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January 15, 2004 BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police have re-opened an investigation of a woman who killed a farmer with her BMW but was let off with a suspended sentence, unleashing national fury against cronyism and corruption. 

Spanish Police Arrest 14 for Microsoft Piracy

January 15, 2004 MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish police have arrested 14 people for intellectual piracy, including the first-known forgeries of authenticity certificates for Microsoft's Windows XP Professional edition, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday.

Parole Board Rules Homolka Still a Risk:

Bernardo's ex-wife refuses to address panel

January 6, 2004 -- Karla Homolka still considers herself a victim and that attitude is playing a role in keeping her behind bars. The National Parole Board recently reviewed Homolka's case as she continues to serve a 12-year sentence for manslaughter in the one of the country's most notorious rape and murder cases.

She is serving the sentence at a penitentiary in Joliette, Que., about 100 kilometers northeast of Montreal.

She pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges in the sex slayings of Ontario teenagers Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy in the early 1990s.

Her former husband, Paul Bernardo, is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder for his role in the homicides.

In 1993, Homolka received her plea-bargain sentence and was portrayed as a battered woman and reluctant follower of Bernardo's murderous plans.

That was before Crown prosecutors knew there were videotapes portraying Homolka as a willing participant in the crimes, which took place in a neighborhood in St. Catharines, Ont.

The parole board recently determined it was convinced that if she were released now, Homolka would commit a crime involving "the death or serious harm" to another person before the end of her sentence.

Homolka has refused to take part in any of her parole board hearings.

On Oct. 29, she sent the parole board a letter stating she would not attend her most recent hearing, which was held last month.

In the past, she also has shown little interest in rehabilitation programs. According to the parole board's report, Homolka changed her attitude during 2003 and participated twice in a program for sexual deviance.

But her case management team found little change in Homolka and described her interaction with personnel as superficial.

"To support its opinion, your case management team underlines that victimization remains the base of your explanations of your offences," the author of the report noted.

"In the course of the past year, you undertook a program for sexual delinquents.

"After the program, you remained incapable of identifying the risk factors or preparing a plan to prevent a relapse."

The board determined that Homolka's second attempt at the program was more successful, but that it was too early to determine if it will have any positive effect.

"At this moment in your sentence, the program for sexual delinquents is not completed and the criminal elements of your personality are still present. In this context, the new information, be it positive, does not allow us to conclude that there is sufficient progress to modify the order to maintain incarceration."

Although Homolka, Canada's most notorious female inmate, has repeatedly refused to participate in hearings, the parole board is legally obliged to hold them and review her chances for a possible release.

Her sentence ends on July 5, 2005.

-- by Paul Cherry for CanWest News Service in the Calgary Herald

A Church Topped With Pot and a Sleeping Judge Among 2003 Wackiness

December 25, 2003 Toronto -- Churches are usually adorned with crosses, but parishioners of a southwestern Ontario congregation were shocked this year to find marijuana plants stretching for the heavens atop their house of worship.

Two members of the Gospel Hall congregation in St. Thomas, Ont., were on the roof for some routine maintenance when they found more than two dozen pot plants being cultivated there.

"It's a little bit of a surprise to find it on the rooftop of a church," said Staff Sgt. Chris Herridge of the town's police force.

Investigators weren't optimistic they would be able to collar the holy growers.

This was just one of several incidents of wacky wrongdoing encountered by Canadian authorities in 2003.

This was, after all, the year when even the Prime Minister publicly contemplated breaking the law to puff on a joint.

Jean Chretien joked in October that he might be willing to try marijuana once it's decriminalized.

"Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal. I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand," the 69-year-old Chretien said.

In legal circles in 2003, a recent Ontario case proved that man who is his own lawyer does indeed have a fool for a client.

After representing himself in court on drug convictions - and losing - Clayton Gordon hired a lawyer to take his case to Ontario's appeals court, claiming his convictions for selling cocaine should be overturned because he had bad counsel.

But the judge, no fool himself, ruled the convictions should stand. Gordon was ordered to serve seven months in jail.

Perhaps Gordon had been hoping he could bore the judge into releasing him, like the man convicted of mischief and criminal harassment in 2001 who got a new trial this year after the courts found his judge fell asleep during cross-examination.

The accused's trial lawyer, Kim Schofield, said she and other court officials in Toronto opted to drop a 2,136-page copy of the Criminal Code on the judge's desk to get his attention.

"I dropped the Code and His Honour was visibly stirred from his slumber," Schofield said in her affidavit.

Some lawbreakers may have wished they'd followed the judge's example and stayed in bed this year. Instead, some of them did what they could to make it easy for the cops to track them down.

An Edmonton thief was looking to unload a stolen SUV and picked the wrong buyer earlier this year when he offered it back to its original owner for $50. He was arrested before he sealed the deal.

"It certainly made our job easier. I wish they would all end that way," Wes Bellmore, an Edmonton police spokesman, said at the time.

Another Alberta crook put a stop to his own nine-day robbery spree when he gave police all the clues they needed to find him.

He dropped his wallet - containing identification - during a gas station heist, giving the investigators who'd been baffled to that point the lead they needed to make the arrest. Albert Bradridge, 38, was sentenced earlier this year to eight years in prison.

Two teenagers ran out of excuses this summer after they allegedly stole a boat and took a joyride down the LaHave River in New Brunswick.

The teens, aged 16 and 17, took the boat, got drunk on some liquor they found on board, beached themselves on an island and then torched the watercraft - stranding themselves with no way to get home. The boys, who weren't named because of their ages, were eventually flown ashore in an RCMP helicopter.

A wannabe cop got more than he bargained for when he pulled over a passing car on a country road in Ontario this June. He had equipped his car with flashing red lights and used it to pull over the vehicle.

