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("Clyde may look like a local electrician, but he's really
only one of
6 or 8 people in the world capable of pulling off
this $97 Quintzillion
trade which is now being held up by the
European bankers . . .")
July 17, 2001 - Mattoon Journal Gazette
Turner was Hood's 'right-hand man,' says Chris Engel
BY CARL WALWORTH
URBANA - Chris Engel on Monday became another government
witness who described Jim Turner as a close associate of Clyde
D. Hood who had to know details about the fraudulent Omega
Trust and Trading program.
The owner of a now-defunct local construction business said
he wanted to stop depositing checks for Hood and stop participating
in monetary transactions and business deals with Hood. But
Hood's Omega operation kept Engel's financially struggling
businesses going, so Engel reneged on a promise to cooperate
with authorities in 1999, before he was one of 19 people indicted
last August. Eighteen, including Engel, have either pleaded
guilty or been found guilty of one or more charges.
Engel also became the first witness to mention the name
of Coles County Sheriff Ron Scott, who hired Turner as a correctional
officer. Scott's name came up in the Omega rumor mill from
the time the indictments were handed down last August, but
he's not been mentioned in court matters until Engel brought
up Scott's name in passing during testimony in Turner's federal
Engel testified on Monday that Hood gave Turner $14,000
to purchase a motorcycle that Engel said he understood was
for Scott. Turner later reported that money missing and Hood
replaced it with another $14,000 cash.
In a phone interview after Engel's testimony, Scott said
he was told by Turner that Turner could get him a loan for
a motorcycle. But Scott said he didn't accept.
Scott said he has a motorcycle on which he made a down payment
and financed the balance through the Midwest America Federal
"I do my banking through banks," Scott said, adding he's
like most other people and makes a monthly payment on the
vehicle to a financial institution.
Scott said Turner didn't say where the loan would come from,
but Scott assumed it was through Hood, who at the time was
being investigated by local, state and federal authorities.
Engel also testified that Arlene Diamond, who last month
was convicted of a role in the Omega conspiracy, asked Turner
to deliver to Scott's office anti-government "paperwork" that
Diamond said would help "protect" co-conspirators from prosecution.
Turner is accused of money laundering conspiracy and conducting
a monetary transaction with proceeds of illegal activity.
The prosecution said it plans to finish presenting its evidence
sometime today. It has 11 possible witnesses, though not all
are likely to be called. The 11 mentioned as possibilities
include Scott; Brian Garbe; Jeff Schnibben; Hood's wife, Patricia;
Barry Bullington; Natalie Richardson; an unidentified representative
of the Coles County assessor's office; Mike Moschenrose; Sal
Samora; Bryan Boes; and IRS agent Vonnie Hinesley.
Defense attorney John Gadau said he plans to call Turner;
Turner's wife, Brenda; and Hinesley as defense witnesses.
The case could conclude this week.
Engel described in detail for more than five hours his role
in the Omega program in which Engel said about $6.3 million
went through some of his 14 bank accounts. His construction
business grew from about six employees to 72 employees with
Omega investors were told to expect $5,100 on a $100 investment
in an offshore investment program in about nine months. No
one received the promised return. Authorities say about 10,000
people worldwide were defrauded of more than $20 million since
Engel has pleaded guilty to a count of money laundering
conspiracy, and has a new agreement to cooperate with investigators.
"He had me under his thumb, so to speak," Engel said of
Hood, who asked Engel to deposit checks from Omega investors.
"I didn't have any choice. I was stupid ... but I was so far
behind the eight-ball financially. ... I just felt like a
Engel said he got about 15 construction projects through
Hood since 1997.
Engel said he was at Hood's office about once every day,
and he frequently saw Turner there. Turner heard discussions
about Omega in the office, Engel said.
Turner concedes he and Hood were close friends, and that
he did jobs for Hood. But Turner denies any role in Omega.
Engel said Turner and Hood called each other "buddy" and
"spent quite a bit of time together."
Engel at one point testified that "Jim (Turner) and I and
Phil (Haskell) were some of his (Hood's) closest associates."
Engel said he felt threatened by Turner because "Jim was Clyde's
Engel described the mood at the Omega office as laid back
in 1998 when things were going well. But by the summer of
2000, when all of the principals knew of a federal grand jury
investigation, the mood was "pretty intense," he said. The
office blinds were often pulled and there was a secret knock
used to gain access. "It wasn't a real comfortable atmosphere,"
Engel also testified about Turner instructing Hood how to
use a system designed to detect if a phone was tapped.
Engel said on another occasion Turner delivered to him money
from Hood to help make payroll and pay expenses at his construction
And Engel said he once wrote Turner a $9,500 check from
his construction company to Turner's landscape business, and
that Turner requested the transaction be reported to the IRS
so that Turner could show a profit on the landscape business.
Turner's lawyer later suggested the money was for work done
by Turner on the $600,000 Advantage Information Technology
business Engel said he built in the Coles Business Park with
Engel also described being present when Hood took more than
$155,000 cash from a floor safe at the home of Hood's daughter
to pay for a home Turner bought on Western Avenue. Unlike
Hood, Engel didn't recall Turner being present when the money
was taken from the safe. Engel said Turner was present when
he brought a cashier's check to Hood to pay for the home.
On cross-examination, Engel confirmed that a check he received
for the Bluebird Bakery that he earlier testified was for
about $20,000 actually was for $159,800.
Regarding Neva McKibben, the Mattoon woman who testified
she put all her retirement savings into Omega, Engel said
he was stunned that the check Hood gave him from McKibben
came from her personal funds. Typically Hood didn't take money
from people he knew in Mattoon, Engel said.
"When I heard it (about McKibben's check) my mouth hit the
floor," Engel said, saying he assumed Hood gave McKibben the
money for the check he deposited.
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