Suspect 'talked a big story'

Girl's father brought cash, boasts to Baltimore

August 04, 2008|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,Sun Reporter

The man known as Clark Rockefeller slipped into Baltimore months ago with ambitions to restore historic city property, quickly passing himself off as the owner of a local real estate agency with ties to the New York City elite.

"He talked a big story," said Bruce Boswell, a North Baltimore man who said he sold a 26-foot catamaran to Rockefeller for $10,000 in cash at the beginning of the summer. "He's a very engaging guy with big ideas. I trusted him completely."

Rockefeller told Boswell that he owns Obsidian Reality Co. - a claim seemingly substantiated when they did a business deal in the company's Fells Point office after hours, Boswell said.

FOR THE RECORD - Articles published in yesterday's and Monday's editions of The Sun incorrectly reported the name of the owner of Obsidian Realty Co., a Baltimore real estate brokerage whose employees tipped off the FBI to a wanted fugitive suspected of abducting his daughter from Boston. The owner is Henry J. MacLaughlin Jr.

Company employees declined to comment yesterday, other than to say Rockefeller was not an owner and never worked there.

As confusing details of Rockefeller emerged yesterday, police and federal authorities sought yesterday to learn more of this mysterious man and why he chose Baltimore to apparently establish a new life. They indicated they weren't even sure Rockefeller was his real name - and the wealthy family has made it clear he is not related.

After a weeklong international hunt that had law enforcement searching from New York to the Caribbean, Rockefeller was arrested in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood Saturday afternoon, his 7-year-old daughter found unharmed in an apartment he had been renting for about a month.

Boston police said that Rockefeller struck a social worker last weekend after a supervised visit and disappeared with Reigh Boss. The girl was reunited with her mother, Sandra Boss, yesterday.

Rockefeller was charged in a warrant yesterday with kidnapping a minor by a relative, battery and assault, according to court records. He was being held without bail at Central Booking. A court hearing is scheduled for today.

Boswell was floored to learn yesterday that he had sold his boat to the man at the center of this national news story.

"Aw jeez," he said. "That is amazing. Are you pulling my leg?"

He said that two months earlier, a man calling himself Chip MacLaughlin approached him at the marina and asked to purchase his boat. "I was happy to sell that boat," Boswell said.

But details about the deal struck Boswell as odd. The man sought to register the boat under another name. He wanted to use Chip Smith.

"He said he didn't like the name MacLaughlin," Boswell recalled.

Boswell said the man took him to Obsidian's Fells Point offices, punched in an alarm code, entered the office and wrote up a bill of sale. But the man did not seem to have a personal office there, which also stuck Boswell as odd.

In the end, the pair decided to do the deal in cash. Boswell got a $500 deposit that day. The pair later met and Boswell received the balance of the $10,000 in cash - all in $20s and $50s. State records reviewed by a law enforcement source shows the boat is still registered to Boswell.

The two became friendly, sharing a drink at a neighborhood bar. There Rockefeller described his plans to purchase the historic Mayflower Theater in West Baltimore from the city and restore it.

He talked about his friends at the Century Club, a tony New York City social center. But, Boswell observed, the man said negative things about women.

Rockefeller told Boswell that he had chosen to move to this area to be closer to a sister. He suggested that he might look to set up corporations in Delaware, Boswell said.

Boswell said his brother Harry owned the slip at Anchorage Marina where the boat is kept and was leasing it to Rockefeller for $2,200 a year.

Harry Boswell declined to be interviewed.

Employees associated with Obsidian Realty declined to be interviewed yesterday but said they were cooperating with investigators. The company's attorney did not respond to phone messages.

Obsidian is owned by a group called Harbor Realty Services. That entity is owned by Harry MacLaughlin, according to state records.

It was unclear yesterday what, if any, connection Rockefeller has with MacLaughlin.

A top Boston police commander told the Boston Herald yesterday that they were still trying to figure out who Rockefeller really is. "His identity is a big part of the investigation," said Deputy Superintendent Thomas Lee, who is head of that department's criminal investigation section. "We will find out who he really is."

Lee confirmed that Rockefeller used Charles "Chip" Smith and Clark Rock as aliases, and told the Herald yesterday that investigators were looking into Rockefeller's activities in Delaware, too. Other aliases Rockefeller may have used include Michael Brown and James Frederick, according to the New York Daily News.

The capture of Rockefeller in Baltimore - after a tip from a local real estate agent - seemed to mark a sharp departure from a scenario laid out last week by Boston police. At one point, they said they suspected Rockefeller had fled to Bermuda or Peru aboard a 72-foot yacht.

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