falling foul of an alleged cattle-fraud.

Sutherland (43), who spent time away from the pressures of Hollywood in the late-90s on a rodeo ranch in Montana, has been co-operating with prosecutors in California investigating a suspected Ponzi scheme by a cattle manager and competitive steer-roping promoter Michael Wayne Carr.

The saga began when Sutherland was put in touch with Carr through a financial adviser who checked out a deal to buy up cattle steers in Mexico and sell them for a profit across the border in the United States.

Sutherland invested $550,000 in the scheme and within 30 days of the initial investment, Mr Carr wired him $685,000 -- a $130,000 profit, according to the documents filed in court.

When he was offered the same deal a few months later, the money was paid but no cows appeared, it is alleged. Prosecutors say the money was used by Mr Carr to pay off a huge debt.

A couple from New Mexico also lost their $177,000 (€126,000) investment while a Colorado cattle mover lost $400,000 (€285,000) on the deal that never was.

Mr Carr is expected to appear in court on 12 felony charges, among them multiple counts of grand theft, forgery, embezzlement, obtaining money by false pretenses and falsifying corporate books. If convicted, he faces up to 18 years in prison.

According to reports from the San Joaquin County District Attorney's office Sutherland has been "very friendly and helpful" with the investigation team.

But the loss is small change for the Golden Globe-winning star who recently signed a three-year contract worth $40m (€28.5m) to continue in the hugely popular Fox TV series which has been accused of glamourising violence and xenophobia in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

The popular show is currently in its eighth series.

hnews@herald.ie