When Byrd "Bud" and Melanie Billings were murdered in Beulah, Florida on July 9th, years of the ugly legacy of the used car business became public. In the fringe of the news surrounding the murder is Mark Turner. Turner is a former used auto dealer, and he did business with Bud Billings and Cab Tice - names you will know if you are following the murders. Turner believes Pete Moore, or his representatives, and perhaps specifically, Florida Special Prosecutor, Russ Edgar framed him. He also believes someone in the industry tried to kill him. See
9-5-09 9-8-09 updates in red text below.
Turner believes that the man accused of killing Bud and Melanie, Patrick Gonzalez, Jr., was hired to kill him and maybe his family. Turner believes Pete Moore, a General Motors dealer in Pensacola, had reason to want Turner dead. There is no proof of this, but it is the speculation of the Turners.
There is a link to that story at the bottom of the page. I am just a blogger with no special connection to this case. I have no inside information, and I do not live in the Pensacola area, but I do have the documents available to me on Mark Turner's website as well as the information I have gotten through some investigative efforts. Turner's documents are available to the public online.
Mark Turner is fighting to stay out of prison, and his story deserves to be told. He is awaiting his appeal case on criminal charges, and he is facing the possibility of 3 life sentences. What can possibly bring 3 life sentences to a man who killed no one, stole nothing, and harmed no one? It is a Kafka-esque story.
The court records and other documentation I'm reading indicates that Turner is the victim of State Special Prosecutor, Russ Edgar's abusive use of power, and a high-profile, wealthy Pensacolan, Pete Moore, an auto retailer and owner of Pete Moore Chevrolet, located at 103 New Warrington Road in Pensacola. Moore also owned Volkswagen and Mitsubishi franchises - all under Pete Moore Chevrolet umbrella. He is a local philanthropist - and the media doesn't want to talk about Pete Moore beyond the new autos he donates for good causes like the Police, Sheriff and Beach rescue vehicles.
Mark Turner believes Pete Moore and Pete Moore Chevrolet were buying into his Internet auto sales business for $500,000.00. There is no clear proof, like a signed contract of sale that I can find. There was a business plan submitted, and according to Turner, conversations and verbal agreements which included Rick Hamilton, Moore's General Manager. Perhaps there was more than this, but this is what I find. If necessary, I'll amend later.
Turner maintains the $500,000 sales price was far below market value, in Turner's opinion, and according to appraisals. For his money, Moore was getting the No. 1 Internet Auto Sales technology in the country, and arguable in the world, and in turn, Turner was getting a well-established dealership with sound financial backing and both were contributing many years of business expertise. In April of 2003, Turner gave Moore a $220,000 mortgage on two properties and he and his wife Nancy signed a personal note as collateral for the debt owed Moore.
Turner actually documents the debt owed as $146,000. Moore's Comptroller testified that the actual debt was $106,000. Turner was to make monthly payments of $3,000.00. At times, he was paying down the $220,000 debt in excess of $3,000, and at times he got behind on payments. Turner says he has proof of each payment he did make. Turner was selling Pete Moore's used autos through his own Internet business and Moore paid him a commission. Turner has evidence on his website that he says shows Pete Moore Chevrolet increased its Internet sales by 700% after taking over Turner's business and using his programming, methodology and staff.
The summaries provided by Moore's legal team and given to Moore's civil attorney, are linked below. If you zoom in, the document shows $328,000+, minus monies owed to Pete Moore Chevrolet of $284,000+, leaving "Auto Gallery Profit..." $41,731.63. Now, the numbers are difficult to read. Cut me some slack if I'm off some, but it is clear that there were monies made, and a debt subtracted, leaving "profit" to Auto Gallery. This was never introduced into evidence. The document is linked below.
The agreement, according to Turner, required Turner to move his auto inventory into the lot next to Pete Moore Chevrolet, and move his computers, software programs and staff physically into Moore's operation. All of that happened. According to Moore, Turner's business was closing and Moore had no arrangement to consolidate.
By December 15, 2003, with all of Mark's company located inside Pete Moore Chevrolet, Pete Moore shut-out Turner, and he lost complete control of his company. Turner says none of his intellectual or physical property were ever returned to him.
After all the routine actions to try to get Moore to honor their agreement and let him back into his own business...nothing yielded results. Mark Turner sued Pete Moore, Pete Moore Chevrolet and Richard "Rick" Hamilton. Then the abuses of power began. The bottom-line of the very confusing Florida State criminal case against Mark Turner is as follows:
Count 1 finally settled at Turner stealing $205,684.42 from Pete Moore, $63,000 of which was owed directly to Rick Hamilton, Moore's General Manager and Mark's best friend. In addition, there was a money laundering charge explained later in this article.
