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Investors Trust Judge Joe Ashmore, But His Trust Doesn't Pay Back

Investors Trust Judge Joe Ashmore, But His Trust Doesn't Pay Back
Craig LaRontonda

For three months last year, Muhammet Atayev—California businessman and, by his own account, a former Turkmenistani cabinet minister—limited himself to a small universe in Dallas. He spent his nights in a room at a Best Western motel. In the morning, he slipped into business clothes, gathered his things and walked a one-mile stretch of sidewalk—past Denny's, under Stemmons Freeway and up Oak Lawn Avenue, arriving at a patch of grass behind an Exxon station.

Once there, he stayed from 9 to 5 each day, a sign hanging around his neck. He spent the balance of the steamy late summer on that corner, his humorless face glistening with sweat, though he never seemed to soak through his suits. He ate nothing during the day and drank only water.

That scene is all most people knew about Atayev—a quick glimpse as they drove past on Maple Avenue, him in dark sunglasses under a black umbrella, feet planted, eyes fixed on the office across the street. The object of his fascination was a palace of beige concrete covered in brown mission tiles, arches and columns. Sometimes Atayev talked on the phone; sometimes he sat in a canvas folding chair. He kept regular business hours, never missing a day.

The sign summed up his purpose simply. Addressed to Mr. Joseph Ashmore, Mr. Jack Wilemon and Mr. Allan Clark, it asked: "Where is our money??? I will be on a hunger strike until I die or get the money."

Months passed and little broke Atayev's routine. One day one of Ashmore's sons emerged from the office and threw Atayev's chair, an attempt to shoo him away. Mostly, though, people just drove right past. On weekends, Atayev treated himself to an air-conditioned respite at NorthPark Center, where he'd sit with a coffee and watch more people pass by.

The money never came. A $250,000 investment—a handshake deal that he claims was supposed to return $25 million in just three months—had left Atayev with nothing but a stack of old emails and a pile of sweaty shirts.

But a strange thing happened as he stood there: People started to stop, sharing with Atayev stories of other can't-miss investments from the last few years that all went back to the men whose names were scrawled on his sign.

In fact, as lawsuits, disciplinary hearings and federal investigations detail, there were dozens more people whose money ended up in bank accounts under Ashmore's name, for investment partnerships with Clark and Wilemon. The investors were offered access to lucrative bond deals, foreign currency leases or international securities trades, and the good name of Joseph Ashmore Jr., a 77-year-old former Dallas County probate judge and prominent local attorney, was often given as evidence that their money would be safe.

Atayev eventually left his perch, but the stories kept piling up—stories of people who should have known better, who blew their retirements believing tall tales of instant riches, who mortgaged their homes because a buddy swore the deal was just golden. How were the deals supposed to earn such outrageous returns, or were they ever meant to? And the ones who've begged, sued and settled until they did get their investments back—whose money were they really getting? Map the mind-bending web of transactions and they all lead back to the same three men, and the same simple question on Atayev's sign.


The deal began with a phone call from Fort Worth to a balcony in Baku.

Atayev and his small group of investors were at their hotel in Azerbaijan, sipping wine in the warm evening breeze and celebrating a new business partnership. The capital city's grandest sights were lit beneath them, from the presidential palace to the beach boardwalk beside the Caspian's crashing waves.

There with Atayev that night was Hellen Mitakys, a retiree from California's state tax board. She'd met Atayev years before, during a goodwill trip for officials from former Soviet states. She was one of the few people Atayev knew in Sacramento when he moved from Turkmenistan in 2005.

Jim Wyatt was also there. He was Mitakys' neighbor and, at one point anyway, a high-flying international businessman who wrote books on turning quick profits in real estate. When Mitakys met Wyatt, he lived in a huge home and drove a Mercedes. But he'd lost big in a farming deal in Thailand, had divorced his wife and had part of one leg amputated because of diabetes. The setbacks had forced him to take refuge in Mitakys' guesthouse.

That night in Baku though, at last, things were looking up. Wyatt still had his stellar business contacts in Dallas, and at the time—summer of 2007—the markets had never looked so sweet. After years watching other people getting rich, they finally had an asset to put in play.

Atayev had a friend in Kyrgyzstan with a mountainside gold mine who'd just agreed to let them place the mine into a lucrative asset management program with Wyatt's friends in Dallas. As Atayev and Mitakys recall, Wyatt said the mine would be worth $100 million on the global market. Wyatt seemed so sure, they say, and acted every bit the global dealmaker. (Messages left for Wyatt went unreturned.)

