By Debbie Burke
Cowabunga! was a popular exclamation by surfers in the 1960s. An earlier iteration, kawabunga, was coined on “The Howdy-Doody Show” in the 1950s. In the 1990s, the Ninja Turtles revived cowabunga’s popularity.
In 2016, Roberto Clark, 50, of Palm Bay, Florida, had a concept for motorized surfboards he called “Jetboards” that apparently caused some investors to holler “Cowabunga!”
Between 2016 and 2019, Clark convinced people he met in bars, restaurants, and adult entertainment establishments in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. to invest in his company, KRM Services. KRM was supposed to manufacture Jetboards to be sold at big profits to cruise lines and water sports companies. Clark had a patent, purchase orders, and signed, notarized contracts to prove substantial buyer interest. He collected more than $350,000 from 14 investors.
Only one problem: he never manufactured any Jetboards.
The patent, purchase orders, and buyer contracts were falsified.
Investors’ money went, not to build Jetboards, but to finance Clark’s luxurious lifestyle. According to court filings by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, he spent: “at least $41,000 to restaurants and bars; at least $19,000 to hotels; at least $15,000 to family members; at least $8,000 to department and clothing stores; at least $5,000 to convenience and gas stores; at least $3,000 to grocery and liquor stores; at least $1,000 to gyms; at least $1,500 to spas and beauty salons; at least $1,000 to pet stores and groomers; and at least $200 to a bail bondsman.”
That last expense might have been incurred in March, 2018, when the Fairfax County Police Department arrested Clark.
Yet he brazenly continued to solicit more investors as late as 2019. When suspicious victims demanded return of their money, Clark paid some of them…with checks that bounced.
The Jetboard scam wiped out once and for all in January, 2021, when Clark was found guilty of multiple charges including securities fraud. He was sentenced to six years in prison and fined $400,000.
Here’s hoping his victims were compensated and hollered, “Cowabunga!”
No TKZer would ever invest in a company whose owner they met in a bar or adult establishment, right? Do you know anyone who has?