Feb. 14 (Bloomberg) -- The son of Darden Media Group Chairman Calvin Darden Sr. was charged with impersonating his father in a multimillion-dollar fraud tied to the purchase of Maxim magazine, U.S. prosecutors said.
Calvin Darden Jr., 39, who once worked as a Wall Street stockbroker, posed as his father in e-mails and on telephone calls and tricked lenders into providing him more than $8 million for the acquisition of the men’s magazine Maxim, while trying to con another investor out of $20 million, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said yesterday. In a separate scheme, Darden claimed he was arranging a National Basketball Association exhibition game, the U.S. said.
While the elder Darden has served as a senior executive at United Parcel Service Inc. and on the boards of companies including Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. and Target Corp., the son was convicted of a fraud scheme in 2005 and was sent to prison, according to officials and records.
Prosecutors say that in the latest case, Calvin Darden Jr. fabricated paperwork and impersonated lenders while “lying extensively” to investors, and then lied to investigators about his whereabouts as they closed in on him.
“He is accused of an audacious fraud that includes numerous false and fraudulent documents,” Assistant U.S. Attorney James Pastore told a judge yesterday in federal court in Manhattan.
After federal agents searched Darden’s home, they found documents that “appear to be other similar investment schemes,” Pastore told U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck. “The two frauds alleged in the complaint are not all that there is.”
The prosecutor also accused Darden of causing authorities to go on a “manhunt” after lying about where he was when agents first attempted to arrest him and later lying to court authorities about his criminal record.
When federal agents went to Darden’s home to arrest him at 6 a.m. Feb. 12, his wife told them he wasn’t there, according to the prosecutor. When reached on his mobile phone, Darden told the agents he was on New York’s Long Island, Pastore said.
Authorities determined he was actually at a hotel in Teaneck, New Jersey, Pastore said. When agents arrived at the hotel, they discovered Darden had abandoned his car there and had driven to Manhattan in another vehicle, Pastore said.
Darden, of Staten Island, New York, surrendered to federal authorities late on the afternoon of Feb 12, Pastore said.
The prosecutor argued at a hearing yesterday that Darden should be held without bail because he is a flight risk and a danger to the community.
Peck said Darden may be released on $1 million bond secured by $300,000 in cash or property and five financially responsible people.
In 2005 Darden pleaded guilty to charges he stole more than $4 million from a client and three Wall Street firms and was sentenced to a prison term of four to 12 years, state authorities said.
He was imprisoned in January 2006 and released on parole in September 2008. He returned to prison in August 2010 for an unspecified reason and was re-released in October 2010, according to state records.
A voice-mail message left at his father’s business, Darden Development Group LLC, seeking comment about his son’s criminal case wasn’t immediately returned.
Peck rejected Pastore’s request that Darden’s father be one of the three people who guarantee his bond.
Xavier Donaldson, Darden’s lawyer, told the judge that “his family is willing to do what is necessary so that Mr. Darden is released.”
Donaldson declined to comment after court about the charges against his client.
By claiming to arrange for an exhibition game in Asia involving the New York Knicks, Darden defrauded an unidentified Taiwan company into paying him $500,000, prosecutors said.
Darden impersonated his father in e-mails to the company and forged his father’s signature on documents, according to a criminal complaint.
He also allegedly provided lenders interested in the Maxim purchase with a fabricated bank statement purportedly from an account held by his father. The statement falsely reported his father’s holdings in stocks of at least three publicly traded companies of which the elder Darden is a director, prosecutors said.
Darden is also accused of creating and sending a lender a phony e-mail from a bank employee that he said verified his father’s stock holdings, the government said.
After one lender put about $5.5 million into an escrow account, Darden used a Russia-based e-mail service to impersonate the lender, to secure the release of about $4.9 million toward the Maxim purchase, the government said.
The elder Darden rose to senior vice president of U.S. operations for United Parcel Service Inc., according to the website of his Atlanta-based real-estate company, Darden Development Group. He serves on the boards of Target, Coca-Cola Enterprises and Cardinal Health Inc.
The case is U.S. v. Darden, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
--Editors: Mary Romano, Peter Blumberg