Longform

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

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Continued demand in the precious-metals market could help Jim Clark and his business, at least through next year. (Some experts predict that the price of gold could peak in 2013 at about $2,000 an ounce.) Clark may end up a millionaire, but if his son is to believed, Republic's CEO may also be headed for more trouble.

Unkefer, meanwhile, could be nearing a final showdown with the state, though the restitution case still may take another year or two to resolve, the County Attorney's Office says.

After revving up the 1988 criminal-restitution order in 2008, and following several court proceedings, Unkefer and the county are moving toward possible mediation or another court hearing, says Jerry Cobb, spokesman for County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

The county hired a financial analyst last month to review Unkefer's records and "assist the court in determining a payment plan" for Unkefer, he says.

Assistant County Attorney Davina Bressler, who is handling the case, has received plenty of those records, thanks to Mark Davidson.

Cobb says the county has located about one-third of the 1,293 victims of North American Coin and Currency identified in an earlier tally. But the county still is looking to hold Unkefer to the original $7.5 million restitution, toward which Unkefer so far has paid only $4,030.

"The county attorney has continued to pursue the case out of his stated commitment to hold criminals accountable for their crimes, regardless of how long it takes," Cobb says.

Yet whether Unkefer is held accountable remains to be seen. It seems just as possible that he and Jim Clark could ride off into the sunset, their pockets still stuffed with someone else's gold.

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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