You know, Massachusetts is not the only state with laws against fraud. It does turn out to be local news, though, when the Commonwealth’s favorite, if sometimes controversial, team is used in the scam.
Charles P., 38, of Jamestown, Rhode Island (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) is in a bit of Red Sox-related trouble. You see, he is accused of scamming, and trying to scam, nearly $1 million from people and a credit union by posing as a Red Sox scout, a real estate investor, cancer survivor, and a philanthropic benefactor all rolled into one. As of Tuesday afternoon, however, he was given a newer identity. This one turns out to be legitimate, though.
He is a criminal defendant being held without bail in Warwick, Rhode Island.
Surprisingly enough, it turns out that the Defendant was not a Red Sox scout, had nothing to do with real estate, and didn’t have cancer. .. although State Police Lt. Col. Steven O’Donnell said that the Defendant made weekly trips to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston for “cancer treatments” to fool his own girlfriend.
Apparently, having cancer is some kind of aphrodisiac in Rhode Island…at least with this couple. However, the romance dimmed when the girlfriend discovered that the Defendant allegedly had collected $435,000 from her boss at American Power Conversion for real estate investments that never materialized — and were never going to.
Did you know that money issues tend to be a leading cause of break-ups in the United States? Fraud apparently tends to aggravates things.
Upon learning about the Defendant’s scheme, his girlfriend is said to have pressured him to repay her boss.
And he did.
Unfortunately, he did so by writing out a check for $315,000 to the Greenwood Credit Union on a closed account from Bank of Rhode Island. Not only that, but a teller recognized him from media reports about his arrest in November for allegedly posing as a Red Sox scout to get $6,000 from a woman. The teller made a call to the state police.
“Arrest in November? Red Sox?”, you exclaim. “What’s up with that?”
Well, you see, the Defendant previously became Legally Challenged in November, when he was accused of scamming a woman out of more than $6,000 by pretending he was a Boston Red Sox talent agent with access to baseball tickets. Of course, that brush with the law only gained him a single count of fraudulently obtaining money under false pretenses. He was freed after his arraignment.
But, it is hard being in public life, and the Defendant’s fifteen minutes in the spotlight brought him to the attention of another alleged victim, a man who says he paid the Defendant $6,000 for Red Sox playoff tickets that never materialized — and then went on to pay up to $140,400 for four tickets for the Red Sox 2009 season, with seats in the exclusive EMC club, 10 away games, and two private parking vouchers, police say. The Defendant, generous to a fault, also threw in two authentic Fenway Park seats for $675.
Whoops! Neither the seats, nor the tickets, materialized.
Still, the man loaned $33,000 toward a fund that the Defendant said he was running for a friend with cancer, O’Donnell said. The Defendant promised to pay the man back “very soon” when his CDs matured.
Whoops again! The money disappeared.
And so insult continued to add to injury and after complainants began to pile up, the investigation continued. In the meantime, the Defendant continued blithely along.
Until yesterday, that is.
I do not know the status of his girlfriend or her boss, but the news does reveal that the Defendant was arraigned yesterday on three new charges of obtaining money under false pretenses and one charge of delivering a fraudulent check of more than $1,000.
Judge Mary Elizabeth McCaffrey ordered the Defendant held without bail as a violator on previous (unrelated) charges stemming from a case in Middletown. She set bail at $50,000 with surety for the new charges.
I have a strange feeling of déjà vu in asking, in a case relating to the Red Sox, the question of, “So where did it all go wrong?” But ask it I must. And have.
According to O’Donnell, the scam actually started in July when the Defendant offered to get a woman tickets for regular season and playoff games. She paid nearly $6,400.
When the tickets never arrived, the Defendant told her he was being treated for cancer.
As we now know, according to the authorities, the Defendant does not and did not work for the Red Sox and has not sought cancer treatment. He is, however, still under investigation as police say that they are iinvestigating at least a dozen more complaints about the Defendant.
The Defendant said little in court yesterday. But when he was led away in Rhode Island’s version of the Bracelets of Shame, he stared at an older man, wearing a Boston Red Sox jacket, sitting quietly in the back of the court room. the Defendant’s eyes never left the man’s face.
It was his father.
Uh – oh.
Gee, you would have thought “Red Sox Nation” has suffered enough!
Anyway, the Defendant’s case(s) illustrate a few things about the criminal justice system, some of which we have previously discussed.
First of all, you may be a bit confused as to why the Defendant is currently being held without bail and yet was given bail in the newer case.
This is because, when one is released on pending charges (whether on bail or on their own recognizance), and he is re-arrested, it is considered a breach of the release conditions. It is similar to violating probation. One is often held without bail on the original case (or probation surrender). In the meantime, the question of bail comes up in the new case and is treated somewhat independently. Often, a defendant will actually choose to have some bail imposed if he is being held without bail because that way he might get “credit” for the time in custody on both cases, so long as he does not post that bail.
Cheating people out of money through use of fraud is a white collar crime. It is considered a theft. Period. It does not matter if the scam is based on non-existent tickets, a false identity or a make-believe cancer treatment. Not only that, but it is a crime of “moral turpitude”. That means that it reflects on the accused’s honesty. Now, you may think that any crime would reflect on honesty. However, under the law,apparently, sticking a gun under someone’s nose and telling him that unless hey gives you his money, you intend to add a third nostril, while certainly illegal, is pretty straight-forward. It is not a crime of deception.
Therefore, such a conviction can had adverse consequences beyond the obvious. For example, should someone with such a conviction seek to testify, it is even more likely to be used against him than other types of crimes because it directly reflects on his credibility. Basically, it is like having the scarlet letter “L” (for liar) tattooed on his chest.
These cases also tend to be the result of an ongoing and, often costly, investigation. This means that the prosecutors tend to be less anxious to “cut a break” because all that effort has to pay off. It also means that, unlike with many street- level crimes, the state or federal government has had the time to look into the alleged criminal enterprise and will likely have a stronger case. This is especially true if, while the investigation is going on, the accused is unaware of such an investigation and is continuing the enterprise.
By the way, those with daily contact with the accused in these matters are often at risk as well. Police tend to suspect conspiracies. In a conspiracy, everyone is responsible for what everyone else in the conspiracy is doing to further the conspiracy. Even if the case is somewhat weaker, or non-existent, against such a person, the government will often include them in the charges (“to let the jury decide”) and then use the resulting leverage to squeeze that person for information against the actual target.
For example, we do not actually know the communications between the Defendant and his girlfriend with regard to the fraud performed on her boss. It would not be surprising if law enforcement decided that she must have been in on it and, if she did not agree to fully cooperate, she could be joining him with the title of Co-defendant.
So, as I have told you before, if you suspect that there is, or could be, an investigation afoot against you or someone close to you with whom you spend a lot of time and have common interests, it is simply not worth shrugging your shoulders, shaking your head, and saying, “Couldn’t happen to me”.
Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can best advise you and, if necessary, defend you. If nothing else, the peace of mind is worth it. If something else, you are going to need it so best be prepared while the government is preparing its case.
It could be the difference between going to games during the next Red Sox season and simply reading about them in the paper…in your cell.
Samuel Goldberg is the senior criminal defense attorney at the firm of Altman & Altman, LLP. A former prosecutor in New York, he has worked as a Boston defense attorney over 18 years. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network.
The full articles of this story can be found at http://newsblog.projo.com/2008/12/police-say-man-1.html , http://wbztv.com/local/fan.scam.boston.2.878370.html and http://news.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/2008_11_07_RI_man_allegedly_ran__6_000_scam_for_Sox_tickets/srvc=home&position=recent