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Baton Rouge defendant admits guilt in bogus trust fund scheme

Plea agreements are bargains struck between prosecutors and defendants. A government benefits from agreements because a trial is avoided, reducing expenses for a court and effort for prosecuting attorneys. The defendant's bargaining chip is a guilty plea, although skillful defense negotiations can result in fewer or lighter charges and penalties.

A Baton Rouge defendant recently pleaded guilty to a white collar crime. Federal investigators amassed evidence that the man used lies about his profession and wealth to bilk victims out of more than half a million dollars. Under federal code 18:343, a wire fraud conviction is punishable by a prison term of up to 20 years in addition to fines, which in this case could be as high as $250,000.

The 34-year-old Louisiana man may also be required to pay restitution for the money he said he took from victims. Authorities said one party paid the man $300,000 after accepting the defendant's story about a $20 million trust fund. The victim became suspicious when he was not repaid after several months, but apparently was soothed by letter from the defendant's attorney confirming the trust fund claim; the letter was a fake.

The accused borrowed and kept money based on victims' beliefs the defendant eventually would become old enough to claim the funds in the trust. Investigators said the defendant used the trust fund ruse starting in 2008 and for three years, collected money to support his lifestyle, including habitual gambling. In some fund requests, the defendant also pretended he needed to buy supplies to work for a non-existent employer in the flooring business.

A plea agreement isn't available or a resolution for every defendant, especially when evidence is strong enough to lead to acquittal. Each criminal defense case is unique, even for defendants facing the same charges. Plea agreements can seem like an easy way out, but the terms must be in a defendant's best interests.

Source: The Times-Picayune, "Baton Rouge man admits to using fake $20 million trust fund account in wire fraud scheme; faces up to 20 years in prison" Quincy Hodges, Mar. 24, 2014

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