Shawn Clark justified his use of a union charge card at strip clubs as business expenses. Federal prosecutors have a different word for it: embezzlement. Clark, formerly business representative for both the New Jersey Regional Council of Carpenters and Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 455 in Somerville, N.J., was arrested on Thursday morning, June 18, after a federal grand jury handed down a 16-count indictment alleging he’d embezzled more than $85,000 by making unauthorized charges on his union’s American Express card. Roughly $65,000 of this sum represented 450 transactions at 14 area gentlemen’s clubs. Clark’s attorney, John Fahy, says his client, released on a $100,000 bond, plans to plead not guilty to all counts.
People long have conducted business at restaurants, taverns, sports skybox suites and other pleasure venues. But it’s hard to imagine too many people doing a deal at a go-go joint. And that, say prosecutors, is the kind of place Clark, 44, a resident of Branchburg, and associates supposedly did business between December 2000 and December 2007. Clark’s favorite spot was Double D’s in Morristown, N.J., where he racked up expenses of $49,709 through 331 separate charges. For variety, he allegedly used his union AMEX card at Johnny A’s Hitching Post in Paterson, Torpedo’s in Bound Brook, Pure Go-Go in Manville, Shooter’s West in Union, and Showoff’s in West Orange. In addition, he made unauthorized purchases at standard restaurants and bars, and bought some $18,000 in merchandise at Staples and the U.S. Postal Service. These spending patterns came to light when a former member of the Local 455 governing board, identified only by the initials “M.B.,” along with that person’s treasurer, reviewed Clark’s expenditures.
Defense attorney Fahy thinks the feds are blowing smoke. “This cloud has been hanging over him (Clark) for the past two years,” he said. “He is looking forward to bringing it to trial.” Fahy added that everything his client did was above board and that outside auditing firms could find no wrongdoing. So why are prosecutors up in arms? He believes it’s about the sex. “I think there’s a prudish element to these things – that if you’re at a go-go bar, you’re doing no good,” he explained, “but in the business community, some people do business there. That’s what happened in this case.” Guilty or not, Clark’s days as a union official are over. He was fired from the New Jersey Carpenters regional council in June 2008 and Local 455 this past January. The pursuit of fantasy sex isn’t illegal in this country – we’re a long way off from the Taliban. But one has to wonder how ordering several rounds of drinks at Double D’s promotes the interests of dues-paying workers. (Bridgewater Courier News, 6/19/09).