Rebecca

Rebecca Price-Swoop
Director:
C.U.R.E Women Incarcerated
Maryland


Charge: felony theft
Date of Alleged Crimes 1997~Jan 1999
Date of Arrest June 2003 (Note: 4.5 Year Hiatus)
Date of Conviction
June 2003


Convicting Factors: need for a scapegoat/ guilt by association/ biased media coverage/ incompetent legal counsel

Former manager at a travel agency whose owner returned to the near east with funds stolen from customers, Rebecca was arrested four and a half years after the agency closed. Fours months pregnant, at the time of conviction, she lost several teeth due to poor prison nutrition, and was double shackled to the bed, at the ankle and wrist, during delivery in the presence of two male guards.

Being arrested four and half years after an alleged crime is extremely rare and problematic. In a similar case (below), a Pennsylvania woman who admitted signing $1 million worth of fraudulent government-backed mortgages using different names was sentenced in Baltimore's federal court to five years' probation. Was Swoop the victim of angry, swindled customers seeking vengeance in a small Maryland town?

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A Perfect Scapegoat
by
Michael H. Fox
(Published in
Graterfriends: February, 2013)


Researchers of wrongful arrests are often asked "How do you know the person is innocent?" Simply put, when I begin to examine a case, various red flags begin to wave. One of the reddest is an arrest made long after the crime occurred..

A splendid example is the case of Rebecca Swope (nee Price), a native of Fort Loudon in mountainous, southern Pennsylvania. Swope is a former travel agent who managed C.W.Travel in Hagerstown, Maryland.

One day in 1999, the agency owner decided to close shop. Selling, rather than closing a travel agency, is the typical modus operandi. Many people book and pay for trips months in advance. If the travel agency closes, customers who make deposits are entitled to refunds.

Unfortunately for the customers of C.W.Travel, this did not happen. The owner absconded to Iran with every dollar he could.

Local Rage

Many people of Hagerstown and its surrounding areas had been cheated and were rightfully angry. Unfortunately, the culprit was safely out of the country. This did not matter, a crime that goes unpunished is a double sin:. good, hard working small town Americans deserve better.

An investigation was launched, and a scapegoat was found. Rebecca Swope, former manager of the agency, was the perfect candidate. A former high school swimming star, the tall, attractive Swope was the type of suspect the media love to vilify and persecute.

In 2003, four years after the agency closed, she was arrested and charged with five counts of felony theft. Each charge carried a sentence of five to fifteen years.

Inept/Idiotic Counsel?

"A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the judge" is a well known, perhaps worn out adage. And what of the lawyers who are not good? Or even downrightly incompetent?

The answer is easy-their clients end up in prison. Many become long term subscribers to Graterfriends.

Swope learned this painfully. After being found guilty, she appeared in court expecting to get a suspended sentence. The melodrama of being arrested, slandered in the media, and tried in a small town would soon be over.

Four months pregnant at the time, and expecting to get a good night's rest in her own bed at the end of a long ordeal, she was sentenced to 16 years, with 11 years suspended. Handcuffed and carted off to prison, she was stripped and made to sit naked in a room for four hours before being deloused.

I asked Rebecca how on earth she could expect to receive a suspended sentence for such serious charges. "That's what the lawyer said I would get." And wasn't there any talk of a plea bargain? "Maybe. I don't know.The lawyer never discussed it."

From Bad to Worse

The worst was yet to come. Five months later she was transported to a hospital to give birth. Two male CO's were stationed in the room. During delivery, she was chained at the wrist and the ankle to the bed.

Rebecca was incredulous. She still asks, "Where did they think I was planning to go?" Of course, she was hardly the first prisoner in the US to make this painful claim. Shackling women during pregnancy is de rigueur in most states.

After imprisonment, support for the Swope case began to snowball. A number of local residents took up her cause. After giving birth, her supporters began to scream that a mother should be at home with her baby. The state intended to separate her from the child because the Maryland state pregnant prisoners program was only open to drug addicts.

