PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — A Roman Catholic bishop, a onetime U.S. ambassador and others have written letters to a judge in Rhode Island to support a lawyer convicted in a $46 million investment fraud that preyed on terminally ill people.
The letters to U.S. District Judge William Smith on behalf of Joseph Caramadre were released by U.S. District Court in Providence on Tuesday. Caramadre and one of his employees pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy last year for illegally using personal information from terminally ill people to buy bonds and annuities that would pay out when a person died.
Smith is scheduled to sentence them next week, and the letters were sent to him as part of the sentencing process. Prosecutors have recommended a 10-year prison term for Caramadre, the maximum under the plea agreement.
Caramadre was a successful estate planner and well-known philanthropist when he was indicted in the scheme in 2011. Among the high-profile people who invested with him over the years were Terry McAuliffe, now governor-elect of Virginia. U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island has said he loaned money to a relative to invest with Caramadre and later received some of the proceeds.
There is no evidence that McAuliffe or Langevin knew anything illegal was going on. They each later donated the money to charity.
Among those who wrote letters on behalf of Caramadre to the judge were Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence. Many of the victims in the scheme were responding to an ad in a diocesan newspaper that offered help to the dying.
"Experience tells me, your honor, that it is possible for good people to do bad things, and that the imposition of justice should consider the entire picture," Tobin writes after explaining Caramadre's generosity to the church and charities.
Former Ambassador to the Vatican and Boston Mayor Ray Flynn detailed Caramadre's work with Big Brothers, while Ken McKay, political director for the Republican Governors Association, told the judge Caramadre should not be sent to jail if probation is possible.
Caramadre has been held in federal custody since May.
Former Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Robert Flanders Jr., who has represented Caramadre in civil lawsuits brought in the case, wrote to say Caramadre already has been punished severely.
"Mr. Caramadre has suffered greatly and has lost just about everything that he built up over the years," he wrote.