Moore's attorney Michael Guttmann prepared a note and two mortgages in the amount of $220,000 signed by Mark and Nancy Turner to pay off the note. Minimum monthly installment payments were set up at this time. Mark and Nancy Turner sold a piece of property and Michael Guttmann picked up a check for $205,684.42 from the property closing attorney, Mr. Farrington. Guttmann provided the exact pay-off amount to Farrington. Guttmann gave the check for $205,684.42 directly to Pete Moore.
In the meantime, Roxanne Sawyer the Comptroller, whose word is golden with Pete Moore and Rick Hamilton, has already testified that Turner owed Moore only $106,00, told Moore that Turner was not making his payments. In the background, Rick Hamilton said he did not know that Guttmann's note and mortgages included $63,000.00 owed to him.
By the time the trial started, testimony shows that Roxanne Sawyer did not know that Moore had been paid in full and absolutely none of the $205,684.42 had been attributed to Turner's account. Moore told no one that he had been paid in full, and Hamilton believed Turner's debt to him to still be outstanding, and had no idea that he should have been paid by Moore.
Before the State's criminal lawsuit against Turner, Turner filed his own suit in September 2004 against Pete Moore, claiming that Moore stole Turner's Internet Auto Sales business. In the course of the civil trial (still ongoing today) and during the criminal trial Moore claims that the physical property he took from Mark Turner was owed him, and he claimed that the intellectual property amounted to nothing, even though Turner's business was professionally appraised at $2 million dollars before Moore took over Turner's property.
Guttmann was advised of the appraisal in the letter linked below on September 9, 2004. This letter was never received into evidence.
Turner sued Moore in Fall 2004, but no action was taken against Mark until July 2006.
The State's criminal suit began with many charges, including names in the fringe, in this case: David Turner, Joe and Lisa Zolnoski and the Christensen Brothers. All were dismissed.
The criminal lawsuit maintained that Turner stole some $500,000 of something (which I believe included the dismissed charges), and "money laundering was charged, which is a phenomenal story in itself.
Moore never filed theft charges with the Police or the Sheriff or filed a lawsuit - but the State did. The $500,000 included charges that Turner owned money to Automotive Finance Corporation (AFC), despite the fact that Mark has documentation from AFC clearly stating that Turner owned them nothing.
During the jury trial, Prosecutor Edgar displayed a large poster board in full view of the jury showing that Turner owed $500,000. In 2007, when it became apparent that Mark Turner would not drop the civil lawsuit against Pete Moore, now amounting to $36 million with the expected appreciation of Turner's business, the State offered Turner two pleas: drop the civil suit against Moore and spend 10-20 months in prison, and another to spend 3-5 years in prison instead of the possibility of the 3 life sentences he is facing today - and if he dropped the case against Moore, Turner probably would not need to pay restitution to Moore.
So, it leaves it open to question if the State was doing the dirty work on behalf of Pete Moore, or if Russ Edgar was on a vendetta, or can charges like these ever be considered reasonable? The fact that Turner owed Moore nothing meant nothing to Florida State Special Prosecutor Russ Edgar. However, I am unclear about the money laundering. It appears that the money-laundering charges trumped up Mark's supposed debt. More on this later.
Stricken-through 9-5-09>Stricken-through 8-30-09: For some unclear reason, ...some in Pensacola believed that Mark's brother David, owned Auto Gallery of Pensacola.
In the end, there was absolutely no reason for anyone to believe that Mark did NOT own his business. Mark's bank didn't believe it and when David Turner tried to clean out his brother's business bank account, the bank called Mark. The funds were frozen.
Update 9-5-09: I have found all of the CPA testimony by Randall Sansom, which clearly proves that David Turner's tax returns reflect nothing identifying him as an owner, or the owner, of Auto Gallery of Pensacola. When the judge said Mark Turner could not be convicted of stealing David Turner's business, it was because David Turner was never an owner. See Trial Volume 8 pages 1454 - 1462. This testimony also includes some really pathetic questioning of Special Prosecutor Russ Edgar.
Okay, I've stricken through the above because it is not all that simple. The testimony was far too murky to say who believed what.
Update: 9-05-09: I'm returning to my original statement, IT IS SIMPLE. Mark owned the business in question in this trial. Mark's brother was not proven to own the company - ever. It was proven that his brother, David, had not paid taxes on the company, but Mark had, and it was proven that Mark ran the business, did the buying, did the selling or supervised the selling. The State of Florida charged that Mark stole his brother's business and the Judge said Mark could not be convicted of that charge.
Update 9-05-09: Randall Sansom, the CPA for David Turner made it clear that David Turner never filed tax returns to reflect the ownership of the business discussed in this trial. On Mark Turner's website, see Trial Vol. 8, pages 1454 - 1462.
Eventually, all the documentation was available to everyone and it was documented that Mark Turner owned the business and that David Turner owned no part of the business and the bank released the funds to Mark Turner.
