Dec 24, 2008 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
He claims his trial lawyers ineffectively represented him in 1999:
Former Syracuse wheeler-and-dealer Patrick R. Bennett has been languishing in federal prison for nearly 10 years, but he’s still appealing his 1999 conviction on financial fraud charges and his 22-year sentence.
On Oct. 20 in the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Bennett won the right to argue his new appeal before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, where he was originally found guilty.
His lawyer, George Galgano of White Plains, was scheduled to appear in the federal court on Bennett’s behalf on Dec. 18.
“Patrick does not deserve to be in jail,” Galgano told the City Eagle.
Bennett, 55, the former chief financial officer of the Bennett Funding Group in Syracuse, is arguing that his court-appointed attorneys inadequately defended him during his second trial. His first trial ended in a mistrial.
Bennett’s second trial, in June 1999, resulted in convictions on 42 charges of securities and bank fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice and perjury.
Judge John S. Martin Jr. ordered Bennett to be immediately imprisoned, an unusual move prior to formal sentencing for a white-collar crime. In April 2001, Bennett was sentenced to 30 years, but in 2002 that sentence was reduced to 22 years.
While the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had characterized Bennett as the mastermind of what was then considered the largest Ponzi scheme ever perpetrated in America, the juries on both of Bennett’s trials deadlocked on those particular charges.
“That’s what led to the mistrial,” Galgano said, “and the jury in the second trial did not convict him of any Ponzi scheme. He didn’t know anything about that. They only convicted him of money laundering and other charges.”
Alleged Wall Street con man, Bernard L. Madoff, has apparently eclipsed Bennett’s fraud by billions. Madoff’s securities fraud, exposed Dec. 11, was estimated at $50 billion worldwide. Madoff’s alleged scam is being called the largest Ponzi scheme in the history of the world.
Bennett’s crime, exposed in 1996, totaled $1 billion swindled from 12,000 investors in and 10,000 creditors of his family’s companies.
The Bennett Funding Group was accused of selling investors leases for office equipment such as copiers and fax machines that didn’t exist and sometimes selling the same lease over and over again to different investors, many of them elderly.
After the SEC filed its charges in 1996, the Bennett family, Patrick and his father and mother (Bud and Kathleen Bennett) and brother Michael Bennett, declared bankruptcy. Michael Bennett also pleaded guilty to conspiracy and other charges in connection with the case.
At the time, the Bennetts’ holdings included the Hotel Syracuse, the Quality Inn, a Maine shopping mall, office equipment, campgrounds, gambling barges, a casino and Vernon Downs Racetrack.
An SEC staffer said Dec. 22 that final distribution checks to Bennett creditors are being processed but have not yet been mailed.
Twelve years ago the Bankruptcy Court of the Northern District of New York appointed Richard Breeden as trustee, and he has distributed $353 million to general unsecured creditors of the Bennett companies, according to the SEC. Breeden was scheduled to make one final distribution this year.
For information, contact the Bennett Bankruptcy Estate at 1-800-247-2846, or visit sec.gov/divisions/enforce/claims/bennett.htm.