Former Chelsea selectwoman loses bid to squash statements; federal trial cleared to start
By Betty Adams email@example.com
Carole Swan is scheduled for trial on fraud and extortion charges in five weeks, now that a federal judge has upheld rulings that refuse to suppress the former Chelsea selectwoman’s statements to investigators.
Swan, 54, is due to go on trial April 2 along with her husband, Marshall Swan, who also faces fraud charges, according to information in the federal court file. The decision is a blow to the defense of both Swans, whose attorneys have objected to a number of rulings in the case. Carole Swan was indicted almost a year ago on 17 counts alleging she tried to extort money from a town contractor, committed tax fraud, defrauded a federal program and lied on forms to obtain federal workers’ compensation for four years. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is free on bail. Swan testified at hearing in U.S. District Court in Bangor in December in an effort to convince a judge that statements she made on Feb. 3, 2011, to the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office should be kept out of a jury trial. A court affidavit by Detective David Bucknam about that interview says Swan admitted receiving kickbacks from other contractors as well as Frank Monroe, of Whitefield, and had taken money for years for “greasing the wheels” and was “the guilty one.” U.S. District Court Chief Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. issued an order Monday affirming a magistrate judge’s ruling against suppressing those statements. On Tuesday, Woodcock also affirmed Margaret Kravchuk’s recommended decision to have a separate trial for Swan on the three counts of Hobbs Act extortion. Those charges, which do not affect Marshall Swan, allege she sought kickbacks from Monroe on three occasions in exchange for awarding him town contracts. Under oath at that Dec. 5 hearing, Swan said she could neither read nor write, a claim that is expected to be a key component of her defense at trial. However, the claim is at odds with the recollections of people who knew her through school, work and community service. Swan spent 19 years as selectwoman in Chelsea, and for some of those years was chairwoman of the three-member board. In recommending that the court reject Swan’s suppression request, Kravchuk commented in a footnote about Swan’s credibility that she “found her testimony about most events highly strategic in nature and less than reliable.” Swan’s attorney, Leonard Sharon, was working on another case Tuesday and was unavailable to comment on the effect of Woodcock’s ruling. In a separate ruling also issued Monday, Woodcock affirmed Kravchuk’s recommendation to dismiss five fraud counts against both Carole and Marshall Swan but allow the government to seek a superseding indictment. That would roll all those counts into a single charge against each. Under those charges, Carole Swan is accused of defrauding the Federal Emergency Management Agency by misleading bidders on the Windsor Road Culvert Project by saying a culvert cost $130,000 rather than the actual cost of $58,000. The contract for the repair was awarded by the town to Marshall Swan Construction, a firm she co-owned with her husband. “The facts and circumstances at hand, from an objective standpoint, call for a single count for one misrepresentation in the context of the project/contract, not a separate count for each payment installment,” Kravchuk wrote. She also said the five related counts charging Marshall Swan with “aiding and abetting fraud on a program receiving federal funds” also should be dismissed, and that the government could seek a superseding indictment against him as well. Marshall Swan also has pleaded not guilty to those charges and to five counts of income tax fraud. The prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark, said Tuesday he could not say whether the government would seek superseding indictments against the Swans. Walter McKee, the attorney who represents Marshall Swan, said Tuesday that Woodcock’s rulings — except for dismissing the five fraud counts against Marshall Swan — will have little effect on his client’s case. “We want to get this case to trial sooner rather than later so that all of the facts and circumstances of Marshall's situation can finally be laid out,” McKee said. Carole Swan initially was arrested two years ago on state charges. Those charges were later dismissed when the federal indictment was brought. Betty Adams — 621-5631
Staff file photo by Joe Phelan