The former assistant to a deceased West Publishing executive is on trial for wire fraud and mail fraud, as well as tax evasion and submitting a false tax return. The fraud is related to an alleged embezzlement scheme that took place between 2004 and 2009. While the federal indictment does not indicate how much the man is accused of stealing, a civil suit filed by the man’s former employer claimed that he embezzled around $2.8 million. The defendant is a 57-year-old resident of Eden Prairie.
The man began to work under the West Publishing executive in 1994. Two years later, the executive retired but still held a significant amount of shares in the company. He eventually became known around the Twin Cities area for his civic work and philanthropy. He even contributed to the $2 million effort that saved the famous carousel at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul. While he was retired, he was employing the Eden Prairie man to manage certain business affairs. The man held this position for 13 years.
In 2009, the executive started to suspect the assistant of acting unethically. However, the assistant actually sued his boss first, stating that he had unpaid wages totaling in the millions. The boss then countersued on the grounds that the assistant had been embezzling money. While a federal judge dismissed the assistant’s claim, the countersuit is still in effect and will resume once the criminal case is over.
In an interesting legal turn of events, attorneys for the executive were disallowed from using a testimony that the executive gave before he died. The testimony was part of a civil case in which the assistant acted as his own attorney and questioned his former boss. The judge argued that the testimony could not be used in the current case because, since the man was representing himself, the testimony was not a “meaningful confrontation” that demonstrated a defendant’s constitutional right to confront a witness.
While not having an attorney actually might have helped the man in this case, it’s still considered unwise to represent yourself in court. Had the defense needed to use the testimony from the previous case rather than the prosecution, the assistant would be much worse off for not having sought legal representation.
Source: twincities.com, “Late West Publishing exec’s words not allowed at fraud trial of ex-aide” David Hanners, Jan. 09, 2014