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Insurance exec held on fraud charges fires his lawyers

Jeffrey B. Cohen
Jeffrey B. Cohen (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

Jeffrey B. Cohen, the nightclub insurance company owner accused of money laundering, fraud and plotting to attack a judge, has fired his lawyers and decided to represent himself.

His first move as his own counsel was to write a blistering 16-page motion in which he attacks the prosecution and raises questions about the judicial system.

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"Defendant respectfully requests this court to order the immediate release from incarceration of defendant Cohen," his handwritten motion reads.

Cohen, 39, a former bouncer, rose to prominence in the nightclub and entertainment insurance industry as his Sparks-based Indemnity Insurance Corp. rook in millions of dollars' worth of policies across the country. He promised to fight for his clients in court, and went after competitors, clients, former employees and even neighbors, filing dozens of lawsuits around the country.

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Delaware regulators started looking into the company and found "multiple acts of fraud," according to court documents. Investigators said they found phony websites and emails from banks, allegedly part of a scheme to misrepresent the amount of cash his company had.

When agents raided his $1 million home in Reisterstown, they found a "target list" of officials in Delaware and Maryland, driving directions to the home of the judge overseeing Indemnity's liquidation and Delaware's lieutenant governor, several firearms, and an order form for "incendiary ammunition," according to prosecutors.

They also said Cohen was holding a large amount of ammonium nitrate — a fertilizer that can also be used to make explosives — in a storage facility, and found a digital recorder on which Cohen taped himself talking about a plot to kill.

"Killing culls the wrong so that society can have a better chance of survival without certain obstacles," he can be heard saying on the recording.

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Cohen faces charges related to fraud and misleading regulators. His attorneys, public defenders Brendan A. Hurson and Deborah L. Boardman, have argued that any other businessman in his position would be released from detention while awaiting trial. They said Cohen has a wild imagination and had been in touch with a Hollywood producer, and added that he had a constitutional right to acquire firearms and other weapons.

Two judges — Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan and U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. — listened to arguments and decided Cohen should continue to be held.

In a motion to withdraw as Cohen's counsel, Hurson and Boardman said they were contacted by Cohen's family and told he no longer wanted them to represent him and that he would instead defend himself.

The attorneys said they met with Cohen, who "unequivocally requested that we immediately cease representing him" and had already mailed a letter to Quarles saying he would defend himself.

"The attorney/client relationships between undersigned counsel and Mr. Cohen has suffered a total break down," the attorneys wrote.

Cohen's first motion filed on his own says prosecutors are violating his right to a speedy trial. He wrote that he has "personally interviewed approximately one-third of the detainees currently housed at the Chesapeake Detention Facility" where he is being held, and said "95 percent" of them were "being held unlawfully past the 90-day statutory deadline."

"This unlawful prolonged detention is a tactic used by the prosecutors of the U.S. Government to prejudice defendants," Cohen wrote. "Cohen has submitted this concerning information to the chief judge of the Northern District and to the appropriate Congressional oversight individuals."

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