I am telling the story of my criminal prosecution and this blog is a summary of the prosecution’s witnesses.
Per their charges, the prosecution was supposed to prove that I was in a conspiracy to launder money. Money laundering is defined as the concealment of the origins of illegally obtained money, typically by means of transfers involving foreign banks or legitimate businesses. A conspiracy is a secret plan by one or more people to do something unlawful and they take some action towards that plan.
We started the trial with the unexpected expert witness, Anthony, who was a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) auditor saying that the Fund was allowed to do what it did. I was pleased with Anthony’s testimony for so many reasons. It was the truth, but more than that, it set the tone that a regulatory professional who examined the original records of the Fund at issue was providing testimony consistent with what was true and often agreeing that the documents matched what we did. I allowed myself to be slightly encouraged, but I was so new at this that I didn’t dare get confident.
All the investors had testified and only one had something the slightest bit controversial. Even that one investor showed doubt that he could remember details accurately. I was the administrator of the Fund, so I talked with many of the investors for various reasons. Mostly, they wanted to know that they completed their paperwork corrected or that it had been received. If there were any issues with the paperwork, I would call the investor. They were not my clients and however they decided to invest, it wasn’t because of my words.
The three fund committee cooperating Government witnesses testified and what they said was at best questionable. There were often vague answers and mumbling among the committee members’ testimony. Any specifics were few and far between and what was specific didn’t really prove anything substantive. One of the committee members showed regret for what he had said to his investors. One committee member had already pleaded guilty to perjury. One committee member in his 70’s said he couldn’t remember a significant portion of what took place.
There was a travel agent that I had never known that substantiated that my boss liked to take expensive vacations.
There was a banker that said my boss tried to wire money from an account that he was not authorized to do so when I was out of town and had no knowledge of what he was doing.
Even the Government’s financial forensic witness who examined every scrap of the Fund’s banking records never said that I received any money from the Fund. I thought if anybody would try and convict me, he would likely be the guy. He had an opportunity to say that he had records that showed money from the Fund had been disbursed to me or that I received a benefit from funds. He did not.
No one, including the Fund, illegally obtained money. All the investors signed multiple documents saying that they understood what was being done and the offering circular allowed us to do what we did. The SEC auditor testified to that and more.
One of the ways that the prosecutor tried to accomplish their task was to say things about the investors losing money over and over again. (We never disputed that for the most part, the investment failed.) The prosecutor’s pummeling comments of “losing money” were brainwashing and hypnotic. Losing money in an investment that you signed off on that you knew the risk is not a crime.
The prosecutor did not say what mattered most. There was no crime. Yes, investors lost money. I lost my investment in the Fund. My parents lost their investment. My two friends lost their investments. It happens every day.
There was still tremendous reasonable doubt in the air. The prosecution rested.
I could feel myself becoming a little more at ease as I listened to each person testify. The essence of this new found comfort was that the prosecution might be proving that “we” lost money, but they weren’t proving that there was any crime. The overarching feel in the courtroom was that the investors wanted to forget about what happened with the Fund. Most of them seemed like they took a risk beyond what they were comfortable doing and lost. They weren’t angry. They weren’t angry at me. I sensed they were disappointed in themselves, more than me. Most of them said they didn’t talk with me or that it was some paperwork stuff.
I was getting a bit more comfortable that the Government hadn’t proven their case and maybe we really did have a fighting chance.
While the case was going on, I could have friends and family in the courtroom as long as they had already testified or we weren’t planning to call them as a witness. My father-in-law was there every day in the front row. He had never been exposed to anything like this. He was my cheerleader. He asked how he could help every day and he meant it. He was reassuring when I was too close to tell how others were receiving the events of the trial. I will never forget him for that because he showed up when it was important.
I did have others that came and went throughout the trial. Friends, family, colleagues came to see what this was all about. None of them had any background in a federal criminal trial to appreciate what was happening. They would try and smile if I did first. They knew the seriousness of what hung in the balance and words didn’t come easy for either of us.
Still, in a time like this, I remember every person that showed up at my trial with a new reverence for our friendship.