As a preview for what the pending flurry of pardons will look like, last week’s commutation will be representative:
Before the flurry of 100 pardons and commutations that the White House is expected to announce today, President Donald Trump issued a single commutation last week to the mastermind of a $300 million vacation rental fraud that operated in Clearwater and 16 other sites.
A federal judge in 2016 sentenced Fred Davis Clark Jr. to 40 years in prison for his role as CEO in Cay Clubs Resorts and Marina, which promised to turn dilapidated properties in Florida, Las Vegas and the Caribbean into luxury resorts. Beginning in 2004, Clark raised more than $300 million from 1,400 investors who were promised steady rental income and an upfront leaseback payment of 20 percent of the sales price of the units.
The operation was really a Ponzi scheme that used sales proceeds from new investors to pay overdue obligations to earlier participants, the U.S. Department of Justice found.
Investors lost retirements and life savings. But prosecutors proved Clark, 62, used funds from his scheme to pay for a lavish lifestyle, including extracting $22 million, and buying a gold mine and a rum distillery for his personal benefit.
“I’m more disappointed for the investor victims and the dedicated public servants across the Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice who put their hearts and souls into this prosecution and had the rug pulled out from under them,” said Bruce Barnes, a Safety Harbor attorney who filed a lawsuit in 2016 on behalf of the homeowners association of the Grand Venezia off U.S. 19 and Belleair Road, which is still levied assessments to pay off Clark’s debt.
Whether some of those swindled life’s savings ended up in Trump’s coffers or whether he just admires a kindred spirit I can’t say.