 

As if to prove what a big deal he and his friends were, they say, Wyatt suddenly came through with another sweet deal to propose. He was on the phone with a man named Jack Wilemon, one of his contacts in Texas, who was organizing investors for a bond issue—another $100 million operation—that was going to pay big. For $250,000, he said, they could buy a share that would return them $25 million in just a few months. It had to happen "right away," Atayev recalls. The group agreed to buy in.

On the way home, they made plans for their share of the money. Atayev would start a cattle ranch back in Turkmenistan. His two friends, one of them a dentist, drew up plans for a program to bring low-cost dental care to remote Central Asian villages. Mitakys didn't invest, but she stayed in the loop because she knew Wyatt and could translate the financial terms into Russian for the others.

They let Wyatt make the arrangements—they were his contacts, after all. He later outlined those plans in a series of emails to Mitakys. The bond would be issued in the name of Regency Worldwide Development, Wyatt wrote, "which is owned and operated by Jack Wilemon and Allan Clark in Dallas."

In fact, Wyatt wrote, Regency Worldwide had already advanced $250,000 on their behalf to a broker at Morgan Keegan, a Memphis-based investment house. This way, Wyatt wrote, the group would be in line for "the next bond issue" and could get under way even earlier than they'd expected.

It got better. Wyatt told the group that they would get not only $25 million in two to three months, but additional monthly interest payments of $675,000 for 60 months. And they'd be able to reinvest their $25 million windfall with Regency Worldwide for extra monthly income over the next five years.

Today, Mitakys admits it was a stupid idea. Usually, she says, "I'm the first one that thinks things need to be in writing. Wyatt kept saying these are gentlemen's agreements—people in that level of business do things with a handshake."

They were assured by Wyatt that they were sending the money somewhere secure—an attorney trust account, the separate bank account lawyers are required to open for holding their clients' money. "When it's going into a trust, especially an attorney's trust, you think it's safe," Mitakys says. And in this case, the man who was to receive the money was no ordinary lawyer: Joseph E. Ashmore Jr., former Dallas County probate judge and a well-connected international businessman in his own right.

"We were presented with Mr. Ashmore's fantastic résumé," Mitakys recalls. "Top of the line."


Ashmore grew up in the fabric of his home city, with close ties to his Lebanese heritage. His father, Joseph Sr., opened Sunshine Laundry and Dry Cleaners, still open today on Maple Avenue, and was a founding member of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.

Born in 1933, Joe Jr. graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School and Southern Methodist University, spent four years in the U.S. Air Force and returned to SMU for his law degree in the early '60s. He went on to a successful career in the banking industry, climbing to vice president at the Texas Bank and Trust Co.

In 1975, he began his tenure as judge in Dallas County Probate Court No. 3. He spent 11 years on the bench, handling contested wills and other delicate rulings. He earned glowing reviews—97 percent approval in one Dallas Bar Association poll—and became an expert on mental illness policy. He answered questions about wills in The Dallas Morning News' "Line One" advice column.

When he left the bench, Ashmore started a private law practice, handling probate claims and other issues and growing the firm to include a handful of lawyers, including his son Gary Ashmore and daughter Lori Ashmore Peters. The firm's office is just a few short blocks down Maple from his father's laundry business.

Ashmore also acquired real estate and stayed active in the community, raising money for the Catholic Diocese of Dallas and serving on the board of the Texas College of Probate Judges. In each of Pauline Medrano's successful City Council elections, she's trusted Ashmore to oversee her campaign coffers.

A handful of probate lawyers declined to talk about Ashmore, but receptionists at their firms jumped at the chance to gush what a good friend he is. A good ol' boy who can hold his own in Dallas' finest circles, Ashmore speaks some Spanish and Arabic, and his English carries a deep Texas drawl. He's known to conduct business in his suite at Lone Star Park, where he likes to watch the horses.

 

So it's understandable how the invocation of Ashmore's name could lend credibility to the too-good-to-be-true deals to which his name has so often been attached.

In the instructions Wilemon sent Mitakys for wiring the money, two days after Wyatt outlined the deal for her, Ashmore's name was absent, as was Regency Worldwide. Instead, Wilemon wrote that the money should be split two ways, $75,000 to an account for "Financial Risk Specialists Inc." at JPMorgan Chase Bank on Preston Road and $175,000 to Regions Bank, in a trust account for an Alabama law firm called Pruitt & Pruitt.

