Thursday, April 26, 2007

Ex-prison official Clark handed prison term in kickback probe


JACKSONVILLE - A former regional director of Florida's prison system was sentenced Wednesday to two years and seven months in prison for his role in accepting $130,000 in kickbacks from a contractor.

Allen Clark, 41, could have received 10 years in prison, but prosecutors argued for a lenient sentence. Acting U.S. Attorney Jim Klindt said Clark worked undercover to help agents build a case against his mentor, former Department of Corrections Secretary James Crosby.

After the hearing, however, Klindt said, "Thirty-one months is an appropriate punishment."

Clark and Crosby, 54, pleaded guilty in July to a single charge of accepting kickbacks from American Institutional Services, a company that sold snacks and drinks to prison visitors on weekends.

Crosby was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in prison after U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington said he bore the most responsibility because he was head of the massive Department of Corrections.

"I can't get around the breaking of the public trust," the judge told Clark, a high-school dropout and former Marine.

Clark spoke briefly, telling the judge, "I am sorry. I could go into it, but that's the bottom line."

Crosby and Clark have each been ordered to pay back $130,000, the total amount received illegally. Prosecutors said Clark would accept kickbacks and deliver part of those payments to Crosby. The kickbacks totaled as much as $12,000 a month.

Klindt told the judge that Clark began cooperating after he and agents confronted him at a meeting in Gainesville in February 2006.

"But for Mr. Clark, we may have not gotten to Mr. Crosby.

But for Mr. Crosby, there never would have been this case," the prosecutor said.

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