Man seeks restitution from ex-wife in fraud caseBy BEA LEWIS firstname.lastname@example.org | Posted: Monday, November 21, 2011 6:00 am
LACONIA — A New Hampton man says he feels victimized by his ex-wife as well as the justice system.
David Prutzanni, 56, of 714 Straights Rd., New Hampton, claims in documents on file at the Belknap County Superior Court in Laconia that his now-ex-wife fraudulently signed his name to numerous checks, stealing $86,000 from a home equity line of credit and an additional $14,000 in cash from his personal checking account. He alleges she used the bulk of the money to buy drugs.
Prutzanni’s ex-wife, JeanMarie Leonard, 52, of Laconia, was indicted in April on a Class B felony charge of forgery. The state charged that, in October 2005, she executed a written home equity line of credit agreement, disclosure statement and note by signing Prutzanni’s signature without his authorization and that her intent was to defraud.
The charge was dropped or “nol prossed” by Assistant Belknap County Attorney Carley Ahern on July 28, the same day Leonard pleaded guilty to a Class A misdemeanor of theft by unauthorized taking. She admitted to exercising unauthorized control over less than $1,000 in currency and funds by writing and cashing checks belonging to Prutzanni with the purpose to deprive.
Prutzanni said he agreed to the negotiated settlement proposed by the prosecutor because he believed that, once Leonard was convicted, she would be ordered to pay restitution. He said he did not know that the misdemeanor charge alleged that the value of the stolen money was less than $1,000.
On the misdemeanor theft charge, Judge Kenneth McHugh sentenced Leonard to a suspended, 12-month sentence to the Belknap County Department of Corrections jail. Restitution was to be determined by a forensic accounting, and the suspension was specifically conditioned upon regular restitution payments being made to Prutzanni.
As part of the plea agreement brokered between Ahern, who prosecuted the case, and Anne Weakly, the public defender who represented Leonard, there was a stipulation that Weakley would apply for funds to hire a forensic accountant to help determine the amount of restitution in the case. Weakly requested permission to spend $4,000 to hire the expert, at a cost of $90 an hour, but McHugh denied the motion, ruling that the court could not authorize spending such a large amount for a misdemeanor-level offense. The court agreed to permit the parties to spend up to $500 for a bookkeeper or public accountant to conduct an examination of the financial records.
According to records in Laconia Family Division Court, as part of the couple’s divorce proceedings, the parties disputed the history of the home equity line of credit and the use of Mr. Prutzanni’s personal checking account. Both the line of credit and his personal checking account were solely in his name.
Prutzanni testified before Marital Master Michael Garner that he was unaware until the spring of 2007 that Leonard had been signing his name on checks from the home equity line of credit and on checks from his personal checking account. He testified that she told him his checking account had been depleted and told him to call the bank, from which he learned that the equity line of credit had been accessed to a balance of about $86,000. He testified that he was unaware of those checks and that he had not given her permission to sign his name to them.
During the divorce proceedings, Prutzanni asked the family court to either require Leonard to reimburse him for the checks written, or that he receive credit in the amount of the checks written against the distributable property.
In making his recommendations, that were approved by Presiding Judge Lucinda Sadler, Garner wrote, “This was however a long-term marriage, and the parties had a practice of permitting [Leonard] to take care of the finances. Indeed, at the time of the checks in question, Prutzanni was unaware that previously during the marriage, [Leonard] had ‘mishandled significant funds’ and that Prutzanni permitted [Leonard] access to these accounts nevertheless.”
“To the extent that funds from the line of credit were used for joint purposes, they are not available as credit to either party. To the extent, however, that Prutzanni testified to a particular use for funds that is not borne out by the documentary evidence from the bank records, the court infers that the use was not joint, and a credit may be made available to Prutzanni,” Garner ruled.
The Family Court ultimately ordered Leonard to pay Prutzanni $200 a month toward the outstanding balance on the equity loan, but her attorney argued that she did not have the ability to pay and used that as a defense against a contempt citation.
Leonard occasionally worked as a substitute teacher, according to Family Court records, but spent the majority of their 25 year marriage as a housewife.
Meanwhile, Prutzanni said he still is on the hook for the home equity line of credit and has been informed by Bank of America that, despite a criminal finding of fraud in connection with the case, it will continue to pursue repayment from him.
Despite the mandate for repayment as part of the criminal sentence, Prutzanni says that more than three months have elapsed and he still has not received any restitution from Leonard, who claims in Family Court that she is unable to pay, as she is unemployed and is receiving food stamps and previously received rental assistance from the city.
In ordering that Prutzanni’s 401(K) retirement account be split between the parties, the Family Court mandated that some of the money be earmarked to repay the city for helping Leonard pay her rent. The Family Court further granted Leonard leave to file to receive alimony payments from Prutzanni for up to five years from the date of their April 2010 divorce.
Prutzanni said he plans to file a motion in Belknap County Superior Court asking for a hearing in hopes the court will review the restitution issue.
Ahern said it is her understanding that Weakly is still attempting to find a bookkeeper or accountant that will accept a payment of $500 to spend an estimated 40 hours reviewing the financial records in the case to determine how much money Leonard owes.