Saturday, March 12, 2016

Guilty verdicts handed down on 11 of 17 charges in $52 million federal fraud case

After three days of deliberations, a federal jury on Monday decided that former Alaska prosecutor Mark Avery cheated his way into a wealthy, elderly widow’s trust fund in 2005, then spent wildly on vintage planes and expensive boats. The jury handed down verdicts of guilty on 11 of 17 felony counts in U.S. District Court.

But jurors found him not guilty of one count, and hung on five others.

Jurors began deliberating the $52 million fraud case Thursday morning and announced their decision Monday afternoon in a federal courtroom in Anchorage.

Avery, 56, was tried on five counts of wire fraud, 10 counts of money laundering and single counts of bank fraud and making a false statement to a bank.

Under their decision, jurors found that the fraud of the May Smith Trust added up to $31 million.

They found him not guilty on the fourth of five requests for wire transfers, which amounted to $6 million. They couldn’t decide whether Avery deceived his two fellow trustees from the very start, when he emailed a financial manager for the first $15 million drawn on a loan backed by the trust.

They also hung up on whether the initial spending amounted to money laundering, including Avery’s purchase of two RVs and his payoffs of a second mortgage, loans for three SUVs and other debt. They also couldn’t decide on another money laundering charge related to Avery making a $304,000 interest payment from, as prosecutors said, the trust-backed loan.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline, who presided over a trial spanning 15 days from the start of jury selection, earlier said he was considering entering his own order of not guilty on two counts related to a separate $500,000 Wells Fargo line of credit. While jurors convicted Avery of those two charges, the judge could still rule in the defendant's favor on them.

Avery declined to comment after the verdicts were read and didn’t react in the courtroom. His attorney, Mike Dieni, also declined to comment.

Over 11 days of testimony, jurors were shown some 200 exhibits. They heard from 20 government witnesses and five from the defense, including Avery himself, who testified over one full day and parts of two others, more than any other witness.

“These guilty verdicts are clear indicators that they totally discounted his explanation and his story,” said assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Skrocki, the lead prosecutor on the case.

It’s too soon for the prosecution to say whether it intends to retry Avery on the five counts on which jurors couldn’t reach a decision.

But, Skrocki said: “This is a $30 million conviction, so it’s probably unlikely we will retry him on those charges.”

Avery was one of three trustees for the $100 million May Smith Trust, set up to provide for the care of May Wong Smith, as well as the $350 million charitable trust in the name of May and her late husband, Stanley Smith, who made a fortune in mining after World War II.  (Continue Reading)

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Guilty verdicts handed down on 11 of 17 charges in $52 million federal fraud case

1 comment:

MARK said...

Wow, I haven't seen anything on this case before. Amazing. Looks like he'll be spending quite a while in the big house!