Housemate might testify in swindler's trial
An Upper St. Clair businesswoman scheduled to plead guilty on Tuesday to federal tax evasion and conspiracy charges could be a witness in the trial of her housemate, convicted swindler Michael Carlow, a legal expert said.
Elizabeth Jones, 51, is charged with conspiracy to defraud the government, two counts of filing false tax returns and one count of failing to file a tax return. U.S. District Judge David Cercone filed a notice on Thursday scheduling the plea hearing for Jones.
The notice doesn't specify the charges to which she will plead guilty. Calls made to her attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Jay Finkelstein, and to the U.S. Attorney's Office were not returned.
University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris said the government typically includes being a witness as part of a plea agreement.
"Usually, a condition of a plea is that the defendant will testify truthfully in future proceedings," he said.
Defendants sometimes plead guilty without an agreement and the government sometimes makes plea agreements that don't include that condition, Harris said. Neither situation would prevent the government from calling Jones as a witness, and since she'll have already pleaded guilty, she would have trouble invoking her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination, he said.
"She would no longer have any claim that what she's going to say is going to get her into trouble," Harris said.
If Jones has a plea agreement that allows her to plead to only some of the charges, the likelihood that she will be a witness increases because that means the government offered her less potential prison time in return for something it wanted, Harris said.
Jones and Carlow, 60, allegedly set up or gained control of several companies so that Carlow could disguise his income and avoid paying more than $6.4 million he owes the Internal Revenue Service from a 1996 conviction on six counts of bank fraud and tax evasion connected to a $31 million check-kiting scheme.
A trial date hasn't been set for Carlow, who is charged with conspiracy, tax evasion and four counts of filing false tax returns. Carlow, who remains free on a $25,000 unsecured bond, could not be reached for comment.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers defense takes aim at Ravens QB Flacco
- Coastal Division lead within reach for Panthers
- NFL notebook: Cowboys’ Witten intervenes in practice flare-up
- Penn State renews ‘rivalry’ with Big Ten foe Maryland
- Penguins GM Rutherford: Malkin’s play belies fact he missed training camp
- Steelers notebook: Ravens enter short-handed at tight end
- In 3rd year, newbies WVU, TCU showing they belong in Big 12
- Combat veterans to speak at Robert Morris fundraiser
- Winter on horizon means time to prep trees
- Capitol Steps bring timely bipartisan satire to Byham
- 9Lives’ Morris goes more digital, less picky nowadays