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Testimony Begins In Gifting Table Trial

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Hartford Federal Court. Photo by WTIC's Matt Dwyer.

Hartford Federal Court. Photo by WTIC’s Matt Dwyer.

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Two women accused of running what amounted to a pyramid scheme went on trial today.  They sat near each other in the courtroom, with their lawyers at the defense table.

Jill Platt and Donna Bello are accused of defrauding people lured into the group, and of failing to pay taxes on the money they collected.

In opening statements, federal prosecutors said the group was a fraud designed to make money at the expense of other people.

They said Platt and Bello told members to withhold information from the IRS, and if they put cash into the bank, to do so in small enough amounts to avoid drawing the attention of federal investigators.

Defense attorney Jon Einhorn said it was never a scam.  He described the gifting tables as a group of women who came together at parties, because they enjoyed each other’s company.

The defense questioned why these two people are on trial, instead of other people who were part of the Gifting Tables.

A third defendant has also been charged, but Bettejane Hopkins has pleaded guilty.

When women joined the gifting table group, they paid $5,000 to a previous member.  New new members then recruited more women, to pay money to senior members, in hopes of moving up the ranks to become the one who received the payments of new members.

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