September 17, 2013

Swan found guilty of taking kickbacks from plow contractor

Chelsea selectman says the town 'is healing and today the healing process continues' with the verdict against Carole Swan, a former select board member.

By Betty Adams
Staff Writer

BANGOR — A jury late Tuesday night convicted former longtime Chelsea selectwoman Carole Swan of taking kickbacks from Frank Monroe, who held the town's sand and plow contracts.

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Carole Swan

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Frank Monroe

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The verdict, delivered just before 10 p.m., came at the end of a six-day trial and 33 months after Monroe went to Kennebec County Sheriff's Office deputies complaining that Swan was demanding $10,000 from him.

Richard Danforth, a Chelsea selectman who served a number of years with Swan and testified at her trials, said the town was "turned upside down" by Swan's actions.

"The town is healing and today the healing process continues," Danforth said after the verdict.

Monroe's claim triggered official investigations into Swan's other activities with the town as well as reviews of her personal finances.

It resulted in her being charged with three counts of extortion under color of official right -- in other words, using a public office to illegally take money --  in violation of the federal Hobbs Act. The trial on those charges began Sept. 10 in U.S. District Court.

The jury was out for almost five and a half hours Tuesday, and the verdict was delivered with Swan's two sisters and two sons sitting behind the defense table.

Swan remains free on post-conviction bail, and her family looked disappointed as they left the courtroom.

Danforth thanked Chelsea town officials Mike Pushard, Ben Smith and Linda Leotsakis "for putting the town right side up." He also pointed out that Chelsea has since adopted a charter that outlines circumstances and protocol for removing public officials from office — rules that were not in place when Swan initially continued to serve on the select board after she was charged in the extortion case.

"The town now has a charter that hopefully will prevent future Chelsea public officials from misusing their authority for personal gain," Danforth said.

A separate jury in the same courtroom convicted Swan July 26 of falsifying five years' worth of income tax returns by failing to declare $650,000 in income while defrauding the federal workers' compensation program in 2008 and 2010.

However, that jury cleared her of two additional charges of federal workers' compensation fraud and of fraud on a federal program that paid most of the cost of the 2007 Windsor Road culvert replacement project done by her husband, Marshall Swan.

His trial on charges of falsifying income-tax returns and aiding and abetting federal program fraud related to the culvert project begins Sept. 30 in the same court.

Carole Swan testified she was conducting a sting to prove that Monroe was shortchanging the town of sand he was contracted to deliver.

She said she thought she had to get more than $10,000 from him to bring her suspicions to authorities.

In his closing argument Tuesday, however, prosecutor Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark, argued that Swan "wasn't investigating Frank Monroe, she was extorting money from him."

Clark interspersed his argument with clips from recorded phone calls between Monroe and Swan and from her 90-minute interview with Kennebec County Sheriff's Office deputies in which Swan didn't mention an investigation.

Swan's attorney, Leonard Sharon, said Swan's "intent was not to extort, but to investigate."

He said she confessed to deputies in the video because she felt intimidated by them, reminding jurors that Swan had testified about abuse she says she suffered at the hands of her husband.

Swan, 55, has said Marshall Swan abused her over the 29 years of their marriage, dragging her by the hair, punching her and holding her head in the toilet, among other things.

She testified she left him in June after their younger son graduated from high school, but has not filed for divorce.

(Continued on page 2)

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