The former finance manager for best-selling author Patricia Cornwell told jurors in federal court in Boston on Monday that he had fudged her financial records to “mask” donations that she and her friends had made to political candidates including Hillary Rodham Clinton, in violation of campaign finance laws.
Evan Snapper, a former principal at Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP, ultimately pleaded guilty to the criminal violations in 2011 and is serving three years of probation, and his law license was suspended in Massachusetts.
Snapper testified Monday that he did not know what he was doing was a crime that could land him in jail, and neither did Cornwell.
But lawyers for the noted crime writer sought to use his testimony Monday to show that Snapper took risks with her finances and her record-keeping without her knowledge, to the point that he fudged books and committed crimes that could have endangered Cornwell.
“I knew it was against the regulations; I never knew the extent of the illegalities of it,” said Snapper, who resigned from Anchin after he pleaded guilty and worked as a consultant for a year at $16,000 a month.
He said he is now unemployed.
Cornwell, the 56-year-old American crime writer widely known for her series of novels featuring the heroic medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta, has sued Snapper and Anchin for what could amount to more than $100 million for what she said was the negligent handling of her finances.
Cornwell terminated the relationship after she was flabbergasted to learn, upon her questioning in 2009, that her net worth was a fraction of what she thought it would be, only eight figures, which had been her annual income in each of the previous four years.
She said a review of her finances after she had terminated her relationship with Snapper and Anchin shows tens of millions of dollars in losses or unaccounted revenue over four years.
But lawyers for Snapper and Anchin say that all the money has been accounted for and that any losses can be attributed to an economic downtown in recent years.
They also argued that Cornwell spent millions on a lavish lifestyle that involved sports cars, jets, and helicopters, a rare book collection, and multimillion-dollar homes and that it grew costly to manage her affairs.
They also allege that she knew Snapper had fudged records to boost donations to political candidates, saying she wanted to support politicians including Governor Deval Patrick. No candidates were accused of any wrongdoing.
The trial ended its fourth week Monday, and Cornwell, who has been sitting in the front row of the courtroom, is expected to testify at one point.
In recent testimony, her lawyers have zeroed in on Snapper and the way he handled her finances, saying he often made decisions to benefit himself.
Earlier Monday, the lawyers showed a taped deposition by a Florida real estate broker who said Snapper was generous in putting down $200,000 of Cornwell’s money for a down payment for a home in Florida that was to cost just more than $1 million in 2006, even though he was not required to post that much money.
But Cornwell later decided against buying the home because of a down-turning real estate market, and she lost the $200,000 down payment. The real estate broker, Antonio Gallo, said Snapper later asked him for a share of his commission, but he told him no.
Another real estate broker, Marilyn Levin, who was working for the sellers, said in a deposition that it was Snapper who offered to put down the $200,000, far more than what was needed.
“He made the decisions all along,” she said.
Cornwell’s lawyer, Joan Lukey of Ropes & Gray LLP, also sought to use Snapper’s testimony Monday to argue that he had made risky investments with Cornwell’s money, often without her knowledge. Lukey questioned, for instance, how Cornwell’s signature could be put on a financial document when she was in Europe at the time.
Snapper said he did not know, but that any investments made on Cornwell’s behalf were meant to help improve her finances while competing with her lavish lifestyle.
“The process we talked about was building a nest egg,” he said.