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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Felon-Turned-Witness Used Multiple Names: Catch Me If You Can

An admitted felon and former federal prisoner and key confidential informant -- who may be so unreliable that the government refuses to expose him to any cross-examination in any courtroom --  allegedly initiated an investigation leading to an ongoing high-profile Manhattan federal criminal trial used several variations of his legal name, apparently to conceal his criminal past and evade detection by other litigants, creditors and the general public and to secure a federal judge's agreement in August 2007 to dismiss him from a civil lawsuit alleging mortgage fraud.

In the ongoing Ross Mandell / Adam Harrington / Sky Capital federal criminal trial, the entire investigation leading to various criminal charges and some guilty pleas was allegedly initiated by an admitted felon who, it could be argued, may have committed both bankruptcy fraud and a fraud upon the court...the same federal court in which the Mandell case is being heard (different judge)...also while being a government informant/cooperator and under government supervision.

This informant (a) filed a motion on August 7, 2007 to be dismissed as a defendant in a civil lawsuit, one involving suspected mortgage broker fraud, with one judge in the Southern District of New York, on the basis of the automatic stay afforded applicants under bankruptcy law, which on the very same date (b) was lifted when the bankruptcy court in Newark. NJ granted the same informant's very own motion (which had been filed on July 30, 2007) to withdraw his own bankruptcy because an even earlier bankruptcy made him ineligible to file it.

This means, in essence, that the informant lied to a federal district judge in New York in order to get dismissed as a defendant in a civil case, because he relied on a bankruptcy stay that he very much intended to have lifted by his own, prior motion.

If a government informant and witness -- and in this case, someone who had already pleaded guilty to multiple felonies -- would demonstrably lie to a federal district court judge, the question must be asked:  Who wouldn't he lie to?

More interesting, however, is that this cooperator had three (breaking news 7/14: now we've found four versions of names (all on actual public court documents)...all while working for the federal government! One version for the New Jersey federal court (where he pleaded guilty), a second for the New Jersey bankruptcy court, and a third for the New York federal district court in which he was sued civilly in another case involving possible criminal mortgage fraud.   That's not counting a separate federal civil case and a decade-old NASD action, all of which have different permutations of his name.  Of course, the multiple names help evade detection and thwart pre-trial discovery...but not everyone gets thrown off the trail.

Frank Abagnale -- the precocious con man turned FBI advisor, made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio's portrayal in the 2003 movie Catch Me If You Can -- would be proud.

Some of the government's witness handlers/supervisors need to wake up. Perhaps we need more resources to witness supervision. Or perhaps we need to be that much more skeptical of the testimony we are getting from cooperators (a.k.a., admitted felons) whose motives to lie, embellish and exaggerate are clearly tied in to their desire to avoid prison.

PS:  Check out the comment to this post earlier this week.  Care to guess the identity of "Anonymous"?

UPDATE: Three years after this post was originally published, one of the subjects of this article received a highly unflattering profile in this Bloomberg Magazine expose.

Eric Dixon is a New York investigative lawyer and is available for consultation by paying clients; inquire at


  1. Ok. I have read enough from you. Talk about throwing stones in glass houses? Why don't you mention the fact that you were his (the witness you are referring to) in-house counsel and I have no idea how you didn't serve any time. Your best bet would have been to lay low but I find it appauling that you would write this crap. Seriously. There are people who worked for this cooperator whom you are referring to who were ripped away from their families and lost everything they had. Some who didn't deserve to serve any time at all and had to because they couldn't afford to take the risk of going to trial. You are so lucky that you were able to walk away and actually keep you law license. I realize that this wonderful country we live in gives you the right to post whatever nonsense you want but please, spare us the bullshit.

  2. Mario Figueroa is no doubt the informant that is the subject of your article.