September 3, 2013

Jury selection Wednesday in ex-selectwoman's extortion case

Carole Swan, accused of seeking bribes from a town contractor, says she was conducting a sting.

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Former Chelsea selectwoman Carole J. Swan goes on trial in federal court for the second time in nine weeks, and the stakes are much higher than they were at her first trial in July.

Carole J. Swan

click image to enlarge

Frank Monroe

Swan's case is one of two scheduled for jury selection Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Bangor. Opening statements in her trial are set for 8:30 a.m. Sept. 10.

Swan, 55, is accused of seeking bribes on three separate days from Frank Monroe Construction, owned by Frank Monroe of Whitefield, in exchange for giving him town of Chelsea plowing business in 2010 and 2011. Each of the three counts of violating the Hobbs Act, which addresses public officials using their office to extort money, carries a maximum prison term of 20 years and $250,000 in fines.

Swan's attorney, Leonard Sharon, outlined his case in writing on Friday. In it, he says Swan denies allegations that she was seeking improper payments from Monroe and instead maintains Monroe approached Swan "asking her to secure favorable contracts and offering kickbacks."

Sharon says Swan "was herself in the process of investigating Monroe for possible wrongdoing."

Sharon says Swan suspected Monroe of engaging in fraud. "This would include billing the town of Chelsea and other towns that he served for sand that he does not own and did not provide," Sharon says.

The defense also asks the judge to rule on whether Swan's July convictions are admissible in the September trial. A jury in the same courtroom convicted Swan on July 29 of five counts of income tax fraud for the years 2006--2010 and two counts of defrauding the federal workers' compensation program. Those convictions carry maximum prison terms of three to five years.

Swan was cleared of two additional counts of defrauding the workers' compensation program March 15, 2010, and May 11, 2011, and of committing fraud on a federally funded program that paid for most of the 2007 Windsor Road culvert replacement project.

Some of the action in the extortion case took place last week in a series of pretrial motions.

Swan asked the judge to subpoena bank records of Monroe and his company, but later withdrew those requests as well as one for personnel records of Gregory J. Lumbert, a criminal investigator with the Kennebec County Sheriff's Office who is assigned to Maine Revenue Services and who occasionally drove a plow truck for Frank Monroe Construction.

Both Sharon and the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark, agreed to stipulate that Lumbert worked for the sheriff's office Jan. 1, 2010, through Jan. 31, 2011.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. initially deferred ruling on a defense request for sheriff's office manuals and training videos for interviewing people who are not under arrest. But on Thursday, the judge dismissed the request as moot after Clark filed a notice indicating that Kennebec Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Ryan P. Reardon said the office did not have such a manual between Jan. 31, 2011, and Feb. 3, 2011.

Swan was questioned by deputies at the sheriff's office Feb. 3, 2011, shortly after her pickup stopped alongside Monroe's on snowy Chapel Street in Augusta. Monroe testified at the earlier trial that Monroe gave Swan a sting package prepared by Kennebec County Sheriff's Office deputies to resemble $10,000, the amount Swan allegedly requested.

Clips from the video of Swan being questioned show deputies David Bucknam and Reardon telling her repeatedly that she is not under arrest. The video shows about 19 minutes of the longer interview.

(Continued on page 2)

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