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Former Meriden banker to be sentenced, wife still awaiting trial

by Dennis Sharkey

Former Meriden banker Scott Becker will learn his fate on Monday when he is sentenced in federal court, however, problems are just beginning for his wife Brenda Schmitt Becker.

Scott Becker

Scott Becker

Becker recently reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in two separate cases. Becker was charged with conspiracy to steal $1 million dollars from the bank. He was later charged with conspiracy, perjury, wire fraud and engaging in monetary action in connection with an attempt to flee the country and transfer his assets. Schmitt is also charged in the second case.

Facing felony charges isn’t Schmitt’s only problem, she’s also now without an attorney and cannot afford to hire an attorney of her choice after her attorney, Cheryl Pilate of the law firm Morgan Pilate in Olathe, withdrew herself as counsel.

The court filings allege that on Aug. 31 Pilate and Federal Prosecutor Richard L. Hathaway began an exchange of emails that was initiated by Pilate. Hathaway informed Pilate that her client was going to be indicted in a matter of days. Hathaway also informed Pilate that Federal Bureau of Investigation officers were tracking Schmitt and that she was in Houston the day before she was supposed to be in federal court in Kansas. She had purchased an airplane ticket for Venezuela. Schmitt did not board the plane.

The FBI also learned that two checks totaling more than $69,000 were also issued to Schmitt from the sale of personal property at an auction that Becker had transferred to Schmitt. The two claimed the sale was a garage sale of items of Becker’s daughter. However it was found that many other items including firearms were sold.

An indictment was returned to prosecutors on Sept. 1.

According to court filings former Jefferson County Commissioner David Christie was contacted by the FBI because Christie was known “to be a close friend and confidante of Becker and Schmitt.” They informed Christie that there was a federal warrant for her arrest. On Sept. 3, Christie surrendered Schmitt to federal authorities.

Pilate was forced to withdraw by federal prosecutors after they accused Pilate of engaging in discussions with prosecutors while Schmitt escaped to the country of Venezuela.

“I am now forced to conclude that your client’s statement authorizing you to discuss a felony plea was simply a ruse to buy time while (Schmitt) was making her way to Venezuela to avoid prosecution,” Hathaway said in an e-mail to Pilate on Sept. 22.

Hathaway’s assertion was in response to an email from Pilate on Sept. 21 indicating that she did not think a joint agreement for a plea deal could be reached between Becker and Schmitt. Hathaway indicated to Pilate that he would file a motion to have her disqualified as Schmitt’s attorney because she was a material witness.

Pilate balked at Hathaway’s charge in an email response and said “Frankly I see no basis for it.” And she argued that she is not a witness because of attorney-client privilege.

Pilate also responded that she needed more time to arrange a joint agreement.

In earlier emails, Pilate told Hathaway that she did not know Schmitt had gone to Houston and that she had a “stern” conversation with Schmitt explaining that she could not serve as her counsel if she left the country.

On Sept. 1 Pilate sent an e-mail to Hathaway that said “I believe I have now gotten the straight facts.” She requested that the two speak by phone.

When FBI officers arrested Becker initially in March of 2009, they found him on a boat called “Pearls and Boots” with Schmitt. Both were separated for questioning and gave two different stories about the boat. Becker indicated to investigators that he did not know who owned the boat while Schmitt claimed that it was leased by a company the two worked for. It was later discovered that Schmitt entered a binding contract with Murray Yacht Sales to sell the boat and the boat was moved to New Orleans.

In August Schmitt moved the boat from New Orleans without Murray’s knowledge to the country of Belize. It is also alleged she had purchased a 48-foot moving truck.

Becker faces five years in prison in the first case, six years in prison for the second case and five years of probation. The prison sentences will run concurrently

Schmitt is still scheduled for a jury trial that will begin in January.

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Posted by on Dec 18 2010. Filed under County News, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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