Recently, a New York socialite known for her charitable activities was sentenced by a U.S. District Court to 19 months in prison for allegedly bilking several companies out of millions of dollars. The woman was charged with the felony of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The charges came out of a scam carried out over the course of a decade, where the woman went to several companies and claimed to be able to get them access to new markets and business opportunities in exchange for money. The woman then used the money to support a lavish lifestyle. She was indicted for fraud in 2008, and turned her life around during this time period, opening her New York home to the poor and volunteering with a non-profit group that helps former inmates rebuild their lives. She introduced several letters of support detailing her lifestyle turnaround at trial. Despite her good deeds, however, she was still given a jail sentence, in addition to an imposition of $7 million in restitution to be paid to the victims.
Fraud is a crime that involves the deception or misleading of a person or entity for the personal or financial gain of another. This case involves a woman accused of defrauding several companies out of millions of dollars by deceiving them as to her intentions and activities. Fraud is a common white collar crime that causes harm to the persons or institutions by costing them financial resources.
This case is interesting because it appears that the woman has made a sincere turnaround in her life by getting involved in charitable activities instead of criminal ones. She may have been genuinely repentant for her crime, and may have wished to do good deeds to make up for her offenses. However, she will likely always carry the stigma of a convicted felon, something that no amount of charitable work can ever erase.
Anyone accused of fraud or another white collar crime is entitled to a vigorous criminal defense and a presumption of innocence until guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. They have the legal right to challenge the state’s evidence, to question witnesses, and to get the charges reduced or dismissed. Those accused of financial crimes have the constitutional right to defend their freedom. Given the potentially severe consequences of being convicted of a financial crime, anyone accused of such a crime should be sure and take steps to defend him or herself in this manner.
Source: USA Today, “N.Y. Socialite sentenced in fraud that bilked companies,” Tim Evans, April 30, 2013