The off-duty Ontario Provincial Police officer behind the wheel of the passing car spied several giveaway details - among them, the fact that the so-called cop was driving a white Plymouth Neon under the flashing lights instead of an actual police vehicle - and instead, arrested his would-be captor.

The 40-year-old alleged impersonator faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Young adults often complain about living at home, but few go as far as a 21-year-old Kitchener, Ont., man who opted for prison over family life this July.

Under a term of bail, Michael McAllister was to live with his mother or his sister. But he was returned to jail while awaiting trial on his methadone trafficking charge at his request; his lawyer, John Lang, argued McAllister couldn't take the "house rules."

An elderly northern Ontario driver clearly had some problems with the road rules this year when she dramatically failed her driver's test.

On her fifth try at the test, with the examiner sitting in the passenger seat, the 81-year-old backed her car 25 meters too far out of a parking spot and plunged backwards over a steep embankment into a nearby river.

Both she and the drivers' examiner were unharmed but it took a tow truck about 15 minutes to recover the sodden car. -- by Jen Horsey for the Canadian Press

2-Year-Old Model Seeks Lost Wages in Connecticut Playground Mishap

December 26, 2003 STAMFORD, Conn. -- A two-year-old model and actor who cut his head at a playground is seeking unspecified lost wages and other compensation from the city.

Konrad Mader of Greenwich was running toward a treehouse at a playground Nov. 4 when he crashed into a railing, according to a claim filed last week by his mother and reported Friday by the Advocate of Stamford. The blond toddler received several stitches.

Deena Mader, the boy's mother, did not specify how much she is seeking on behalf of her son. In a letter to officials, she demanded compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering and a "lost wage amount due to his inability to audition or take modeling or commercial jobs while his head heals."

Mader blamed the boy's injury on a green railing, which she said blends in with the landscaping. Mader said the railing should be painted a brighter color.

"This accident was preventable had the railings and safety measures been correct at this park, " Mader wrote in her claim.

Tom Cassone, the city's director of legal affairs, said his office is investigating the claim.

Joe Falzone, a facilities manager in charge of maintaining city parks, said he is not aware of defects in the playground and there are no plans to make changes. -- Canadian Press

Joey Buttafuoco Arrested for Insurance Fraud

December 18, 2003 LOS ANGELES -- Joey Buttafuoco, whose affair with a teenager led to his wife's shooting in New York, was arrested Wednesday and charged with insurance fraud for allegedly making phony repair estimates at his auto body shop.

Buttafuoco, 47, co-owns California Collision of Chatsworth. He allegedly told undercover investigators how to file phony insurance claims for undamaged cars, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said.

Prosecutors charged Buttafuoco with three counts of insurance fraud and one count of grand theft. He was being held on $50,000 bail.

The state also has filed a separate action to suspend or revoke the body shop's license, alleging the shop charged customers more than $12,000 for repair work that was not done, according to prosecutors.

A call seeking comment from Buttafuoco's lawyer was not immediately returned.

His arrest was part of an investigation into auto insurance fraud that netted 10 other owners or employees of Southern California repair shops.

While living in New York, Buttafuoco gained notoriety in 1992 when 17-year-old Amy Fisher shot his wife, Mary Jo, in the face. Fisher, nicknamed the Long Island Lolita by the New York City tabloids, served seven years in prison.

Buttafuoco, who pleaded guilty to one count of statutory rape, served six months in jail. He and his wife later moved to California and divorced.

He allegedly told undercover investigators how to file phony insurance claims for undamaged cars, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office alleged in a statement. -- Fox News

Fraud: The Root Causes

In the popular imagination, management fraud and corruption seems to have almost everywhere; yet the facts show that mercantile fraud has been a perpetual scourge in many societies. It is nevertheless instructive to analyze the cause of fraud as a basis for appropriate risk management. These include economic recession, employee disaffection, indifference to internal control, a possible erosion of ethics, inability of obsolete system to accommodate new transaction types and volumes, and often a time lag while organizational rules catch up with new ways of committing offences. Initial failure to detect fraud also tends to be likely to have been aggravated by failure to apply audit skepticism. Fraud and corruption are likely to gain even greater attention in the near future, as existing functions of public service are 'outsourced'.

In an 1866 issue of the law journal Temple Bar a contemporary observer wrote: 'Go where you will, in business parts, or meet who you like of business men, it is...the same story and the same lament. Dishonesty, untruth, and what may, in plain English, be termed mercantile swindling within the limits of the law, exist on all sides and on every quarter'. -- Excerpted from an essay by Prof. Felix Pomeranz

4 Psychotherapists Arrested on Insurance Fraud Charges

Massive Auto Insurance Fraud Alleged in 102 Million-Dollar Lawsuit

Slack Attitude Fuels Insurance Fraud

Appeal Court Clears Mother of Killing Her Two Babies
Fresh evidence pointed to genetic cause of deaths
December 11, 2003 -- Angela Cannings walked free from the appeal court in London yesterday saying it was the end of a four-year nightmare. The 40-year-old had served 20 months of a life sentence after being found guilty of smothering two of her babies - seven-week-old Jason in 1991 and 18-week-old Matthew in 1999.