Mitakys says they were told the Alabama account was actually a trust in Ashmore's name. (Calls to Pruitt & Pruitt went unreturned.) Ashmore would later make it known he was involved in the deal, though to this day his precise role remains a mystery. Was the former judge orchestrating the complex deal, and others like it, along with Clark and Wilemon, or was he gamely making his accounts available to them, content to avoid the dirty specifics?

They wired the money on July 3, 2007, and began counting the days.


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By the time Atayev's money transferred, dozens of investors across the country were already lined up with their hands out, waiting on payback from investments like these they claimed to have made with Ashmore and his friends.

In 2003, from a small office outside Provo, Utah, a serial entrepreneur named Ron Hansen started telling folks with small business and nonprofit ideas about incredible grants he could arrange through his special business contacts. Why go into debt on a project when a few thousand dollars could get you a grant worth millions? He had a whiteboard full of success stories and offered a contract guaranteeing that investors could pull their money at any time.

"It was something he'd struggled with his whole life, and he wanted to help people," says his son Devin, who helped his dad design a website for the project, called Comlink Capital. "His biggest weakness was he believed the stuff Allan Clark told him."

The deal looked legitimate to Peter Chapman, an Englishman who worked in IT consulting. He put up $10,000 for a grant to start a health food store, a second business meant to carry him into early retirement. It wasn't long before Hansen came back with excuses and delays. "I never got any clear answers from them as to why it didn't happen," Chapman says. "I was told there were some people in Texas, some judges and some politicians involved and that someone was playing dirty."

Investors got together to discuss their options; some say they worked with law enforcement on an investigation. But when Ron Hansen died of prostate cancer in 2006, the investigation apparently stopped. Investors say they've heard Clark or Wilemon are still working on their deals and the money will be coming soon from Ashmore's account.

Jerry Hobbs and Tom Henry gave up long ago. In 2005, the men caught wind of a deal with Ashmore, Clark and Wilemon that would return 10 times their investment in 30 days, they claim in a lawsuit. Though neither had much money to play with, Henry borrowed $150,000 from an 88-year-old relative, and Hobbs borrowed $130,000 against his home, wiring the money to Ashmore in November 2005. Their investments would be "wrapped in an insurance policy by Allan Clark and his company Financial Risk Specialists," their suit claims. Ashmore's reputation was offered as an additional safeguard.

Almost four years later, after weekly talks with Clark and Wilemon, blown deadlines and promises that "the money was in the bank," they hadn't seen a penny. In June 2009 they went all-in, risking further debt to hire a lawyer and sue. Ashmore, Clark and Wilemon issued blanket denials of all the claims in the suit and settled the case in April 2010 without any admission of wrongdoing. Hobbs says they recovered nearly the entire investment, but it cost $40,000 in legal fees to do it.

 

"Here's the thing—Jack [Wilemon] and I became very good friends," Hobbs says. "At the arbitration, he knocked on the door, and he came in and hugged my neck and said, 'I'll be calling you in a couple of days, and we'll have lunch.' He was very kind to me." Hobbs figures they lost the money on trades, but he says he doesn't blame them for doing it. "I blame them for not telling me the truth. I still don't know what the truth is."

The year after Hobbs wired his investment, in late 2006, a construction company owner named David Perley found himself in Ashmore's office with Clark and Wilemon. They were discussing an insurance deal around a South American logging project, Perley claims in a lawsuit filed in Dallas County Court. But while they waited for that deal to deliver, the complaint says, Ashmore suggested that Perley get in on a Morgan Keegan bond issue they were working on—likely the same one Atayev and friends had invested in.

Ashmore assured Perley the money would never be in "harm's way," and that he'd get his investment back if the deal didn't go through, the suit claims. If Perley could round up $1.5 million to "pay the fees" on the bond offering, he'd get $5 million in 30 days, $10 million to $12 million a month after that, and another $10 million to $12 million a month later. Ashmore even invited Perley to his office's black-tie Christmas party.

Perley says he rounded up the money from investors and wired it to Ashmore's trust account at Chase. A month later, there was no $5 million, and no progress on the bond.

