The case against Frank Roach and the disgraced nonprofit Alaska Veterans Outreach Boxes for Heroes crept forward at the Kenai Courthouse on Wednesday. The court has struggled to obtain representation for the nonprofit corporation.
Roach — the man who authorities allege intentionally kept donations, monetary and otherwise, to pay for his lifestyle and not Boxes for Heroes as he claimed — is involved in two separate cases.
He was arraigned on May 8; his charges include scheme to defraud, first-degree theft and seven counts of second-degree theft. The state is pursuing the same charges for Boxes for Heroes.
The court clarified during Wednesday’s trial call that Roach is the only individual being charged through the corporation. Boxes for Heroes had three founding members, but the others were not charged.
Superior Court Judge Carl Bauman granted the Public Defender Agency withdrawal from representing the corporation. The agency also withdrew from Roach’s case.
The court appointed Anchorage lawyer Christopher D. Cyphers, of Frontier Law Group, to represent Roach.
Assistant Public Defender Joe Montague declared a conflict in Roach’s case because of the agency’s representation of Brian “B.J.” Altman, “who is an adverse witness with adverse interests,” he wrote in an affidavit dated Nov. 9.
The agency argued the conflict prevents it from representing Boxes for Heroes. Also, its scope of representation is limited to “natural persons.” State law defines person to include corporation “unless context requires otherwise,” Bauman wrote in an affidavit dated Dec. 11. Montague argued that in the context of indigent representation — a defendant who is not able to pay for a lawyer, mainly due to limited finances — “persons” should be limited to “natural persons.”
Bauman requested the Alaska Office of Public Advocacy’s position on representing the corporation.
OPA argued the restriction applied to its office, as well. Bauman did not appoint OPA during Wednesday’s hearing.
“Well, you seemed to have dodged the bullet Ms. Goldstein,” Bauman said to OPA’s Deputy Director Beth Goldstein, who attended the hearing telephonically.
Cyphers, who also attended the hearing via telephone, declined to represent both Roach and Boxes for Heroes, arguing that the two defendants interested would likely diverge.
The Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals — the agency that filed the charges against Roach and Boxes for Heroes — was not in favor of severing the case against the corporation despite the representation woes, said Assistant Attorney General Clint Campion.
The court was not inclined to sever the case without a motion.
The trial call for Roach’s case was set for Feb. 18, 2013. The case against the corporation sits in limbo without representation.
Bauman said the court might need to appoint counsel for Boxes for Heroes through an administrative rule — commissioning an Alaska Bar Association member.
KPD Investigator Jeff Whannell led the investigation of Roach and his organization. Whannell and his colleagues interviewed dozens of donors and reviewed thousands of pages of financial documents. The Internal Revenue Service was consulted, but the organization was not audited. The investigation was conducted largely by Kenai officers, Campion said in a previous interview.
The investigation revealed “Boxes for Heroes” raised more than $140,000 in donations from April 2010 to October 2011. Roach, the president of the organization, allegedly used the money as his sole source of income and to pay for all his living expenses.
Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.