Former Lighthouse inn operator sentenced to 87 months in investment fraud case

Former Lighthouse Inn operator Maureen Clark has been sentenced to 87 months in federal prison for fraudulently obtaining more than $1.7 million in a scheme to build a resort and casino in Lakeshore, Miss.

U.S. District Judge Warren W. Eginton sentenced Clark, 58, of Stonington Friday in Bridgeport.

Clark is appealing her conviction and remains free on bond until the judge determines whether she must report to prison while the case is pending.

A jury in July 2012 found Clark guilty of 20 felony crimes, including one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 13 counts of wire fraud and six counts of money laundering.

Her former business partner, Christopher Plummer of Lyme, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced in October 2012 to 51 months in prison.

Government attorneys Michael S. McGarry and Richard J. Schechter had called for a prison term of 121 to 151 months as indicated in federal sentencing guidelines.

In the government's sentencing memorandum to the court, the prosecutors wrote that Clark continues to deny her guilt "in the face of overwhelming evidence."

"In short, Clark is an incorrigible con-artist who is incapable of telling the truth or accepting the jury's clear verdict," the memorandum says.

Clark had been convicted of a tax crime in 2005 but did not serve prison time in that case. She has been free on $600,000 bond while awaiting sentencing and has been monitored electronically.

Clark's attorneys, Hubert Santos and Jessica Santos, wrote in their sentencing memorandum that the only thing Clark was guilty of was trusting Plummer. The defense claims Clark attempted to repay the victims and that Plummer received the bulk of the money from the fraud.

They wrote that society and Clark's victims "would be better served by an extended period of probation which would allow her to go to work and make restitution to the victims.

"Formerly a successful businesswoman, philanthropist and matriarch of her family, Ms. Clark has lost her business, her financial resources and standing within the community," the memorandum says.

The defense submitted letters of support from family and community members and characterized Clark as a "Type A Overachiever" who started working at age 15 as the result of her father abandoning the family.

According to her attorneys, Clark has been serving as a caretaker for her husband, Robert Clark, who was stricken with Guillain-Barre syndrome during her trial, and for her 92-year-old father-in-law. Her husband, two adult sons and friends described her as a loving wife and mother — someone who took in homeless people and never allowed a friend or neighbor to be alone on a holiday.

The government's response to the defense arguments was, "These arguments amount to little more than throwing the proverbial spaghetti against the wall in hopes that some will stick."

According to the government, Clark and Plummer held themselves out as authorized members of New England Resorts LLC and falsely represented to investors that they owned or controlled hundreds of acres of land in a Mississippi town. They said they had invested several hundred millions of their own and would be building a 2-million-square-foot resort with a casino, hotels, condominiums and a medical facility.

In soliciting funds for the project, Clark and Plummer falsely represented that major Wall Street firms had committed to the project, according to the government. The government calculated Clark spent $900,000 of the investor funds on the financially troubled Lighthouse Inn, a New London restaurant and hotel that has since been foreclosed and is scheduled to be auctioned online later this month.

k.florin@theday.com

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