Journalism in the Public Interest

Lawyer in Insurance Fraud Case Asks to Rescind Guilty Plea

Joseph Caramadre, who recruited dying people to help him and investors cash in on insurance death benefits, claims he is innocent and blames his lawyers and state of mind for his plea.


Joseph Caramadre in his home office in Cranston, R.I., in August 2012. The attorney, who recruited dying people to help him and investors cash in on insurance death benefits, claims he is innocent and blames his lawyers and state of mind for his plea. (Matthew Healey for ProPublica)

Last November, it looked as though federal prosecutors had closed their case against a Rhode Island man who used terminally ill people in a plan to collect money from insurance companies. After four days of a trial, attorney Joseph Caramadre pleaded guilty to wire fraud and identity theft.

But late last week, Caramadre filed new court papers maintaining his innocence and asking to withdraw his plea. A judge will decide whether to order a new trial or force Caramadre to go through with the plea agreement, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island declined to comment on the filing.

Caramadre and a former employee, Raymour Radhakrishnan, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiring to steal the identities of dying people they had recruited to apply for insurance products and bonds that carried survivorship rights. Under the terms of these products, Caramadre, his family members and his investors could receive their money back and potentially much more from the policies. ProPublica wrote about Caramadre last August in "Death Takes a Policy."

Caramadre now says that he was under duress when he agreed to the plea deal. In filings with the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island, Caramadre accuses his attorneys of "deficient" representation, conflicts of interests, and prodding him to take the plea. In an affidavit, Caramadre says that despite his requests, his lawyers refused to hire an investigator to interview the government's witnesses or to cross-examine them at trial. He also alleges that there was a conflict because one of his attorneys kept a large retainer even though the trial was shorter than expected.

Messages left for Caramadre's lawyers were not returned in time for publication.

Caramadre also says that on the second day of the trial his wife had an emotional breakdown. The new filings include affidavits and letters from doctors attesting to his wife's condition, which had "a profound effect on his own fragile mental state," according to Caramadre's court filing. Caramadre takes a variety of medications for depression and has received disability insurance income from three carriers for his condition since July 2011, according to an affidavit he filed with the court.

He described in his affidavit being reluctant to take the plea deal and quickly regretting his decision. "Throughout the more than three and a half years before I pled guilty, I repeatedly professed my innocence, and remain innocent to this day," the affidavit says.

The 53-year-old Caramadre, who has both legal and accounting degrees, is a self-described master at exploiting contractual loopholes. Prior to the criminal prosecution, he built a prosperous business in estate planning and gave millions to local charities. Caramadre paid the terminally ill to participate in his scheme, but some later claimed that they were not fully aware of how their personal information was being used. In a few instances, participants or their family members asserted signatures had been forged.

Radhakrishnan, 29, has not requested a change in his plea. In the event of a new trial, this could prove a problem for the prosecution. Radhakrishnan, acting on Caramadre's behalf, was the person with direct contact with the terminally ill. Last year, Caramadre's lawyers tried and failed to persuade the judge to order separate trials for the men.

The judge had scheduled a sentencing hearing for Caramadre and Radhakrishnan for March 29, which may become a hearing on this new motion as well.

Good for him.  The system has long been skewed in making sure the prosecutor wins something, anything, and too many defense attorneys quietly accept it and make it their job to convince their client to consider such tactics a victory.

I’ve said it before, but one of the most instructive things you can do is spend a few hours watching the theater of traffic court.  Everybody is apparently guilty of something, and in almost no case is it related to anything written on the tickets.

When the courts are so willing to bend the rules on even trivial charges, it’s hard to think of any other plea deal as honest.  The DA needs the notch on the belt, and the defense gets paid either way.

Byard Pidgeon

March 4, 2013, 4:03 p.m.

I love it…his fragile mental state…looks more like a fragile moral and ethical state to me…the self described master of exploiting contractual loopholes is still practicing his loathsome craft.

How about we let him rescind his guilty plea if he lets us reinstate the death penalty?

Why did he have to break the law?  You can outright buy these things, and get preferential tax treatment for doing it.  Originally it was to help AIDS patients get a little something back on life insurance policies.  A buyer would buy the policy for a cash amount deeply discounted. Then, when the person died, the policy paid out to the owner who got the full amount.  Predatory, but in this stingy culture, better than nothing when you are dying.

Byard Pidgeon

March 4, 2013, 9:42 p.m.

girlcousin…some people have a compulsion to “beat the system”, which overrides all other concerns. They often get caught or have their system beating schemes backfire, but they don’t change their behaviors.
I’ve known several people like this over the years. Their friends may love them, but warily, as one loves a family member with mental illness.

Not in any way immoral, and in no way illegal. The people signing received a benefit they would not otherwise had. It in no way harmed any one but the maker of the contract .Yes the intent of the contract was to aid the sick and dying, but the insurance company wrote it to benefit themselves. He gave value where they would not.

