Wednesday, May 04, 2011
Continuance granted in Peggy Newton fraud, forgery trial
Judge James C. England granted a three month continuance today during hearings in federal court in Springfield. Her trial on 25 fraud and forgery charges had been scheduled to start May 23.
The continuance, according to court documents was due to "extensive discovery" and thorough preparation.
This is not the first continuance that Mrs. Newton, a former co-owner of Evergreen and Amber, has been granted, according to court documents. One was granted last month after Mrs. Newton's attorneys indicated plea negotiations between the government and their client were "ongoing and making progress."
The Feb. 8 federal grand jury indictment alleged that Mrs. Newton forged the name of her business partner, Diane Pine, setting up numerous credit card accounts, wrote 393 checks for her personal use, wrote four checks to her husband, Newton Jewelers owner Brian Newton "for unauthorized reason", used company money to make one of her husband's car payments, and "altered or falsified" documents to make it appear that payments were less than they actually were, or were to someone else rather than the actual recipient.
On approximately 500 occasions, the indictment says, Mrs. Newton took money from Ms. Pine's personal credit accounts and Evergreen and Amber accounts "for personal use."
According to the indictment:
"It was part of the scheme that on approximately five occasions, Newton used D.P.’s name, date of birth, and Social Security Number to open new credit accounts without D.P.’s knowledge or consent. Newton then incurred charges on these accounts to conduct balance transfers to other accounts, and to cover shortfalls on other bank and credit accounts."
The allegations first came to light when Ms. Pine challenged Mrs. Newton's Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.late last year. Bankruptcy court documents indicate Mrs. Newton claimed she owed $320,358.09 and had only $3,778.85 in assets.
In her challenge to Mrs. Newton's bankruptcy, Ms. Pine claimed her former business partner had "engaged in a pattern of fraud and deceit." Ms. Pine described herself as primarily an absentee partner who spent most of her time working as a registered nurse in Dallas, Texas, though Joplin was her home.
Ms. Pine said Mrs. Newton used company money for various personal reasons, including shopping sprees, paying off her personal debt, paying off her husband's personal loan, tuition for her child to attend College Heights Christian School, and membership in the Millennium Tennis Club.
Ms. Pine filed credit card statements which she claimed show Mrs. Newton paid for vacations, clothing, groceries, and meals with company money or by forging Ms. Pine's signature. The claim also included meals with the statements indicating Mrs. Newton used the credit cards to cover meals at everywhere from Moe's Southwest Grill to McDonald's, Sonic, Burger King, and Fuddrucker's.
In the bankruptcy court documents, Ms. Pine said Mrs. Newton took $108,369.53 in cash from company bank accounts.