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Man accused of Ponzi-like scheme asking court for vacation

July 9, 2018

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — Leon Vaccarelli wants to go on vacation to take his eight children to various places in three states. But Vaccarelli, facing fraud charges related to a Ponzi-like scheme that allegedly bilked area investors, needs permission from federal probation authorities to make that trip.

But those authorities are now using sophisticated portable devices to check up on Vaccarelli’s sobriety and others even if they are across state lines.

Using two devices, a transdermal alcohol detector and a mobile alcohol monitoring unit, probation officers can receive blood-alcohol test results wirelessly as quick as they can be sent online. People free on bond carry the devices with them wherever they go and probation officers can send them a text message requesting they take a test.

That means those being monitored by authorities can be in New York, Massachusetts or Rhode Island, but probation officers can locate the person using GPS on the device and tell if they’ve violated court-ordered conditions set when they posted bond.

The breath-analyzing device, called an SL2, is equipped with a tube that people blow into which in turn analyses the level of alcohol in their blood. If it’s above a certain threshold, a judge could lock them up while their case is pending.

It’s similar to a breathalyzer device used by police during traffic stops, but the SL2 can send those results wirelessly within about a minute to federal probation officers.

A special facial recognition camera on the compact device verifies a defendant’s identity during each test. Officers also use a transdermal alcohol detector that’s worn around the ankle by defendants. Using moisture and vapor, it tests for alcohol by monitoring the skin of the wearer. If booze is detected, an alert is sent to officers wirelessly, along with the person’s GPS coordinates.

According to Chief U.S. Probation Officer Warren Maxwell, the devices are often used in drug courts, which are known as “Support Court.”

The company supplying the devices, the Colorado-based BI Inc., claims to also provide monitoring for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to ensure attendance at immigration hearings.

“We work with some law enforcement nationally (Sheriff Departments) and community corrections agencies, including probation, parole and pretrial at the local, state and national level throughout the United States,” Monica Hook, a company representative said in an email.

Hook did not say which other agencies the company works with in Connecticut. Maxwell did not respond when asked how much the units and the associated software cost.

In Vaccarelli’s case, probation officers who have been monitoring him since his arrest in May wanted to know where he was going on vacation, when, the hotel he would stay in, contact information for all of the people with him and an email from him when he returned.

They’re also requiring him to use the devices, as one of the conditions of his release was that he not drink any alcohol, federal documents show.

Vaccarelli, 41, of Waterbury, told customers he was investing their money, including IRAs, annuities and mutual funds, but instead deposited more than $1 million into his personal and business bank accounts starting in 2011 and ending in mid-2017., according to federal authorities. Those funds went to his living and personal expenses, mortgage payments and expenses for family members, including tuition and meals at restaurants, federal authorities allege.

Federal prosecutors didn’t object to Vaccarelli taking a vacation, but they had “serious concerns” his multiple vacations would deplete assets that could be used as restitution for his victims if he’s found guilty.

“It would certainly not be difficult for the defendant to spend tens of thousands of victim dollars (or more) in a relatively short period of time, given the states to which he plans travel,” prosecutor Michael S. McGarry wrote. “The defendant has been charged with serious financial crimes and many victims can ill-afford a summer vacation much less multiple vacations.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Spector has yet to rule on whether to allow Vaccarelli to go on vacation.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2L1NzAa

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Information from: Republican-American, http://www.rep-am.com

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