Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Surprise in Bad Santa robbery case

ORLANDO — Two months ago, Mark London was Florida manager for a company that provides mall Santa Clauses.

Last week, the 63-year-old London disguised himself as Santa and robbed a Volusia County bank, investigators allege.

It was a long slide from a 35-year career as a top commercial real estate manager to a cell at the Volusia County Branch Jail, where London was being held Saturday on charges of armed robbery false imprisonment, displaying a hoax bomb and grand theft of between $5,000 and $10,000.

London would not speak with the Orlando Sentinel. But records and interviews with other people show that he spent much of his career in senior management with Chicago-area real estate companies before moving to Florida in early 2011.

London, who once lived with his wife and family in an $800,000 house, was arrested Friday outside his apartment in Port Orange, where he lives alone. He had no criminal record before last week, authorities said.

In October, London left his job as Florida division manager for the Noerr Programs, where he oversaw operations at two dozen malls, including Florida Mall in south Orange County and Seminole Towne Center in Sanford.

A Noerr spokesman confirmed London's departure after two years with the company, but he would not give a reason. He said company officials hired London because they knew him from his work in the shopping center business.

On his LinkedIn page, London described the Santa business as having "sharp elbows," the field workers as "territorial" and wrote that it was time to move on.

London's first job in Florida was at a Port Orange commercial real estate company, where he lasted just three months. On LinkedIn, London described the company's owner, Andy Clark, as "far less than honorable" and wrote that he left after eight weeks.

Clark had a different story. He said Saturday that London didn't fit in with the company culture. Clark needed a hands-on manager to rejuvenate a mall in South Daytona, but he said London preferred to delegate when the company was too small for that.

"He's a nice-enough guy," Clark said. "I was definitely shocked by the bank-robbery thing."

London was similarly uncomplimentary about another former boss for whom he worked for seven months in 2009, writing on LinkedIn that the owner "shafted" him.

London also had years of apparent success, graduating summa cum laude in 1977 from Towson University near Baltimore before beginning his career in 1980, according to LinkedIn.

He was employed steadily before starting a six-year stint in 1993 as a senior vice president at General Growth Properties. In 1999, London founded consultants Mark London and Associates. The corporation was dissolved in late 2003, the Illinois Secretary of State website shows.

London returned to consulting until February 2011, according to LinkedIn. A month earlier, the Internal Revenue Service had filed a $26,571 tax lien against him, public records show.

Two months later, he was in Florida.

On Monday, Port Orange police say, London walked into a SunTrust branch about 3:15 p.m. dressed in a Santa hat, wig, beard and sunglasses.

He was carrying a wrapped Christmas package that he left behind, investigators said. The bank was evacuated until the box was deemed harmless.

Something in the box led officers to London, who surrendered peacefully and has cooperated with the investigation, police said. Details have not been made public.

London's bail was set at $40,000. Officers have not disclosed how much money was stolen.

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