Criminal Justice

Former prosecutor guilty in Alaska’s largest money laundering conviction

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A former municipal prosecutor in Anchorage has been convicted of defrauding a widow out of $52 million, KTUU reported Tuesday.

A federal jury found Mark Avery, 57, guilty of wire fraud, money laundering, bank fraud and making false statements to a bank, all felonies. Federal prosecutors say the money laundering convictions are the largest ever reached in Alaska.

More than 10 years ago, Avery was a trustee for a trust set up for the care of May Wong Smith, a wealthy widow with dementia. He used that trust as collateral for a $52 million loan that prosecutors say he spent in six months, on items like real estate, multiple vintage aircraft, multiple other vehicles and paying off personal debt.

Prosecutors say Avery’s former wife, Jennifer, didn’t understand where the money was coming from. They divorced in 2009.

An investment manager for the trust testified earlier in the case that he was uncomfortable when Avery started withdrawing millions in assets. Avery’s public defender, Michael Dieni, argued that Avery was investing Smith’s money in a private air charter business with the approval of trustees, KTUU reported.

Dieni said Avery was taken in by his business partner, Rob “Commander” Kane, a “world-class con man” who wore false military medals Dieni called “chest candy.”

Ruth Collins, the daughter of another trustee, testified that Smith would not have understood Avery’s investment scheme if she had been asked.

A bankruptcy court was later able to return $8 million to Smith’s trust. Smith died in 2006.

Avery had originally pleaded guilty to 15 counts of money laundering and wire fraud in 2007. However, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2010 that he was convicted under an unconstitutional fraud theory. Prosecutors revised their indictment, and Avery was charged again in 2013, alleging he followed a scheme to defraud Smith’s trust.

Avery will be sentenced May 17. He is currently free on bail.

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