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FRM head loses bid to vacate Ponzi-scheme sentence

By BEA LEWIS, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

CONCORD — The mastermind of a scheme that defrauded investors out of millions of dollars has lost his bid to appeal his conviction.

On Oct. 18, Scott Farah, 58, formerly of Meredith, filed a motion asking a judge to "reset" the 15-year sentence handed down against him in January 2011, an action that would allow him to file a direct appeal of his conviction.

Farah who is serving his sentence at a federal prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, claims in his latest court filing that his action is not a "collateral attack" on the sentence or his guilty plea, but rather is a request to correct a "manifest injustice" by allowing him the statutory right to appeal that was lost to him as a result of ineffective assistance of
counsel. He is now scheduled to be released on Feb. 12, 2024.

Judge Paul J. Barbadoro denied Farah's request on Oct. 27.

His efforts to overturn his sentence was based on a claim of ineffective lawyering, alleging that his attorney, Michael Ramsdell, failed to tell him about his right to appeal his conviction or to file one on his behalf. Farrah filed the motion to vacate criminal judgment and reimpose sentence as an end play to launch an appeal, as the deadline has since expired.

In in his motion, Farah claimed that Ramsdell assured him that he would not receive a sentence of longer than 109 months. When the court exceeded the sentence by nearly six years, Farah claims Ramsdell had a duty to tell him about the appellate remedies available to him.

He also claims he entered his guilty plea on Ramsdell's advice based on his counsel that the government would not use the information he provided against him. Farah argues the very information he gave investigators was the basis for his indictment and subsequent conviction.

Farah wrote that he never explicitly agreed to the facts proposed by the government, "as he never intended to convict himself with his own lips."

He claims that when he met with government officials he was in the midst of a nervous breakdown, was being medicated by a doctor, altering his decision-making capabilities. He argues his latest motion does not "collaterally attack" his conviction but rather makes a claim that error was responsible for him losing his right to appeal.

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As part of his motion, Farah submitted a letter from a physician detailing that on Nov. 10, 2009, he was prescribed Sertraline, an antidepressant, and Diazepam, an anti-anxiety medication.

Farah's brother Daniel, who lives in Oklahoma, also signed an affidavit detailing that he attended his brother's sentencing and that prior to entering the courtroom he met with Scott and Ramsdell in a conference room to discuss the proceedings.

Daniel Farah said Ramsdell never discussed any matter involving his brother's appellate rights. During the sentencing hearing, the judge advised Scott Farah to confer with is lawyer if he wished to appeal.

According to Daniel Farah, his brother was immediately taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals and never had the chance to speak with Ramsdell again. He wrote that his brother had no knowledge of how to appeal his sentencing, what issues to raise or even if it was possible to file one.

Scott Farah claims he did not give up his right to appeal that his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary. He argued that Ramsdell had a duty to consult with him based on the disparity in the sentences returned against him compared to co-defendant Donald Dodge.

While the government has proposed a 121-month sentence for Dodge under the terms of a plea agreement, he actually received 78 months.

In November 2009, just two months after the New Hampshire State Banking Department completed an audit of Financial Resources and gave it an A+ rating, Farah wrote that he contacted his attorney, Mike Gould, concerning the operation of the company.

Gould, who would ultimately surrender his law license for his involvement with Financial Resources, referred Farah to Ramsdell who formerly worked as an assistant attorney general. According to Farah, he met with Ramsdell that same day. That night, Farah asserts that he "suffered a nervous breakdown as he realized he'd lost everything he'd worked his whole life for and that his financial mortgage crisis had put his company in a very tenuous position."

His wife and youngest son were so concerned about his mental health that they took a shotgun out of their Hatch Corner Road home, fearful he would commit suicide, he wrote in court filings.

He then decided to drive to North Carolina to stay with his brother Daniel, who he said is a trained pastoral counselor. Farah's oldest son flew home from college the following day to chauffeur his father as the family had decided Scott was "mentally incapable" of driving himself, according to the court motion.

Farah stayed in North Carolina under a doctor's care and was prescribed an anti-depressant and an anti-anxiety medication in the days before he was indicted for mail and wire fraud.

On Nov. 10, acting under the advice of Ramsdell, Farah said, he instructed his father to hand over the keys to the company's headquarters at 15 Northview Drive in Meredith.

A search warrant for the building the contained all financial records and computer used by the business was never issued, but rather a consent to search form was allegedly signed, according to Farah.

He claims that Ramsdell did nothing to either protect or review the reams of data in the building before turning it over to the government, showing a reckless disregard for Farah's constitutional rights.

Farah maintains that he relied on Ramsdell's advice that he needed to fully cooperate to get a reduced sentence.

"Considering the fact that he was in the middle of a nervous breakdown and heavily medicated, he relied on Mr. Ramsdell's expertise and on the fact that Mr. Ramsdell would be a shield rather than a sword," Farah wrote.

Again relying on Ramsdell's counsel, Farah wrote that he twice met with investigators and confessed that FRM operated as a Ponzi scheme, using lenders' money to pay other lender obligations. He disclosed all the intricate dealings of the operation necessary to convict him and Dodge.

