July 27, 2013

Jury clears Swan of most serious charge

But the former Chelsea selectwoman is convicted of workers' compensation and income tax fraud.

By BETTY ADAMS Kennebec Journal

BANGOR - Former Chelsea selectwoman Carole J. Swan gave a big smile outside the courtroom early Saturday, where she had been on trial for three weeks on multiple federal fraud charges.

A jury had just cleared her of the most serious of those charges: alleged fraud in connection with a $396,880 town project to replace the Windsor Road culvert in 2007.

The project was awarded to her husband, Marshall Swan, and Carole Swan signed the warrants to pay for it while she was in office.

Swan, 55, also was cleared of two counts of committing fraud by falsifying documents she filed for federal workers' compensation.

She was convicted 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, the earth-moving company owned by her and her husband, and failing to pay $140,000 due in income and self-employment taxes.

She, a sister and her attorneys were packing up briefcases full of paperwork used throughout the case.

Chief Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. opted against requiring Swan to secure her bail, which the prosecutor requested, so she was free.

Woodcock told Swan she would be sentenced at a later date.

Each of the income tax fraud charges carries a maximum sentence of three years and a $250,000 fine. Each of the workers' compensation fraud charges carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution.

Her attorney, Leonard Sharon, told the judge she planned to live with her sister.

Swan testified she moved out of her family home July 7, the night before her trial started, to escape what she claimed was years of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, Marshall Swan.

Sharon said early Saturday morning that Swan had told him eight months ago about being abused, but she refused to leave her family home until her younger son, John, 18, graduated from high school, which he did last month.

Sharon said he warned her the longer she waited, the more the prosecutor could use it against her. The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark, told the jury that Swan had opportunities to leave over the years and an independent income, but did not.

Clark said he had no comment on the verdict, as is usual.

As the initial guilty verdicts on the income tax counts were announced, Sharon put his arm briefly across Swan's shoulders. Then there was a visible start at the defense table when the first "not guilty" verdict was announced.

The jury had deliberated for nine hours.

"We couldn't have had a fairer trial," Sharon said shortly after the jury gave its verdict. "We knew the income tax case was difficult. We're very happy we won the culvert case. At least we've stopped the vendetta from the town, the disgruntled citizens."

Sharon said during his closing arguments that there was a vendetta in the town to get Carole Swan. Sharon Morang, who served as a Chelsea selectman from June 2007 to July 2010, denied there was a vendetta.

She said she is a member of Chelsea, Maine-Citizens Concerned for Our Town, founded in 2010 and aimed at gathering public information about town business and publishing it on Facebook.

"It was done to make sure everything in town was transparent. It was a very gray area. We wanted to get all the information out to the citizens," Morang said.

Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:

badams@centralmaine.com

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