Sunday, December 8, 2013
By Betty Adams firstname.lastname@example.org
BANGOR — Former Chelsea Selectwoman Carole Swan, on trial in federal court facing extortion charges, testified Friday that Whitefield contractor Frank Monroe shorted her on the second payment she sought from him, giving her $7,000 rather than the $7,500 she requested.
The lesser amount meant that she had to get money from him a third time to pass a threshold she believed was needed to turn over her investigation of him to authorities.
“I thought it had to be over $10,000,” Swan said. “I thought I was going to have it in December (2010), but he short-changed me.”
Monroe held a contract to plow the town’s roads at the time and also supplied sand. Swan claimed he billed the town for sand he did not provide.
Swan is accused of extorting kickbacks from Monroe on three dates between January 2010 and February 2011. Monroe went to authorities after her third request for money, saying she wanted him to inflate his bill to the town and kick back $10,000 to her.
He said he paid the previous installments from his own money.
Swan spent about two hours responding to questions from her attorney, Leonard Sharon, on Friday in U.S. District Court.
She will return to the witness stand on Monday, and Justice John A. Woodcock Jr. told jurors just prior to sending them home on Friday that they are likely to get the case on Tuesday for deliberations.
Swan testified that she confronted Monroe in his office in January 2010, telling him he didn’t deliver the right amount of sand, and he suggested they could both benefit from a deal.
She said she agreed and told him to give her $3,000.
“I had to get to his level to keep him away (from town contracts) for good,” Swan said.
She said he delivered the money about 10 days later, passing it to her in the parking lot of Abbott’s Market on Route 17. Swan said she kept the money in a lock box belonging to her husband, Marshall Swan, and showed the cash to a number of her family members.
“I didn’t think anybody would think that I was trying to steal from the town,” she testified. “My husband had just donated $9,000 worth of work to the fire department, and I had done a lot for the town.”
She said she was investigating Monroe in hopes that the attitude of Chelsea residents would become more favorable to her and her husband. Swan testified both had come under fire over town road projects.
“My husband’s name and my name was slung through the mud in the (Kennebec Journal) every day,” she said.
Swan also described an investigation she undertook early in her 19-year career as selectwoman, which resulted in Doris Reed, the town’s former assistant town manager and tax collector being sentenced in October 1997 to eight years in prison with all but four suspended for embezzling more than a quarter million dollars of the town’s vehicle excise tax money from 1988 to 1992.
She also told jurors that many residents disparaged her while she was investigating the Reed case, but the attitude in the community changed once the Doris Reed embezzlement case concluded.
“I was like the town hero,” Swan said. “It was a lot of money for the town.”
Both she and Robert Stolt, the attorney who worked with her on that case, said Reed stole about $600,000 when she was deputy town clerk and tax collector by accepting cash for vehicle registrations, but forwarding false names and amounts to the state.
“Carole Swan was tenacious, she was incredible,” Stolt testified Friday. “She wouldn’t give up. She had her facts together. She presented her facts and when she didn’t have enough, she got more.”
In a separate case, Swan was convicted in July 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. She’s back in court now facing three counts of extortion related to demands she allegedly made of Monroe.
Earlier in the day, Swan testified that she was a battered wife and that her husband abused her over the years, pulling her around by the hair, striking and bruising her with wooden apples he threw at her while she was pregnant with their youngest son and banging her head on the basement floor.
She said he placed sensors and night-vision cameras around the bedroom to keep track of her whereabouts while he slept.
“He used to say that I went outside at night and met people, that’s why he had to have all the sensors,” Swan said.
Swan testified that she didn’t wake him up as she was supposed to do when she wanted to use the bathroom one night and an alarm went off and woke him.
“I ended up with my head in the flush,” she said in a voice that broke and wavered. “He just dragged me in there and stuck it in there just to humiliate me.”
Carole Swan testified that Marshall Swan accused her of having a lesbian relationship with her mother and of bringing bugs home. She said he sprayed bug spray everywhere — and on her if she didn’t get out of the way fast enough — and demanded she use lice body wash every day.
She said she dumped the latter down the drain rather than use it and said her husband’s demand made her feel “ridiculous.”
Defense discredits Monroe
Friday, the fourth day of the trial, began with Monroe sitting on a bench in the hallway that serves as an anteroom for the federal courtroom while witnesses inside told jurors he was dishonest.
Robert Simmons Jr., of Augusta and formerly of Windsor and Chelsea, Monroe’s former brother-in-law, called Monroe “a very dishonest man.”
Monroe held the contract to supply sand and to plow Chelsea roads when he told Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office deputies in January 2011 that Swan had sought kickbacks from him three times over the previous 12 months.
“I don’t think he dealt with my family fairly,” Simmons said when asked about a business deal involving a Windsor gravel pit owned by Simmons’ family but mined by Monroe.
John Wilcox testified that when he was a road supervisor for the town of Windsor, he was warned by others to watch Monroe’s trucks and make sure he delivered the full amount of sand the town was paying for.
Keith Hall, another Windsor road supervisor, said Monroe did not fulfill his promise to reclaim a slope in the gravel pit that was close to Hall’s property and endangered his swimming pool.
“I wouldn’t trust him for anything,” Hall said.
He also said that when people in the community asked about Monroe’s work, Hall told them, “I wouldn’t recommend him.”