Mrs Cannings, a shop assistant from Wiltshire, always insisted that her sons were victims of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) which had killed her first child, Gemma, at the age of 13 weeks in 1989.
As the verdict was announced Mrs Cannings put her hands to her face and there were loud cheers and shouts of "Yes" from the public gallery.
Speaking outside the court, with her husband Terry by her side, a tearful Mrs Cannings said she could not wait to get home to be with her seven-year-old daughter.
"After having previously lost our precious Gemma and Jason we thought we had been through enough heartache," said Mrs Cannings. "Then there was a police investigation, a trial and a conviction. Finally today, justice has been done and my innocence has been proven."
Mrs Cannings, who paid tribute to her legal team and supporters, said there were two "special people" in her life who had kept her going in prison.
"My husband Terry who has stood by me and always believed in my innocence - he is my soulmate. And our very precious daughter who over the last four years has been our inspiration to carry on. I would like now to go home with Terry and for me especially to be mummy to our very precious daughter."
Mrs Cannings' appeal followed a decision earlier this year to overturn the conviction of Sally Clark, a solicitor, for murdering her two young sons, and the acquittal of Trupti Patel, a pharmacist, over the murder of her three babies.
Evidence from one prosecution expert, the paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow, was a key factor in each case.
Judges who overturned Mrs Clark's conviction on appeal said Prof Meadow's evidence was "manifestly wrong" and "grossly misleading". In Mrs Cannings' case the court was told again that his evidence was misleading and in future his testimony would need a "health warning" attached to it.
During Mrs Cannings' appeal, Lord Justice Judge, Mrs Justice Rafferty and Mr Justice Pitchers heard fresh evidence from a geneticist, Professor Michael Patton, that an undiscovered genetic disorder could have been responsible for the deaths of Jason and Matthew. He revealed that Mrs Cannings' great-grandmother and grandmother had both lost babies in unexplained circumstances and the daughter of a half-sister had suffered an "acute life-threatening event".
Prof Patton said the new evidence - combined with details revealed in the original trial - "strongly supported a genetic case for the infant deaths".
The court also heard from a medical statistics expert, Professor Robert Carpenter, that smoking in the family, allergies and which position babies slept in could have put them at "substantially increased risk" of dying from cot death.
Lord Justice Judge said that one of the problems in dealing with infant deaths was that it was concerned with matters "at the cutting edge" of medical knowledge.
He said advising parents that children should sleep on their backs to reduce the risks of sudden death - which had seemed successful - may in fact make no difference, according to the latest research.
"We see this as an absolutely classic example of how research in this field is constant and the door never seems to be closed to new views on what may or may not cause cot death."
The judge said the appeal had raised a number of issues of general public interest in relation to infant deaths.
"We shall therefore take time to reflect on the terms of our judgment," he said. "But the appeal is more directly concerned with the convictions of Mrs Cannings. We have reached a clear conclusion, and we don't need to reflect on that.
"These convictions are unsafe and accordingly they will be quashed and Mrs Cannings will be discharged."
A Crown Prosecution Service spokeswoman said it was in the public interest to bring the prosecution and insisted the original trial had been fair.
But Mrs Cannings' solicitor, Bill Bache, said his client believed the case should never have come before the courts.
"They are extraordinarily difficult matters," he said. "Still nobody knows what causes cot death, and until a good deal more information is known about that, it would seem to me that prosecutions of the kind that have been brought against her and, for that matter others, should not continue."
He said that the scientific evidence given against Mrs Cannings was "wholly inconclusive". He said: "That is the nub of the issue... it's impossible to reach any firm conclusion whether in any particular case there may have been murder or whether it was natural causes." -- by Matthew Taylor in The Guardian
While the three appeal judges have yet to deliver the reasons for declaring Mrs Cannings' convictions unsafe, their ruling after just four minutes' deliberation has major implications for several women convicted of killing their children. It also raises questions about whether any future prosecutions for "cot death killing" can succeed.
Expert With Controversial Theory  As Angela Cannings starts to rebuild her life, the spotlight turns again to the man whose expert evidence helped to convict her: "Unless proven otherwise, one cot death is tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder". His theories went largely unchallenged for more than 20 years until he gave evidence against solicitor Sally Clark, who was convicted in 1999 of murdering her two sons. During Mrs Clark's trial he said the likelihood of two children in the same family dying of cot death was 73m to one. Mrs Clark's conviction was overturned and law lords said Sir Roy's evidence was "grossly misleading".

Foxes Guarding the Hen House
Dawson Mayor Reindicted on Insurance Fraud and Forgery Charges December 28, 2003 ALBANY, GA -- A Dougherty County grand jury has reindicted a south Georgia mayor on charges he scammed senior citizens after a judge declared a mistrial during the original case against him in September.

Dawson Mayor Robert Lee Albritten, who works as a life insurance salesman, was indicted Wednesday on 19 counts of insurance fraud and four counts of second-degree forgery.

Albritten was acquitted in September on seven of 28 original charges filed against him in the case and a mistrial was declared when jurors told a judge they could not reach a verdict on the remaining charges.

District Attorney Ken Hodges said he chose to seek reindictment after discussions with jurors from the September trial. He said at least one juror refused to convict Albritten regardless of the evidence out of fear of retribution.

However, It is unfair to keep subjecting a citizen to these extremes when a jury has already extensively reviewed the case and declined to convict, said Albrittens attorney, Bill Murray.

Albritten was accused of falsifying insurance forms for 10 personal care home residents without their knowledge. The indictments alleged most residents either didn't know or didn't understand that they were purchasing insurance policies, ranging in value from $2,000 to $10,000, from Albritten.

In the case of nine of the 10 elderly victims of the alleged fraud, the mayor was accused of forging the signatures of the people who were supposedly buying the policies.

Despite the charges and an arrest on a drunken driving charge, Albritten was easily re-elected last November. This past January, he pleaded guilty to drunken driving and was sentenced to spend 24 hours in jail and perform 40 hours of community service.

