Michael Ritter Scandal

i’m sure belize is nice in june. just don’t ask adam d’orleans… err, michael ritter.

I couldn’t find an interweb link for this story, but this story was in today’s Edmonton Journal:

Lawyer admits signing Ritter’s name change and passport papers
Edmontonian charged with laundering $43 million US

Charles Rusnell
The Edmonton Journal
Tuesday, June 20, 2006

EDMONTON – While Michael Ritter was under a court order not to apply for another passport, the high-profile Edmonton businessman changed his name in Belize and successfully applied for a Belizean passport under his new name, a court heard Monday.

The applications for Ritter’s name change and his new passport were signed by his friend, lawyer Casey O’Byrne.

In testimony, O’Byrne acknowledged signing Ritter’s name change application. But he said he had not read the document and didn’t know it was for the tiny Central American country of Belize, where Ritter is also a citizen, until he was contacted by the RCMP months later.

O’Byrne was subpoenaed to testify in Ritter’s trial for breach of recognizance, a charge that carries a penalty of up to two years in jail. The Edmonton lawyer also has been charged with aiding Ritter to breach that recognizance.

Under the law, none of O’Byrne’s testimony in the Ritter case can be used against him in future legal proceedings.

The charges against Ritter and O’Byrne stem from an order by a judge in October 2003. Ritter, Alberta’s former chief parliamentary counsel, had been indicted in the United States for his alleged role in a $250-million US Ponzi scheme, in which money from later investors is used to pay earlier ones.

To gain bail, Ritter signed a recognizance and agreed to surrender his passport, not try to get another one and not to leave Alberta. The wealthy businessman also put up $100,000 in cash, and $150,000 worth of security in his house.

O’Byrne shared the same law firm as Sid Tarrabain, Ritter’s lawyer in the extradition case. O’Byrne told the court he helped Tarrabain on the case, including signing, but not preparing, the documents related to Ritter’s recognizance.

O’Byrne said that in March 2005, Ritter told him the case against him in the U.S. was falling apart and he wanted to get his financial trust business going again.

Ritter, according to O’Byrne, said he needed to travel to Toronto and wanted O’Byrne’s legal assistance to change his name to get a new driver’s licence.

Ritter obtained a Belizean passport in the name of Adam d’Orleans. The Mounties learned of the passport from an employee of Ritter’s company, Newport Pacific, who found a scanned image of the passport on Ritter’s office computer.

Police and the Crown have contended Ritter wanted the new passport and new identity so he could flee serious charges in the U.S. and Canada. The Americans are seeking Ritter’s extradition for his alleged role in the Ponzi scheme. In Canada, he faces several charges related to his alleged role in laundering $43 million US, stolen from a brokerage firm by a Wall Street trader.

Ritter has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. He has been in custody since his arrest Sept. 9, 2005. The trial was adjourned and is expected to resume sometime in the next two weeks.

Click here for the complete Michael Ritter Scandal Chronology…

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