BANGOR — Former Chelsea Selectwoman Carole Swan, who’s on trial facing multiple charges of fraud, took a particular interest in a Windsor Road culvert replacement project in 2007, climbing down into a deep crater to the stream bed below.

That was the testimony in U.S. District Court Monday of Peter Hanson, who attended a prebid meeting at the washed-out road site with three contractors that included Swan’s husband, Marshall Swan.

Carole Swan, 55, is accused of falsifying the cost of a culvert for the project that eventually was awarded to Marshall Swan Construction, and her trial on that charge and 10 other fraud charges is in its sixth day.

Most of Monday’s hearing involved that project.

Hanson said he had been asked by Richard Danforth, another selectman, to inspect the work. However, Hanson testified Carole Swan did not give him the work specifications when he asked, so he did not continue.

“I wasn’t satisfied that I got very much information on the project,” Hanson said.

Hanson also testified he did not notice that Carole Swan had any difficulty scrambling down the caved-in roadbed.

Swan is accused of defrauding the federal workers’ compensation program by claiming to be totally disabled and unable to work while she was working for Marshall Swan Construction, running a harness horse racing business and working for the town of Chelsea.

A later witness Monday, Earl Vannah of Vassalboro, who was a friend of the Swan family and a customer of Marshall Swan Construction, said he saw evidence of Carole Swan’s disability in her movements “just the way she carried herself.” He said she never carried food trays at social gatherings she hosted, relying instead on younger family members to do that.

Jurors got their first look at the culvert project when the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark, showed a black-and-white photograph of the hole in the road framed by guardrails.

The time period is marked by turnover in town officials.

Mary Sabins was Chelsea’s town manager for 11 months, until she was fired in May 2007, just before the Windsor Road culvert project was readied for bid.

Sabins, who has been Vassalboro town manager for the past four years, was the first witness Monday, responding to questions from defense attorney Leonard Sharon.

She testified Friday that she had informally confronted Swan, telling her “You’re not fooling anybody,” over multiple invoices being submitted from Marshall Swan Construction in amounts just less than $10,000.

Projects more than $10,000 had to be put out to competitive bid.

Sabins had some difficulty recalling details from the meeting in which she learned her contract in Chelsea was being terminated. “That was six years ago,” she said.

However, she testified that she received an email two years later from Richard Danforth, who had been the chairman of the selectboard in 2007, apologizing for firing her and saying he was “played for a fool” by Swan.

Sabins testified that Marshall Swan responded initially when the sides of the Windsor Road culvert collapsed, cabling the sides to trees.

However, even as the town sought grants to do a permanent fix, the makeshift repair failed in the heavy storm in April 2007, and the culvert pipe itself washed down Togus Stream, collapsing the roadbed.

“The road was gone,” Sabins recalled. “There was a huge crevice where the pipe had been.”

Because of the heavy storm damage, the Windsor Road culvert repair qualified for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Marshall Swan Construction submitted the low bid and won the contract. Swan abstained from the vote.

Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel testified Monday that they were satisfied with her abstention. Ronald Looman, who administers the federal grants, said Carole Swan indicated she should be submitting the invoices to the town for the work, and he had no problem with that.

Marshall Swan Construction billed the town $130,000 for the culvert, which the prosecutor maintains is more than twice the cost of the pipe itself. In all, the project cost $396,980 and was completed in September 2007.

Carol Belanger of Chelsea, who was interim town manager after Sabins, said she refused to take on the accompanying role of road commissioner, leaving it up to the board of selectmen.

More Chelsea officials are expected to testify when the trial continues today.

Carole Swan also faces five counts of falsifying federal income tax returns for the years 2006 through 2010 by failing to declare income.

In addition, she faces three charges of extortion under the Hobbs Act for allegedly seeking $20,000 in kickbacks from Frank Monroe Construction of Whitefield for giving him town work.

Monroe is scheduled to testify in the current trial, and U.S. District Court Chief Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. has yet to rule on whether to allow all the extortion evidence at this trial as the prosecutor wants.

The defense attorney filed written objections to that move.

Betty Adams — 621-5631
[email protected]

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