Local man sentenced to one year

On Feb. 10, a Superior Court judge in Georgetown sentenced an Ocean View man to one year in jail, followed by a year of home confinement, after he pleaded guilty to stealing boats, motors and supplies.

Stanley Clark, 43, pleaded guilty to nine counts, including theft over $100,000, seven other felony theft charges and a misdemeanor. He was handcuffed and taken to jail in front of several family members who attended the hearing. The judge also ordered that Clark pay $500 per month to help pay back the victims of his crimes who collectively suffered about $340,000 in lost property.

“I’m very sorry for all that I’ve done,” Clark said at his sentencing hearing in Georgetown. “I never really looked at the long-term consequences. I’ve caused a great deal of pain to my family and my friends.”

Douglas J. Messeck, an agent with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Enforcement Section, headed the month-long investigation from May to June of 2005.

Messeck said that Clark, a former boat mechanic, stole 12 boats from private and public marinas and dealerships in Maryland and Delaware, along with a separate outboard boat motor and trailer in Delaware, between 2002 and 2005. He would take the motors and anything easily sellable and dump the boats, all of which were recovered on the side of the road, according to Messeck.

Clark owned Moonlight Marine until he declared bankruptcy in early 2005, and when someone would come to him for a boat motor, he would allegedly sell them one stolen from one of the boats.

In some cases, Messeck said, Clark didn’t have the motor the person was looking for so he would change the decals and the registration number on the stolen motor to disguise it as different equipment.

After Messeck concluded the investigation in June, Clark was arrested and charged with 33 counts, ranging from theft to forgery to criminal mischief and trespassing, before pleading to the nine charges to which he was sentenced.

“I’m glad the victims were taken care of,” Messeck said after the hearing. “There are a lot of people out at lot of money.”

Mark Gonnelli, one of the victims who had his boat stolen right out of a slip in the water, also attended and spoke at the hearing.

“They did an excellent job,” Gonnelli said of Messeck’s investigation. “If they didn’t, they would never have caught him. I wish he would have gotten more, but it’s good. I was prepared that he might not get any time.”

Steve Callaway, the public defender who defended Clark, said at the hearing that his client should receive no jail time, asking that the judge allow him to work and pay back the victims.

That, plus the pain that he already caused to his friends and family, was punishment enough, the defense attorney said of his client, who had no prior criminal record.

“It would punish the victims a second time,” Callaway said of the possible prison time, adding that they would receive no restitution while Clark was imprisoned. “Mr. Clark has been punished by his actions. Emotionally, this has caused a tremendous drain on his wife and his friends.”

Adam Gelof, the state prosecutor on the case, listened to Callaway’s argument but animatedly disagreed. The fact that his friends and family have suffered was no defense for the crime, Gelof said during the hearing.

“He sees that as some kind of mitigating circumstances,” Gelof said. “The state sees it as quite the opposite. Mr. Clark is not a common criminal. He had choices. Justice means jail time.”