Chelsea selectman turns self in, faces charges (Feb. 11, 2011)

Town’s lawyer says alleged extortion led to probe by police

By Betty Adams
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Carole Swan allegedly shook down a Whitefield plow contractor for $10,000 and sparked a corruption probe by asking for more, a lawyer hired by the town of Chelsea said Thursday.

click image to enlarge

Town of Chelsea Selectman Carole Swan, second from right, is led to Kennebec County jail Thursday in handcuffs after being arrested at the sheriff’s office in Augusta. Swan was accompanied by, from left, her husband Marshall Swan after Detective David Bucknam and Sheriff Randall Liberty arrested her.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

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Swan, chairman of the Chelsea Board of Selectmen, was arrested Thursday on charges of attempting to steal town money. She turned herself in at the sheriff’s office at 11 a.m. Thursday and was escorted to the jail in handcuffs.

Swan, 52, is charged with aggravated forgery, attempted theft and two counts of improper compensation for services. She posted $25,000 cash bail and was released pending a May 24 hearing, at 8:30 a.m. in Kennebec County Superior Court.

If a grand jury indicts her on the charges, she could be in court sooner — for an arraignment. A grand jury is currently sitting and is expected to complete its session today.

The Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office began investigating Swan, a selectman for almost 19 years, after a contractor reported to deputies on Jan. 31 she had asked him to overbill the town so she could receive a kickback, according to a statement from Sheriff Randall Liberty.

Stephen Langsdorf, a lawyer representing the town, detailed three incidents involving the contractor, whom he identified as Frank Monroe, of Whitefield.

Monroe has had a contract to plow Chelsea roads since 2006.

“In February 2010, Carole Swan approached Frank Monroe and put pressure on him to pay her, personally, $3,000 — and he paid her,” Langsdorf alleged. “He’s a small businessman, which is why he was subject to pressure by her.

“In the fall, the same thing happened, and she convinced him to pay her $7,000 cash.”

Langsdorf said Monroe told him that “as a contractor, he felt he had no choice but to pay her.”

Langsdorf said the third request sent Monroe to authorities.

“Last week, Carole approached Frank Monroe and asked him to prepare a bill to the town for approximately 1,700 yards of sand but to only deliver 500 yards. The town would pay him for 1,700 and he was to give her $10,000 of that.

“He balked, and he ended up cooperating with the sheriff’s department, and the sheriff’s department advised him to present the bill for the fraudulent amount.

“She approves the warrant and pays him for the fraudulent amount and then he’s supposed to give her $10,000. He gave her some money. And she was pulled over and she had the cash in the vehicle.

“She approved it obviously knowing it was an improper bill.”

Liberty said Detective David Bucknam captured the most recent transaction — which was for $20,000 with an attempted $10,000 kickback to Swan.

“Following the recording and observation of the crime, Detective Bucknam and Sgt. Ryan Reardon confronted Swan,” Liberty said. “Swan offered a confession of the attempted theft and of previous similar thefts from the town of Chelsea.”

Liberty said anyone with information pertinent to the continuing investigation can contact Bucknam at 623-3592.

Monroe denied any involvement with Swan when contacted Wednesday by the Kennebec Journal.

Swan’s attorney, Leonard Sharon, was in court in Bangor on Thursday and unavailable for comment.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

badams@centralmaine.com

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