Two Ex-Cons Fight for Stakes in a Gold-for-Cash Business

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The 2010 New Times article on Unkefer and Clark riled them, Mark Davidson says. Harley called him after reading it and spewed, "What's this shit about us owning a gold company?" Harley figured that because the brothers were "contingent beneficiaries" in Mango Trust, they had an interest in the gold firm.

When he asked Unkefer about his 30 percent investment in Republic, Davidson says, Unkefer stopped speaking to him. That's when Mark Davidson wrote the Teeple Hall law firm and asked for a copy of the trust. He says the firm told him he couldn't see it because he wasn't a beneficiary.

In the discovery process of the lawsuit, Davidson proved he and Sharon's other children were contingent beneficiaries, which means they, Laundy Unkefer, and Sherman's children will inherit the trust after Unkefer dies. It turned out that Sharon had, in shaky handwriting, signed a will the month before she died that cut out her children and placed all her assets in the trust for Sherman Unkefer's benefit for as long as he lives. Mark Davidson says he believes she did this to protect her children from potential legal actions against her husband.

But Mark says he now realizes that all the trust does is protect Unkefer from his fraud victims, in addition to hiding Unkefer's money. The accounting paperwork is unorthodox, leading Mark and Harley to believe that Unkefer is up to no good. For instance, an X-1 balance sheet from 2009 shows that $1.2 million was spent on "travel/other."

Mark Davidson came to the conclusion that "we all got screwed in this deal." It was past the two-year window to sue for changes to the trust, but Mark pressed Teeple Hall for a full accounting of the trust's finances.

There's an outside chance the Davidsons' lawsuit against Unkefer could result in a payoff from the trust to the brothers, Mark Davidson admits. But he and Harley say their overriding goal is to help the County Attorney's Office stick it to their ex-con stepfather.

"Harley and I don't want a dime of it," Mark maintains.

The Davidson brothers' professed loathing for Unkefer is difficult to fully comprehend, given their previous mutually beneficial relationship with him. One thing seems clear: If the brothers manage to knock the financial wind out of Unkefer, that's not what their mother would have wanted.

A year after his contribution to Republic Monetary Exchange, Unkefer signed an operating agreement with Clark in which he would receive a 30.4 percent ownership stake in the company. Unkefer's involvement was hidden behind a company called Occidental Resources Group.

That company, known as ORG, is owned by Occidental Management, managed by San Diego lawyer Todd Hall. Occidental Management, in turn, is owned by Mango Trust.

As they planned, Unkefer and Clark talked of how Unkefer would "own nothing but control everything," according to Unkefer's deposition testimony.

Under that plan, Unkefer's creditors from long ago would have a tough time trying to lay claim to any part of the gold firm.

The business relationship worked fine for a while. The capital investment allowed Jim Clark to launch the company. Unkefer helped with employee matters, gave occasional pep talks to the sales crew, and attended Republic Christmas parties.

However, e-mails between attorney Grant Teeple and Jim Clark in November 2010 suggest that Teeple worried that the "internal controls" for accounting used by Republic at the time weren't cutting it.

Teeple said he needed the passwords to accounting software used by Republic, but he was rebuffed by John Jakubczyk, Clark's lawyer.

By early 2011, representatives of the Teeple Hall firm demanded complete access to the company's books. Clark felt this would allow them access to company secrets, including lists of clients who themselves were like gold.

The tension grew by January, when Unkefer sent Clark an e-mail telling him to take Teeple's demands for information seriously.

"The important thing to remember here is that the trust is truly not owned or controlled by me," Unkefer reminded Clark.

Then, in March 2011, Unkefer — saying he was in the midst of a 50-city tour for XanGo — told Clark in an e-mail that he had just learned that Grant Teeple intended to sue Republic and that "there is not much that I can do about this."

Clark wrote back, "Don't play coy with me," adding that the pending lawsuit should be no surprise to Unkefer. Clark told Unkefer he'd hoped to buy out Unkefer because "this is obviously not working out for either of us."

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern