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Lawyer seeks to withdraw guilty plea in fraud case

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP)—An estate planning lawyer who pleaded guilty mid-trial to using the identities of terminally ill patients to illegally obtain millions of dollars wants to withdraw his plea, saying he wants to fight the “false and misguided accusations” against him.

Joseph Caramadre said Monday he is seeking to withdraw the guilty plea he entered in November in U.S. District Court in Providence as the second week of the trial was about to get under way. He said he is innocent.

Caramadre said in a statement that he changed his plea because he hoped an immediate end to the trial would alleviate the “serious health issues” it was causing several family members. But he said that “to enter a guilty plea to something that I did not do, simply to relieve the pressure of a three-and-a-half year criminal process was wrong.”

A hearing before Judge William E. Smith is scheduled for Tuesday.

Caramadre, CEO of Estate Planning Resources in Cranston, and his former employee, Raymour Radhakrishnan, pleaded guilty to single counts of wire fraud and conspiracy. They had initially 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.

In a court filing last week, Caramadre’s new lawyer, Randy Olen, asked to stay his sentencing, which is set for Feb. 8. Caramadre faces up to 10 years in prison under the agreement.

A message left for Olen seeking comment Monday was not immediately returned.

Prosecutors say Caramadre and Radhakrishnan took out variable annuities and “death-put” bonds that paid 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. The scheme was worth more than $30 million, according to prosecutors.

Caramadre said in a statement after his guilty plea only that he had “made a decision that acceptance of this plea agreement is in his best interests and the best interests of his family.”

According to court documents, Caramadre found terminally ill patients in various ways, including by visiting AIDS patients at a House of Compassion in Cumberland. He also took out an advertisement in the Rhode Island Catholic newspaper that offered $2,000 to the terminally ill.

U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha said in November that the guilty pleas sent the message that “greed is not good.”

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