This is America. The land of the free and of free enterprise.

Well, almost.

28-year-old Thomas W. Romano III (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) has learned that not quite anything goes in commerce. The lesson has been taught to him at Lowell District Court.

According to the Lowell Sun, the Defendant has admitted to taking a big, and lucrative, shortcut by starting his own trash-removal company. The scheme was particularly profitable as it involved the stealing of commercial trash containers throughout the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire, according to the Commonwealth.

Apparetently,it took some time to come to the resolution which took place on Wednesday.

According to authorities, the thefts date back to October 2012. The companies the Defendant is said to have victimized are in Wilmington, Billerica, Everett, Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill, Brockton, Framingham, Winchester, Townsend and Hudson, N.H., according to court documents.

On February 1, 2013, Lowell police were alerted and asked to assist out-of-town detectives at 123 Bolt St. with the recovery of commercial containers that had been stolen from various companies. Wilmington and Billerica police had received information that the stolen containers had been repainted and stored on the industrial property on Bolt Street in Lowell.

One of these companies was Empire Recycling in Billerica, where the Defendant had worked for three months in 2012. After leaving there, he apparently began his own business, Direct Carting LLC. It was at the rear lof of a commercial landscaping business on Bolt Street, which had leased a few parking spots to the Defendant (as Direct Carting) where police located 13 large salvage containers.

These containers had been repainted and new signs saying “Direct Carting” had been affixed to the containers, according to court documents.

Witnesses say that they noticed containers arriving mostly late at night.

According to the police, security video from several businesses show a Jeep driving into the businesses’ lot and a man getting out to inspect the container. A short time later a Mack truck is seen driving in to remove a 40-yard container. The Jeep, according to the Commonwealth, turned out to be registered to the Defendant.

According to the Commonwealth, the stolen commercial trash bins, up to 30 yards long, are worth a total of about $58,000. The scrap contents also stolen totaled about $14,000.

The value brings the charges up to felony status.

On Wednesday, the Defendant admitted to sufficient facts to 16 counts of receiving stolen property. His case was continued without a finding for two years while he is on probation.

In asking for probation, the defense argued that the Defendant Defense attorney had no criminal record and currently drives a truck for a paving company.

    Attorney Sam’s Take On “Short Cuts”, Self-Help And CWOFs

In business, short cuts are often considered good – in law…not so much.

The self-help approach is also not a type of initiative that the law rewards in a positive way.

Basically, if the short cut seems “too good to be true” or you are wondering why other people did not think of this way to get rich quick…beware.

They very well might have or realized that it could get them into trouble.

In this case, though, the Defendant did relatively well in terms of disposition. He could easily have been looking at jail time or, at least, a criminal conviction

“What do you mean, Sam? Didn’t he admit what he had done? I thought he was on probation.”

He KINDA did and he IS on probation.

However, he does not, at this point, have a criminal convicton.

It appears that the Defendant recieved what is known as a Continuence Without A Finding, or “CWOF”. This is not the same as a finding of “guitly”. In fact, it is not a finding at all. It is a temporary statutus.

In order to recieve a CWOF, a defendant does not plead guilty. As mentioned above, he admits that there are facts that are sufficient to find him guilty.

“What is the difference?”

While logically not too much, legally a whole lot. You may think of it as “splitting hairs”, but, in terms of the end result, those hairs are pretty thick.

A defendant who recieves a CWOF is placed on probation for a certain amount of time. If the defendant makes it through that period with no violation of probation, the matter is dismissed. If the defendant does not make it through probation, then the finding can immediately turn into a guilty finding and the defendant can be sentenced accordingly.

While, under the criminal justice system, a successfully completed CWOF may seem like a free walk, it usually isn’t. First of all, there are probation conditions the defendant must meet (in this case probably including restitution). Further, many agencies do not recognize the CWOF as anything short of a guilty finding.

“How can they do that?”

Because the defendant basically admits his guilt under oath. Agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, for example, and Immigration are such agencies which often act upon a CWOF.

Depending on the type of case, of course, a CWOF is often a way of resolving cases in which both sides save face. On the other hand, a defendant can request the resolution of a CWOF of a judge without the prosecutor’s agreement. The judge can give it over the prosecutor’s objection.

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