Last month, he again made the news by winning $500,000 in a Georgia Lottery scratch-off game. The odds of winning were 480,000 to 1. -- article by The Associated Press in AccessNorthGA.com

Georgia Judge Avoids Grand Jury Indictment  Saved from an appearance before a grand jury and a possible indictment, an Augusta, Ga., Judicial Circuit Superior Court judge has gone on the offensive to uncover how and why it nearly happened. Judge Duncan D. Wheale came within 24 hours of possible indictment by a Richmond County grand jury on charges of making terrorist threats, altering public records and two counts of malfeasance in office. -- Fulton County Daily Report
Supervisors Denied Immunity in Suit Over Ex-Trooper's Sexual Misconduct  November 11, 2003 -- In a victory for three women who filed civil rights suits alleging sexual misconduct by Michael K. Evans, a former Pennsylvania state trooper who has since pleaded guilty to 11 sex crimes, a federal judge has refused to dismiss key claims against some of the top-ranking officials in the state police. U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe rejected the argument that 15 state police officials who supervised Evans were entitled to "qualified immunity." (The Legal Intelligencer)
Lawyer Hit With $5M Judgment in Malpractice Case  November 10, 2003 -- Georgia attorney Don C. Huprich was having a bad day. In a letter he faxed to Superior Court Judge Linda W. Hunter on Sept. 15, he informed the judge that he had failed to appear at a trial that morning because, due to lack of sleep, he feared for his safety and others on the highway leading to court. About an hour before Huprich faxed his apology to Hunter, a DeKalb jury issued a $5 million damages verdict against him in a case brought by two former clients. (Fulton County Daily Report)

Judge's 'Annoyance' Results in His Removal From Case  November 3, 2003 -- The 2nd Circuit has vacated a federal judge's sentencing order and removed him from a case, saying he was apparently willing to "rubber stamp" any sentence recommended by prosecutors. The court had reversed Judge Thomas C. Platt previously over a skirmish with federal prosecutors, who do not endorse a specific sentence when they recommend a reduced penalty for a cooperative defendant. The court expressed concern that the judge's decision was affected by "annoyance" over the policy. (New York Law Journal)

More Judges Reject Capelo Case  October 22, 2003 -- An entire appeals court recused itself Tuesday from a case involving alleged kickbacks to Texas Rep. Jaime Capelo. The six judges of the 13th Court of Appeals joined five local judges who have quickstepped away from the case. Capelo is accused of accepting $100,000 from fellow lawyer Rene Rodriguez to persuade his clients to accept a deal offered by the Citgo refinery. Not every appeals court judge gave a reason for recusing, and one of them surely needed no explanation: She's married to Rodriguez. (Corpus Christi Caller-Times)
Olympic Fraud Trial Begins  October 31, 2003 -- Did Olympic bid leaders Thomas K. Welch and David R. Johnson overstep legal bounds to win the 2002 games for Salt Lake City? The two men ran a campaign that spent $13.5 million over two bid efforts and hid much of those expenditures from "the most powerful business leaders in Utah, not once or twice but over a decade." (Salt Lake Tribune)

Old Cases, New Headaches in Houston  October 31, 2003 -- Prosecutors will be forced to review more old cases, due to fresh doubts about the accuracy of tests performed at the Houston Police Department's Crime Lab. This week, HPD closed the lab's toxicology department, after supervisor Pauline Louie failed a competency exam. District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal told the Houston Chronicle that his office felt obligated to review all of the as-yet uncounted criminal cases involving tests conducted by Louie, who has been suspended with pay. Prosecutors have had to review 370 DNA cases after Houston police suspended that part of the lab less than a year ago. (Law.com) 
F. Lee Bailey Off Hook for $9M After Jury Award Tossed  OOctober 27, 2003 -- A federal judge in Orlando, FL, has set aside a judgment of at least $9 million against disbarred attorney F. Lee Bailey for taking attorney fees from a pot of money he knew was subject to forfeiture by the government. The judge also ordered the government to pay all of Bailey's legal costs in the case. Bailey got into trouble with the government in 1998 while defending television infomercial pitchman William McCorkle on fraud charges. -- Miami Daily Business Review in Law.com
Louisiana Supreme Court Removes New Orleans Judge  October 21, 2003 -- A judge who forced employees to work on his re-election campaign was sentenced to five years' exile from the bench Tuesday. The Louisiana Supreme Court displayed unanimous scorn for State District Judge C. Hunter King -- and for a Judicial Commission recommendation that he be punished with one year's unpaid leave. Among King's admissions: he forced workers to sell tickets to his fundraiser and fired one who did not meet her quota. (NOLA)

Suit Filed Over Album Lennon Signed for Killer

Fan claims denial of proceeds for signed album he found outside the Dakota

A New Jersey man who found a John Lennon album that the former Beatle signed for his killer, Mark David Chapman, has sued online memorabilia auction house Moments in Time, alleging the company breached an agreement to sell the album and give him 95 percent of the proceeds. After authorities released the album, which Philip Michael found at the murder scene, he contacted Moments in Time to auction it. The company's Web site says it sold the album for $460,000.

Almost five years later, Michael has gone to court claiming he was cheated out of his proceeds. Michael's share of the proceeds would have been $437,000 but he never saw a cent, he claims. Michael is suing Moments in Time and its owner, Gary Zimet, for breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, professional negligence and violation of the Consumer Fraud Act.

The album bears Lennon's autograph, "John Lennon 1980;" a police identification number,"WJT-2;" and the fingerprints of Chapman, who is serving a 20-year to life sentence. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on June 22, 1981, but the prosecution would have used the album had the case gone to trial.

The story of how the album got onto the auction block begins on the day of the shooting. According to contemporary accounts, Chapman loitered outside the Dakota for much of the day. A widely circulated photograph taken by a fan shows Lennon autographing the album with Chapman looking on.

The shooting occurred late that evening, around 11 p.m., as Lennon returned from a recording studio. Witnesses saw Chapman call out to Lennon before firing four shots into his back and shoulder from a .38 caliber revolver, killing him almost instantly. Hordes of Beatle fans and other onlookers, including Michael, swarmed to the scene soon after. He found the signed album in a planter, where Chapman had stashed it.

