Fred Topous Jr. is a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty in 1999 to the charge of assault with intent to penetrate a thirteen year old minor female who just happened to be his boss’s daughter. He can easily be labelled a career criminal as his records show that he’s either been imprisoned or on parole for all of but three years between the years of 1984 and 2006 for three individual criminal convictions.
But after his release from prison in 2006, Topous hit the lottery… I mean he literally hit the lottery!
In 2008, Topous picked the six winning numbers in Michigan’s $57 million State Lottery. The proceeds netted him a whopping thirty-four million dollars in a one-time lump sum payout.
In some cases, ex-convicts’ who have significant amounts of money or receive windfalls after their release have been ordered to give a substantial amount to the state to cover the expense of their upkeep for the period of time they were incarcerated. But in Topous’s case, the attorney general’s office didn’t pursue any economic payback. So to sum it up Topous got to keep the full payout, his debt to society already paid in full.
But this article isn’t about Fred Topous Jr., not directly at least. This is a story about Murder for Hire.
In late 2009, Topous began a business venture with a well-known area lawyer named Clarence K. Gomery. Together they purchased what was originally a golf course and redeveloped the property into Northern Meadows, a wedding and banquet facility by way of the newly formed company. T&G Real Estate Development LLC that Gomery setup. Before going into private practice Gomery held the positions as an Assistant County Prosecutor as well as County Prosecutor in two separate jurisdictions.
The purchase was made for $500,000 of which Gomery didn’t contribute any funds. However, Gomery had Topous sign a document which was subsequently altered (as decided in a civil suit judgment) to indicate Gomery as fifty percent partner on the property deal. Gomery’s law firm Gomery and Associates, also handed Topous a bill for legal services rendered in the amount of $25,000 which Topous paid. Topous charged that he paid approximately $500,000 and didn’t receive accounting of the purchase of the property. During the course of its operation, T&G Real Estate Development LLC only received one payment of $1500 from Northern Meadows.
Hence, Topous sued Gomery in the 13th Circuit Court on the grounds that he had made several demands requesting the operating accounting and the agreement but received no satisfaction. He hired Chris Cooke to act as his attorney in the case.
According to court documents Gomery had primarily refused to produce any books, records, or accountings. Attorney Cooke charged that Gomery “induced” his client to invest funds in the new business and then “used the business to host weddings for family members at Plaintiff’s expense.” According to court documents the attorney also accused Gomery of “fraudulently editing the operating agreement giving him fifty percent ownership and fifty percent interest in the property with no monetary investment on his own part.” He also claimed that Gomery named Topous as the responsible party for property taxes associated with the property owned by the newly formed LLC.
Last May a jury established that Gomery did indeed induce Mr. Topous into the agreement by violating ethical rules as well as committing malpractice and fraud by altering the operating documents at the same time he collected $25,000 from his new business partner under the pretext of settling a lawsuit which threatened Topous’ brother, Jeff, by making it “go away.”
The jury awarded the property to Topous in full with exception of $13,000 which went to improvements made by Gomery before the lawsuit was filed. Besides losing the property Gomery was ordered to pay Topous $314,000 to cover court costs and attorney’s fees. Additionally, Judge Thomas Power issued a sanctions order against Gomery in November. The following April, Gomery filed for bankruptcy placing his payment obligation on hold. Topous then opposed the stay of debtor payments.
It is not clear exactly when and the reasoning behind it, but at some point Gomery came to the conclusion of having Mr. Topous’s lawyer killed. But it’s easy to speculate that perhaps he felt the lawyer did too good a job which ultimately caused him to wind up in his current dilemma.
But Dale Fisher, the man that Gomery allegedly hired to kill the lawyer said “That he [Gomery] had just lost so much money in the lawsuits and that he was interfering in his bankruptcy and it was destroying his life… It was destroying his wife, his family.”
Gomery knew Fisher when he hired him to do some work at his home and arranged a meet in his office to discuss his “detailed plan”. But what Gomery didn’t count on was that Dale Fisher was a man with a conscience.
Fisher agreed to meet in Gomery’s office on several occasions and then alerted police to Gomery’s plan which would be carried out using him as the instrument. He also told police that he was paid $1000 to purchase a rifle with a payment of $20,000.00 pledged to be paid after the deed was done. In a later interview, Fisher was quoted as saying “I couldn’t fathom why somebody would choose me to commit such a heinous crime.”
Fisher also alerted Cooke to the threat who was stunned at the revelation. He later said that he “went to the authorities and they acted expeditiously to analyze the threat.”
Upon learning of the plot, police had Fisher meet with Gomery at his home while wearing a listening device. They heard Gomery and Fisher discuss the type of weapon that was to be bought and where it was to be purchased, how the murder would go down and where and when it would happen.
Gomery was arrested in mid-July after detectives tracked him down at his daughter’s home; but not until after a drawn out drama and negotiation with police transpired. Police units from five different departments arrived at the scene to assist with the arrest. He was first contacted by police in mid-evening on the evening before his eventual arrest. When a detective first contacted him he allegedly told him that police would need to prepare to “dig in… it was going to be a long night.” After that first exchange, police surrounded his daughter’s house and decided to just wait it out, instead of breaching the home to take him into custody; avoiding an unpleasant and possibly dangerous confrontation.
At approximately 9:30pm, one of the detectives made contact with the suspect by phone and told him they were waiting for him at his own home. He asked him to go there as an arrest warrant had been issued. The detective explained that Gomery told him that he wasn’t prepared to do that “due to the fact that he does not want to sit in jail overnight.” Afterward, Gomery turned off his cell phone while police continued their surveillance and established a perimeter around the home. Attempts by a detective to contact him by way of a bullhorn from the driveway of the house were unsuccessful as Gomery stayed put.
At approximately 4:00am that following morning, police noticed lights being turned on in the house. Not long after that, Gomery’s wife exited the house and entered an SUV in the driveway. She was immediately stopped by police while in a separate SUV, Gomery’s daughter and her passenger being the suspect attempted to leave. When stopped by police his daughter told them they were preparing to drive to the County Jail where her father intended to turn himself in. Gomery was then taken into custody.
He is now facing the felony of soliciting murder. Because the crime involved the carrying of a weapon with unlawful intent he will also face a separate charge of solicitation of a felony.
After his arraignment by a District Court Judge he was remanded to the County Jail on a $5 million cash surety bond.
Two days after his arrest Gomery answered a motion that was filed by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court to dismiss the case.
In District Courtroom testimony Fisher affirmed that there was a plan in place, devised by Gomery to kill Cooke using him as the assassin along with the specifics of the plot and the amount to be paid.
The case continues… Check back here for updates as it moves toward its conclusion.
Michael B. Cohen Esq. is a criminal defense attorney with offices in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Florida. His law practice serves the tri-county area of Dade, Broward and Palm Beach as well as all other counties throughout the State of Florida. He has previously worked for the State of Florida as an Assistant State Prosecutor and for the federal government as an Assistant Federal Prosecutor. The experience he carries on his clients’ behalf to all cases whether for charges brought forward by the state or those presented by the federal government is a great asset for countering any allegations by either prosecutorial body.
If you, a friend or member of your family is in need of a strong advocate to fight for your rights in any criminal matter contact Mr. Cohen to set up a consultation and find proper direction in the planning of a strong defense.
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