Two years later, Perley and his fellow investors met with Wilemon at a Denny's in Fort Worth, where they heard more stories about how soon the money was coming. It never did, so Perley sued Ashmore, Clark and Wilemon in October 2010. Again, the three defendants denied every claim in the suit. The case is scheduled for trial in September.

The mountains of court-stamped accusations against Ashmore and friends could have signaled to Mitakys that their Baku deal was likely a fantasy. Instead, she was reeling in more investors. Sometime after Atayev wired his money, Mitakys told a friend in California about the incredible deal she'd found in Dallas. She knew her friend, a former Hollywood studio man named Sergei Goncharoff, had a large amount of money to invest with big market players like the ones she'd stumbled into that night in Baku. Maybe they'd have a deal for him too.

Goncharoff and a friend, Robert Mintz, had both worked on 1960s TV shows and were trying to get into film financing. Though Mintz had owned his own business for years, Goncharoff had a novel idea: to grow a small independent film into something more substantial with lucrative trades on the international securities market. A client in England had put up $2 million, hoping to bankroll his son's film, Spooked, about a man who inherits a haunted brewery.

Clark and Ashmore told Goncharoff and Mintz to expect $10 million within three months, the men later claimed in a lawsuit. The money would never leave the trust account without their client's approval, they were told, and they'd just get the money back after three months if there was no action on the investment. They sent the money in August 2008 to a trust account at Chase under the names of Ashmore and Financial Risk Specialists.

More than six months later, the suit claims, the would-be financiers demanded their money back. Again, no money arrived. If the money was still in Ashmore's trust account, the judge didn't seem anxious to send it back.

They sued Ashmore, Clark and Financial Risk Specialists in April 2010. According to court documents, Ashmore denies knowing any of the investors, and "denies that he knows any details of any transaction." He does, however, admit "that he is a retired Dallas County judge and admits that he comports himself with the highest standards of ethics and integrity." Clark "denies that he was required to return the $2 million."

"You can imagine," Goncharoff says today, "two and a half years later, still not having seen the money—you'd have to start wondering if you'd ever see it." The suit settled in December, but Goncharoff says they still haven't been paid. (Their attorney won't discuss the case.)

Goncharoff says they staked their new company on this deal, and now it's all over. "I spent my life in the motion picture industry, and I felt at the end of my life it'd be a nice thing to do," he says. "Now our reputation has gone down the shit hole."

 

He says his business partner, Mintz, is losing his home to foreclosure, while Goncharoff's wife—who lost $15,000 of her own money in the deal—is leaving him. He says he's living off Social Security, and wonders how he'll meet payments on his house. "And of course I'm turning 79 this month," he says. "So that's a nice place to be at that age—on the street."


After Atayev's group sent their money to Dallas, less than a month passed before they started asking questions. The answers they got suggested that the deal had changed.

Wyatt wrote Mitakys that the bond issue before hers had just been sold; theirs was now "tentatively scheduled" for September—a month later than they'd originally been told. The next day, Wyatt explained the deal in a new set of numbered steps, complex deals between Morgan Keegan, Regency, Ashmore and others, ending with a payout "over three to six months." Not nearly as simple as it all seemed that night in Baku.

Along the way, Mitakys was agreeable, even poking fun at herself for second-guessing the details Wyatt gave her. "I have very little knowledge of the workings of the program," she wrote to him, "and [to] do it without you holding my hand, and answering my never ending questions is IMPOSSIBLE." She apologized for "pestering" Wyatt.

Months passed. Mitakys' questions became more pointed. Eventually, she says, Wyatt washed his hands of the deal, telling her to speak directly with Wilemon instead. Wilemon continued to reassure her the bond issue was progressing, promising it would sell "soon," she recalls, or "in a few weeks."

In July 2008, a year after cutting the deal, Mitakys, Atayev and Wyatt met face-to-face with the investment group in Dallas. Clark and Wilemon led them into Ashmore's office, Mitakys says, "but for some reason, we were told not to talk about business with him."

Instead, she says, Ashmore regaled her with stories about travels to St. Kitts in the Caribbean, where he said he knew people in power. They talked about horses and Lebanese saints, and Ashmore showed Mitakys his impressive collection of antique guns. Only after the meeting did Wilemon share the good news with them: They could expect their money in just two weeks.

Two weeks came and went, and then two years. Wyatt was speaking to Wilemon daily, Clark was traveling to Geneva to claim the money, transactions were held up in customs, frantic trips to the bank were foiled by traffic—the excuses piled up, the investors say, but the money never came.

