You can't tape this interview

I remember one time the FBI was interested in interviewing a client of mine involving a multi-defendant fraud case in Las Vegas.  The Government charged him with being a member of the conspiracy to defraud insurance companies.  Normally I would never let them interview a client unless we had a plea agreement nailed down tight and I knew as much as possible about the circumstances of the crime and the culpability of my client.  But this case was different. 

A large group of Albanians had devised a criminal scheme with a well-known lawyer and a lesser known chiropractor to fake auto accidents and milk the insurance companies for money.  The lawyer got his 30% contingency payment, the chiropractor got his 20-30 fake visits paid for and all they needed for the scheme to work was to recruit a fresh group of willing participants each week to fake the auto accidents and resulting injuries.  After about a year of these shenanigans, the federal government swooped in and arrested the whole lot of these conspirators – about 120 of them – and began bargaining with them for pleas of guilty.  What the Government wanted was to have the guilty pleas and cooperation of the lesser involved Albanians to reveal the recruiters, the attorneys, and the chiropractors.  And this they did. 

The FBI approached me and offered a plea for something less than the 18 USC section 371 conspiracy to commit fraud. I don’t remember what it was but it would only require that he be subject to probation.  He told me – and I believed him – that he was one of the first in this scheme.  We declined the plea agreement.

My client was a back-seat passenger in a car with five people.  The accident was real but not serious he said.  And then he told how a man had come to the car after the accident was reported and had driven all the people in the car to an attorney’s office whom they were told to hire and then they were taken to a chiropractor.  He went only a couple of times to the chiropractor and then told the chiropractor he wasn’t hurt and wouldn’t be coming back.  They were not happy with him but the lawyers sent in a bill to the insurance company anyway for 25 visits. 

I told the FBI this when they asked for an interview.  We showed up at the FBI office in Las Vegas and sat down at a table for an interview.  No tape.  No camera.  I asked the FBI special agent (they are all special, by the way) if I could record the session and he said no.  I said, “I only want an accurate representation of the interview.  You don’t have a problem with that do you?”  We ended speaking with the special agent and not taping the interview, but the FBI policy not to have the session memorialized was troubling.  The Government eventually dismissed all charges against my client.

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Artwork by Glynn B. Cartledge