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Prosecutors seeking 14-month sentence for attorney Page

November 1, 2013
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Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to sentence Indianapolis defense attorney Paul J. Page to 14 months in prison for his role in a real estate deal involving a state-leased office building in Elkhart.

Page pleaded guilty in January to a single count of wire fraud before the government tried his co-defendants, John M. Bales and William E. Spencer, at an eight-day jury trial in February that ended in an acquittal on all 13 counts.

The sentencing hearing for Page is scheduled for Monday morning in South Bend.

Prosecutors argue in a sentencing memorandum that Page should be sentenced at the high end of guidelines, calling for a range of 8 to 14 months, since as an attorney he should have "known better" than to conceal the source of his down payment for the Elkhart building.

A strong sentence "would help deter other financial crimes," added Assistant U.S. Attorney Jesse M. Barrett.

But Page's attorney, Robert W. Hammerle, argues in his sentencing memorandum that U.S. District Court Judge Robert Miller Jr. should give Page probation. He notes that Page has accepted responsibility and apologized for his conduct, has no prior criminal record, and his crime did not result in losses by either Huntington Bank (the lender on the building) or the state of Indiana.

Page's felony conviction means he'll lose his license to practice law.

"This significant penalty alone places him in harsh contrast to the situation of his co-defendants, John Bales and William Spencer, who following a trial by jury were acquitted on all charges and are now free," Hammerle wrote.

Seven friends, family members, business associates and a priest wrote letters to the judge describing Page as a devoted husband and father to three children and an upstanding member of the community.

The original indictment against Page, Bales and Spencer carried 14 counts of wire, mail and bank fraud. The government agreed to drop all but one of the charges Page was facing, in exchange for his cooperation.

Page also agreed to forfeit the office building in Elkhart he has said he co-owned with former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi.

Brizzi was also a target of the investigation that led to the indictments, but federal authorities in late October said they would not pursue charges against him, citing a lack of sufficient direct evidence he accepted bribes while in office.

During the trial in South Bend, federal prosecutors said Bales and Spencer provided a down payment so Page could buy a building in Elkhart to lease to the state's Department of Child Services, without disclosing Venture's involvement to the state.

The government said the deal violated an agreement between Venture and the state that barred the company from direct or indirect ownership of properties where state agencies leased space.

But the defense said the arrangement amounted to a loan. Attorneys for Bales and Spencer argued there were no victims in the Elkhart deal, no loss and no intent to defraud: The state wound up leasing the building it wanted, and the bank loan on the property was current and paid.

The jury sided with the defense.

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