Shoreline "Gifting Table" Trial Won't Start Soon

A federal judge has extended until the end of the year jury selection in the case, which includes two Guilford women.


The trial of three women, two from Guilford, accused of running a shoreline pyramid scheme probably won’t start before the end of the year.

A judge in U.S. District Court in New Haven recently approved a motion filed by Donna Bello of Guilford, one of the women arrested, to allow jury selection in the case to continue until December. Jury selection has been going on for several weeks.

In addition, Bello recently hired well-known New Haven defense attorney Norman Pattis, who has taken on several high-profile cases in recent years, to represent her.

Pattis said Thursday that Bello and the other defendants, who have pleaded not guilty, weren't running an illegal operation.

"This was not a pyramid scheme. No one was selling shares of the Brooklyn Bridge. Participants shared risk. No one was defrauded."

Bello was arrested by federal authorities in May along with Jill Platt, also of Guilford, and Bettejane Hopkins, 66, of Essex, after a federal grand jury sitting in New Haven returned an 18-count indictment charging them with various counts of conspiracy, along with tax and wire fraud offenses.

The three allegedly were the ring leaders of a so-called “gifting table” club where new members would pay $5,000 to join for an eventual payout of $40,000. You can read details about the federal case against them here.

All three women are free on bond, though in another recent legal maneuver federal lawyers sought to revoke Bello’s bond on accusations she’s contacted at least one of the witnesses.

“These contacts have included text messages, telephone conversations and voice mail messages as well as in person meetings between the defendant and the government witness. Several of these contacts have involved discussions which relate directly to this criminal case and thus the defendant’s conduct constitutes a clear violation of the conditions of release imposed by the Court. Accordingly, the Government requests that the Court hold a hearing to determine whether or not the defendant’s bond should be revoked,” the lawyers said in their request.

A judge last month, however, refused to revoke Bello’s bond.


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