Ex-Chelsea selectwoman charged with fraud, extortion claims co-defendant husband was abusive

Posted July 04, 2013, at 4:54 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The former Chelsea selectwoman scheduled next week to go on trial in U.S. District Court on charges of extortion, stealing federal funds designated for the town, tax fraud and workers’ compensation fraud alongside her husband, Marshall Swan, claimed for the first time in court documents that he was abusive.

Carole Swan’s attorney, Leonard Sharon of Auburn, said in his trial brief filed Monday that he would present witnesses at the trial “to establish that Carole could not leave her home without Marshall’s permission and that for years he has attempted to control and monitor her every activity.”

Walter McKee, the Augusta attorney who represents Marshall Swan, on Wednesday filed a second motion asking that the husband and wife be tried separately. U.S. District Judge John Woodcock last year denied a motion for separate trial before the abuse allegations were made.

McKee declined to comment on the abuse allegations. The attorney said in his brief that if the couple were to be tried separately, testimony about alleged domestic violence would not be admissible at Marshall Swan’s trial. He has not been charged with domestic violence assault.

“It is fundamentally unfair to Marshall to have to defend against uncharged criminal conduct solely because the government chose to have his trial and Carole’s trial together,” McKee wrote. “Additionally, this new evidence would essentially force Marshall to testify to rebut the allegations about conduct that Marshall is not charged with. In doing so, Marshall would be compelled to give up his Fifth Amendment right not to testify concerning allegations that Marshall could still be prosecuted for by the state of Maine.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark, who is prosecuting the case, opposed trying the couple separately.

The couple is accused of charging the town $130,000 for a culvert job on Windsor Road that cost only $58,000, according to court documents. The funds to fix the culvert from the Federal Emergency Management Agency allegedly were paid to Marshall Swan Construction, which is owned by the couple.

The extortion charge stems from Carole Swan’s alleged use of her position as a town leader to extort money from an area construction company by overpaying and getting kickbacks that totaled $20,000. She had the town overpay the construction company — a plowing contractor — and received a kickback from him for $3,000 in January 2010, and another $7,000 in December 2010, according to the indictment. In the third extortion count, she allegedly asked the contractor to inflate his bill for road sand so she could get $10,000.

The tax fraud charges allege the couple underreported their taxable income between 2006 and 2010. Carole Swan is accused of lying about her sources of income to obtain workers’ compensation.

The Swans have pleaded not guilty to all charges and remain free on personal recognizance bail. Information on whether they continue to live together was not available Wednesday morning.

In outlining his defense strategy, Sharon said in his brief that Carole Swan’s intent was not to defraud or hide income from the government.

“She did the best she could,” the trial brief said. “If she made mistakes, they were the result of the chaos and ongoing abuse that ruled her life under Marshall.”

“Any perceived failure to meet his demands (or sometimes even when she did) led to verbal, mental and physical abuse,” the attorney wrote. “She suffered black eyes, bruised ribs, and clumps of hair being pulled from her head as she was dragged from room to room. Evidence will show that Marshall has erected a paranoid regime aimed at tracking Carole’s slightest movements.”

Woodcock is expected to issue a decision Friday on whether the Swans will be tried separately or together. If the judge grants the motion to sever, Carole Swan’s trial, expected to take three weeks, most likely would begin Monday and her husband’s trial would be scheduled at a later date, according to McKee.

If convicted, Carole Swan faces up to 20 years in federal prison on the extortion charge and up to five years on the workers’ compensation fraud charges. She and her husband each face up to 10 years in prison if convicted on the charges of fraudulently using federal funds meant for the town and up to three years on the tax fraud charges.

Both Carole and Marshall Swan also could be ordered to pay fines of up to $250,000 and restitution of nearly $400,000.

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