April 11, 2001
Clyde, Patricia Hood plead guilty
BY CARL WALWORTH
URBANA - Clyde Hood acknowledged on Tuesday a phony investment program he created bilked between $10 million and $20 million from investors worldwide.
Sitting side by side in federal court, Hood, 66, and his wife, Patricia Hood, 64, both of Mattoon, pleaded guilty to roles in the phony Omega Trust and Trading program that Clyde Hood allegedly created in 1994.
Hood remains in federal custody pending sentencing in August while his wife remains out on bond and could, under some circumstances, avoid a prison term.
Clyde Hood pleaded guilty to mail/wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and filing a false tax return. Patricia Hood pleaded guilty to conducting a monetary transaction with proceeds of illegal activity and filing a false tax return.
With several friends and family watching somberly, both Clyde Hood and Patricia Hood acknowledged signing a 1996 federal tax return that showed total income of $11,220. They agreed their expenditures that year totaled more than $2 million, on which the tax liability would have been about $795,000.
The guilty pleas bring to seven the number of convictions from the original 19 indictments. The trial for the remaining 12 is set to begin in May. Both Clyde Hood and Patricia Hood agreed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation and truthfully testify at the trial for co-defendants.
"I don't think I've got the time," Clyde Hood said when asked by Judge Michael McCuskey to state in his own words his criminal acts. McCuskey then asked a series of questions in which Hood conceded that no one received any return on funds invested in Omega that Hood said could yield a return of $50 for every $1 invested. Hood acknowledged he doesn't have the money to pay the investors, and that the money invested was used for the benefit of Hood, his family members
"It's reassuring our conclusions are true and correct," lead prosecutor Esteban Sanchez said of the guilty plea by the central figure in the case. "Everything was not what it appeared to be."
Sanchez said "some people out there" cling to the "slimmest of hopes" that Omega will pay a dividend. He said he hopes with Hood's acknowledgments in court that those investors realize the facts that Omega was "too good to be true and they not waste their time" waiting on a payment from Omega.
The maximum penalties for the three counts to which Clyde Hood pleaded guilty total 28 years, though he may not be eligible for the maximum once federal sentencing guidelines are applied.
Clyde Hood agreed the value of the funds involved in his Omega activity totals between $10 million and $20 million and that he was an organizer or leader of criminal activity with five or more participants, both points that work against him at sentencing. Prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence in the low to middle end of the sentence he qualifies for under the guidelines.
Patricia Hood faces maximum penalties totaling 13 years in prison. Patricia Hood won't qualify for the maximum, and Sanchez said McCuskey may consider at sentencing that she cares for a disabled adult child. It's possible, he said, that Patricia Hood wouldn't receive prison time, but sentencing ultimately is the decision of the judge who applies the guidelines to the facts in the case.
Patricia Hood agreed that a $77,000 mortgage was paid for Kimberly and Charles Brown for a Mattoon residence at 1117 S. 15th St. in June 1996 with funds from Omega investors, and Patricia Hood then was listed as the mortgagee for the property. In the plea agreement, she agreed the intent of the mortgage and related transactions was to conceal the source of Omega funds.
"I deposited a considerable amount of money through Omega," Patricia Hood said. On questioning from McCuskey, she said she knew that she and Clyde didn't earn that much money, even though at one point she said she "wasn't too familiar" with Omega. Prosecutors agree she was a "minimal participant" and said they would recommend a sentence in the low to moderate range of the guidelines. Patricia Hood agreed that the Omega transactions she was involved in total between $600,000 and $1 million.
Sanchez outlined the charges against Hood, including his use of experienced network marketers to promote the Omega program, and his false contention that he was one of about eight people in the world who could complete transactions of $250,000 twice a day, four times a week with extraordinary returns. They also described in detail series of transactions involving use of some of the funds, including purchase of the now-defunct Bluebird Diner on Marshall Avenue and the never-developed Our Original Bakery at 1717 Lake Land Blvd.
Hood deposited Omega funds into at least 24 accounts, then withdrew funds or directed others to withdraw funds in different amounts to fund businesses, home purchases and other personal uses for co-conspirators and others, prosecutors say.