Two men accused of stealing the identities of terminally ill people to reap $30 million from insurance companies and brokerage houses pleaded guilty Monday, several days into their trial, and face prison sentences of up to 10 years each.
Estate planning lawyer and philanthropist Joseph Caramadre, 50, and his former employee Raymour Radhakrishnan, 28, each entered guilty pleas in U.S. District Court in Providence to single counts of wire fraud and conspiracy, ending the trial that began last week and had been expected to last up to three months. Testimony was to resume Monday.
Prosecutors say Caramadre, CEO of Estate Planning Resources in Cranston, and Radhakrishnan took out variable annuities and so-called "death-put" bonds that would pay out when a person died. Authorities say they lied to terminally ill people to get personal information that was used to purchase bonds and annuities in their names without consent.
"Today's message is that greed is not good," Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha said after the proceeding.
He said the defendants had taken the identities of the terminally ill for no other reason than to make money.
"They did that with impunity, and that's what brought them down," he said. "Life is not just about making money."
Caramadre and Radhakrishnan earlier had pleaded not guilty to a 66-count indictment on charges including conspiracy, identity theft, aggravated identity theft and money laundering. Caramadre had also been charged with witness tampering.
At the time of the indictment, Caramadre's spokesman said he could never take advantage of anyone and contended that prosecutors had been led astray by an insurance industry "upset it got beat at its own game with products they designed and offered to the investing public."
Caramadre had no comment after leaving the courthouse Monday. His spokesman Gregg Perry said in a statement that he "has made a decision that acceptance of this plea agreement is in his best interests and the best interests of his family."
Radhakrishnan had been representing himself during the trial but agreed to be assisted by public defender Olin Thompson for the plea change. A message was left for Thompson.
Both men face up to a 10-year prison sentence under the plea agreement. Judge William E. Smith scheduled sentencing for February.
Prosecutors said the men placed an ad in a Catholic newspaper that offered $2,000 to people who were terminally ill.
The pair lied to people who responded to the ads and got personal information that was then used to purchase bonds and annuities in their names without their consent, authorities said. They also lied to the companies issuing the accounts, prosecutors said, by falsely saying that the people opening the accounts had substantial wealth and investment experience.
Some of the terminally ill people were told accounts would be opened to benefit their families or to help others with a disease, but that didn't happen, prosecutors said.
Testimony began last week with a 2009 video deposition by a Westerly man who has since died of cancer. Richard Wiley said he had heard, while in hospice, about a philanthropist who was giving out money to help dying people with their expenses. He testified he met with Radhakrishnan, who gave him $3,000, had him sign some paperwork and turn over some personal information.
Prosecutors showed Wiley papers, bearing his signature, that authorized accounts be opened in his name, but he said he had given no such permission and didn't recognize some of the documents.