LONDON — Mark Yarry was doing what he does best--making a pitch.
But this time he wasn't selling cheap diamonds to unsuspecting foreigners or practicing medicine without a license or posing as a Mafioso for Scotland Yard. And he is no longer peddling unregistered J. David & Co. securities to wealthy San Diegans.
This time Yarry, once a major money-raiser for the fraudulent investment firm, pitched his innocence and a plan to come home.
"Talking helps," he said, chain-smoking during a long, emotional interview. "The more I hear myself, the better I feel. It reconfirms that I didn't do anything wrong. I didn't steal any money; I was blindsided."
Breaking the two-year silence he has maintained since he left California for Europe after J. David's collapse in early 1984, Yarry began a series of interviews here with the statement: "After three days, you'll either believe me or you won't."
Aware that a federal grand jury in San Diego is likely to indict him soon for fraud and income tax evasion, Yarry for the first time discussed J. David's inner workings, his own role in the firm and his relationship with company founder J. David (Jerry) Dominelli. The La Jolla investment firm attracted $200 million from 1,500 investors and eventually brought down the career of San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock.
"I want people to believe that I thought I was involved in a legitimate business, not a scam," Yarry, bearded and nearly 30 pounds lighter than when he left San Diego, said over dinner at a fashionable restaurant fronting Buckingham Palace Gardens.
Now, two years after leaving San Diego, he says he doesn't particularly miss his two Rolls-Royces, his chauffeur, his ranch house on four acres of sloping hillside in Poway and his six-figure J. David salary.
On the contrary, he said, he's happy living in a small rented house 40 miles outside London, driving a modest Renault and working as a $2,300-a-month salesman for an England-based pet supply firm.
But the roguish Yarry says he wants to end his self-imposed exile.
"I'd love to go back home; I'm an American (and) I want to go home," Yarry said. "If San Diego is going to demand a pound of flesh . . . there's nothing I can do."
When the federal grand jury issues its expected indictment in the coming months, Yarry said, he will return to the United States voluntarily.
"I don't want to be a fugitive," he said.
There probably were violations of various securities laws because the firm didn't register its clients' accounts with state and federal regulators, he acknowledged.
But he attributed those violations--felonies under federal law--more to bad business decisions than to criminal conspiracies.
Yarry's culpability is "as complete as Dominelli's," according to attorney Michael Aguirre, who has sued Yarry and others on behalf of J. David investors.
Yarry fled San Diego two months after J. David's collapse because, he said, he wanted to avoid harassment of his family by angry investors and inquisitive reporters. He has since lived in France and England.
He has discussed J. David under oath only once--in a deposition to the firm's bankruptcy trustee, during which he invoked the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination 121 times.
In his interviews with The Times over a period of three days recently, Yarry agreed to discuss virtually every aspect of J. David. He refused, however, to talk about his secret Swiss bank account--named Sebastian, after his cat--in which he deposited $530,000 that came from the 1983 sale of his stock in J. David and from the sale of his Rolls-Royces and his house in 1984.
To many investors and their attorneys who have sued Yarry, and to some government authorities, Yarry remains the only unsolved mystery in a company that long ago lost all semblance of mystery.
Yarry's title was managing director of J. David Banking Co. Ltd., which supposedly served as a depository for funds investors believed were headed overseas. In fact, money deposited in J. David Banking Co. Ltd. was never forwarded to foreign banks, but stayed in an account at First National Bank of San Diego, authorities claim.
Yarry was in charge of keeping track of investors' deposits. When a client invested, a secretary would Telex the information to J. David's London office, where Yarry's staff would duly note the transaction. While U.S. regulators were told this version, English banking officials were told that J. David was soliciting clients for investments only in the United States.
Yarry spent his time hopscotching between J. David's luxurious La Jolla offices and its branches in London and Lugano, Switzerland, raising money from international clients and posting U.S. investors' deposits.
"I don't want to be the mystery man, I never did," he said. "But people aren't satisfied, and (believe) there hasn't been enough blood drawn. They say, 'How could one man (Dominelli) do this?' But the facts are that one man did it."