When the Secret Service, IRS, and FBI raided Abon Cards and Coins in Mansfield last year, they found what they thought was considerable evidence to support a RICO case against the owners, an employee, and the shop. Co-Owner Larry Bence enlisted the representation of Ian N. Friedman for the case, and on Monday, February 23, Attorney Friedman reached a plea deal on behalf of his client for drastically reduced charges.
In August 2014, prosecutors filed an indictment against the establishment, alleging that Mr. Bence, his wife Donna, and employee Benjamin Berry engaged in a prolonged pattern of conspiracy, theft, and fraud from March 2013 to July 2014. Among the charges, the prosecution alleged that the defendants provided "shoppers" with lists of items that Abon Cards and Coins wanted and would pay a premium to have, thus encouraging the “shoppers” to steal the items from national-chain retail stores.
The indictment was a result of a search of the shop in July 2014 by the Secret Service, IRS, FBI, and Mansfield police. Law enforcement and federal officials seized numerous weapons, crates of ammunition, vehicles, and a number of other assets in the defendants’ possession.
Attorney Friedman’s client, Larry Bence, was originally charged with 25 counts in the indictment, including:
- Engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity under RICO
- Telecommunications fraud
- Aggravated theft
- Money laundering
- Possessing criminal tools
- Receiving stolen goods
Based on the evidence, the prosecution filed a true bill indictment against the defendants under the RICO Act. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act allows prosecutors to charge organizations of people, rather than individuals, with the continual engagement with a criminal enterprise.
Earlier this month, however, a spokeswoman for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutors Office confirmed that a plea deal was reached and the matter will not go to trial.
“Today brought Mr. Bence’s case one critical step closer to resolution,” Attorney Friedman told the Mansfield News Journal. “I am very pleased that he plead to only one lower level count of receiving stolen property, which carries a presumption of probation.”
Dismissal of Extensive Charges
According to the terms of the plea deal, Mr. Bence pleaded guilty to one count of receiving stolen property and Abon Cards and Coins pleaded to the first count of the indictment, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. The plea deal dismisses without prejudice all charges against Donna Bence and Benjamin Berry. Sentencing is scheduled for March 19, according to the Prosecutors Office.
"This [plea deal] was despite the extensive and far more serious counts that were originally lodged against him,” Attorney Friedman stated on February 23 following the plea deal announcement. “This plea acknowledges that while purchasing countless items over the years at Abon, some were later determined by authorities to have been previously stolen."
Attorney Friedman added this about his client: "Larry is 71 years old and has worked hard his entire life to help the community and be a good family man. It is this history that best tells this gentleman's life story and completely overshadows the indiscretion for which he totally accepted responsibility. We look forward to having this chapter behind him."
To learn more about this case, read the Mansfield News Journal article, “Plea deal struck in Abon case.”