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My client escapes prison and a criminal record in theft by deception case January 22, 2009

Posted by jefhenningeresq in My Cases.
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This case took years to resolve.  I’m happy that it ended well and that I can finally talk about it.  First, the article is here.  However, the article only tells you a small part of the story.  I’ll tell you the rest.  Second, I’m not going to use her name in this post even though it appears in the article.  I assume the article will be deleted at some point, so I don’t want her name on my blog.

The gist of the case is that my client and her boyfriend were alleged to have created a fake construction company.  They then used that company to buy various high end merchandise, lease apartments, buy and/or lease luxury cars and lead a luxury lifestyle.  Her boyfriend was alleged to have then used this fake company to set up accounts with payroll companies.  The companies gave them checks in large amounts (one company gave $464,000) and then they were reimbursed with checks that would eventually bounce.  Once you added it all up, the total fraud would probably total over $1 million.  They had their house raided by the Secret Service and they were subsequently arrested by New Jersey State law enforcement. 

When I first went to visit my client in jail, she had quite the story to tell.  Her boyfriend had engaged in approximately $1 million of theft and fraud and she knew little to nothing about it.  However, everything was in her name!  To be honest, I didn’t believe any of it at first.   Since I am an open and honest attorney (yes, a few of us exist) I called her on right then and there.  After discussing the case with her further, I was sold.  It was my opinion that she was suffering from a type of battered women’s syndrome.  In other words, she was subject to so much abuse and control that she shut a lot out and didn’t question anything.  Of course, it would be tough to sell this to anyone else, including the jury.

The first job was to get her out of jail; which I did fairly quickly after I first met with her.  At that point, I knew that trial prep had to start right away.  This would be a very complicated case and there isn’t exactly a play book that I could consult for this type of case.  The prosecutor was looking to put her in prison for 14 years.  I also soon learned that she was facing possible Federal charges as well.  So, I had two trials to prepare for!

I knew that her story was not going to change  so it wouldn’t really matter if law enforcement heard it now or at the trial.  Thus, I made the rather unorthodox decision to have her make a statement without any real discovery and without any plea offers.  Even after she made a statement, the State wasn’t swayed.  So, I had to think of something else.

The Secret Service was incredibly professional.  The agents I dealt with were great even though they were looking to prosecute my client.  Because the Federal case was far broader than the State’s case, they wanted to take a statement from her even though they had the one she gave to the State. 

After many months of going back and forth, I finally convinced the Secret Service to consider my client’s story.  As a result, they flew in a polygraph specialist from DC.  My client was hooked up to the machine for the better part of the day.  In the end, she passed with flying colors.  To say that everyone (besides me) was shocked is a huge understatement.  At that point, any Federal charges against her were no longer an issue.  That just left the State charges.

After a couple of years later, I finally got a call that the case would be resolved so that my client would not get a criminal record.  That was last summer.  We made it official this week.  The news article doesn’t properly explain what occurred.  My client, although she pled guilty to one count of conspiracy, will not have a criminal record.  She was entered into the pre-trial intervention program which is a diversion program here in New Jersey.  When she completes the program, the charges will be dismissed.  Thus, no criminal record and no prison. 

While the result was great, I think it would have been much easier if my client would have called me at the first sign of trouble.  I also wonder how many other attorneys would have put in so much effort into the case instead of just trying to sell her out.  A good white collar crime attorney should know that some of these cases take many years to resolve.  Problem is, it can be hard to find a good attorney!

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