Disgraced attorney Jodi Zils Gagne is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court on April 23, when prosecutors will ask that she receive more than three years in prison.
According to federal court documents, Gagne, a former city council member in Bristol, will plead with a judge to sentence her to a year of home confinement. Citing physical and mental health issues, she wrote in a letter to Judge Vanessa Bryant, this kind of sentence would allow her to take care of herself as well as her children. It would also allow her to earn income that could be used to pay restitution, she wrote.
Prosecutors will ask that Gagne receive a sentence somewhere between 41 to 51 months, followed by supervised release for one to three years. They are also asking that she be fined between $15,000 and $150,000.
Gagne, 43, whose law license was suspended in September, waived her right to be indicted in October and pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud. She has admitted to defrauding six people out of about $169,000, officials from the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. In all of the cases, she was a court-appointed conservator over the victims.
Federal officials said the scheme Gagne conducted, which began sometime around May 2015 and lasted several years, involved misappropriating the victims’ money and overbilling them.
Gagne is free on $50,000 bond, pending her sentencing. She was scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday, but her attorney had come down with an illness and couldn’t make the hearing.
“I have made huge mistakes, and I am sorry, with all of my being, for what I did,” Gagne wrote in a letter to the judge.
She went on to say she has been earning money through Uber, Lyft and flipping houses, in an attempt to gather up enough funds to pay restitution. She is also working on a course in real estate.
“I know what I did was wrong and if I could go back and undo it, I would not hesitate,” Gagne wrote to the judge.
Gagne’s husband, Steve, and other family members also wrote letters to the judge, attesting to her character.
“I would like to start by saying that Jodi made a big mistake, which was caused by an idea that I came up with in 2015,” Steve Gagne wrote. “I am the reason she is in this mess and it pains me every day to see her agonizing over something I started.”
According to court documents, Jodi Gagne, acting as conservator for an 89-year-old man, allowed a $110,000 loan from the man’s estate to fund the Bristol Beat radio station, which was primarily run by Steve Gagne before it signed off the air in November 2017. She listed the loan generically under “investment” and admitted she should have known it was a bad investment, court papers continued. The payment schedule for the loan was slated to last 10 years, despite the ward being 89 years old at the time, making it so that he would never receive full benefit from the promissory note, according to court documents.
In September, a Connecticut judge suspended Jodi Gagne’s right to practice law for five years, making a finding that she violated five rules in the Rules of Professional Conduct for Connecticut attorneys. The judge’s ruling allows the 43-year-old to apply for readmission as an attorney after one year if she completes a number of requirements, including performing 10 hours of continuing legal education - specifically in the areas of ethics and office management - and complying with all “outstanding Probate Court orders requiring reimbursement of monies improperly received” as a conservator, court papers said.
According to court documents, Jodi Gagne paid herself $19,039 in fees for working on the 89-year-old man’s estate. The state’s probate court only approved $8,535 of that money and, despite being ordered to pay the rest back, kept it, court papers said.
Additionally, court documents state, Jodi Gagne sold a property belonging to the 89-year-old man, which was initially valued at $120,000. The property was appraised by someone recommended by the buyer, a man who was Jodi Gagne’s relative and former employer, and the value “dropped significantly,” court papers said. The former Bristol councilor did not seek an independent appraisal before the sale, which was completed for $47,996.
Jodi Gagne and her husband later received a “finder’s fee” of $6,043, which came from profits the buyer made after he made refurbishments and sold the property, according to the memorandum. This fee was not disclosed to the 89-year-old, his attorney or the probate court, the documents continued.
Court documents also said Jodi Gagne sold another property belonging to one of her ward’s, using the same appraiser, and received a $2,160 “finder’s fee.” Jodi Gagne, a judge ruled in her law license suspension, allowed one of her ward’s accounts to lapse into a negative balance, transferred money between her wards’ accounts, withdrew money from them and erroneously deposited money into the accounts.