By Edward Snook
So, how does one end up in the unfortunate situation of being “wrongfully imprisoned?” You trust your attorney to represent you to the fullest of their ability. Don’t forget, you are paying plenty of money for that representation. But, when your court date nears you find that your attorney isn’t prepared for trial, and hasn’t even conducted an adequate investigation.
At this point, your attorney begins prompting you to accept a plea-bargain offered by the prosecutor, for the crimes you didn’t commit. Whether or not you take the “deal,” you have lost.
Mark Turner and Family
Mark Turner has been a native of the Pensacola, Florida area for fifty years. He has been highly successful in the automotive industry for twenty-eight of those years. His company, Auto Gallery of Pensacola, Inc., led the used car sales market. In the late 90’s, Mark Turner developed a program to market automobiles over the Internet and pioneered the industry before Google or EBay Motors existed. With the EBay platform, Mark reportedly sold more cars on the Internet in 2003 than anyone else in the world. He provided a service for local dealerships across the southeast and planned to expand globally.
One of his largest clients was Pete Moore Automotive in Pensacola, Florida, where he had successfully moved over-aged inventory for over twenty years. As a matter of fact, the Manager for Pete Moore Automotive, Rick Hamilton, was one of Mark’s closest friends. Pete Moore Automotive alone reportedly paid Mark’s company in excess of $40,000 per month.
After 9-11, business took a nose dive due to a national fear of air travel. Mark was in the process of developing a new program he called $1-A-Day which would provide any seller the platform for marketing their vehicle to the world. Pete Moore reportedly expressed interest in buying Mark’s Internet business. According to Turner, a Business Proposal was written describing compensation for ownership. Mark moved his computers and personnel related to the Internet business to a location near Pete Moore Automotive, at their request.
A Troubled Family Affair
On December 7, 2003, Mark’s brother David Turner, who had been “Director” of Mark’s corporation, reportedly colluded with Anthony Ramsey – David Turner’s son-in-law and manager of Auto Gallery – to commit a theft of over $35,000 worth of the day’s deposit, the Inventory and Titles and the checkbook. David Turner also attempted to empty the corporate bank account. The company’s banker Annette Cruz contacted Mark to alert him and the funds were frozen.
Mark had a lifelong history of financially and emotionally supporting his older brother, despite his reported chronic, irrational behavior. Their relationship had come to a head when Mark refused to make another $10,000 loan to David. Commenting on the alleged initial theft, Mark stated, “I never thought David would go so far as to steal from me.”
Family Trouble Turns to Business Nightmare
According to Mark Turner, he immediately notified Rick Hamilton, who consulted with Pete Moore and the plan was to transition his main car operation to Pete’s Chevrolet store (Mark had already moved his Internet Sales business to a location close to Pete Moore Automotive). Mark’s computers, software, employees and equipment were relocated and according to Turner, Pete consummated the original Business Proposal by essentially assuming the payroll for Mark’s employees, delivering the vehicles that were already sold and awaiting customer pickup, concluding the tag and title work, as well as using Pete Moore Automotive funds to pay Auto Gallery accounts payable. Mark continued, “Pete Moore followed through with his end of the Business Proposal, with one very important exclusion, he absorbed my business without paying for it, and then told me, ‘I have no use for you.’” Turner attempted to approach Pete three times to resolve the dispute and each time, Pete’s response was, “let the attorneys work it out.”
Claiming he was cheated, Turner filed a thirty-six million dollar suit in civil court against Pete Moore. This case is still making its way through the courts, but what unwinds is the tale of how far Pete Moore would allegedly go to protect his multi-million dollar empire.
Prosecutor – Russ Edgar
Here enters Russ Edgar, Special State Prosecutor of District 1, who claims he did not get involved until the case was handed to him in 2007, but later admitted in court that he “brought this case against Mark.” According to Turner, “the State Attorney’s ‘manufactured’ criminal case against me actually began in 2003.” Turner continued, “I refused to heed the warnings that I would be criminally charged if I did not drop my civil suit filed against Pete Moore.”