In mid-July 2010, Clark emailed a note on Ashmore's letterhead. It appeared to be signed by Ashmore and Clark, and promised to finally pay the "agreeable" amount of $2.5 million—a 10th of the original deal. The letter says Clark is "working diligently" on "no less than three transactions," and it closes with a near-apology: "there have been delays but rest assured we are not the cause of the delay and work 24/7 to expedite the process for all our benefit."

No closer to learning where their money had gone, Atayev and Mitakys set about learning more about where it hadn't gone.

At one point, Mitakys says, Wilemon told her of his plan to reopen the TV studio in North Carolina that was once home to notorious televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. They'd all get paid from that one, Wilemon told her. (The studio turns up in Perley's suit too.)

But Dale Hill, who did reopen the studio and runs it today, tells a different story. He says he did indeed meet with Wilemon a few times. "He was quite interested in my business plan," Hill says. "I had some great meetings with Jack, great phone calls, but we never consummated any deal."

The $100-million bond issue with Morgan Keegan—the centerpiece of Atayev and Perley's deals—also appeared to be fantasy. Wyatt had claimed that Wilemon was in regular contact with Pat Williams at the investment bank. But Williams tells the Observer he doesn't know Wilemon, Ashmore or Clark.

Williams says he did draw up some bond documents for Regency Worldwide, the firm Wyatt had originally claimed was owned by Wilemon and Clark and would issue the bond. Regency, Atayev eventually learned, is actually a commercial mortgage company that lends money to churches. It's owned by a man named Terry Hester. And while Hester and Williams did speak briefly about a bond issue, nothing ever came of it, and it's been years since he and Hester spoke, Williams says.

Hester says the bond deal was indeed a project with Ashmore, Clark and Wilemon, and claims it was nearly done, waiting for a credit enhancement that would make the bond enticing enough to market. "Judge Ashmore was an attorney we were working with on that thing," Hester says.

 

"Everything just went sideways about two years ago, and we were right in the middle of it when it all happened," he says. "Everything we got's still on our desk, it's still in our files, we're just waiting for the banking to start doing something." He cautions against quick judgments about what happened. "There's several things that's intertwined here," he says.


Mitakys says she took her phone records and emails to various authorities, to no avail. Atayev lodged a complaint against Ashmore with the State Bar of Texas. (At a social gathering at his office, this was the only thing Ashmore would confirm about the man staking out his office. Surely, he suggested, we'd understand that it wasn't something he could discuss.)

In the meantime, Atayev started to wonder about the man he'd been lurking around for months, if he was too well connected or just above the law. On November 3, he packed up for good and returned home to Sacramento.

If there was one point at which their investment scheme went wrong, or if there was never any miracle deal in the first place, they won't say. Repeated messages to Ashmore, Clark and Wilemon went unreturned. But court records suggest they've been in business together for years—and, at least in Wilemon and Clark's cases, it hasn't all been entirely honest.

Wilemon, a Texas Tech-educated lawyer who once owned a practice in Fort Worth, was disbarred in 1988 for his role in a bad real estate deal. According to his disciplinary record, Wilemon accepted $32,000 from a couple who thought they were buying property near Arlington Stadium, then refused to return it. The actual property owners said they knew nothing about the deal.

Clark met Ashmore through a mutual acquaintance in the '80s, according to a deposition Clark gave. Clark had been in real estate in the early '80s too, and played a role in a scheme to defraud a savings and loan bank in a complicated land deal. He cut a plea deal to help the feds with an investigation into other shady real estate deals.

Clark got eight years and an order to pay $2 million restitution. He served a few years in Texarkana's low-security prison, was released to a halfway house in 1993 and paroled a few months later.

In a letter to the parole board on Clark's behalf, a friend says he knew Clark in his earlier high-society days, in "a lifestyle consistent with monetary success." But he'd changed, the friend wrote.

"I have been impressed with his desire to return to a simple existence where he can spend time watching his children grow," the letter reads. "He has recognized the value of a simple, everyday life."

But the simple life didn't take, it seems. Clark ran his own management consulting firm in the late '90s, then made a transition into selling specialized insurance products through a new company he started, Financial Risk Specialists.