Michael turned over the album to the authorities, as evidenced by a letter of thanks to his New York lawyer, Joan Berk. "By coming forward with the record that Mark Chapman abandoned at the murder site, your client provided us with an important piece of evidence," wrote Assistant New York County District Attorney Allen Sullivan on August 26, 1981.

After Chapman's plea and sentence, the district attorney returned the album to Michael, who kept it until 1998, when he decided to put it up for auction and contacted Moments in Time.

Chapman, too, apparently recognized the monetary value of the album. On Dec. 6, 1981, Rich Hampson of The Associated Press reported that Chapman was trying to regain possession of it so he could sell it and donate the proceeds to "a worthy cause such as gun control." On Aug. 22, 1998, The Associated Press reported that after Michael put the album up for auction, an unnamed lawyer contacted Chapman at Attica Prison to let him know he had a legal right to the album. Chapman reportedly responded, "I have no interest whatsoever in making a claim," adding that he hoped the money would be used for charity.

According to an August 7, 1998, report by Chris Nelson for VH-1, Zimet and Michael likewise agreed to donate an undisclosed percentage of the album proceeds to Handgun Control Inc., to dispel any appearance of profiteering from the tragedy.
-- New Jersey Law Journal/Law.com

Mini-Lesson in Ethics and Law

"Evil law is no law at all." -- St. Augustine

"Wrong must not win by technicalities." -- Aeschylus

"All bad precedents begin as justifiable measures." -- Julius Caesar

"Federal law is invariably carried to its most ludicrous extreme".-- Diane Alden

"Excessive laws are worse than useless. Many new laws confer legitimacy on what common sense would recognize as crimes".-- Joseph Sobran

"The only way to make sure that government doesn't abuse its power is to not grant it in the first place." -- Tom DeWeese

"Politicians and government bureaucrats are not good at recognizing the unintended consequences of their own actions. Most people, most of the time, will behave in a relatively rational manner, and thus government should leave them alone unless they are a clear and present danger to others." -- Richard W. Rahn

"When the judge calls the criminal's name out he stands up, and they are immediately linked by a strange biology that makes them both opposite and complementary. The one cannot exist without the other. Which is the sun and which is the shadow? It's well known some criminals have been great men." -- Jean Genet French Playwright, Novelist 1910-1986

Page Contents:
  • Luxury Car Killing Sparks Outrage, Case Reopened
  • Spanish Police Arrest 14 for Microsoft Piracy
  • Parole Board Rules Homolka Still a Risk
  • Lawyer for Mountie Accused of Murder Trying To Get 3rd Trial Dropped
  • A Church Topped With Pot and a Sleeping Judge Among 2003 Wackiness
  • Scamming Cyclist, Cheating Party Girl Among Top Canadian Insurance Frauds
  • 2-Year-Old Model Seeks Lost Wages in Connecticut Playground Mishap
  • Insurance Fraud Hall of Fame Welcomes Newest Members
  • Fine Brings Niagara Falls Jumper Down to Earth
  • Joey Buttafuoco Arrested for Insurance Fraud
  • Fraud: The Root Causes
  • Appeal Court Clears Mother of Killing Her Two Babies
  • Prisoner Conned Clients: "Lawyer" Collected Fees While Serving Time
  • Foxes Guarding the Henhouse
  • Suit Filed Over Album Lennon Signed for Killer
  • Round-Up of Legal News
  • A Mini-Lesson in Ethics and Law
  • A Threat to Civil Liberties: The Real Implications of the PROTECT Act
  • 2nd Sight Magazine Related Links Index

Lawyer for Mountie Accused of Murder Trying To Get 3rd Trial Dropped

January 4, 2004 Calgary -- The lawyer for an Alberta RCMP officer facing a third trial for second-degree murder is going to court this week in a bid to have the charge against his client thrown out.

Enough is enough, says Earl Wilson. He'll argue that a third trial for Const. Mike Ferguson for the shooting death of a prisoner during a jailhouse scuffle would be an abuse of process.

Juries have twice been unable to reach a decision in the 1999 death of 26-year-old Darren Varley, who was shot in the stomach and the head in a cell at the RCMP detachment in Pincher Creek, Alta.

A tentative date for the next trial has been set for Sept. 7. The hearing on Wilson's application is scheduled to begin Wednesday. The Crown, meanwhile, is expected ask for a change of venue.

In both previous trials, the Crown argued that the Mountie fired his gun twice in a fit of rage. Ferguson's lawyer said the officer acted in self-defense after the prisoner grabbed his pistol during a struggle.

Ferguson's first trial ended Nov. 9, 2002, when a jury failed to reach a verdict after 30 hours of deliberation. His second trial ended May 15, 2003, when jurors, after three days of deliberations, said it was unlikely they could come to a unanimous decision.

Canadian law does not stipulate a maximum number of times a person can be prosecuted for the same offence.

Ferguson has been on leave with pay, pending the outcome of the case. Ferguson, a 19-year veteran, has worked at Alberta detachments in Lethbridge and Peace River. He moved to Kamloops, B.C., about six months after the shooting.

There are other cases across Canada of multiple prosecutions on the same evidence.

Juries twice convicted an Edmonton woman and her former husband in the death of their foster child. Both convictions were overturned on appeal and a judge refused to allow a third trial - largely out of concern for the divorced couple's child, who had attempted suicide.

Thomas Sophonow was tried three times and spent nearly four years in prison for the 1981 murder of a doughnut shop clerk in Winnipeg. He was cleared of the crime in June 2000. -- Excerpts from the full article by Bill Graveland for the Canadian Press

Scamming Cyclist, Cheating Party Girl Among Top Canadian Insurance Frauds

December 26, 2003 Toronto -- The cyclist thought he had his insurance-claim tracks covered: he had his girlfriend run him over with her car, and then stuck a toothpick up his nose to aggravate his bleeding.

