BANGOR, Maine — Jurors in the extortion trial of former Chelsea selectwoman Carole Swan will be selected Wednesday in U.S. District Court.
Swan’s trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 10 on three counts of violating the Hobbs Act. It defines extortion as “the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.”
Because Swan, 55, was a selectwoman when she allegedly received kickbacks from Frank Monroe, she was charged under the “color of official right” section of the federal statute, according to court documents.
Swan has denied the allegations and said that she was investigating Monroe, who was contracted by the town to plow and sand its roads, for fraudulent business activities. The prosecution claims Swan used her position as a town leader to extort money from Monroe by overpaying and getting kickbacks totaling $20,000.
U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock earlier this year severed Swan’s trial on the extortion charges from her trial on tax and worker’s compensation fraud charges. She was found guilty by a federal jury in July on five counts of tax fraud from 2006 to 2010 and two counts of lying in 2008 and 2010 about her income and work history to to receive workers compensation benefits. The jury rejected Swan’s contention that she was justified in breaking the law because of alleged abuse at the hand of her estranged husband.
Swan was found not guilty on two of four counts of workers’ compensation fraud and not guilty of the illegal use of federal funds to pay for a culvert with Federal Emergency Management Agency money.
The prosecution is expected to present evidence that Swan had the town overpay Monroe in exchange for a $3,000 kickback in January 2010 and $7,000 in December 2010. In the third count, she allegedly asked Monroe in January 2011 to inflate his bill for road sand so so she could get $10,000.
Monroe, with the assistance of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office, recorded telephone calls with Swan, according to court documents. Swan confessed to the extortion in a January 2011 a taped interview with detectives but did not mention she was conducting her own sting operation, according to the prosecution’s trial brief, submitted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark.
She testified at her trial in July that she never deposited the cash she received from Monroe and had planned to take it to the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office.
Swan’s attorney, Leonard Sharon of Auburn, said in his trial brief that her defense again will include evidence that she was abused by her estranged husband, Marshall Swan. Sharon said the abuse explains why Swan did not tell police she was trying to gather evidence against Monroe.
“Based on this evidence the defense will ask the jury to consider that the domestic abuse created in Carole a propensity to tell male authority figures what she believed they wanted to hear, and to accept personal blame for events when being accused of wrongdoing, even when she was without fault,” Sharon wrote in his trial brief.
Marshall Swan, through his attorney, Walter McKee of Augusta, has denied the abuse allegation. Marshall Swan, 56, of Chelsea is to be tried in October in federal court in Bangor on tax fraud charges and aiding and abetting the fraudulent use of federal funds in connection with the culvert project.
If convicted of extortion, the most serious charge, Carole Swan faces up to 20 years in federal prison. On the charges on which she has been convicted, Swan faces up to three years in prison on tax fraud and up to five years on workers’ compensation fraud.
In addition to prison time, she could be ordered to pay fines of up to $25,000 on each count and to repay workers’ compensation funds she illegally received.