In September 2004, Hurricane Ivan hit the Gulf Coast and Mark lost his home. Rather than rebuild, Mark sold his home/lot and was attempting to settle his debt to Pete Moore Automotive for cars he had marketed for the company. Pete’s attorney Mike Guttmann reported the balance due as $205,000. Mark knew this amount was sorely inflated, but paying off Pete Moore Automotive removed any encumbrance in the civil suit. The realtor was advised to cut the check for $205,000 directly to Pete Moore, and the remainder of the selling price was paid to Mark and Nancy Turner.
In 2004, Escambia County Sheriff’s investigator Charles Buzbee questioned Mark Turner with his attorney present. He admitted, “this sounds like a civil case, but the finger’s pointed at you.” Investigator Buzbee later testified that prosecutor Edgar ordered the investigation of Mark. Evidence was released outside the chain of command to Pete Moore’s legal team.
Pete Moore’s civil attorney Kevin Hausfeld was reportedly directed by his superior Larry Matthews to “cut to the heart of the civil case” by making a deal with Escambia County Sheriff’s department to sift through the documents gathered by the State Attorney’s Office in exchange for an indexed summary of the evidence. Hausfeld wrote Investigator Buzbee, “Please contact me if you feel you need more information/evidence to prosecute Mark Turner for fraud, perjury, conspiracy, theft, embezzlement…etc.”
Threats continued to build, but Mark refused to drop his civil suit against Pete Moore. In the meantime, Pete Moore Automotive Internet sales reportedly grew exponentially using Mark’s program and web server. Then on July 6, 2006, Mark was arrested on felony charges without being mirandized, and his bond was set at $15,000.
At this juncture we see that it has taken an amazing three years for the State Attorney’s Office to find ‘probable cause.’ Mark Turner still refused to drop the civil charges against Pete Moore.
Mark informed the US~Observer he was then warned his wife would be arrested unless he dropped the civil case. He refused. Nancy Turner was then arrested without being mirandized, for theft of over $100,000 and her bond was set at $250,000. This was an obvious ploy to financially break the Turners after they had just lost their business as well as their home.
Nancy Turner had lived in the area for over thirty-five years, maintained a mental health private practice in two counties and had never been in trouble with the law. Prosecutor Russ Edgar informed Judge Jones that he did not plan on pursuing charges against her, but it cost her $50,000 in bail to go home to her children.
To add insult to injury, the moment Nancy Turner’s charges were dropped, she was handed a subpoena to testify against her husband as a State’s witness. The Turners still refused to drop the civil suit and they were not interested in taking the many plea offers made by Prosecutor Russ Edgar, despite the threat of a 90-year sentence versus 11-months in jail.
During Mark’s criminal trial wherein he was convicted of racketeering, conducting unlawful financial activity and using proceeds from a pattern of racketeering activities, Pete Moore Automotive Comptroller Roxanne Sawyer testified that she knew nothing about the check for $205,000 – it was never on the company books. She reported that Mark’s balance was $106,000. We obtained a copy of the check and the deposit stamp on the back states, “FOR DEPOSIT ONLY WACHOVIA BANK, N.A. PETE MOORE CHEVROLET, INC” This is significant because the State’s Forensic Accountant was provided an erroneous starting figure by Ms. Sawyer, because she apparently never credited Mark for the $205,000. This clearly removes the theft charge. Pete’s attorney Mike Guttmann testified that he personally handed Pete Moore the check.
Had Hamilton been forth-coming about all the transactions between Pete Moore Automotive and his friend Mark Turner, we believe it could have ended the case, and Turner would be a free man today. Hamilton is now under the US~Observer microscope; more on him soon.
The $205,000 check is also very important because in the post-trial Restitution Hearing, Judge Michael Jones acknowledges that Mark’s charges only add up to $83,000 and he deferred this major discrepancy to the Appeals Court. The Appeals Court never addressed this issue, because it was discovered after the trial. Mark’s criminal attorney Barry Beroset did nothing about this major discrepancy that would have negated certain charges against Turner, as they were based on the amount of $100,000.00. Judge Jones had to have known this when he made his ruling – so are we now to consider him part of this conspiracy or is it just commonplace in Pensacola, Florida for judges to sweep corruption under the rug?
