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Taxpayers on the hook for thousands in legal bills

This news out of Bridgeport, Conn., caught our eye this morning…

U.S. District Judge Victor Bolden in Bridgeport approved paying [developer] Robert Matthews’ private attorneys with public funds retroactive to April 2018, shortly after Matthews was indicted for scamming foreign investors out of millions of dollars in connection with a hotel-condominium project in Palm Beach, Florida. Bolden’s ruling came Aug. 12.

In April, Matthews pled guilty to money laundering and other “tax offenses” surrounding a failed Palm Beach hotel project. According to prosecutors, Matthews made fanciful promises to investors he couldn’t keep, and subsequently wildly misused investor funds.

Matthews’ attorneys, David Ring and Paul Tuchmann, of the New Haven firm Wiggin and Dana, have so far been paid about $50,000 by an undisclosed third party. Now, he’s out of cash.

Turns out Matthews’ assets were frozen after the indictment, a common safeguard to secure restitution for victims, per a source in the story.

Bolden said any of the lawyers’ expenses over the $50,000 will be covered by public funds under the federal Criminal Justice Act,  which pays legal fees for indigent defendants. The act limits Ring’s fees to $140 an hour and Tuchmann’s fees to $90 per hour.

So why are the taxpayers finding themselves on the hook for his private legal fees? According to the judge:

“He currently does not have the funds necessary to pay for Mr. Ring and Mr.
Tuchmann’s services according to his retainer agreement.”

Oh, and it gets better:

It’s not clear yet how much public funding the lawyers will get, and financial records
supporting Matthews’ request for public funding are sealed from public view.

Well, that settles that.

So far, Matthews’ wife Maria and brother, a contractor, have been wrapped up in the case and pled guilty on similar charges. The victims in the trial are also seeking damages in a separate case.

Turns out, this isn’t Matthews’ first brush with the law. He allegedly worked with a front man to get a sweetheart deal for disgraced former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland’s D.C. condo. Matthews was able to avoid charges while Rowland was dealing with a corruption scandal that led to his downfall.

Read the rest over at the Hartford Courant.

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