Exile Corporation is the first novel in a series of three books that are in the Exile series.
Exile Corporation is based on the true story of British born Mark McClafferty, who goes from living large in Los Angeles, to becoming a fugitive chased by the FBI, and serving 4 years and 3 months in the US Federal Correctional Institution system.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark and was very impressed with how forthcoming he was about his story. Enjoy.
Who is Mark McClafferty?
I am the youngest of four children and grew up in a happy, normal household, getting good grades at school and playing all types of sports growing up. When I left school I went straight into college to learn a construction trade. I would like to think I am a thoughtful and resourceful person who cares about his family and friends. I am a self-driven entrepreneur who sees life as full of possibilities and opportunities. My outlook on life is what I like to call, relaxed intensity. I am fun to be around and at work with but yet I am focused on succeeding at whatever task I am facing that day. I am a risk taker and I understand that having a vision does not mean that you can see the end result at that time.
Why did you move to the US and why LA?
In 1990 my good friend at that time told me he was going out to Florida in January of 1991 and asked me if I wanted to go with him. I was working on construction sites as a bricklayer at the time, and I jumped at the chance to travel with him and see some of the USA, and have an adventure. At the age of 25, I took what little savings I had and bought a 6-week return flight ticket. I arrived in Orlando on 18th January 1991.
I had some friends that were already living and working in LA, and so, when my 6-week return flight ticket expired, I took a Greyhound Bus across from Florida to LA. 3 ½ days later I arrived in Hollywood on the bus! I had no idea what I was going to do or how long I was going to stay, all I knew was that living in LA was going to be better that what I knew was waiting for me back in England at that time. I answered an Advertisement in the LA Times that read ‘Train to become a Stockbroker’, and the rest as they say is history!
You were the mastermind behind a company that embezzled $117 million in the USA; did you have to pay back the people you scammed?
The process of embezzling, which is basically a fancy word for stealing; is something that catches up on you; I didn’t begin any of the investment programs with the intention of stealing from anyone. Due to my flair for the written word and discipline in studying the investment prospectuses of other companies, I ended up taking over and operating 18 boiler rooms across 7 US States, which were selling investment units in internet companies that I essentially dreamed up and wrote, which ultimately couldn’t sustain the returns on investment.
I have a restitution order of $15.7 million which is a voluntary as I am not a US Citizen.
What did you do with all that money? Is it all gone now?
The big number is the headline, but then after commissions, overheads and salaries, etc. the actual earned number is quite a lot lower. During the period I was involved in telemarketing, I spent the money on living the lifestyle any 30 year old would want. Driving fast cars, making fast cash and chasing fast women. I lived in a million dollar home on the beach in Marina del Rey, California. I partied in all the top restaurants and nightclubs throughout LA and Las Vegas. I always had a penthouse suite on tap along the Sunset Strip and at the Bellagio in Vegas. Whenever I went out, I would have a roll of around $10,000 on me and my Gold AMEX. Anything I wanted to do, I could and would do. I had my entourage in tow pretty much every night, picking them up in the limousine on the way out. I took nine-months off and toured Europe with my fiancé, staying in top hotels, hiring helicopters and yachts while in Monaco amongst other cities. I was living life like a movie star by day and a rock star by night.
Why did you choose to live the life of a fugitive? Why not surrender when you found out the FBI was after you?
The inherent built-in fear that we all have, is the unknown. I had only seen prison from the movies and documentaries and I am sure that I am right in thinking that all of your readers would agree with me when I say no-one wants to go to prison!
My instant reaction was one of fight or flight. I chose to flee. At that time, on May 23rd 2001 I was in a state of shock at the thought of handing myself in when I found out that the FBI was looking for me in LA. I made a calculated decision on that day that if they wanted me bad enough then they would have to come get me. It took approximately 3 ½ years for them to come and get me.
Do you think that running made your sentence worse?
I know this is going to come across in a wrong way, but to be honest, having been on the run for all that time actually worked in my favor when I was brought before the US Federal Prosecutor. The case had been ‘open’ now since 1999 when their investigation had begun into me. So, nearly five years had passed. Others involved had been sentenced, most had already served their time and had been released. And I was the main man that they had wanted since day one. I had never disclosed to anyone how the investment scheme worked or how I was laundering the money and so when it came down to deal, the Feds were willing to trade information for a lighter sentence. Since all the heat had gone and new people were involved with the case, they just wanted to deal and I wanted a plea-bargain agreement, and so, the sentence went from 15 years to 4 years 9 months; where I served 4 years, 3 months and 11 days in 8 different US Federal prisons across America.
Are you still in contact with people from your old life?
No. while serving my time, I was able to reflect on my life and who I was. And, I didn’t like myself very much. I had squandered the very opportunities I had come to America to find; happiness and success, and instead I had hurt a lot of innocent people who had entrusted their lives to me and I had hurt and brought shame upon my family. I made the conscious decision to become a better man and live a life away from anyone that I had been in contact with in the past life.