Byard is partly right, but more to the point, it’s not against the law to use a company’s rules against it.  They sign the contracts, so they have to abide by them.

If he stole someone’s identity, then there’s a problem.  But the prosecution hasn’t proven anything of the sort, and the system is not “innocent until the charges sound kinda scummy.”  And given the situation, I find it hard to believe that he couldn’t find volunteers.

Ignoring that, though, when the insurance companies defraud customers—deciding not to cover certain treatments or drugs after the fact, or allowing a tiny payout that fails to cover costs or look anything like the premiums they’ve collected—it’s “just business.”  After all, you signed the contract, and caveat emptor.

Yet, when someone holds the insurer to the terms of the agreement, the law comes after them with wild accusations of fraud.  It’s suddenly important what they meant when they drafted the agreement, rather than what the signed contract says.

And, when you consider that an insurance company has all the money in the world with no external expenses (you pay them money, they work to pay you as little money as possible), you might realize that they can do the public relations to make this sound horrifying, profiting off of death…as if they don’t do exactly that, every day, without giving anything to the deceased along the way.

Byard Pidgeon

March 5, 2013, 1:44 p.m.

Fellow commenters…I’ve just finished reading the original PP article, which is linked in this one.
A few years ago, many of us (the populace) were quite angered and disgusted by revelations that Wal Mart, and other corporations, routinely took out life insurance policies on employees which were solely to the benefit of the corporation, which was widely decried as immoral and unethical, but also was strictly legal.
Carmadre’s scheme is much like that earlier one, except that while the corporations did keep the policies secret, they did not engage in any deception or fraud or other illegal actions.
In the original article, there’s a copy of one of Carmadre’s ads, which is clearly deceptive. I think there is definitely more than just an ethical aspect to this case. This guy is no Robin Hood.

He donated millions to charity… how was he not like Robin Hood? Oh yeah, his merry men didn’t wear tights.

Byard Pidgeon

March 5, 2013, 5:02 p.m.

Braaainz…He made the millions by deceiving and defrauding elderly and/or terminally ill ordinary people. Look at the ad in the original article…he’s a Robin Hood only if Robin Hood took money from the poor or ill, then donated it to charity and took tax deductions for the donations.

As gilrcousin says, it was originally legislation drawn up to assist AIDS patients. The insurance industry lobby then wrote it such to their benefit and created a whole new market called Vitatiicles.
It had long been a staple of law that one could not have an insured interest in another’s demise. Using a politically correct hot topic that was discarded and this case is only a tip of the iceberg of its misuse.

Marcia O'Brien

March 5, 2013, 7:44 p.m.

I was editor of Rhode Island Catholic when Caramadre placed his ads. I objected but was overriden by Father Healey and communications director ichael Guilfoyle.

Your first comment of the accused was critical ... then, lo and behold, after reading one of his ads, you find it deceptive.

Sorry, but you have put your judgement into   question. It looks like you have an ax to grind here.

Byard Pidgeon

March 6, 2013, 6:20 p.m.

Braaainz…I’m consistent in my loathing of crooks, whether they steal with a gun or with a contract.
An axe to grind? Yes, but I’d use a dull one on this kind of guy.
Your axe seems to be a compulsion to defend him…and you’re questioning my judgement? Wow!

Please explain how his actions were criminal and how he was being deceptive.

People upset because he made more money on patients than he gave them doesn’t seem criminal to me.

Well B, I think the prosecution must have explained the criminality, at least well enough for him to cop a plea, and if you don’t see the deception you either haven’t read the articles or your vision is as compromised as his.
Also, this has become tiresome, so I’m done with you.

Hunh. You’d think that after all the other attempts to nail him in court, you know, those more than dozen times when judges sided with him over the insurance companies, that the criminality might have been a little more clear.

As to deception, I do not see any. It seems that the insurance companies are upset that someone used their contracts against them and some relatives or participants are upset that large sums of money were made off their hardship while they were given relatively paltry sums in comparison.

branz, I guess you missed the part where the victims said he forged signatures.
Why would you defend this scumbag?
Or, are you him?
If you are, shame on you, you broke the law.
Using dying people for a buck, despicable.

Nope, i’m not him. I’m defending him cause I think he is innocent.
Reading up on all the steps he did to research the loophole, I dont see him suddenly getting so sloppy.
I do see people upset at him making so much money while they and their family members got so little and I definitely see the insurance companies being upset over their losses.


April 2, 2013, 1:33 p.m.

He is innocent and will be found innocent. He took nothing from those dying people, the insurance were new policies, the people did not lose any life insurance rewards they already had prior to meeting this man.

He is being prosecuted because the Billion dollar insurance companies did not like paying out on their own policy’s. These corporations OWN the prosecutors, the Feds, the FBI. Same with the banks.

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