Hook, Line and Sucker
ATTORNEY MARC LEVINE, a tall, 30-something man-about-town with an athletic build, would have been considered a catch by lots of women. His taste in the fairer sex ranged from gorgeous to exquisite. But if the woman could help make him some money, he could overlook physical shortcomings.
Stephen Ahn, a San Diego businessman, met Levine in the summer of 1998, and they developed an immediate bond. Sharing some personal good news, Levine, who had an office in San Diego’s prestigious Koll Center, told Ahn he would soon land a lucrative employment contract with Hewlett-Packard through HP’s chief financial officer, Connie Goldstein. Levine had connections, it seemed. His law clerk, Giuliana Bosco, was Goldstein’s daughter, he said. Furthermore, Levine told Ahn, he was engaged to Carolyn Krottedier, a San Francisco pediatrician who was Goldstein’s adopted daughter.
Before long, Ahn, Levine and Bosco became friends, socializing regularly. But Ahn never met Levine’s fiancée. Then tragedy struck. Levine told Ahn that Bosco’s real sister and father were killed in an accident. And then, more tragedy. When Goldstein heard of the deaths of her husband and daughter, her previously diagnosed lymphoma—believed to be in remission—reportedly returned, and was ultimately fatal.
Telling Ahn they were going to the funerals back east, Levine and Bosco promptly left town. When they returned, their friendship with Ahn resumed. During 2001, Levine told Ahn another peculiar story. Levine said he and the San Francisco fiancée had an adopted infant son, Sebastian, who lived with her in San Francisco. Ahn had still never met the fiancée, but didn’t seem fazed. He, Levine and Bosco still socialized regularly. Fast-forward to 2003, and a new and tragic twist. In May, Bosco tells Ahn she has graduated from law school, and the firm that hired her is providing a rent-free house near Del Mar. In almost the next breath, Bosco tells Ahn she has been diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma and needs experimental cancer treatments. Health insurance provided by her law firm will cover only part of the therapeutics, she says.
By this time, the scam is in full force.
The treatments cost millions of dollars, she tells Ahn. With insurance offsets and Levine’s financial help, she will still have to pay $540,000 of her own money. So Ahn, the faithful friend, maxes out his credit cards for cash and redeems his retirement account for a total of $52,000. Bosco signs a promissory note to repay Ahn by October 31 with her share of the $1.8 million she now tells Ahn is expected from her parents’ estate.
But even as he exhausts his cash and credit to help his friend, Ahn is finally growing suspicious. A law school graduate himself, he begins to snoop. And he soon learns that very little of what Bosco and Levine have told him—about anything —is true.
For one, the prestigious law firm never employed Giuliana Bosco, mainly because she wasn’t an attorney. Furthermore, Ahn could find no evidence Levine’s supposed fiancée, Krottedier, even existed. The one thing Ahn knew for sure was that he was out 52 grand, plus escalating interest. Ahn did a lot of preliminary research, then filed a police report. Then San Diego Detective Brett MacFarlane, a 17-year veteran, went to work. MacFarlane obtained a search warrant for Bosco’s bank account. The cops served simultaneous search warrants on the respective residences of Levine and Bosco on September 30, 2003. Neither Bosco nor Levine was present when police searched their homes.
MacFarlane dialed Bosco’s cell phone number. She answered, saying she was in Sweden receiving treatment for her lymphoma. In fact, she was still in San Diego, telling MacFarlane she was angry with Ahn, saying the money she received from him was only a loan and would be repaid on time. Bosco’s statements to MacFarlane relating to her family, health and relationships were, of course, false.
MacFarlane phoned Levine, who said he was upset with Ahn because their dealings were civil, and Ahn had jumped the gun by getting the police involved. Levine was alternately condescending and aggressive, and feigned indignation when talking to MacFarlane. If Levine was used to having people shudder when he “talked lawyer” to them, his tactics were wasted on MacFarlane, who was neither impressed nor intimidated.