In response to public opinion she once again appeared before the same small town judge who pronounced sentence. Requesting a sentence modification, the judge refused, "You have not served enough time."

The cold response from the judge further aggravated Rebecca's supporters. Obviously concerned about protecting votes and donations from his electoral base, snowballing pressure came from the other direction. After ten months, he caved in. In authorizing parole, he told Rebecca "the media did not help your case", and that his original sentence was "nothing personal."

Support for Women Behind Bars

Swope has put the anger and degradation of prison life to good purpose. She has started a new C.U.R.E chapter entitled "Women Incarcerated." C.U.R.E (Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants), which began in Texas, is now an international organization with branches in Africa, and Asia.

Swope's general focus is to get feedback from female prisoners and become a voice to the institution. She is concerned with all matters of health care, geographical isolation, commissary, birth and childcare, etc.

Apart from the joy of helping other women in tough circumstances, Swope had her own great taste of poetic justice. While incarcerated, she voiced the wish to attend graduate school for an (MSW) Masters of Social Work. The social work supervisor who overheard the conversation mockingly replied, "You will never become a social worker. Social workers do not end up in here."

Rebecca graduated, and with her degree in hand, returned to speak at the prison. The social worker was in attendance. Rebecca proclaimed, "You told me I would never become a social worker. Your role is to assist, advocate and empower, not to demean and degrade.You failed me and the profession miserably at that moment. "

Swope responds to all requests. Women incarcerated in Pennsylvania and other states, please feel free to contact

Rebecca Swope, MSW
PO Box 287
Fort Loudon, PA 17224

Group disputes sentence given pregnant prisoner
January 12, 2005 by PEPPER BALLARD
pepperb@herald-mail.com
WASHINGTON COUNTY - A Baltimore-based anti-abortion group plans to protest at Maryland's State House today in support of the early prison release of a pregnant Greencastle, Pa., woman who was convicted in July on charges she stole more than $23,000 from clients of a Hagerstown travel agency she managed.

The group contends that Rebecca Calimer Price's sentence was unjust and that she needs to spend time with her baby when it is born.
Jack Ames, director and founder of the anti-abortion group Defend Life, said the group plans to advocate for the release of Price, 31, because she is serving "an unjustly harsh five-year sentence."


He said that will prevent her from spending the first "critical" three months with her newborn because she doesn't qualify for a state pregnant prisoners program that is open to drug addicts.
Price, who is serving her sentence at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women-Jessup, has not yet given birth.
Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley in September sentenced Price to five years in state prison for a five-count felony theft conviction. She was convicted of stealing more than $23,000 from some clients of the now-defunct CW Travel Inc. of Hagerstown in late 1999 and early 2000.

Jean Calimer, 52, Price's mother, said the planned protest is being held against the family's wishes.
"I appreciate what (Defend Life) is doing. This is a very delicate situation and I don't want to do anything that's gonna hurt her," she said.
Calimer said Beachley granted a hearing Feb. 18 in Circuit Court at the request of Price's former attorney, John Salvatore, on a motion to seek a modification of her sentence.

Ames said this is the first time the group he founded in 1987 has advocated for the release of a pregnant prisoner.
"This is sort of a unique case of injustice in an overly unjust sentence," he said.
Ames said about 20 or 30 people will protest today at the State House in Annapolis. Some will carry 24-inch-by-36-inch posters with pictures of Price and ultrasound pictures of her unborn daughter, he said.

The signs say: "Hey ... Bob Ehrlich! Free Becky Price today! And Hannah too!"
The Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy recommended that Price be sentenced either to probation or to two years and six months in prison.
Beachley in a court document cited his reasons for going outside sentencing guidelines, including: "Substantial economic loss (regarding the victims and) little remorse or recognition of wrongdoing," according to court records.
He suspended 11 years of a 16-year prison sentence.

The maximum penalty in Maryland for a conviction on one count of felony theft is 15 years.
Beachley told Price before sentencing: "Clearly one hopes that you will eventually see that your scheme was not simply to rob Peter to pay Paul."
Beachley declined to comment for this story Tuesday.

