PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A man who was once told he had three months to live testified in federal court Wednesday that he knew nothing about accounts opened in his name by a Rhode Island estate planner and one of his employees, who are accused of fraudulently making more than $30 million by opening similar accounts in the names of terminally ill people.
Lawyer Joseph Caramadre and his employee, Raymour Radhakrishnan, are charged with dozens of counts, including wire and mail fraud, identify theft, conspiracy and money laundering. Caramadre is also charged with witness tampering. They ran a business in which they took out variable annuities and so-called death-put bonds, both of which offer a benefit if the owner dies.
Edwin Rodriguez, 35, of Warwick, testified that he met Radhakrishnan in early 2008, when he was in hospice care. He was sick with osteomyelitis and had been told he had three months to live. A nurse who cared for him told him there was a generous person who was giving out money to people like him, Rodriguez said. About a month later, he met with Radhakrishnan.
During the meeting, he said, Radhakrishnan gave him a check for $2,000. Rodriguez said Radhakrishnan also asked him to sign several blank documents, which he said Radhakrishnan told him were to show the benefactor that he had received the money.
The documents were used to open accounts with Caramadre and another person, something Rodriguez said he knew nothing about. He testified that one of the documents included several pieces of incorrect information, including that Rodriguez had more than $50,000 available for option trading, that he had six to nine years of investment experience and extensive investment knowledge and that he had no dependents.
Caramadre's lawyer asked if Caramadre was at any of the meetings with Radhakrishnan, and Rodriguez said no. Radhakrishnan, who is representing himself, pointed out that Rodriguez chose to sign the documents, and that the forms bear words such as "Limited Trading Authorization" and "account co-owner," which Rodriguez acknowledged was true.
Also Wednesday, the second day of the trial, jurors heard from several family members of alleged victims, including Dennis Flori Sr., of Cranston, who died in April 2008. His wife, Kathleen, and son, Dennis Jr., testified that Radhakrishnan gave them $2,000 upon their first meeting and came back later, a few days before Dennis Flori Sr. died. At the time, he couldn't move, speak or open his eyes much, they said.
"(Radhakrishnan) said to me ... if Dennis can live until Monday. ... He said we would set up an account for the family," Kathleen Flori said, breaking down into tears. "He said I don't care how you get him to sign it. I'll be back in half an hour."
Dennis Flori Jr. said he held his father's hand as he signed a single document. Prosecutors then showed several documents opening accounts that bear what is purportedly Dennis Flori Sr.'s signature. Kathleen and Dennis Jr. both testified it was not his signature on all but one document.
Flori did not live to Monday, dying on a Saturday. Kathleen Flori said she called Caramadre's office a few days after her husband's death to say he had died. On May 6, Caramadre requested 27 copies of Dennis Flori's death certificate from the city, writing on a request form that Flori was his client and he needed it for estate planning purposes. Kathleen Flori said Caramadre had never done such work for her husband.
Kathleen Flori acknowledged on questioning from Radhakrishnan that he never forced her to sign anything.
The trial is expected to last two to three months and is scheduled to continue Thursday with additional testimony from relatives of alleged victims.