The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear former insurance adjuster Jeffrey B. Cohen’s appeal of his conviction and sentencing for insurance fraud Thursday, more than two years after he was sentenced to 37 years in prison.
Cohen pleaded guilty to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, false statements to insurance regulators and obstruction of justice in June 2015 after four days of trial in federal court where he represented himself. Cohen attempted to withdraw from the guilty plea in August and represented himself during a multi-day sentencing hearing toward the end of which he requested appointed counsel.
In his appeal, Cohen claims he should have been permitted to withdraw from the plea and a federal magistrate judge should have appointed counsel during sentencing.
Though Cohen has been represented by a federal public defender for months, he was given permission to file a pro se supplemental brief in the appeal, docketed Monday, which details the alleged mischaracterizations of his actions by the government in their briefing as well as errors by the trial court.
He contends the government “dedicates a significant amount of their Brief to information completely irrelevant to Cohen’s arguments of due process violations” and accuses them of character assassination rather than arguing the relevant issues, concluding by quoting “Hamlet”: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
Cohen argues he believed he was facing a minimal prison term when he signed the plea agreement and the court “ignored voluminous financial evidence presented” in issuing advisory sentencing guidelines recommending life in prison.
Cohen’s former Sparks-based company, Indemnity Insurance Corp. RRG, once covered “nightclubs and other risky businesses” in more than 30 states. He was indicted in 2014 for trying to deceive regulators about the financial condition of the company. Cohen argued he inflated balance sheets but Indemnity was never insolvent and was always able to pay claims.
The filing also explains why Cohen dismissed various appointed attorneys and standby counsel who he claimed were not following his direction or failed to offer meaningful assistance.
The case is U.S. v. Jeffrey Cohen, 15-4780.