A 79-year-old Palm Beach woman on Thursday didn’t just avoid a prison term for evading taxes on $43 million in foreign accounts. A federal judge said Mary Estelle Curran deserves a presidential pardon.
Blasting the government for prosecuting the woman who had already paid a whopping $21.6 million penalty to the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Ryskamp placed Curran on probation for one year. He then immediately revoked it.
“You were on probation for about five seconds,” he told her.
He then urged Curran’s attorney, Roy Black, to seek a presidential pardon.
Here is the transcript from the hearing.
2. Meantime, Judge Cohn sentenced a fraudster on the other end of the spectrum to 26 years. From the Sun-Sentinel:
The ringleader of a brazen South Florida identity theft ring that sought $11.7 million worth of fraudulent income tax refunds was sentenced Thursday to more than 26 years in federal prison.
Federal prosecutors said the scheme was one of the biggest and most successful they've seen and a prime example of the "epidemic" that is more rampant in South Florida than anywhere else in the nation. The trial judge said the fraud was so convincing that the IRS approved some $4.5 million of the requested refunds.
"To put it bluntly, ma'am, you are a parasite and a blight on society," U.S. District Judge James Cohn told Alci Bonannee, 36, of Fort Lauderdale, after she tearfully apologized and asked for mercy while trying to cast blame on others. He sentenced her to 26 years and five months in prison and ordered her to pay more than $1.9 million in restitution.
The judge told Bonannee her "egregious crime" required a stern response from the criminal justice system to punish her sufficiently and to deter other people from doing what she did.
"You have created a mountain of work for [federal authorities] in order to clear up the mess that you have created," Cohn said. "Ensnared in that mess is the innocent taxpayer faced with the task of restoring his or her good name and credit rating. It is a hurtful crime that follows its victims for many years."
3. It's furlough Friday again for the Federal Defenders, but not for the U.S. Attorney's Office. Congress has ensured that AUSAs and FBI agents will not be furloughed. But Defenders and Probation Officers are having no such luck. Explain to me how that works. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Federal budget cuts have caused delays in at least one terror-related court case in New York and prompted a federal judge in Nebraska to say he is "seriously contemplating" dismissing some criminal cases.
The automatic cuts are also causing concerns about funding for the defense of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect, who is being represented by a public defender's office that's facing three weeks of unpaid furloughs and whose defense costs could run into millions of dollars.
Federal defenders' offices have been hit especially hard by the cuts, which amount to about 10 percent of their budgets for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. Some offices have laid off staffers. The head public defender in Southern Ohio even laid himself off as a way to save money.
Much of the reductions are due to automatic cuts known as the sequester, and public defenders warn they could face even more cuts next year.
Members of the Federal Bar Association, including federal lawyers and judges, were on Capitol Hill on Thursday, meeting with members of the House and Senate and their staffers and appealing to them for adequate funding, said Geoff Cheshire, an assistant federal public defender from Arizona, who was among them.
"The federal defenders are the front bumper of this fiscal crunch, getting hit first and hardest. But behind it is the third branch of government as a whole. The message is, this is having real effects on the federal courts and the rule of law," Cheshire said.
He and others are pushing for Congress to make an emergency appropriation for the judiciary that would mitigate some of the cuts to defenders and the court system. Cheshire said $61 million would be enough to eliminate the furloughs.
In New York, furloughs have caused delays in the case of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, charged with conspiring to kill Americans in his role as al-Qaida's chief spokesman. A public defender told U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan this month that furloughs in his office were making it impossible to prepare for trial quickly, prompting the judge to say he found it "extremely troublesome" and "stunning" that sequestration was interfering with the case.
The Department of Justice told employees on Wednesday that despite budget cuts it would not furlough anyone, including FBI agents and prosecutors. While that's good news for prosecutors, it leaves an imbalance that affects cases, several defenders said. By law, prosecutors and defenders are supposed to be paid the same but effectively are not when some defenders have to take three weeks off, they said.
Boston federal defender Miriam Conrad is representing marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. She told The Associated Press on Wednesday that it was too early to tell what the impact of the furloughs would be on Tsarnaev's case.
Other public defenders warned of the imbalance when one side has the resources of the entire Department of Justice behind it and the other is trying to handle deep cuts that could affect its investigations, ability to pay experts, and the ability to show up in court five days a week.
"Imagine the imbalance now of having people working on the case losing two or three weeks of pay," said Michael Nachmanoff, a federal public defender in Virginia.
One month before the bombings happened, Conrad told the AP in an interview that she worried furloughs could cause delays, hurt the cause of justice, be devastating to her office and demoralize her staff. She noted at the time that the office can't require or even allow its lawyers to work on furlough days.