Former Lighthouse Inn owner goes on trial for investment fraud
Maureen Clark, former owner of the Lighthouse Inn, goes on trial today in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport on charges of defrauding investors of $1.7 million in a scheme to build a resort casino in Mississippi.
The government alleges that Clark, 57, of Stonington and her former business partner, Christopher Plummer of Lyme, obtained more than $1,750,000 from 12 people who thought they were investing in a resort development project in Lakeshore, Miss.
Clark and Plummer are accused of using more than $1.2 millon for purposes other than the investment project. The government has calculated that Clark spent $900,000 of the invester funds on the financially troubled Lighthouse Inn, a New London restaurant and hotel that has since been foreclosed.
Plummer pleaded guilty to wire fraud and is awaiting sentencing.
Clark maintains her innocence and is free on a $600,000 real estate bond while her case is pending. Her jury trial before Judge Warren W. Eginton could last up to two weeks.
Court documents indicate her attorney, Hubert J. Santos, recently sought and was granted the court's permission to represent Clark as a public defender during the trial because she cannot afford to pay him.
At the same time, Santos is seeking to preclude testimony that Clark had little or no income or assets prior to the development scheme, saying it would be prejudicial. The testimony would come from a probation officer who interviewed Clark after she pleaded guilty in 2005 to failure to file a tax return, a misdemeanor, and was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine. A ruling on the motion had not been made public as of Monday.
The judge denied a motion to suppress audio recordings that investors made of conversations with Clark without her knowledge. Her attorney claimed they were illegally obtained because in Connecticut, it is against the law to record phone communications without the consent of all parties involved in the communication.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael S. McGarry and Richard J. Schechter noted the recordings were obtained by witnesses in the case and not the government. The judge ruled that the recordings are admissible under federal law and can't be precluded based on state rules of admissibility.
Santos also sought unsuccessfully to suppress statements that Clark made to to the FBI agents who arrested her at her home on Nov. 29, 2010. Before the agents read her Miranda rights, Clark voluntarily talked about the case. She told the agents her lawyer had advised her not to say anything but she needed to tell them what happened. She repeatedly stated she had not spent investors' money on anything but the Mississippi project, which said she was "a real, bona fide project."