Estate planning lawyer Joseph Caramadre, 50, and his former employee Raymour Radhakrishnan, 28, entered guilty pleas in U.S. District Court in Providence to one count each of wire fraud and conspiracy, ending the trial that began last week and had been expected to last up to three months. Testimony was to resume Monday.
Prosecutors say Caramadre, CEO of Estate Planning Resources in Cranston, and Radhakrishnan took out variable annuities and so-called "death-put" bonds that would pay out when a person died. Authorities say they lied to terminally ill people to get personal information that was used to purchase bonds and annuities in their names without consent.
"Today's message is that greed is not good," Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha said after the proceeding.
He said the defendants had taken the identities of the terminally ill for no other reason than to make money.
"They did that with impunity, and that's what brought them down," he said. "Life is not just about making money."
Caramadre and Radhakrishnan had earlier pleaded not guilty to a 66-count indictment on charges including conspiracy, identity theft, aggravated identity theft and money laundering. Caramadre had also been charged with witness tampering.
Caramadre had no comment after leaving the courthouse. Gregg Perry, a spokesman for Caramadre, said in a statement that he "has made a decision that acceptance of this plea agreement is in his best interests and the best interests of his family."
Both men face up to a 10-year prison sentence under the plea agreement. Judge William E. Smith scheduled sentencing for February.
Prosecutors said the men placed an ad in a Catholic newspaper that offered $2,000 to people who were terminally ill.
The pair lied to people who responded to the ads and got personal information that was then used to purchase bonds and annuities in their names without their consent, authorities said. They also lied to the companies issuing the accounts, prosecutors said, by falsely saying that the people opening the accounts had substantial wealth and investment experience.