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Investor allegedly uses priests and Knights of Columbus to fuel Ponzi scheme January 12, 2009

Posted by jefhenningeresq in News.
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At first, the Media acted like Madoff invented the Ponzi scheme.  Now, they can’t wait to tell you about every Ponzi scheme out there.  There are also countless stories about what is a Ponzi scheme, how to spot a Ponzi scheme, etc.  Richard Piccoli’s case is not that unusual.  Like others accused or convicted of Ponzi schemes, he targeted a specific community, in this case, Catholic priests and members of the Knights of Columbus.  Now that he has been arrested, investors are unsure as to how much is left over.  Thus, while this story may seem just like every other Ponzi scheme story, his story is actually rather interesting from a number of different angles.

Quick point:  the story doesn’t really flesh this out, but one of the people that Piccoli allegedly used to show that he was legit was Danny Wegman, the CEO of the Wegman supermarket chain.  The article states that Piccoli showed on investor a $50,000 check with Wegman’s name on it to show that if Wegman trusts him, anyone should.  The odd thing is, Wegman denies that the check was his and that he invested with Piccoli.  If this is the case, why would he pick Wegman?  

Another quick point:  how will the priests in this case handle being victims/witnesses in a criminal case?  Will they want to see Piccoli go to jail?  Should be interesting to watch how they react.

As a defense attorney, this case would be really tough to pick a jury.  How can this guy get a fair trial?  While this seems like a big local story and the Madoff news is not helping, there is even a bigger issue.  A majority of the jury pool will likely be Catholic.  Can fellow Catholics put aside their religion to give this guy a fair trial?  Can the defense even be permitted to ask to find out the religion of all potential jurors?  I can’t see how you have a fair trial otherwise.

The most important issue is one that mostly everyone associated with cases involving elderly defendants seem to want to ignore is age.  Any prison time he get will likely be a life sentence since the guy is 82 and he’s not going to prison tomorrow.  So, by the time he gets to that point (assuming her does) he will be even older.  Is there really a point in working out a plea deal for less time?  Several studies have been done about prison time and aging.  However, our system does not account for this.  Thus, if you are 20 or 80, you generally get the same sentence.

Of course, lawyers don’t make that argument so a court can’t deal with an issue before them.  When representing an elderly defendant, you really need to ascertain what the client wants.  Does he want to stay out of prison or does he just want to clear this name to the best extent possible.  Its a morbid concept for most people to handle, but dealing with death and the real desire of the client needs to be explored.  If the goal is to stay out of prison, the lawyer needs to stall the case but in a way that is ethical.  In other words, fight the case, but don’t go over board by filing motions that are a complete waste of time.

The prosecutor faces a tough dilemma as well.  They can pour a ton of money into fighting this battle to get this guy a long prison sentence, when any sentence will likely be a life sentence anyway.  Of course, they can’t send the message that anyone over 80 can break the law without fear of prison. 

The story is here.

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