Rose Straley, 66, of Falling Waters, W.Va., was one of the victims from whom Price was charged with taking money. She said she plans to attend the Feb. 18 hearing.
Straley, coordinator of Enjoy Growing Older Inc., based in Martinsburg, W.Va., said members of her group lost about $88,000 on a Caribbean cruise booked by Price that did not happen.
"I have mixed emotions" about the basis of the protest, she said. "The baby is the innocent person right now, but do I feel sorry for her? No."

Ames said Defend Life is not "saying she should get a full ride," but is asking that her sentence be commuted. He said the group is asking that she get credit for time served and be ordered to pay restitution to her victims.
George Gregory, Maryland Division of Correction spokesman, said that when a woman delivers a baby while in state prison, the prisoner is allowed some time to spend with the newborn until they recover, but there is "no set time frame." Once the mother has recovered, she has the option of placing the baby up for adoption or placing it in the care of family.

Gregory said there is a Division of Correction program called Tamar's Children, which enables prisoners who deliver babies while serving time to stay with their newborns at a Baltimore facility. Prisoners must meet certain criteria, including a history of drug dependency, in order to be admitted into the program, he said.

Fred Young, a friend and former co-worker with Price at CW Travel, said Price has "had a lot of time to sit inside this cell and feel this baby inside her. She's watched (other prisoners) go to Tamar's (Children) and she's wondering, 'Why can't this be me?'"
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Ex-travel manager released from prison July 02, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD
After serving 10 months of a five-year prison sentence ordered for a five-count felony theft conviction, former CW Travel Inc. Manager Rebecca Calimer Price, a Greencastle, Pa., woman who gave birth to her first child while incarcerated, was released from prison Friday by Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley.

Beachley, who sentenced Price, 31, in September 2004 after convicting her for the theft of more than $23,000 from some of the clients of CW Travel Inc., a now-defunct Hagerstown travel agency Price managed in late 1999 and early 2000, ordered Friday that she be released from prison, saying that under federal sentencing guidelines, someone convicted of the same crime would be considered for a sentence of between 10 and 16 months.

The maximum penalty in Maryland for a conviction on one count of felony theft is 15 years.

Beachley said she "has suffered the consequences from her criminal actions."

He soon after told her that her crime was serious.

"Your actions represent a lack of respect and decency for fellow citizens," he said, adding that it's an important message on the heels of Independence Day. Price nodded as he spoke.

She was convicted in July of stealing from some of her clients by having them make checks payable to her for either defunct airplane tickets or for payments on trips that didn't happen, including a senior citizens' group cruise to the Caribbean and a group trip to a NASCAR race.

One of the victims, Price's former co-worker, Sherry Valentine, 56, said after the hearing, "She cried today. I think maybe she has an idea of what happened."

Price said Friday afternoon that she hopes the victims "can learn to forgive and not let the choices I've made bind them ... The only thing that I can do for them is be responsible to make that change in my life. I can't take back the past, but sure can impact the future."

She was incarcerated at Maryland Correctional Institution for Women-Jessup (Md.). She gave birth to her first child, Hannah Elizabeth Moats, on Jan. 19, more than four months after she was sentenced. Anti-abortion group Defend Life campaigned for her release, saying her sentence was unjust and she needed to bond with her baby.

Price said Friday afternoon that she plans to "go home and pray with (Hannah) and be the mother I haven't been able to be."

Price's grandparents had taken care of Hannah while she was incarcerated.

Price had paid $20,000 in restitution by the hearing Friday, said her attorney, Martin Palmer. Beachley said the balance owed, $3,492, had to be paid by the end of the day.

Beachley ordered her to serve five years of probation, the first year of which he ordered to be supervised. She is prohibited from travel sales or the sale of air transportation, he said.

Beachley originally suspended 11 years of a 16-year prison sentence for the convictions, which he ordered on Friday to remain suspended. He suspended the balance of the five-year sentence she was serving, giving her credit for time served.

