EVANSTON — A married couple who moved to the area several months ago has been ordered to pay nearly $10,000 in restitution to a local woman after the woman paid them a down payment toward construction of a home on property that did not actually belong to the couple. Robert and Mary Clark appeared separately in Third District Court on Tuesday, Sept. 10, for change of plea hearings and sentencing in the case.
The Clarks were charged in May after the victim in the case, Terry Brooks, met with Evanston Police Detective Jake Williams about payments she had made to Robert Clark for the purchase of property in Evanston’s Twin Ridge area. Brooks showed Williams two contracts between herself and a company entitled Crosslands Investments Inc., for the purchase of a new home to be constructed in an area entitled High Country Estates. Brooks had written four checks totaling the $9,800, paid between Jan. 14 and Apr. 22.
Further investigation into the supposed real estate deal revealed the Clarks had met with a local realtor to discuss the purchase of property in the Twin Ridge area from Yellow Creek Ranch Company Inc., which is owned by Evanston developer Mike Pexton. However, that sale had never actually transpired and, according to an affidavit filed in the case, Pexton told Williams there was no kind of verbal or written agreement and nothing “even close to a handshake.” Therefore, the Clarks did not in fact own the property they claimed to be selling to Brooks for the construction of a home.
When Robert Clark was questioned by police, he insisted he was pursuing a legitimate business investment and said he had plans to build 23 homes in the Twin Ridge area and further insisted there was an agreement with Pexton to purchase the land. However, a contract produced to purportedly provide evidence of the sale bore only the signature of Mary Clark, listed as the president of IHN Development Inc., as the purchaser of the property and no seller’s signature.
According to the affidavit, Robert Clark had confirmed to Williams that he had accepted the $9,800 and had created and signed the contracts with Brooks. He also claimed he expected Pexton to sell them the land in question and that Pexton had told him to “go ahead and do it” during a conference call.
Both Robert and Mary Clark were arrested and charged in the case, with Robert charged with obtaining property by false pretenses and conspiring to obtain property by false pretenses and Mary with conspiring and wrongfully taking or disposing of property.
As the result of a plea agreement with the Uinta County Attorney’s Office, Mary pleaded no contest to the count of conspiring to obtain property by false pretenses and the count of wrongfully taking or disposing of property was dismissed. She was sentenced to 18-36 months of incarceration, which was suspended, and placed on three years of supervised probation in addition to being ordered to pay restitution to the victim.
Uinta County Attorney Loretta Howieson-Kallas said the sentence was appropriate given Mary’s lack of significant criminal history and her ability to work in order to pay the restitution.
Robert also entered into a plea agreement with the county attorney’s office, pleading no contest to obtaining property by false pretenses. In his case, however, Howieson-Kallas argued he had a significant and extensive criminal history over the past 44 years. Indeed, Howieson-Kallas said his criminal history was primarily separated only by his periods of incarceration.
However, she had also taken into consideration the fact that he is in his mid-70s and is currently facing significant medical issues, including a cancer diagnosis. The State’s recommendation was for a sentence of four to eight years of incarceration, the bulk of which would be suspended, with Robert Clark serving 180 days in jail followed by three years of supervised probation, along with the restitution.
During his statement to the court, Robert Clark attributed his actions to a “habit of putting the cart before the horse” and offered an apology. Judge Joseph Bluemel said the sentence recommended through the plea agreement was “right on the edge of what I will accept in a plea agreement,” though he did ultimately accept it. Bluemel admonished Robert and said, despite a fairly poor medical prognosis, he would not hesitate to send him to prison if the probation was violated.
Robert was given credit for 132 days of time served since his arrest, leaving 48 days remaining to be served.
Though Mary’s sentence was suspended entirely in favor of probation, both Clarks were remanded back into custody of the Uinta County Sheriff’s Office as both also had active warrants out of Utah.