Washington County: Client Falsely Accused, then Vindicated.
This is Alex DeMarco here, writing in the first person, because this case fascinated me. Client, Martin, came to me, charged with felony automobile theft. This case was incredibly complex. Client wast married to a woman who had a brother, Jared, who had a particularly large property, was something of a hoarder, had a lot of steel shelters, drank a lot. He had about 20 vehicles in varying states of integrity or disrepair. My client had a son who was particularly adept at car repair. My client’s son and his brother-in-law reached an agreement: Client’s son, call him “Robby” would purchase a junked up 1969 Chevy Camaro for $10,000. Robby would make repairs, restore interior/exterior and make it run again, be paid $17,000 by Jared for the newly fixed up car. Agreed. Jared signed over Title and everything to Robby. Everything seems legal eagle, right? Problem: Jared died two weeks later. Robby paid in cash. No signed agreement. Just the title. Robby tries to transfer title. The transfer was rejected because of lien. The lien card needed to be submitted. Nobody knows where it is.
The estate matter was rife with fraud. Almost immediately, people were taking assets from Jared’s home, selling them of before creditors could persist. The entire goal was to make the estate look poor, and collect and distribute money through the back door. Lamentably, a prominent attorney was involved in dividing the estate. My client was not comfortable with this. Martin spoke up about it, and the family turned on him. They accused him of stealing a prize Camaro, allegedly worth $75,000. This Camaro actually existed elsewhere, and the family had already likely divided the proceeds. They reported the vehicle as stolen. A vin number and everything was provided. Rumors were spread on Craigslist that my client had a stolen Camaro. Unfortunately, before it was clear this unethical estate lawyer was not my client’s friend, he advised him to create a fake account on Craig’s and then make inquiries into the stolen vehicle. Later, the police were able to make him look dishonest doing this. My client tried to protect his son from liability. In the end, he was charged with felony automobile theft. He had given several inconsistent statements to police. The story is very complicated.
In the end, however, I arranged to have the client return the vehicle for inspection. The vin number matched. Except this was a $10,000 clunker vehicle. The County first accused my client of trashing the vehicle. What would be the motive to trash a $75,000 Camaro to the loss of everyone? Further, the rust and animal nests that had accrued in the car clearly occurred over years, not months. My client was innocent. I knew it. It should have been dismissed. The family then changed their story. My client was accused of “stealing” a SECOND Camaro, the expensive one. But no vin number was available. Not even a color description. The County still attempted to press on with charges, the family being so adament this prize Camaro was missing, and accusing my client of stealing it. However, statements by the shady estate lawyer emerged that clearly pointed to fraudulent behavior. That estate attorney would have been a necessary witness. Once this was disclosed, and painstaking evidence of the family’s misrepresentations were put together, the County finally dismissed the case. Basically, I had to complete the investigation the police would not, and in the end, it was revealed my client was purposefully framed for auto theft.
If you’ve been falsely accused of a crime, not all the evidence may be available to the police at the time of charging. It’s not necessarily the fault of the police that you are accused. Police have to operate on the statements and evidence they are given. The lesson learned by my client was that talking to the police, changing his story, assuming a false identity, even if done to attempt to clear his name, resulted in credibility problems. This is why it is so fundamental that, even if you are innocent, you should never ever talk to the police. Don’t do your own footwork. Don’t attempt to be an investigator. If he had involved my services before charging, the false criminal charges could have likely been avoided entirely for a lot less money than it costs to represent a defendant in a court of law. If you’ve been accused of a crime, don’t delay. Don’t return that police officer’s phone call. Contact my office instead.