Price's family waited outside a holding cell area inside the courthouse for more than an hour for her to walk out while Price waited on Maryland Division of Correction paperwork. When Beachley returned from lunch, he saw that she had not been released yet, called a special hearing and ordered her immediate release.
Price found guilty of theft
July 07, 2004
by
PEPPER BALLARD
Twelve days after her bench trial ended, former CW Travel Inc. Manager Rebecca Calimer Price was found guilty Tuesday by Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley on five counts of felony theft.
Price, 30, of 32 E. Baltimore St. in Greencastle, Pa., was charged with five felony theft counts related to more than $23,000 taken from her clients in late 1999 and early 2000.
Beachley ordered her to be held at the Washington County Detention Center on $20,000 bond pending the conclusion of a pre-sentence investigation that could take about six weeks to complete. Adetention center spokesman said Tuesday night that Price posted bond and was released.


Price remained composed while Beachley read his decision, but she showed some emotion when a bond amount was discussed.
Beachley said the maximum sentence Price could receive on each count is 15 years in prison and/or a $1,000 fine.
Price was charged in two of the theft counts with stealing money from a co-worker and a businessman, both of whom wrote personal checks to Price for the purchase of airplane tickets that were sold to them in the form of vouchers.
Before returning guilty verdicts on those counts, Beachley referred to the testimony of Brendan O'Dowd, a business analyst with Airlines Reporting Commission, who testified that the voucher offer was "totally bogus."
"The defendant clearly had an intent to steal when she issued the flight vouchers," Beachley said.
Price also was charged with two counts of stealing money from two women, one of whom was a coordinator for a senior citizens group, who booked the same Caribbean cruise through Price and had on separate occasions each made out personal checks to Price for trip deposits. She was charged in one count with stealing money from a man who booked a NASCAR trip through Price and also wrote a personal check to her for a trip deposit. Neither of the trips came about.
Beachley said a check written to Price by Rose Straley for $5,300 "could not be traced to any other account" by financial analysts for the prosecution or the defense. He said Price testified she cashed Straley's check, but then went to get a certified check to make a deposit on the trip.
"The defendant's testimony in this regard is simply not credible," Beachley said, adding that a Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines representative testified that no deposits on the cruise were made.
Price said she is employed at Heritage Hills Retirement Home in Greencastle, Pa.
Straley said after the verdict, "I'm not satisfied. It'll be interesting to see what happens in six weeks."

Former travel office manager indicted on theft charges
December 09, 2003
by GREGORY T. SIMMONS
gregs@herald-mail.com
A Greencastle, Pa., woman was indicted in Washington County Circuit Court on theft charges last week in connection with an investigation that began in early 2000 after multiple customer complaints about a Hagerstown travel agency.
Rebecca Price, 30, of 32 E. Baltimore St., Apt. A, Greencastle, allegedly stole thousands of dollars in 1999 and 2000 from Washington County residents who were customers of CW Travel Inc., according to papers filed Dec. 2 in Washington County Circuit Court.

Price, who also uses the name Rebecca Eileen Calimer, was served with her charges Friday. She was released the same day on personal recognizance by Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone, according to court documen



Price is charged with one count of felony theft scheme and continuing course of conduct from Jan. 1, 1999, through Feb. 1, 2000. She also is charged with five counts of felony theft.

She allegedly stole $10,300 through checks from Enjoy Growing Older Inc., which is affiliated with City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., between June 16 and 25, 1999, and another $13,192 from four individuals in cash and checks that ranged from $1,000 to $6,000 per victim between August and December 1999.

Price could face a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and/or a $1,000 fine for each of the six charges.

Price, reached by phone Monday, said she was the office manager of CW Travel at the time the investigation began. She said the money discussed in the indictment was money given to her in the form of cash or checks that was used to pay off other customers owed money by CW Travel, which was having financial problems.

"It's gonna take time to find out where the funds went. ... It's all explainable," Price said. "I just want this to get resolved, and it will get resolved."

