September 14, 2013

Former Maine official insists she was 'like town hero'

Carole Swan, who is on trial facing federal extortion charges, took the stand in her own defense Friday.

By BETTY ADAMS Kennebec Journal

BANGOR – Former Chelsea Selectwoman Carole Swan, on trial facing extortion charges, testified Friday that Whitefield contractor Frank Monroe shorted her on the second payment she sought from him, giving her $7,000 rather than the $7,500 she requested.

That meant she had to get money from him a third time to pass a threshold she believed was needed to turn over her investigation of him to authorities.

"I thought it had to be over $10,000," Swan said. "I thought I was going to have it in December (2010), but he shortchanged me."

Monroe held a contract to plow Chelsea's roads at the time, and also supplied sand. Swan claimed he billed the town for sand he did not provide.

Swan is accused of extorting kickbacks from Monroe on three dates from January 2010 to February 2011. Monroe went to authorities after her third request for money, saying she wanted him to inflate his bill to the town and kick back $10,000 to her.

Swan spent about two hours responding to questions from her attorney, Leonard Sharon on Friday in U.S. District Court. She will return to the witness stand Monday, and Justice John A. Woodcock Jr. told jurors just before sending them home Friday that they are likely to get the case on Tuesday.

Swan testified that she confronted Monroe in his office in January 2010, telling him he hadn't delivered the right amount of sand, and he suggested they could both benefit from a deal.

She said she agreed and told him to give her $3,000. "I had to get to his level to keep him away (from town contracts) for good," Swan said.

INVESTIGATING MONROE?

She said he delivered the money about 10 days later, passing it to her in the parking lot of Abbott's Market on Route 17. Swan said she kept the money in a lock box belonging to her husband, Marshall Swan, and showed the cash to family members.

"I didn't think anybody would think that I was trying to steal from the town," she testified. "My husband had just donated $9,000 worth of work to the fire department, and I had done a lot for the town."

She said she was investigating Monroe in hopes that the attitude of Chelsea residents would become more favorable to her and her husband. Swan testified that both had come under fire over town road projects.

Swan also described an investigation she undertook early in her 19-year tenure as selectwoman, which resulted in Doris Reed, the town's former assistant town manager and tax collector, being sentenced in 1997 to prison for embezzling more than a quarter-million dollars of the town's vehicle excise tax money from 1988 to 1992.

She told jurors that many residents disparaged her while she was investigating the Reed case, but their attitude changed once the case concluded.

"I was like the town hero," Swan said. "It was a lot of money for the town."

In a separate case, Swan was convicted in July of two counts of workers' compensation fraud and five counts of falsifying income tax returns by failing to declare about $650,000 in income from Marshall Swan Construction. She's back in court now facing three counts of extortion related to demands she allegedly made of Monroe.

DEFENSE DISCREDITS MONROE

On Friday, witness Robert Simmons Jr., of Augusta and formerly of Windsor and Chelsea, Monroe's former brother-in-law, called Monroe "a very dishonest man."

Monroe held the contract to supply sand and to plow Chelsea roads when he told Kennebec County sheriff's deputies in January 2011 that Swan had sought kickbacks from him three times over the previous 12 months.

"I don't think he dealt with my family fairly," Simmons said about a business deal.

John Wilcox testified that when he was a road supervisor for the town of Windsor, he was warned by others to watch Monroe's trucks and make sure he delivered the full amount of sand the town was buying.

 

Betty Adams can be contacted 621-5631 or at:

badams@centralmaine.com

 

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