My advice to your readers is that anyone who, for any reason, is not enriching your life, then they are not worth having in your life. We are all flawed and will make mistakes. Be true to yourself and be as kind and understanding as you can to others. They are not you; and cannot know what you want from them in your life. You are allowed to be you so be the BEST you can be. Love life and live it large – now has a new meaning for me –
Now you live in England and work as a business consultant. What was that journey like and how did you get people to trust you again?
When I arrived home on March 12, 2009, it was a surreal experience. No one knew how I would be, and I didn’t know how I would be with others. In prison, we have a saying, “You do you, and I’ll do me,” meaning, you take care of you, and I will do the same. Everyone is held accountable for their actions.
Life outside of prison is not like this.
To begin with all of my friends that I had grown up with were understandably wary of me as I had been in prison. It was like they were waiting to see if I was a ‘criminal’ or not. I was approached by some characters who obviously thought that I was and propositioned me with some ideas of their own. I firmly told them that just because I had gone to prison, didn’t mean that I was a criminal. I went to prison because of the crime I had committed and I had to pay my dues.
I took my time to acclimate myself back into everyday life, which took around 10 months for me to get used to the hectic, bullshit of day-to-day life where it seems anyone can say anything, promise anything and never be held accountable for their words or actions, or lack of.
To begin with, my outlook on what had happened was to hold my head up and tell it like it was. Everyone was told the same, so that they could choose whether they wanted me in their life, to work with, or not. I was transparent and honest about what I had done, and overall, the people who chose not to work with me I can count on one hand.
I try to be the best person that I can possibly be. Life is hard but then we are all living it the same way; one day at a time. Start each day humble, learn something new, and then finish it great by doing something for someone else or feeling good about yourself.
What did you learn from this experience?
The majority of people I met in prison are no different than you and me. The majority have their own families and are in prison due to their own life situations. I have learned that I am blessed to have been brought up in a loving, and supportive family with a lot of diverse and fun friends. I have found the most awesome girl in the whole world who loves me unconditionally for who I am.
I have learned that life is what you make of it. I focused on becoming the best salesperson and businessperson, and then I used my knowledge to take from others when I should have used it to help others. I am now turning my new knowledge and experience to educate and help people to make better life decisions. There might be one person out there, reading this now, and hopefully it will inspire them to do something other than what they were thinking of doing; for the worse. If I can stop one person from getting scammed then it has been worth it, and, if I can stop one person from stealing money from someone, then I am happy to have had to go through what I have.
What is your biggest regret about this experience?
My biggest regret is having turned down a path knowing where it would lead but naively thinking it wouldn’t happen to me. I would love to be able to go back and ‘do it over’. I regret that I was the person that you are now reading about. I regret that I was this person, who I usually read about in the newspaper or see on the news. I have lived with the prison sentence hanging over me while on the run, not knowing if it would be one-year or ten, and now I live my life knowing that I will forever have to be known as the ex-con, or that guy who was in prison. They say “you do the crime, you do the time”, but it is never over and it never leaves you. Prison is a life sentence and your crime will stay with you throughout your life.
My biggest regret is having to be me.
How much of what you wrote about in Exile Corporation is true?
Exile Corporation was written as a way of escaping the daily life in prison. When I was sentenced, and I knew that I had around 3 years left to serve, it was a way of surviving it. I have always been a mentally busy person and so, I needed a purpose; a goal. It was my way of saying to the prison, “you might have my body but you don’t have my mind.” So, I thought about things that had happened in my life or to people I knew and I began writing about my feelings and past experiences.
I would say, about 25 percent of the story is actually based on true events which I have expanded upon. 25 percent of the book is made up of true stories that other inmates have told me about their crimes and their lives. The other 50 percent is just fiction, drawn from whatever events were taking place at the time I was writing the story.
Exile Corporation is being made into a movie, do you have any big names attached that you can tell me about?
Exile Corporation has been published as a Novel since late 2010. I am now developing the book into a feature film. There are great actors attached to the film, who can be found on the production company’s website: www.nvsmediagroup.com
Most of the actors are television series actors, appearing in Burn Notice and the exciting new series, Trafico. One has toured with and written a hit record with Brittany Spears. One actor has been in feature films such as, The Aviator, The Departed and Shutter Island.
I am producing the film through my own production company and so I am excited about the possibility of discovering the next big thing! I have my chance at redemption, and I would love to play a part in helping someone fulfil their dreams. As the heading says on the cover of my novel
Truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction can sometimes come true.
We shall see….the next chapter in my own life is being written now….
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to write about my life. I hope I have done your readers justice in explaining how it was and how it is now.
“Love life and live it large”