Posted by News Express | 31 January 2021 | 672 times
A 50-year-old businessman from the D.C. metro area is accused of bilking hundreds of thousands of dollars from investors to sell electric surfboards that didn’t work and using the money to fund his “lavish lifestyle.”
Now he’s going to prison.
Roberto Clark, who’s been in jail since his arrest last year, was sentenced to six years in federal prison on Friday and ordered to pay close to $420,000 in restitution, prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said. Clark pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in July.
His attorneys had pushed for a three-year sentence, pointing to his remorse and a “series of life stressors” after his first company failed and his wife divorced him.
“Without question, Mr. Clark has stumbled badly in recent years,” they wrote in court filings. “While the defense does not cite these circumstances to diminish or excuse his conduct in this case, it asks the court to weigh Mr. Clark’s struggles in deciding an appropriate sentence and consider how they fueled his poor decision-making over the years.”
THE ALLEGED SCHEME
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Clark operated a company called KRM Services through which he planned to sell electronic surfboards to third-party vendors.
He then created fake sales contracts with cruise lines and water sports companies to entice investors, even forging signatures, fabricating emails and falsifying a patent report to keep the ruse going, prosecutors said.
“In reality, Clark had purchased a Chinese-made motorized surfboard that had serious mechanical and design problems and never properly functioned,” officials said. “Clark never sold a single surfboard to any buyer.”
The alleged scheme devolved in-part from an earlier failed business Clark started called Clark Fire Protection Group Inc., which provided fire prevention and safety services for government agencies, according to court filings. Prosecutors said he owed a substantial debt to investors when the business tanked.
According to the prosecutors’ sentencing documents, there are at least 50 default judgments against Clark in Maryland, Virginia and Florida totaling more than $5.6 million — “none of which Clark has satisfied, or even attempted to satisfy,” prosecutors wrote.
Clark allegedly got involved with the electric surfboard business in-part to try and pay those investors back. But the board they imported from China failed, with Clark even sinking on it during a demonstration, according to court filings.
Despite its failures, prosecutors said Clark tried to solicit new investors for the business. He often met them at restaurants and bars and “primarily preyed on working people” — some of whom reportedly lost their savings and retirement investing in the fraudulent company, the government said.
“Clark has made his own record as a serial recidivist, a scofflaw who preys on others without evident remorse. He rips off modest people over and over again,” prosecutors wrote in sentencing documents. “Like a white shark feeding on prey, he just keeps moving, devouring prey in his path, and leaving a trail of carnage behind.”
‘I AM A NARCISSIST’
In total, Clark is accused of stealing from at least 14 different investors from 2016 to 2019.
By his defense attorney’s admission, Clark “used the KRM Services bank account as if it were his own, spending thousands of dollars on restaurants, bars, flights, gym membership and other personal expenses.” During 2017 and 2018, prosecutors said he spent at least $41,000 on bars and restaurants and another $19,000 on hotels.
“I did what I did because of greed and a desire to continue living the lifestyle that I once had,” Clark wrote in a letter to the judge. “I gambled and lost. I am a narcissist and a selfish person. I am sorry to those I have taken advantage of.”
Clark was indicted on wire fraud charges in federal court in November 2019. He was also named in a related action brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly defrauding investors.
Prosecutors said Clark evaded arrest for several months after the charges were announced, including dumping his phone and changing carriers. A federal judge ordered he remain in jail while the case was ongoing, citing the strong evidence against him and his previous failure to appear to court.
Defense attorneys said he’s become a baker in the jail kitchen and has been thinking about “redirecting” his life after prison.
“My lawyers reminded me that life will continue after this and I will be given another opportunity of redemption,” Clark told the judge in his letter. (Text, excluding headline, courtesy The Charlotte Observer)
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