FANNIN COUNTY, TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — A hyped luxury North Texas residential community — marketed as a five-star resort built to withstand a nuclear war — is now at the center of an FBI money laundering investigation.
According to a federal criminal complaint obtained by CBS 11 News, Trident Lakes owner and manager John Eckerd faces two counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The court documents allege Eckerd, 54, and an unidentified co-conspirator accepted $200,000 in purported drug money from undercover FBI agents over the past year. The federal sting culminated in February with Eckerd allegedly agreeing to launder $1 million from Colombian drug dealers through Trident Lakes, a planned 700-acre residential project in rural Fannin County.
Eckerd, a McKinney resident, has been out on $100,000 bond since March. His attorney, Dallas defense lawyer Bob Webster, declined an on-camera interview, but questioned the charges against his client.
“As you know, the government, they can write in a variety of terms,” Webster told CBS 11 News. “And they choose the terms.”
Asked if Eckerd denies the charges, Webster responded, “We have not entered a plea of any kind.”
In May, a U.S. magistrate judge granted a continuance in the case, writing “plea negotiations currently are in progress, and both the United States and the Defendant seek additional time to achieve successful resolution of these negotiations, which would render trial of this matter unnecessary.”
An undercover FBI agent posing as a former narcotics trafficker learned of Eckerd last September when the unidentified co-conspirator, who lives in New Jersey, suggested that Eckerd’s development in rural Fannin County could be used to launder narcotics profits.
Trident Lakes began making headlines two years ago during push to drum up interest in the proposed $400-million project, billed as a luxury playground with unprecedented security, survivability and sustainability.
“It’s going to be a five star resort with DEFCON preparedness,” a Trident spokesman told CBS 11 in November 2016.
The development, an hour northeast of Dallas, boasts of a golf course, an equestrian center, resort spas and 400 underground condos equipped to withstand catastrophic events from viral epidemics to nuclear war.
According to Trident’s website, the first residents were expected to move in earlier this year, but neighbors told the I-Team that they’ve seen no progress.
“None,” said Tommy Pinkston, who lives at a mobile home park across from Trident Lakes. “Everything that’s there was there when I moved out here.”
Eckerd, who was ordered to surrender his passport and firearms as a condition of his bond, is no stranger to controversy. He went bankrupt 15 years ago and was sued by NASCAR a year later for producing and marketing a series of risqué videos called, “Racetrack Girls Go Nutz.”