PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP)—A Rhode Island estate planner and one of his former employees pleaded not guilty this week to charges they orchestrated a $25-million swindle of insurance companies and brokerage houses by stealing the identities of terminally ill and elderly people, including some they met by advertising offers for a $2,000 charitable gift in a Catholic newspaper.
Attorney and certified public accountant Joseph A. Caramadre, 49, and his former staffer, Raymour Radhakrishnan, 27, were released on $250,000 unsecured bond after pleading not guilty in U.S. District Court in Providence.
Caramadre called the allegations against him “baseless and unfounded.”
“Nothing was taken from the terminally ill. There were no forgeries. There was no deception. Everyone benefited, especially those in need,” said Caramadre, who attended his first court appearance with his family and a public relations aide.
Radhakrishnan, a law student in Massachusetts, declined to comment. Defense attorney Olin Thompson said Radhakrishnan is “greatly eager” to start the court process.
Federal prosecutors say the patients, their families and caregivers targeted for identity theft never knew Caramadre and Radhakrishnan stood to cash in on the deaths of their loved ones. They face a 66-count indictment charging them with conspiracy, multiple counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, identity theft, aggravated identity theft and money laundering. Caramadre is also accused of witness tampering. If convicted, they could be imprisoned for about 15 years, said Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. McAdams.
Caramadre is the president and CEO of Estate Planning Resources in Cranston, where he is a lifelong resident. Prosecutors allege he launched the scheme in 1995 and roped in Radhakrishnan when he was hired in 2007. In the mid-1990s, Caramadre targeted AIDS patients at Rhode Island compassion centers to carry out the scheme, the indictment said.
Prosecutors allege the men lied to terminally-ill patients and their families to access personal information so they could open joint investment accounts. They are also accused of forging signatures of the terminally-ill or obtaining them under false pretenses to open the accounts. When the person died, prosecutors allege Caramadre and others used their co-ownership position to exercise their options on the investments and turn a profit.
Federal officials investigated the fraud for two years. Caramadre’s attorney Michael J. Lepizzera said he expects prosecutors to turn over 200,000 pages of evidence. Seven lawsuits have also been filed by insurance companies, Lepizzera said.