What Levine and Bosco didn’t know was that MacFarlane and company had already been in and through their houses and had found evidence that contradicted most of what the two were telling the detective. The search uncovered a clipping from the society page of a Kenosha, Wisconsin, newspaper showing an engagement photo of Marc Levine and Giuliana Bosco, not Carolyn Krottedier. The slim, suave Levine and the rotund, stringy-haired Bosco were hardly Ken and Barbie.
MacFarlane called the Bosco residence in Kenosha and found Bosco’s mother, Connie, who told him she worked in a factory, never for Hewlett Packard. She never went by the name Goldstein. Her husband, Aldo, was very much alive, as was her daughter Anna.
MacFarlane asked Connie Bosco about her adopted daughter, Levine’s supposed fiancée, Carolyn Krottedier. Mrs. Bosco had no adopted children; she’d never heard of anybody named Krottedier. But she’d most certainly heard of Marc Levine. She and Aldo had invested more than $100,000 with Levine, she said, because he was a “big shot” with a bank. They had attended Marc and Giuliana’s wedding. Marc had told them his family couldn’t attend because they’d been killed in a car accident.
What’s more, MacFarlane found wire transfers from Giuliana Bosco’s uncle, who’d forked over $120,000 to have Marc airlifted from Australia to UCLA Medical Center after a surfing accident in some tropical location. The uncle had rushed to his credit union and wired the money to Levine’s account, as instructed by the sobbing Giuliana.
MacFarlane had no trouble finding Levine’s father, Jerome, in Maryland—very much alive. And even he wasn’t safe from his scam-artist son. He told MacFarlane he’d given his son more than $400,000. Why? Because Marc told him his fiancée, the fictitious Carolyn Krottedier, had cancer.
MacFarlane was ready to enlist the help of the district attorney’s fraud division. D.A. investigators obtained search warrants for Marc Levine’s seven known bank accounts. They listened to MacFarlane’s recorded conversations with Bosco and Levine. Levine insisted he was with Connie (Goldstein) Bosco when she died, but it didn’t matter how convincingly he described her last moments. MacFarlane had just spoken with Connie Bosco, and he knew the arrogant, overconfident attorney was no more than a common liar.
DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY Lisa Crawford, a 23- year veteran of the office, was assigned the case. She filed five counts of fraud and financial elder-abuse charges against Bosco and Levine.
Investigators located a canceled check for $96,000 from Guiliana Bosco to a restaurant in Rosemont, Illinois. The $96,000 check was for Bosco and Levine’s wedding reception. They’d participated in a sham wedding ceremony in Kenosha after going through the motions of obtaining a marriage license in Illinois. The restaurant manager told investigators, “You know, as a couple, they really didn’t look like they belonged together.”
According to bank records, Levine had deposited a total of $1,161,600 into Bosco’s account. Bosco, it seems, spent money like it was her last day on Earth. She bought the best jewelry, the best home accessories, the best sham wedding reception.
Prosecutor Crawford filed a motion to freeze Levine’s assets, effectively preventing him from selling anything until the matter was cleared. If Levine was found guilty, his property would be used for restitution.
The preliminary hearing was set for November 2, 2004, before Judge David Danielsen.
Bosco’s parents, Connie and Aldo, dropped the charges related to the fraudulent $100,000 “bank investment” scheme. They wanted to prosecute Levine, because they hated him for controlling their daughter. But they gave him a free pass in order to spare their daughter. The law wouldn’t allow them to press charges against Levine only.
Levine’s attorney, Paul Neuharth, told Judge Danielsen, “I think, clearly, that Mr. Levine was, in fact, duped as much as other individuals were duped by Ms. Bosco. It appears she had access to his bank records, his bank accounts and other items . . .” Neuharth said Bosco had tricked Levine into doing what he did—even into believing Carolyn Krottedier existed. Neuharth wanted the judge to believe the smart, savvy attorney Levine had been enticed to become engaged to a woman he had never met, made to believe he adopted a son he had never seen and had participated in an invalid marriage ceremony without ever asking a single question.