While the funds were frozen, the bank continued to honored obligations for payment when presented, and accepted funds coming in to the business. Mark's personal banker recommended that Mark open a new account with the bank, which he did, but no funds were transferred there. At that time, Mark received a phone call from the bank president saying he no longer wanted to do business with the Turner brothers. He asked Mark to come in and pick up a cashier's check for the account balance. He refused to do a wire transfer to Mark's attorney's trust account.
So according to Mark, he picked up the checks, totaling $146,000 and delivered them to his attorney for deposit. When bills needed to be paid, civil attorney Jim Chase gave Mark $5,000 from Mark's money. Mark paid the debts and brought the receipts back to Chase, according to Mark. Now about the money laundering. I know little about this charge in general, but here is how it seems to work in Mark Turner's case. In a separate charge, referred to as Count 2 in court papers, Special Prosecutor Russ Edgar charged Mark with money laundering. In the testimony from certified documents that I have in my possession, from Mark's Restitution Hearing in June 2008, Edgar explained it this way:
Page 912 and 913 (23-2-24) beginning at the end of Line 25, Russ Edgar speaking: The transaction total is, how much did you withdraw from the Auto Gallery account? Okay. It could be 25,000, $26,000. How much did you deposit in Jim Chase's account? that would be $26,000. How much money did you take out of Jim Chase's account? That's $26,000. How much did you put into the new bank account that you created for the new business? That could be $26,000. Total transaction, $104,000. That's over $100,000.If I understand this correctly, the $26,000 is an example only. To be accurate, he would have cited the actual monies taken out the Auto Gallery account when the account was closed and all obligations paid, and those monies left the bank and went to Jim Chase. From the example above, he says $26,000 leaving the bank is added to $26,000 going into Chase's account, added to $26,000 coming out of Chase's account, added to $26,000 going into a new business bank account - all totaling $104,000. As I understand it, a money laundering conviction under $100,000 is a lesser sentence than that that over $100,000. After the Restitution Hearing, on Page 907, beginning at Line 20, it says:
The total of all of that that's owed is $83,643.73, which, in fact, is less tank the jury found. The jury found that it was more than 100,000, but the -- that is contrary to the weight of the evidence introduced in its case in chief by the State.Edgar then states that this is Count 2 and there are no victims.
According to Turner, and from what I see in the supporting evidence, everything owed was paid before the criminal trial ever began. I've stricken this until further investigation 8-30-09:
With the plethora of police and FBI forensic shows on television, we all know that evidence must remain pure. No unauthorized person touches evidence. There is a chain-of-security that must always be maintained for a case to get to court.
Well, it didn't happen that way for Mark Turner. Kevin Hausfeld, an attorney for Pete Moore, was allowed to take multiple boxes of evidence out of the Sheriff's office (not Sheriff Morgan) and ply through them. Hausfeld was required to index all the contents and write a summary.
So, before Mark Turner was ever charged with anything, the evidence gathering was going on at the Sheriff's Department, UPDATE: - the reason was David Turner was trying to prove that he owned his brother's business - which we know he did not.
But here's the thing: the evidence left the chain-of-security and was turned over to Pete Moore's counsel - and Pete Moore was the defendant in Mark Turner's civil lawsuit.
In closing, Mark Turner is preparing for his Appeal. The court does not allow him to work in the auto industry, and while he once was a well-to-do man, he is now indigent. He has been appointed an State Appeals attorney. Perhaps, if Mark's situation can garner widespread interest, maybe someone out there will offer help, especially legal help.
Feel free to call contact Mark directly. He is ready to talk, to explain. The rest of his life at stake. He and his wife Nancy have three children and two dogs.
To reach Mark directly go to his blog.
To view all the evidence, go here.
This link goes to, among other items: Notice of business appraisal to Michael Guttmann Document showing debt subtracted from monies received leaving a "profit" for Auto Gallery EBay Motors letter attesting to the success of Turner's business Plea offers
Update 9-8-09: New: Mark Turner Needs Your Help: New Trial for Turner: Letter To Gov. Crist. Mark Turner Sleuths Needed: Help Mark Turner by Sleuthing *****
Background on Mark Turner.
Background on the Billings' Murders
Maggie's Disclaimer: Friends, I've done my best to represent this from what I'm reading, all of which has been made available to anyone wanting it - including all parties in all lawsuits. If changes need to be made, I'll make them and note that I got it wrong. My apologies for any misstatement or oversight.
Update 9-05-09 - again my apologies for taking so much time satisfying my own knowledge-base that Mark Turner definitely owned his company - BECAUSE, the company ownership was the original reason the criminal case against Mark was filed - and then it morphed to charge-after-charge in an effort to, I believe, and Mark believes, get him to drop the lawsuit against Pete Moore.