Today in Sanford History (TSH), Mayor Forrest Lake, a prime example of a Roaring ’20s political scoundrel, was convicted of 5 bank fraud charges. It was May 4, 1928.
Lake became Sanford’s mayor in 1893. He would go on too be re-elected 10 more times over the next 34 years. When Lake wasn’t serving as mayor, he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives 4 times.
Among Lake’s most notorious deeds were stealing the city of Goldsboro from black residents (1911, “TSH: Sanford leaders plot demise of the city of Goldsboro”) and chopping of the northern portion of Orange County to create Seminole County (1913).
By creating a new county, Lake give himself a valuable asset – a state charter to open a local bank. That would ultimately lead to Lake’s demise.
From the moment Lake opened the Seminole County Bank, he was a lending machine, especially if you planned to build or invest in Sanford. And Lake wasn’t just the bank president, he was a customer, too. On more than one occasion, Lake gave himself loans for real estate investments and to build the Hotel Forrest Lake (later known as the Mayfair Hotel).
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During one of his mayoral terms, Lake also convinced his two other city commission colleagues to put all city funds in his bank. What could possible go wrong?
Lake stood trial and was convicted of embezzlement of bank funds, misapplication of bank funds,m, making a false entry in the bank records, making a loan to himself, and another misapplication of funds.
Judge Dewitt Gray sentenced Lake to 14 years in prison. Lake being Lake, he pulled more shenanigans and had some of the sentences reduced on appeal. He was eventually pardoned by the governor after spending a few years in prison and had his civil rights restored within 6 months of returning to Sanford.