Man scammed $400,000 from investors for jet board business: Feds

A 50-year-old DC metro-area businessman is accused of defrauding investors of hundreds of thousands of dollars to sell electric surfboards that didn’t work and using the money to fund his “lavish lifestyle”.

Now he is going to jail.

Roberto Clark, who has been in jail since his arrest last year, was sentenced to six years in federal prison on Friday and ordered to pay nearly $420,000 in restitution, prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Clark pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in July.

His lawyers had called for a three-year sentence, pointing to his remorse and a “series of life stressors” after his first business failed and his wife divorced.

“Without a doubt, Mr. Clark has stumbled a great deal in recent years,” they wrote in court documents. “While the defense does not cite these circumstances to diminish or excuse its conduct in this case, it asks the court to weigh Mr. Clark’s struggles in deciding an appropriate sentence and to consider how they fueled his poor grip. 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 e-surfboards to third-party vendors.

He then created fake sales contracts with cruise lines and water sports companies to attract investors, even going so far as to forge signatures, fabricate emails and falsify a patent report to maintain the ruse. prosecutors said.

“In reality, Clark had purchased a motorized surfboard made in China that had serious mechanical and design issues and never functioned properly,” officials said. “Clark never sold a single surfboard to a buyer.”

The alleged scheme stemmed in part from a previous bankrupt Clark company called Clark Fire Protection Group Inc., which provided fire prevention and security services to government agencies, according to court documents. Prosecutors said he owed a large debt to investors when the company collapsed.

According to prosecutors’ sentencing papers, there are at least 50 default judgments against Clark in Maryland, Virginia and Florida totaling more than $5.6 million — “none of which Clark satisfied, or even attempted to satisfy,” prosecutors wrote.

Clark allegedly got involved in the electric surfboard business in part to try to repay those investors. But the board they imported from China failed, with Clark even sinking into it during a protest, according to court documents.

Despite his failures, prosecutors said Clark tried to solicit new investors for the business. He often met them in restaurants and bars and “primarily preyed on workers” – some of whom allegedly lost their savings and pensions by investing in the fraudulent business, the government said.

“Clark made his own record as a serial repeat offender, a villain who preys on others without evident remorse. He rips off lowly people time and time again,” prosecutors wrote in the sentencing papers. great white shark feeding on prey, it continues to move, devouring prey in its path and leaving a trail of carnage behind.

“I am narcissistic”

In total, Clark is accused of stealing from at least 14 different investors from 2016 to 2019.

According to his lawyer, Clark “used the KRM Services bank account as if it were his own, spending thousands of dollars on restaurants, bars, flights, gym memberships and other personal expenses.” In 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 out of greed and a desire to continue living the lifestyle I once had,” Clark wrote in a letter to the judge. “I played and I lost. I am narcissistic and selfish. I feel sorry for those I took advantage of.

Clark was charged with wire fraud in federal court in November 2019. He was also named in a related lawsuit brought by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly defrauding investors.

Prosecutors said Clark evaded arrest for several months after the charges were announced, including throwing away his phone and changing carriers. A federal judge ordered that he remain in jail while the case was pending, citing the strong evidence against him and his previous failure to appear in court.

Defense lawyers said he had become a baker in the prison kitchen and was considering “reorienting” his life after prison.

“My lawyers reminded me that life would go on after this and that I would have another opportunity for redemption,” Clark told the judge in his letter.

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Hayley Fowler is a reporter for The Charlotte Observer, covering breaking news and real-time news across North and South Carolina. She holds a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously worked as a legal reporter in New York City before joining the Observer in 2019.

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