Hagerstown Police and the Maryland Attorney General's Office began investigating complaints about CW Travel in February 2000.

At the time the investigation began, dozens of customers complained about thousands of dollars that disappeared after dealing with the East Washington Street business. CW Travel closed in late 1999 or early 2000.

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Home setting sought for pregnant convict
Woman, 31, sentenced to 5 years in theft case
January 12, 2005|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF
Jean Calimer knows her daughter Rebecca Price made a mistake when she ran a Hagerstown travel agency in her 20s - taking money from clients who never got what they paid for and using the dollars to try to keep the failing business afloat.
(See "Comments" section for Rebecca's opinion on this "mistake.")
Price, 31, is in prison. A slow investigation meant she wasn't charged with a crime until nearly four years after the travel agency went under, and it wasn't until September that she was convicted of five counts of felony theft.
Judge sentences Pa. woman to 5 years' probation for role in property flipping scheme Ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to HUD February 25, 2003

By John B. O'Donnell
SUN STAFF
A Pennsylvania woman who admitted signing $1 million worth of fraudulent government-backed mortgages using different names was sentenced in Baltimore's federal court yesterday to five years' probation, including six months of home detention.

Mary Anne Shirvani Kintop was sentenced for her role in a major property flipping scheme allegedly masterminded by William Otto Schmidbauer, a former Perry Hall real estate broker who prosecutors say made gross profits of $1.4 million in the scheme.

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Kintop, 44, had pleaded guilty in June 2001 to a single count of conspiracy, admitting that at Schmidbauer's behest she had signed 15 fraudulent mortgages that were insured by the Federal Housing Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In an article that sparked a federal investigation of Schmidbauer, The Sun reported in June 2000 that Kintop had used at least eight names, mostly variations on her name. In two cases in 1997, Kintop's daughter, then 7 years old, was named as the borrower on two mortgages.

Also yesterday, Dale Schulz, a Jarrettsville appraiser, acknowledged his participation in the scheme by pleading guilty to making false statements.

Schulz's attorney, Richard D. Bennett, called the plea agreement "very precise." Schulz admitted through Bennett only that he had "falsely represented" himself and conducted numerous appraisals performed by someone else. He also admitted "there were instances of false information in the appraisals." But, there was no admission that he knew the information was false.

Schulz, 55, "did not share in the financial bounty of Mr. Schmidbauer," Bennett said.

Asked after the hearing who prepared the appraisals, Bennett said, "I can't go into that."

Schulz is scheduled for sentencing April 25, and could get 15 to 21 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

Later yesterday, Donna Hart of Essex was sentenced to five years' probation after her admission that she had signed three mortgages that Schmidbauer fraudulently obtained.

Eighteen defendants, including Schmidbauer, have been charged in the flipping scheme and have either pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty.

Schmidbauer, who has not yet appeared in court to enter his anticipated guilty plea, often bought properties in poor condition at low prices and quickly sold them at much higher prices. Prosecutors say he sometimes used "straw" buyers such as Kintop and obtained FHA-backed mortgages for his buyers using falsified documents. The buyers frequently defaulted, forcing FHA to pay off lenders.

In April 2001, prosecutors said the bad loans had cost FHA nearly $4 million.

In some deals, prosecutors say, Schmidbauer didn't actually own the houses, but his real estate firm handled the sales.

Kintop admitted that Schmidbauer paid her $500 to $700 each time that she signed a fraudulent mortgage and said he provided the false identities she used.

Kintop was ordered to pay HUD $790,744 in restitution by U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson, but he acknowledged her inability to comply on a $250-a-week salary. He ordered "nominal" payments of $25 a month during the five years of probation -- a total of $1,500.

"She's a very small player in a very large conspiracy," Beth M. Farber, an assistant federal public defender representing Kintop, told Nickerson.

"I really made a mistake, and I apologize for what I did," Kintop told the judge. She said Schmidbauer had been a friend of her father's.