The devious bike-rider copped $22,000 in compensation. But the scam - among the Insurance Bureau of Canada's top 10 frauds of 2003 - backfired. The cyclist was later taken to court when insurance investigators discovered the man had deliberately injured himself to get his blood - and the insurance money - flowing.

Another noted case involved a woman who held so many wild parties that they trashed the home she bought with a $250,000 settlement from an auto accident.

She was nailed on insurance fraud when a scheme she and a beau came up with to burn down the house backfired. She also tried to collect insurance for items she reported as smoke-damaged - but were later found in a pawnshop.

While the boneheaded schemes of would-be fraud artists are outrageous, the cost of insurance fraud - $1.3 billion in 2003 - is nothing to laugh at, said insurance bureau spokesman Rick Dubin.

"It never fails to amaze me that people think they can get away with these ill-thought-out schemes to defraud insurers and burden honest policy holders," said Dubin, vice-president of investigations.

"Insurance fraud costs us all," said Dubin, adding that at least 15 per cent of premiums pay for the cost of fraud.

The bureau's annual top 10 fraud list aims to raise awareness about the seriousness of fake insurance claims, no matter how innocent they may appear, he said.

"When someone submits an exaggerated or false insurance claim, we all end up paying more for insurance. This year we have been seeing a greater prevalence of staged accident rings claiming for accident benefits."

"It's these kind of claims that are the most expensive kind of abuse on the property and casualty insurance industry."

A rundown of other dishonest insurance claims in 2003:

  • A drunken man who fled the scene after crashing his pickup truck into another vehicle later set his truck on fire and then reported it stolen in an attempt to get insurance money.
  • Forty-four passengers on a bus that was rammed by a truck filed compensation claims as part of a bogus rehabilitation therapy scheme. The truck driver and the passengers were paid $100 each for taking part in the scam.
  • A man whose car was involved in a single-vehicle accident told police he was drunk and asked a man he met at a bar to drive the car home. Police and insurance investigators became suspicious when the car's owner said he couldn't remember the friend. When police asked the owner to be tested to see if DNA samples from the car's airbag were his match, the owner sent a friend to give his blood sample instead. His friend's photo and fingerprints revealed the ruse.
  • A paralegal was charged after insurance investigators revealed he taught 59 friends, family members and work colleagues how to stage fake accidents.
  • The case of a man who received $40,000 in insurance six years ago after he reported his SUV stolen was reopened after police found the vehicle wrapped in a tarpaulin inside a rental storage unit.
  • The owner of a massage-therapy clinic was charged with fraud after it was discovered masseuses were treating clients only once but filling out insurance claims for several massages.
  • An accountant's insurance claim for a stolen air conditioner was denied after it was discovered the unit was repossessed because he didn't pay for it.

-- by Marlene Habib for the Canadian Press

Insurance Fraud Hall of Fame Welcomes Newest Members

December 18, 2003 -- The nation's top convicted insurance swindlers of 2003 were elected to the Insurance Fraud Hall of Fame by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. The scheme team was dishonored for insurance cons that were reportedly exceptionally large, brazen, tragic, or vicious.

"Insurance fraud is one of America's largest white-collar crimes - $80 billion in bogus claims annually. This year's Hall of Shame inductees reflect the growing size and violence of many insurance schemes nationally," said Dennis Jay, the coalition's executive director.

Insurance swindles raise insurance premiums, increase the price of goods and services, cost some victims their life savings, and cause injuries and death, according to Jay.

The new inductees are:

  • Healers or stealers? - James Lee Graff reportedly sold fake health insurance to 32,000 small business owners. Damage: $42 million in stolen premiums and unpaid medical bills - part of a national trend of phony group health coverage. Canyon Lake, Calif.
  • Seeing isn't believing - Eye surgeon Shaul Debbi reportedly performed dozens of worthless eye operations on mentally disabled residents of adult homes to hike his insurance billings. New York City.
  • Spirit of stealing - Rev. Roland Gray is reported to have insisted God told him to stage nearly 200 fake car crashes, and make fake slip-and-fall injuries in stores and motels. $500,000 in bogus claims. Chicago.
  • Death watch - Richard Jamieson reportedly stole more than $105 million from 3,000 people who invested in illegal life insurance policies of dying people. The largest insurance fraud in Ohio history. Ottawa Hills, Ohio.
  • Bomb scheme blows up - Desperate for cash, it was reported that unemployed Prescott Sigmund tried to blow up his father for life insurance money. A pipe bomb in his father's SUV blew up Sigmund's brother instead. Washington, DC.
  • Spare cash? - (Arson, murder) John Veysey reportedly torched homes and killed for insurance money whenever he needed cash. Several homes burned down, and one wife died. A second wife and their infant barely escaped another house fire. A third wife was marked for murder as well, prosecutors say. Galena, Ill.
  • Maladjusted adjuster - Insurance claim adjuster Gaylan Sweet was reported to have invented children who "died" in phantom hit-and-run accidents. Fake police and doctor reports, grieving fake parents and phantom drunk drivers rounded out Sweet's fantasy accidents. Even the deadly intersection was fake. San Diego area.
  • Fake death turns real - Two hijackers shot Sheila Wharton, husband Curtis told Haitian police. But Wharton is reported to have actually had Sheila murdered for life insurance - after she backed out of a TV-inspired scheme to fake her death. Shreveport, La.
  • Adjusting to arson - Finally, insurance adjuster Marc Rossi reportedly torched six buildings to steer insurance claims to his business. Rossi even bribed a fireman to let one building burn longer so Rossi would get a larger adjusting commission. Hamilton, NJ

-- Insurance Journal

Fine Brings Niagara Falls Jumper Down to Earth

December 19, 2003 ST. CATHARINES, Ontario -- An American who survived a plunge over Niagara Falls and went on to sign a lucrative deal as a circus stuntman, was fined C$3,000 ($2,256) on Thursday.

