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Corrections ex-chief may lose pension

He and a protege are targets in investigations of the state prison system, the U.S. attorney says.

Published March 30, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - U.S. Attorney Paul I. Perez has notified the state that retirement and pension benefits for two former state prison officials may be forfeited because both are the targets of federal criminal investigations.

In a highly unusual letter sent to state retirement officials and lawyers for former Corrections Secretary James V. Crosby Jr. and Allen C. Clark, Perez said all of their assets, including state retirement benefits, may be subject to forfeiture proceedings. Both men were advised not to "dissipate, transfer or remove from the United States any such asset, fund or account."

Conviction of a job-related felony would cause both men to lose all retirement benefits, but Crosby and Clark have yet to be charged with a crime. Both are targets of federal and statewide grand jury investigations into steroid trafficking, misappropriation of state money and property and other allegations.

The letters, dated March 8, are the first public acknowledgement of a growing federal involvement in the investigation of Crosby and other prison officials and a sign of how serious their legal problems may be.

Crosby, 53, stands to lose a $5,500 monthly pension and $215,000 in deferred compensation plus money invested in homes in Tallahassee and Starke if convicted of serious crimes. But state officials say they have no legal reason to hold up the payments as long as Crosby has not been convicted of a crime.

Crosby will collect his first pension check at the end of the month and collected $215,326 in deferred compensation on March 17, according to retirement records.

Clark, 40, a protege of Crosby's, resigned from his job as North Florida regional director for the prison system on Aug. 30 as word of the investigation spread.

The exact amount of Clark's retirement fund could not be immediately determined.

Gov. Jeb Bush defended Crosby for months after the investigation became public, but asked for his resignation in early February when he was advised of the federal grand jury investigation.

Lawyers for Crosby and Clark have refused to discuss the investigation. State and federal law enforcement officers won't discuss details.

Crosby and Clark were career prison employees and longtime friends. They are but two of more than a dozen corrections officials who have lost their jobs in an investigation that began in late 2004.

Jim McDonough, appointed when Crosby resigned last month, has fired or demoted about a dozen Crosby cronies.

In addition, a dozen corrections officers have been accused of trafficking in steroids, stealing money from a recycling fund and other crimes.

In its beginning stages, the investigation appeared to focus on relatively minor issues like the use of inmate labor to repair vehicles and homes, equipment owned by the prison system that turned up at Crosby's home and the use of employee club funds raised by selling raffle tickets and other events. But the federal letter noting the possibility of seizing retirement funds signals a more serious investigation.

Crosby has spent 33 years in the prison system, working his way up to the top spot in 2003.

A former mayor and city commissioner in Starke and a former Democrat, Crosby has long been a player on the state's political scene, raising money and support for Bush and his brother, President Bush.

He also has spent time cultivating relationships with several lobbyists who represent vendors with the prison system. Last year, Crosby made headlines for socializing with lobbyist Don Yaeger and executives of a company trying to win a contract to monitor sex offenders for the state.

[Last modified March 30, 2006, 02:15:33]

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