Schwartz & Powell

Fraud/White Collar Crimes: Expert Witness

by Steven D. Powell Attorney at Law

I have defended fraud and white collar crimes for some thirty years. I also prosecuted these cases when I was in the Ventura County DA’s Office.  After leaving the DA’s Office I litigated several significant fraud cases for aggrieved plaintiffs in various civil cases and jurisdictions. 

 This is a discussion of a dirty little secret in the defense of white collar crime: the actual fraud revealed in court is not the defendant’s behavior bringing him to court but frequently is the preposterous and frequently fraudulent testimony of the prosecution expert witnesses inside the court. I’m going to give you one quick example. And remember “fraud” includes reckless disregard for the truth.

The Department of Corporations, which regulates the legality of behavior relating to “securities,” accused my client of fraud because his real estate investment company failed when the real estate investment market failed. The Department prevailed upon the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office to file an 87 count indictment against my client, who was found not guilty of 86 counts and convicted of a single misdemeanor violation. My client was very fortunate to have hired his own forensic accounting experts for the trial to prove the testimony of the prosecution’s expert witness was a lot of baloney.

There was a moment in that case, however, that stands out and illuminates the problems with prosecution's white collar crime witness credibility. On the prosecution’s direct testimony of the expert witness employed by the Department of Corrections (DOC), the witness said she was a “Senior Trial Attorney” with the DOC. She then offered opinions about DOC’s perception that my client did everything criminal in operating his business short of beating the office dog! It was terrible what this “Senior Trial Attorney” said about my client.

As I began cross-examining the witness, I asked her initially “What is a Senior Trial Attorney?” She seemed taken aback and stammered “A Senior Trial Attorney is . . . .” She must have been quoting some official job description written in Sacramento by the DOC.   I asked a few times and she said different versions of the same gobbledygook a few times with great gusto. So I asked again. “No,no,no, please what kind of trials do you do as a Senior Trial Attorney?”

“Oh,” she replied. “I don’t do trials. I never have. I make decisions from my desk and    supervise and administer and interface with Governor’s Office and the legislature .”  I asked “And that’s what a Senior Trial Attorney gets paid to do?” “Yep,” she said “That’s what I do . . .oh, and of course I testify as an expert for the prosecution.” And if ever there was a moment in a criminal trial when a light bulb went on over the jurors heads that was it.

The point:  The prosecution's expert comes to the witness stand invested with justice, truth and beauty talking to a jury eager to believe the expert representing “the People of the State” or “the Government of the United States."  Schwartz & Powell has achieved astonishing results in defending white collar crime cases by exposing the biased, self-interested and reckless disregard for accuracy of prosecution expert witness testimony.

If you are charged with white collar crimes or any offense in which the result often turns on the believability of the prosecution’s expert witness,  Call Schwartz & Powell to discuss your situation. “Fraud” or “corrupt motive” often is in the mind of the beholder, and when that beholder is a prosecution expert witness you’ll need somebody who knows how to show the weakness of that expert’s conclusions.  We are fully committed to your defense!





The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.