Kirk Jones, 41, whose $100,000 circus contract also stipulates he is entitled to an unlimited supply of shaved-ice snow cones, pleaded guilty in a Canadian court to mischief and to unlawfully performing a stunt.

"I understand what I did was wrong," Jones told reporters outside the courtroom. "You'll never see an action in Niagara waters with my name written on it again."

Jones said he was afraid of heights but that he had been seeking "a new challenge in his life" when he took the plunge over the falls in October. The Michigan resident said he was physically ill as he approached the massive cataract on the day of his jump.

"The walk I walked from the parking lot across the street was one of the longest walks of my life," he told Reuters. "I really threaded the needle that day."

At the end of that October 20 walk, Jones climbed over a wrought iron barrier and jumped into the swift-flowing water that tossed him over the brink of Niagara's biggest cataract, the Horseshoe Falls.

The Horseshoe Falls straddle the Canadian-U.S. border between Ontario and New York state. In earlier days, daredevils braved the drop in barrels and on boards, but such stunts are now illegal.

Jones was the first person to survive the 150-foot fall without any sort of safety device. He wore just two jackets, a shirt, blue jeans, and a pair of running shoes. He suffered a few broken ribs, but the fall made him a celebrity, with several TV appearances and a possible book deal. He is also the headline act in a 120-city circus tour next year.

Philip Dolci, assistant manager of Toby Tyler Circus in Sarasota, Florida, said he hired a detective to locate Jones after hearing of the feat. Dolci said potential stunts being considered for Jones included being shot out of a cannon over the Rio Grande and Grand Canyon. -- Edited from an article by Franco Pingue for Reuters

Prisoner Conned Clients
'Lawyer' Collected Fees While Serving Sentence

November 29, 2003 MELBOURNE, FL -- It was one of Natalia Larruscain's darkest days: The man she loved had just been sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for his role in a Brevard County cocaine ring.

Then came word from "the law offices of Townes, Boyd and Partners" of an offer to help cut the sentence. At least, their phone mail said they were law offices.

"They said they could do a lot more than our lawyer had done," Larruscain recalled from the couch of the home she and Kevin Renod Davis shared with her 3-year-old son. "He would probably be able to reduce it down to six years.

"He" was Dr. Michael Nelson, chairman and chief executive of Townes, Boyd and Partners, a self-described civil rights hero with degrees in law, accounting, psychology and theology. He also was a member of nine American Bar Association sections and committees, according to the client package sent to Davis in a federal lock-up in September.

Nelson drove a luxury car to work, sent mail on impressive-looking letterhead, and operated out of swank offices in Maitland.

But an investigation by WKMG-Local 6, Florida Today's news partner, found the 32-year-old Michael Anthony Nelson left something out of his package: that he was actually a federal prisoner living in a halfway house. He was running the so-called "law office" without attorneys and collecting fees while still serving a 5-year sentence for a previous con.

After WKMG-Local 6 questioned the Bureau of Prisons Nov. 7 about how Nelson could work at a fake law firm, Nelson was handcuffed by U.S. Marshals, marched out of the Maitland offices and returned to maximum-security custody.

Last week, employees loaded up company records and drove off, leaving clients such as Larruscain in the dark about their fees and cases. A woman named Betty Nelson, who has answered the firm's phone, refused to comment on where the firm may now be located.

The Bureau of Prisons has launched an investigation that will be referred to the FBI. The focus: How did a convicted con-man transitioning to life outside prison manage to create a fake law firm that solicited or received hundreds of thousands of dollars from convicted drug dealers or their families -- including a veteran professional basketball player?

Fresh out of a federal prison in Texas, Nelson arrived at an Orlando halfway house Aug. 14. Within 10 days, his mother Betty said, he persuaded her to establish the corporation of Townes, Boyd and Partners -- with her as sole corporate officer.

The next day 27-year-old Kevin Davis was sentenced to 151 months in federal prison, and soon Townes, Boyd and Partners would have one of its first clients.

"They just said they could help," recalls Natalia Larruscain, the 20-year-old Russian émigré who desperately wants Davis' sentence reduced.

So she went to the firm's offices in Maitland, just north of Orlando, and met "Dr." Nelson, self-described lawyer. "He said he would help my (fiancé) to come home."

She produced a $1,500 bill from Townes, Boyd and Partners, saying Nelson promised to file a motion for downward departure, a legal move that, if successful, can knock months or years off sentences.

She believed him.

After all, Nelson appeared to boast a law degree and provided a bar number used to identify attorneys. The document prepared for Davis and other clients to sign referred to "the law firm" of Townes, Boyd and Partners. And Nelson leased what Larruscain describes as "fabulous, gorgeous" offices, complete with fancy stationary with a letterhead listing six "advocates and counselors."

It did not say who those people were, but WKMG-Local 6 and Nelson's mother identified them as:
  • Dora Townes, Nelson's deceased grandmother;
  • Naomi Boyd, his step-grandmother;
  • Betty Nelson, his mother; Rex W. Dison, 42, serving a four-year
    federal sentence for methamphetamine distribution;
  • Porfirio Cardona Jr., 25, released in July from a three-year
    sentence for cocaine distribution;
  • and Michael Nelson himself, sentenced in May 1999 to five years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.

Nelson and Cardona were incarcerated in the same Texarkana, Texas, prison where Dison remains, and where the firm of Townes, Boyd has offered its services to others. Nelson and Cardona declined to comment.

