PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - An East Greenwich woman who is accused of bilking millions from family and friends in a real estate scheme will remain in federal custody as she awaits trial.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Lincoln Almond ordered Monique Brady, 44, remanded back to prison after prosecutors raised concerns she might try and flee the country to Vietnam. The written decision from Almond came after nearly two hours of testimony and arguments at federal court in Providence Friday.
Brady has been in federal custody since last week when she was arrested on a felony wire fraud charge after she allegedly obtained more than $10 million from investors under fraudulent pretenses.
According to a federal criminal complaint filed last week, Brady raised large sums of money from investors for projects to be performed by her real estate business, MNB LLC. Instead, prosecutors say she used the money to “live a luxurious lifestyle.”
Federal investigators say some of her investors were close friends and family members; a total of 32 people invested more than $10 million with Brady, according to the FBI.
Almond's decision to table the matter came after nearly two hours of testimony and arguments Friday at federal court in Providence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Vilker said Brady should be held without bail because she is a "significant flight risk," presenting evidence that Brady had purchased a one-way ticket to Vietnam.
"There is no extradition from Vietnam," Vilker told the court. "We will never be able to get her back."
Vilker said Brady was having an extramarital affair with her bankruptcy attorney Kevin Heitke who investigators discovered was planning on travelling with Brady to Vietnam. Vilker said Heitke's wife learned of the affair and of the travel plans and notified law enforcement.
Heitke is a former Burrillville town councilman who ran unsuccessfully for state senate in 2018.
When Heitke was questioned by the FBI, prosecutors say he claimed to not know details of the trip, but then informed Brady about the questioning after agents left. Vilker said Brady then moved up the flight several days in an effort to flee the country.
"She knew the net was tightening," Vilker told the judge. "She knows she will be facing a significant amount of jail time."
Vilker said Brady hid her passport in the glove box of Heitke's car moments before turning herself into the FBI. Vilker said she did so because she thought she would be released on bail, and then may try and flee the country.
But agents knew of the flight, which was a one-way ticket to Vietnam purchased in part with her father's credit card and the rest in cash. In light of the evidence, Almond held her in custody last week until Friday's detention hearing.
Brady's attorney Joanne Daley said the reason for the trip was so Brady could visit her ailing 99-year-old grandmother, knowing she had at least two weeks before an indictment might come down.
"She knew she had a two-week window to visit her 99-year-old grandmother," Daley said, arguing if Brady received a 10-year sentence, her grandmother would be 109 when she got out of prison.
"The government's bail argument is based entirely on speculation," Daley said.
But Vilker pointed out even Brady's husband - who despite the affair, is still "close" with the defendant - had no knowledge of the trip, nor that the relative in Vietnam had health problems. Brady and her husband, Thomas Brady, filed for divorce last month according to family court records. He was in court Friday to witness the proceedings but declined to comment after the hearing.
Daley said both Heitke and Brady's judgment were clouded by their infidelity.
A call and email to Heitke's law office was not immediately returned.
Vilker told the judge the evidence in this case is "ridiculously strong."
"This will be the easiest fraud case I’ve ever had," he said. "It’s all on paper.”
Judge Almond asked the government if the flight risk could be mitigated by placing Brady on an electronic monitoring bracelet. But Vilker said that is "not a foolproof system."
"There are a million ways a defendant this smart can run," he said, adding someone can cut the bracelet and there would be "significant lag time" before officials could get to her.
In his written ruling, Almond said "the government convinced me that the circumstances and timing of her recent plans to travel to Vietnam with her bankruptcy lawyer/paramour were a failed attempt to flee from prosecution."
The scheme Brady is accused of masterminding is complicated. In an affidavit, FBI agent Pepper Daigler said Brady raised the money by "misrepresenting to investors that she needs to pay subcontractors tens of thousands of dollars," offering to split the profit with those who gave her money.
Daigler said most of Brady's projects cost between $25 and a few hundred dollars. In court Friday, Vilker referenced one particular project that Brady allegedly collected $150,000 for, when in reality he said she had only done $145 worth of work.
Investigators say Brady defrauded investors by collecting multiple investments for the same project, misrepresenting the cost of projects, or by soliciting money for projects she never did.
In total, investigators say 23 people lost roughly $4.5 million to Brady by the time the alleged scheme was brought to an end in 2018.
Prosecutors said Brady spent $3 million dollars of the fraudulent proceeds at casinos.
Daley said her client had an "extreme" gambling addiction.