It's incorporated in Delaware, but the company has had a $69,000 tax lien against it in Texas since 2009. Though it has a physical office in Williams Square, a neatly polished Las Colinas office tower overlooking a lagoon, the company's website is outdated. Text-heavy pages tout the firm's expertise in financial products like credit enhancement, supported by thumbnail-sized stock images—a casino, a beachside resort, a grainy, animated shot of shuffling dollars.


If you can see yourself in this world, with private access to big foreign currency leases, offshore accounts and your share of the real interest being made in global finance, then Alan D'Arcy has a deal for you. Or he might have, anyway, before the FBI arrested him last August and charged him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Seventy-three years old, he'd peddled a "no risk" deal tied to the United Nations' Haiti relief effort that could double a $100 million investment in 15 days.

D'Arcy, who lives in North Carolina, was caught in an undercover sting and arrested last summer after a decade-long investigation into "High Yield Investment Program" frauds, according to an FBI affidavit. Investment pamphlets from D'Arcy, submitted into evidence in a separate lawsuit, describe that exclusive "private banking" world, the government's interest in keeping most of us shut out and the impeccable credentials of the lawyers—in one case, a "lawyer-judge"—whose trust accounts would receive the money.

The day after D'Arcy was arrested, a disciplinary complaint was brought against a lawyer he worked with named David Rodli, in Montana's state Supreme Court. That complaint details four new alleged frauds adding up to more than $1.2 million, including one with a church in Kansas and another with a solar energy company that had Rodli for a secretary.

 

The complaint details an investment partnership between Rodli, D'Arcy, a couple named Deborah and Eric Berry—and Allan Clark and Jack Wilemon. It says Rodli opened a pair of trust accounts at Chase Bank in Dallas, one of which had a Dallas lawyer as a second signatory: Joseph Ashmore.

For as many years as Ashmore, Clark and Wilemon have been fending off unhappy investors, it's only in the last few that their deals have prompted legal action. And now law enforcement seems to be taking interest in some of their associates.

Rodli's case was heard earlier this month, and he faces possbile disbarment when the final decision comes out. He's contrite in his response to the disciplinary complaint—but he doesn't exactly take the fall. He says he never meant to hurt anyone, that he took money from the solar energy firm in an honest attempt to raise money for the company. He says one of the groups already had all its money returned, and the church in Kansas got $50,000 of its $180,000 back, "through the good offices of Jack Wilemon."

Rodli "did not intend to profit from his actions or to deprive parties of their funds," he claims, "but was naive and foolish."


According to the reams of accusations piling up across the country, Ashmore's trust account in Dallas has been a black hole for disgruntled investors, swallowing their money along with any attempts to shine some light in after it. But one incident from the recent past offers a glimpse into the sorts of deals Clark and Wilemon poured their investors' money into, lining their own pockets along the way.

In late 2006, federal investigators were in the middle of untangling a "classic High Yield Investment Program scheme" offered by a Flower Mound company called Megafund. All in all, the SEC claimed, it was a $13.8-million fraud. And according to court records, $160,000 of the investors' money had been deposited into Ashmore's account, after Clark and Wilemon worked out a deal with the engineer of the Megafund fraud, Stanley Leitner.

A lawyer was hired by the SEC to recoup the investors' money, and that lawyer invited Clark to explain what happened to the $160,000. In the resulting deposition, Clark, who would later be sued by Megafund investors, described how the money was split—$25,000 to Clark, some to Wilemon, some to Financial Risk Specialists, and the rest to yet another entity that would handle the deal. Arranging investments like this—and accepting a finder's fee for himself—is his business, Clark told the attorney.

He went on, explaining that Leitner had agreed to invest his stolen money into a complicated Euro leasing operation in Brazil. Clark had heard it would turn $160,000 into 20 million Euros "over some period of time"—a deal so sweet that the SEC-hired attorney even teased Clark about wanting in. There were no written agreements, Clark said, and no solid numbers on what the investment would truly be worth.

In the end, though, it didn't pan out.

"Well, we live and learn," Clark said.

"Did Judge Ashmore take a look at this program and tell you that it was something that appeared legitimate?" the interviewer asked.

"Well, he looked at it the same way Jack and I did," Clark said. "It was a roll of the dice."

Muhammet Atayev stood outside Joseph Ashmore's law office for three months last fall, hoping to draw attention to Atayev's plight: He says a $250,000 investment was supposed to return $25 million in just three months. Instead, he says, he lost it all.
Patrick Michels

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