For Larruscain, the truth about Michael Nelson is difficult to bear. "It's really hard because that was the last hope I had," she said through her tears.

Staff gets suspicious

"Prestigious law firm seeks a sales exec w/ a min of 5-8 yrs sales & marketing exp."
So began an Oct. 5 Orlando Sentinel classified ad, asking prospects to fax resumes to Townes, Boyd and Partners.

Through ads and word of mouth, the firm attracted dozens of applicants and employed about 15 to 22 people, according to former employees. They were given titles including "litigation paralegal" and annual salaries of between $23,000 and $28,000 to start, and up to $50,000 if promoted to managerial positions.

At first, they had no idea what Nelson was up to, though their suspicions grew as they noticed no legal motions being filed.

Joseph Strait, a Titusville paralegal, said he interviewed at what he "thought was a legitimate criminal defense or appeals firm." The interview went well, but he was told days later the firm was not hiring. Strait, new to the field, said he hoped Townes, Boyd would help "get me off the ground."

'Very Angry'

Recently waived 12-year NBA veteran George McCloud, a high school standout at Mainland High in Daytona Beach, also was targeted by Nelson.

He told WKMG-Local 6 he gave Townes, Boyd $250,000 to invest after Nelson persuaded him he was a lawyer and a venture capitalist. In October -- after McCloud confirmed he obtained a promissory note from Townes, Boyd claiming he would be repaid $800,000 after four years -- he was informed Nelson was a federal prisoner pretending to be a lawyer.

On November 5, McCloud said he had gotten "every dime back" from Nelson. A week later, McCloud denied commenting at all.

Natalia Larruscain has a suggestion for Nelson: "I think he should go back to prison because he hurt me very much. He's lucky he's in prison right now because I am very, very angry right now. It's not right."
-- Edited from the article by Tony Pipitone for WKMG-Local 6 at Florida Today

Roundup of Legal News

This Car Can Talk. What It Says May Cause Concern.  December 29, 2003 -- OnStar is one of a growing number of automated eyes and ears that enhance driving safety and convenience but that also increase the potential for surveillance.

Court Finds Felon Disenfranchisement Law Discriminatory  In an opinion that reviews the history of the Florida Constitution, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered a trial for convicts seeking to restore their civil rights. The class action could affect more than a half million people who are currently denied the right to vote. A Washington, D.C., think tank estimates that 13 percent of black men are unable to vote nationally because of such felon disenfranchisement laws. -- Miami Daily Business Review

Third Trial Likely in Suit Against Beretta  Parents of a California teenager shot by a friend will have to try for a third time to convince a jury that gunmaker Beretta USA Corp. is liable in the boy's death. A mistrial was declared after jurors deadlocked in the wrongful-death suit against Beretta, which won an initial verdict in November 1998 when jurors found that the gun used in the shooting was not defective and that alleged flaws in its design did not give rise to liability. -- The Recorder

After 20 Years, New Twist in Custody Case  A recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was extraordinary in many ways. It came 20 years after litigation began over custody of a then-baby daughter, in a case that featured explosive claims of sexual abuse and generated international headlines. The ruling also marked a rare application of the constitutional prohibition on bills of attainder. But the court split on the issue that long split case observers: whether to believe the mother's allegations. -- Legal Times

Man Steals $729K Ferrari After Test Drive  ARDMORE, PA -- Where do you hide a $729,000 Ferrari during rush hour? That's what police in the Philadelphia suburbs want to know, after a con man drove off with a red Ferrari F50 during a test drive. -- Full article from the Charlotte Observer at Free Republic.com

WWE Wins Merchandise Lawsuit, Kickbacks, More  The Connecticut Law Tribune reported on a WWE licensed merchandise fiasco which ended with WWE vice president of licensing and marketing Jim Bell being fired from the company. Bell, whose job was to license WWE products to several companies nationwide found it more profitable to deal with Stanley Shenker of Stanley Shenker & Associates and let him do the licensing, secretly splitting the outside agent fee. Shenker never fully admitted in court of his wrongdoing however when WWE attorneys got CEO of T-Shirt manufacturer Trinity Products Inc., to testify in court, he revealed that he was offered a secret exclusive right to sell WWE clothing to Wal-Mart for 2 percent kickbacks to Stanley Shenker & Associates. The judge in charge of the suit forced Shenker to forfeit his his multimillion-dollar suit for unpaid fees, due to conduct that a judge said "defiled the judicial system." -- Wrestling.com

Judge Slams 'Serial Perjurer'  November 4, 2003 -- In one of the costliest punishments ever imposed in Connecticut for discovery abuse, an international merchandise agent for World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. has been forced to forfeit his multimillion-dollar suit for unpaid fees, due to conduct that a judge said "defiled the judicial system." Stamford Superior Court Judge Chase T. Rogers branded Stanley Shenker a "serial perjurer," and dismissed with prejudice his action against Stamford-based WWE. -- Connecticut Law Tribune at Law.com

Workplace Computer Off-Limits?  November 3, 2003 -- A Connecticut lawyer wants the state's high court to recognize that employees have some expectation of privacy regarding workplace computers -- even if the material they view or download is child pornography. The lawyer is appealing the denial of a motion to suppress by a Superior Court judge, who ruled that her client, a former Yale professor, did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy because he did not make his computer files inaccessible to other authorized users. -- Connecticut Law Tribune at Law.com

Investigative Report Not Entirely Privileged  October 28, 2003 -- Portions of an internal investigatory report prepared by a criminal defense law firm are not shielded by either the attorney-client privilege or the work-product doctrine because the defendant at the center of a RICO action granted a newspaper interview discussing issues contained in the report, a federal jurist has found. However, the magistrate judge found the plaintiffs may not obtain information that was not already disclosed to the press. -- New York Law Journal in Law.com

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