BANGOR — Jury deliberations continued Friday night in the case of former Chelsea selectwoman Carole Swan, who is facing 10 charges of defrauding the federal government.
Swan, 55, spent 15 days on trial in U.S. District Court before the case was handed to the jury of six men and six women around 2:30 p.m. Swan is accused of tax fraud, making false statements so she could get federal workers’ compensation funds, and of fraud on a program receiving federal money related to a town culvert project.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark bolstered his closing arguments with dozens of invoices and income reports, some handwritten. He displayed them on courtroom monitors.
“Is it really believable she did not know how much income Marshall Swan Construction was generating when she was doing all the banking and telling her sister-in-law it was making $1 million a year?” he asked. “Is it really believable she didn’t know she was defrauding the town of Chelsea (over the culvert)?”
He went on to ask if it was credible that she didn’t know she had to report her work for Marshall Swan Construction and her harness horse racing business.
“Is it really believable that Carole Swan could not work, clean her house, blow dry hair or prepare meals for her family?” he asked.
Leonard Sharon, one of Swan’s two defense attorneys, gave a flamboyant closing.
“This ain’t Chechnya. This is Chelsea,” Sharon said. “This isn’t a totalitarian regime.”
Sharon was passionate, pacing, gesturing, pounding his fist on binders on the table, raising his voice, ducking to avoid imaginary wooden apples. Swan said that in one of the domestic abuse instances years ago, Marshall Swan took wooden apples from a bowl on a table and hurled them at her hard enough to dent the walls of their mobile home.
He urged the jurors not to be swayed by the thousands of documents entered into evidence by the prosecutor.
“This case is the people of the United States v. Carole Swan. They gather this enormous amount of evidence,” he said as he gestured to two tables covered with thick green file folders containing transcripts, canceled check records, bank statements, and other evidence gathered by agents from Homeland Security and the FBI, and local authorities.
Most days, there was almost no one in the courtroom watching the trial. Because witnesses were sequestered until they testified, even Swan’s two sons could not watch. They each testified late in the trial for the defense.
Swan spent almost two full days on the witness stand, baring details about her home life, where, she said, her husband abused her for decades. She defended her actions as a selectwoman, and said she was completely unable to work because of a work injury in the 1990s.
She was accused of defrauding the government by making false statements on income tax returns for 2006 through 2010. Clark, the prosecutor, told jurors she failed to declare $650,000 in income for Marshall Swan Construction, the construction/earth-moving company owned by the Swans, and failed to pay about $140,000 in income and self-employment tax over those years.
Clark told jurors to compare the description of her physical capability with statements about Swan climbing into a deep hole after the Windsor Road culvert washed out in April 2007.
Swan rubbed her right shoulder with her left hand as the prosecutor talked about the evidence he presented to support the workers’ compensation fraud charges.
“There’s a common theme to these crimes. It’s money, it’s greed,” he said. “If you follow the money it leads right back to Carole Swan.”
Swan is accused of four counts of defrauding the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation program by misrepresenting her income, her work and her work capacity from 2008 to 2011. According to the indictment, “she failed to report her ownership interest and her active participation in the operation of Marshall Swan Construction and a harness horse racing business and her activities on the Board of Selectmen for the town of Chelsea.”
She also is accused of fraudulently obtaining a contract for Marshall Swan Construction to repair the Windsor Road culvert while she was a selectman by deceiving town employees, officials and other bidders about the cost of the culvert. The program was supported by Federal Emergency Management Agency funds.
“From the day the Windsor Road culvert washed out, Carole Swan engineered a scheme to defraud Chelsea and to ensure that Marshall Swan Construction was the only contractor that could win that project,” Clark said.
Sharon told them contractor Frank Monroe – who testified he gave Swan $10,000 in 2010 – had been given immunity for his actions. He said the government got a picture of Swan having dinner with her husband and younger son a month ago as well as subpoenaing records from the hotel where she is staying during the trial.
“This is similar to a witch hunt,” Sharon told the jury. “We do not convict people who fall out of grace with the majority.”
“You cannot convict a person for a mistake,” Sharon argued. “You have to be convinced that at the time she was doing it, she intended to commit a crime. … There is more than a reasonable doubt my client never committed any of the crimes the government charged her with.”
Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at [email protected]