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
- Founder of Z&M Cycle Sales in Hempfield killed in Florida motorcycle crash
- New Florence man charged with killing police officer
- State Supreme Court: Highmark Medicare Advantage members to retain in-network access to UPMC
- Cheyney University’s accreditation in jeopardy because of financial woes
- Baseball America names Pirates as organization of the year
- Lane restrictions announced for portion of Route 28
- Steelers stalled by Seahawks, on outside of AFC wild-card picture
- Steelers players say they support Tomlin’s attempts at deception
- Pedestrian struck on East Crawford Avenue in Connellsville
- Penguins centermen enjoying better faceoff success rate this season
- Regoli won’t seek recount in Westmoreland County judge election