Investigators learned that on the premarriage questionnaire required of people who were to be married in the Catholic Church, Levine listed his parents as “deceased” when he signed the document under oath before the Wisconsin priest.
After both sides submitted their information, Judge Danielsen made his decision. “Somewhere in this tangled web that has been woven,” he said, “there is the possibility that there would be some extraordinary explanation for these events that would exonerate Mr. Levine.” But, he continued, “I think the conclusion is that we have a very bright, verbally agile and wholly dishonest individual.”
Judge Danielsen bound over Levine and Bosco for trial on all counts.
In March, Bosco pleaded guilty. At her sentencing on May 19, 2005, the deputy probation officer provided some unintended levity. He said even though Ms. Bosco had psychological problems, she was able to graduate from law school. (It turned out Bosco ultimately had graduated from John Marshall Law School in Chicago—but not until January 2004, four months after police started the investigation.) If she could attend law school, the probation officer suggested, she couldn’t be mentally ill. Obviously, Judge Danielsen deadpanned, the officer hadn’t had much exposure to law schools.
Danielsen sentenced Bosco to five years in prison.
LEVINE REPLACED NEUHARTH with attorney Gerald Blank for the trial, which began April 3, 2006, in front of Judge Gale Kaneshiro.
With Bosco pleading guilty, and in prison, the defense tactic was to blame her for everything and depict Levine as the swindled suitor. And so the prosecution had to alter its approach. Detective MacFarlane had quit the San Diego Police Department and was hired by the Carlsbad PD. Veteran D.A. investigator Wayne Clookie took over the Levine/Bosco case. He had his work cut out for him.
Clookie found plenty of witnesses to counteract Levine’s claim of gullibility —of being under the spell of Bosco. Thirteen people told of numerous instances where Levine should have questioned the existence of his phantom fiancée, phantom adopted son and phony marriage—but never did. But Bosco came to court from prison to take full blame for the frauds perpetrated on everyone—including Levine.
When Levine finally took the stand, he related a tale of woe—told how he’d bought in to what Bosco had told him. Said he didn’t mind having a long-distance love affair with Carolyn Krottedier, even if it was so long distance that he never saw her. He did, however, admit lying when he told people he was at Connie Goldstein’s bedside when she succumbed to cancer.
Attorneys gave their closing arguments. Crawford spent an hour reviewing the evidence. She ended by reminding the jury Levine had conned his victims, and now he was trying to con the jurors.
Blank’s closing took more than two and a half hours. He chided Crawford for never actually saying she had proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt. He said Crawford failed to take into account the quality of human emotion. Levine, he said, was simply a human being who made a human mistake in believing Bosco.
Blank was low-key, polite and sincere. It wasn’t enough. The jury deliberated for a day and a half. They found Levine guilty of all five counts of theft, fraud and financial elder abuse—with additional sentencing enhancements possible because the money amount exceeded $150,000.
Judge Kaneshiro told the jury they were discharged; they could leave the courtroom or stay. Sensing what was coming, Blank asked if the jury should leave the courtroom. Judge Kaneshiro said she had already discharged them; they were no longer the jury but rather private citizens who could go or stay. Not one moved.
After the verdict, Blank asked Judge Kaneshiro to allow Levine to remain free until the day of his sentencing, in order to get his law practice closed out and his affairs in order. The even-tempered Kaneshiro replied, “The jurors didn’t believe anything Mr. Levine said, and neither did I.” She ordered Levine taken into custody immediately. His tie, belt and personal belongings were given to Blank. The bailiffs handcuffed Levine before leading him away. (Judge Kaneshiro later sentenced Levine to six years, four months in state prison and a $1,200 fine, with a restitution hearing still to be set.)
In the hallway outside the courtroom, the jurors stopped to speak with the attorneys. One juror put it bluntly when she referred to Levine’s testimony of Marc Levine: “When I came to court the next day [after he testified], I wanted to bring a fire extinguisher, spray it on him and say, ‘Liar, liar, pants on fire!’ I didn’t believe him at all.