An interesting note is that Pete Moore was not named as a victim until four years after the alleged theft. The charges against Mark were reportedly changed numerous times, and during the trial a number of the original victims’ charges were dropped. Their convoluted plan was apparently to drum up a multitude of charges with a number of victims, while keeping Pete Moore’s name out of the media. Another interesting note is that Pete Moore is reportedly a very heavy annual contributor to the local news media WEAR TV3 as well as the Pensacola News Journal. According to witnesses, this story has yet to be locally covered.
Patrick Gonzalez Jr.
In December 2007, the home of Mark and Nancy Turner was broken into, and the assailant was chased out of the home. When Mark filed the police report he did not know the assailant, but when a face appeared on television in connection to the murders of local car dealers Bud and Melanie Billings, Mark recognized him immediately. The assailant was identified by Mark and Nancy as Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr.
Mark believes Gonzales was hired to kill him in the midst of his refusal to accept the plea offers and drop his civil suit. Gonzales now stands convicted of first degree murder in the Billings case. To date, Gonzales admits he was “hired by car dealers to whack [other] car dealers” but he has yet to name who hired him.
Pete Moore, who became the main alleged victim in the criminal case, never filed a civil suit against Mark for a number of years, nor had he made any complaints of any theft to any agency. At the point it became apparent that Mark would never accept a plea offer, and the amended charges and victims would not hold up in court, prosecutor Russ Edgar then added Pete Moore as a victim of theft.
Mark Turner’s Defense or Lack Thereof
Mark’s criminal attorney Barry Beroset never counted on Mark refusing the plea offer. In this investigative journalist’s well qualified opinion, he completely failed to prepare for trial. He failed to present the exculpatory evidence that proved Mark had paid Pete Moore for the cars the state alleged he stole. According to witnesses, Mark’s sister-in-law who is also an attorney, attended the trial and was openly consulted by Beroset as to the contents of the evidence, because he apparently didn’t know the contents himself. Thus, the trial was an apparent fiasco of prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel.
Furthermore, Jim Chase, Mark’s civil attorney who kept Mark’s company’s funds in his Trust Account, was reportedly threatened by prosecutor Russ Edgar with collusion involving the Money Laundering charge, and Chase failed to present key evidence for Turner at trial. We call this Obstruction of Justice. Attorney Jim Chase failed to return our phone call on our recent trip to Pensacola. Much like his conduct at Turner’s trial – he was AWOL…
Turner’s criminal trial was predicted to take a minimum of a month, but ended in less than two weeks. Turner was found guilty and sentenced to three concurrent prison terms of 12.5 years, followed by 17.5 years of probation. Strangely, Judge Jones upheld a sentence that lawfully did not fit the crime. Mark learned that his Appeal was denied during the last week of August 2010 and he has since been transferred to Bay Correctional Facility in Panama City, Florida.
How can a person be convicted of Money Laundering his own money? How does one man, Special State Prosecutor Russ Edgar, have the authority to offer a sentence of less than a year, while threatening 90 years of incarceration if the plea is rejected?A great American journalist, H.L. Mencken wrote, “Any man who takes the liberty of another into his keeping is bound to become a tyrant, and any man who yields up his liberty, in however slight the measure, is bound to become a slave.”
Mark Turner and Family
We have just got our feet wet concerning this investigation – with full intentions of getting to the bottom of this apparent travesty of justice. We have been warned to “watch our backs,” that people involved in this case are fully capable of “getting rid of us.” We have one response – we are coming…
Anyone with information on this case is urged to contact Edward Snook at 541-474-7885 – all sources will be held strictly confidential.
Rest assured, Pensacola, we will not rest until the truth is exposed! We are currently seeking information from customers who have bid on cars offered by Pete Moore Chevrolet on the internet. Do you have your Bid-History? We would also ask people, who have information on Pete Moore Chevrolet employee Rick Hamilton, to contact Edward Snook at 541-474-7885 or via email: email@example.com. All information received is strictly confidential.