Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Indemnity founder Cohen seeks to withdraw from plea

Jeffrey B. Cohen

Jeffrey B. Cohen. (Photo provided by Jeffrey B. Cohen)

A former insurance executive convicted of wire fraud in June has requested that a judge allow him to withdraw his guilty plea because he says he entered it under false pretenses.

Sentencing for Jeffrey B. Cohen was set for Tuesday and Wednesday but was postponed after the government alerted Judge William D. Quarles that a vital witness would be unavailable until at least mid-August, according to electronic court documents.

Sentencing was reset for Sept. 8 in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Cohen faces a maximum of 57 years in prison.

The former CEO of Indemnity Insurance Corp. was indicted in 2014 for trying to deceive regulators about the financial condition of the company, according to court records.

From 2008 through 2012, Indemnity insured more than 3,000 policyholders in several states, including Maryland, and collected over $100 million in premiums. The company specialized in insuring nightclubs, bars, entertainment venues and similar businesses.

Cohen, who represented himself through five days of a scheduled lengthy trial, pleaded guilty June 5 to wire fraud, aggravated identify theft, making a false statement to a regulator and obstruction of justice. However, in a motion filed Monday, Cohen said the plea agreement should be voided because it was signed under duress and the government used dishonest methods.

Quarles will hear arguments on Cohen’s motion to withdraw from the plea agreement and sentencing will follow if the motion is denied, according to an Aug. 3 letter.

In his motion, Cohen accuses the prosecutors in his case of failing to meet a condition he requested before accepting the plea agreement in June. Cohen asked for all of his wife’s property, including bank accounts, to be returned.

The plea agreement specified the assets Cohen forfeited by pleading guilty, including “all property constituting, derived from, or traceable to the gross proceeds obtained directly or indirectly as a result of the offenses to which he is pleading guilty.”

The government agreed to return to Crystal Cohen the property seized pursuant to three warrants, according to the plea agreement, but Cohen alleged that two days after the plea his wife checked a savings account solely in her name and learned it had been seized by the government in December. Cohen’s motion claims Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry M. Gruber said the government didn’t touch any of Crystal Cohen’s accounts.

The three seizures mentioned in the plea agreement occurred on Nov. 7, 2014, Nov. 13, 2014 and May 27, 2015.

Cohen first requested the court involve itself June 15 when he wrote to Quarles and asked that the government be ordered to fulfill the terms of the agreement and return the funds.

Gruber responded July 2 that the parties had listed certain accounts and physical items which were to be returned in the plea agreement, which a judge discussed with Cohen in detail. The government did not agree to return all of Crystal Cohen’s bank accounts, according to the filing, but specified the assets to be returned.

The government returned the listed property on June 30, according to the filing.

“Essentially, the defendant is having buyer’s remorse about the wording of the plea agreement and seeking this Court to ex post facto revise the plea agreement,” Gruber wrote.

Marcia Murphy, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore, declined to comment on Cohen’s allegations but said her office will respond at the Sept. 8 hearing.