He provided information to support a total loss from 1989 through 2009 of approximately $33,567,110. All of the disclosures were made by Farah without any regard to the Fifth Amendment that protects a person from being compelled to be a witness against himself in a criminal case, based on what Farah claims was the "erroneous and defective advice of his counsel.

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Pines sex abuse trial set to begin next spring (630)

By BEA LEWIS, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

CONCORD — A former police officer accused of sexually abusing children and a disabled woman waived his right to a speedy trial last week, and a judge has given the prosecutor 30 days to decide whether the state will seek separate trials for each of the alleged child victims or group them into one.

Robert Magoon, 74, of Northfield, is now facing 11 counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, two counts of attempted aggravated felonious sexual assault, one count of felonious sexual assault and a misdemeanor charge of simple assault, involving eight alleged victims.

Following a Nov. 4 hearing in Merrimack County Superior Court, Judge Diana Nicolosi said the charges involving the disabled woman will be heard in one trial. If the prosecutor and the defense are unable to reach an agreement on whether the remaining charges will require seven separate trials, she gave the state until late December to file a
motion to consolidate.

Magoon was a part-time maintenance worker at the Pines Community Center in Northfield, which opened the doors for the children while they waited for school buses to pick them up.

Northfield Police Chief John Raffaelly said after receiving a single complaint about Magoon's alleged conduct with children in 2015, police began an investigation, but were unable to get enough evidence to support his
arrest. He said former Pines Director Jim Doane was notified about the accusation and Magoon was allegedly told to not be in the building alone with any children. Doane resigned shortly after Magoon's arrest.

In the wake of Magoon's arrest, the Pines Community Center has revamped its before-school program, added more video surveillance cameras and doesn't allow any children inside the building unless there are two staff members present.

The misdemeanor charge accuses Magoon of causing unprivileged physical contact with a 13 or 14-year-old girl by kissing her on the mouth between June 19, 2015, and Aug. 30, 2015.

The felonious sexual assault charge alleges that he intentionally touched the buttocks of a girl under age 13 for the purpose of sexual gratification between Aug. 31, 2015, and Dec. 31, 2015.

Seven of the aggravated rape charges accuse Magoon of engaging in various sex acts with a young woman who he knew, or had reason to know, had a disability, making her incapable of freely arriving at an independent choice as to whether or not to engage in sexual contact between Jan. 2, 2013, and April 30, 2014.

Five of the six other aggravated felonious sexual assault charges allege that Magoon victimized three other girls under age 13, over a period of more than two months or more and within a period of five years between Aug. 27, 2012, and April 1, 2015; between Aug. 31, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2015; between Aug. 26, 2014, and July 13, 2015; and twice between Aug. 31, 2015, and May 12, 2016, and between Aug. 26, 2014, and May 12, 2016.

Initially ordered held on $150,000 cash-only bail, Judge Nicolosi agreed to reduce it to $10,000 on the condition that Magoon be subject to electronic monitoring, that his place of residence be approved by Merrimack County Pretrial Services and that he not live where there was any shared curtilage with any families. He was also ordered to have no contact with the Pines Community Center, any of the alleged victims, or anyone under age 18. He was additionally prohibited from drinking any alcohol.

A status conference in the case is now scheduled to be held in mid-January. Public Defenders Erine Flinchbaugh and Hanna Kinne, who are representing Magoon, have indicated that they plan to challenge the admissibility of statements their client allegedly gave to police.
Judge Nicolosi set a Dec. 15 deadline for the defense to file a motion to suppress. Assistant Merrimack County Attorney Wayne Coull who is prosecuting the case, must file a response by Jan. 10.

A final pretrial hearing is now set or April 14, with a jury to be picked for at least one of the trials on May 1.

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City man charged with drug possession, carrying a machete

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUNLACONIA — City police arrested a local felon Monday morning after he was found walking down a city street carrying a 22-inch Gerber machete concealed along the inside of his leg.

A patrol officer said he located Damon Farris, 25, of 322 Union Ave. #3, whom he had learned was wanted on an electronic bench warrant from the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division.

Farris is charged with one count of being a felon in possession of a deadly weapon and one count of possession of narcotics. He is being held in the Belknap County House of Corrections in lieu of $7,500 cash bail.

The officer found Farris walking along Main Street near Hanover Street and detained him because of the warrant. When he asked Farris if he possessed anything that could hurt him, he said Farris lifted his sweatshirt and showed him the handle of the machete.

After removing the machete, the officer asked him if he had anything else that could stick or poke him, like a needle, and Farris allegedly said he had some "dope."

"I didn't even get to use it yet," the affidavit quoted Farris as saying.

Affidavits said the officer found a digital scale in one of Farris's pockets and a small pink plastic bag containing an off-white powder substance, which the officer thought could be heroin.

The Laconia officer took the substance to the Gilford Police Department where tests were performed on the off-white substance and it tested positive for fentanyl or methamphetamine.

Affidavits said that based on the color, texture and consistency, the officer believes it was fentanyl.

Farris, according to affidavits, has been convicted of felony criminal threatening, falsifying criminal evidence, and felony reckless conduct in 2012 and for robbery in July of 2016.

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