Trident Lake, a 700-acre development in Fannin County with bunker condominiums for the rich and famous to survive doomsday, and its developer, John Eckerd, have become embroiled in money laundering and conspiracy charges in federal court.
Fannin doomsday bunker developer charged with money laundering
Eckerd has been charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering in New Jersey and is being sued in Sherman’s Federal District Court by Lucien J. Tujague Jr., a man who said the $12 million he gave Eckerd to buy tires wasn’t used for that purpose and some of it can be traced back to accounts linked to the land in Ector. Eckerd’s answer to those claims is due in federal district court next week.
Though he could not be immediately reached for comment Friday afternoon, Eckerd’s attorney Bob Webster told Dallas television station, CBS 11, “As you know, the government, they can write in a variety of terms.” He also said the government picked the terms.
Asked whether Eckerd denies the charges, Webster told CBS 11, “We have not entered a plea of any kind.”
Dallas attorney Geoffrey J. Healey, who represents Tujaue, said in a phone interview Friday they have looked at thousands of bank records and can trace $1 million in funds from his client to Trident Lakes’ account. Healey said he doesn’t know what happened to the money once it went into the Trident account.
Court documents show a federal district court in New Jersey has issued a continuance in the federal case against Eckerd for money laundering while his attorneys and federal prosecutors work on a plea agreement. That case alleges Eckerd took money he thought was coming from drug lords on several occasions and laundered it through his real estate holdings, including Trident Lakes.
In Sherman’s federal court, Federal District Judge Amos Mazzant has issued a temporary restraining order for Tujague that prevents any of the property or finances in the cases from being sold or transferred until that case can be settled.
In 2016, Trident Lakes spokesperson Richie Whitt told the Herald Democrat the project was expected to cost $300 million and be completed in phases over five years. It was expected to have 400 condos to house around 1,600 people in residences that would be about 90 percent underground with topside patios.
The amenities of the complex were planned to include an 18-hole golf course, three lagoons with white sand beaches, a spa, jogging trails, equestrian areas, polo fields, shooting ranges, a driving range, shops, restaurants and helipads.
“Part of the beauty of Trident Lakes and part of the reason it’s going to exist and be popular is the anonymity of it,” Whitt said in 2016. “We wouldn’t give away the names, but I can tell you you’re going to recognize a lot of the names that move into this place. You’re going to say ‘wow, that person actually makes their vacation home, their second home, in Fannin County.’”
Whitt said rural Fannin County is an ideal spot for a place like this because of the location. It’s close enough to the DFW area to be accessible in case of emergencies, but it’s far enough away to not be a target.