The man who handled finances for the real estate company behind Raleigh's North Hills mall—and many other Triangle commercial properties—has been sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for siphoning more than $1 million for his own use.
Clifford A. "Mickey" Clark, 55, the former president and chief financial officer at Kane Realty Corp., was indicted in October 2006 after a cover story in the Independent chronicled the missing money and the dissolution of a 30-year-old personal and professional partnership between Clark and his boss, company founder and CEO John Kane. (See "The price of friendship," Dec. 14, 2005.)
Clark pleaded guilty to a felony charge of transporting stolen property across state lines in April 2007, and is scheduled to report to jail later this fall to serve the sentence handed down Sept. 5.
"What was especially egregious about this was that much of the money Clark took was held in trust for the owners of these properties—these were monies that were not just John Kane's," says Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Wheeler, who prosecuted the case.
Last week's sentencing closes a chapter in Kane Realty's history that included sanctions against Kane, a prominent businessman. As a result of a six-year investigation by the N.C. Real Estate Commission that uncovered Clark's embezzlement, Kane lost his real estate license for six months. Though Kane was viewed as a victim by both state regulators and the U.S. Attorney's Office, real estate industry regulators held Kane ultimately responsible for not properly safeguarding funds held in trust that belonged to third parties, such as Kane clients and tenants—leaving them vulnerable to Clark's poaching.
Kane, whose license was restored in July 2006, declined comment through a spokeswoman.
After Clark's embezzlement came to Kane's attention in 2002, the two men reached a private settlement severing their ties in more than two dozen partnerships and laying out a plan for Clark to repay the money, which he'd used to bankroll another company, a flooring business called Carpet Market. Kane, meanwhile, personally covered the losses to his clients and tenants, including the owners of University Mall in Chapel Hill, who were out $400,000. The private settlement between the two men drew the attention of state regulators who were investigating an unrelated 1998 complaint against Kane Realty. The Real Estate Commission turned the case over to Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby, who declined to prosecute. (See "No harm, no charges?" Dec. 14, 2005.)