Last Thursday was a happy day for me. On that day, Jim Bolt of Rogers finally pleaded guilty in Fort Smith to federal crimes — mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering — that should keep him behind bars for quite a while.
Bolt was not a mainstream businessman by any stretch, but of all the bad actors I’ve watched during almost 15 years as editor of Arkansas Business, Jim Bolt was the baddest.
This is an Opinion
A lot of the white-collar criminals who get ink in our pages are basically law-abiding businessmen (and occasionally women) who get in a desperate situation and access someone else’s money with every intention of paying it back. Yes, they generally created their own financial problems, often by trying to maintain a standard of living that they couldn’t afford. They are real criminals with real victims, and they absolutely deserve punishment.
But Jim Bolt is in a whole different category. Bolt is a career criminal who raked in millions upon millions of dollars over the years — and if a single dollar was earned legitimately, I’m not aware of it.
Bolt was convicted in 1975 for impersonating a police officer. In 1982, he was convicted in federal court in Oklahoma on two counts of mail fraud and two counts of making false statements to a federally insured bank. During the 1985 conclusion to that case, the 10th Circuit of Appeals had this to say:
“Our review of the evidence establishes that Bolt was involved in elaborate schemes to defraud various companies and individuals. These schemes were built upon a fictitious business enterprise known as Saturation Systems ... The government has aptly described this business as being an enterprise which included a group of imaginary products and services, located in various imaginary locations in the United States, Scotland, Norway and other overseas locations.”
I first became familiar with Bolt in 2002 while editing articles about a Springdale penny-stock pump-and-dump scheme that he and others were flogging. That reporting — utterly ignored by other news organization in Arkansas — made this company a target for the high-octane litigation mill that was Jim Bolt and his lawyer, John Dodge.
Dodge died in December 2012, so I can say this without fear that he’ll sue me for libel: He should have been disbarred for his breathtaking abuse of his license and the court system. He sued anyone and everyone who posed any threat to Bolt’s schemes and crimes, including the FBI, the Arkansas Securities Department, the National Association of Securities Dealers and Arkansas Business Publishing Group.
This company eventually did win a $92,000 federal court judgment against Bolt and Dodge — including sanctions against Dodge for frivolously seeking sanctions against ABPG. (He was that kind of lawyer.) Neither ever paid a penny, of course.
Last summer, when I wrote a report about the FBI raiding Bolt’s “cancer research center” in Rogers, he emailed me to demand a retraction. Among other things, he wanted me to retract the mention of his 1975 conviction for impersonating an officer — although he never quite asserted that the conviction didn’t happen. (It did happen. What’s more, federal prosecutors were prepared to use it in the latest case as evidence of his longstanding pattern of theft by deception, because he had impersonated an officer in order to prevent an investigation into a theft.)
He also said I was too biased to report fairly on his case. I gave that some thought and told him what I now tell the rest of my readers: “You say I’m biased; I say I’m simply a journalist with more insight into this particular subject than most.”
Several people, some of them victims of Jim Bolt, have asked me how long he’ll spend in federal prison. I’m not a lawyer, and I’ve been wrong before — I wrongly predicted that Lu Hardin would serve time — but I expect five to eight years.
It should be longer, in my opinion, because serving time in prison never rehabilitated Bolt before. But his two previous convictions were a long time ago. (He was acquitted — which isn’t the same as being innocent — back in 2007 when prosecutors from D.C. came down to try him and others for investment fraud. But that’s another story.)
Another thing that makes me happy is this: The federal justice system doesn’t have a parole program, so Bolt will serve virtually all of the time to which he is sentenced.
Gwen Moritz is editor of Arkansas Business. Email her at GMoritz@ABPG.com.