Indicted Couple Defensive About Federal Charges

OCEAN CITY – An Ocean City couple arrested last week on a nine-count federal indictment alleging an eight-year pattern of utilizing credit accounts of deceased relatives to purchase vacations, luxury goods and services and furnishings for their two resort homes totaling tens of thousands of dollars went on the defensive this week as more information about the case began to trickle out.

Last week, U.S. District Attorney for Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein announced Ocean City resident Joel Swartz, 65, a practicing pharmacist in the resort, and his wife Esther Swartz, 62, a real estate agent, were arrested after a federal indictment returned on Jan. 27 was unsealed on Tuesday. The nine-count indictment includes charges of bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

According to the indictment, from July 2000 to December 2008, Joel and Esther Swartz used credit accounts of two dead relatives to obtain unauthorized extensions of credit from banks and other financial institutions for their personal use. The defendants did not inform the banks and financial institutions that the account holders, referred to in the indictment as MS and AS, had died.  According to the indictment, MS and AS were relatives of the defendants who died prior to July 2005.

As the news about the indictments trickled out last week, Joel Swartz urged the public to let the situation play out before making any judgment about the couple.

“Obviously, things aren’t always as they appear,” he said. “There are certain things I’m not allowed to talk about, at least not yet, but I remain hopeful we’ll get the chance to explain what these charges allege.”

This week, Esther Swartz went also went on the defensive about the alleged charges, asserting there is more to the case then immediately meets the eye.

“It should have never happened,” she said, referring to the allegations and the alleged handling of the case by federal officials. “It certainly should never have happened the way it happened. Sometimes, I think it the job of the police to hurt people. They certainly have in this case.”

Esther Swartz, who is currently undergoing treatment for lung cancer, said the public perception of the couple before the allegations, and not new perceptions following their indictment, is the most accurate one.

“We’ve been in Ocean City for 17 years and I don’t think you could find one person to say anything bad against us,” she said. “This whole thing has been unbelievable. It’s a horrible thing.”

Esther Swartz also fiercely defended her husband, citing his track record as a long-time pharmacist in the resort area.

“As far as Joel is concerned, it’s an honest man they’re going after,” she said. “He would never do anything wrong. He’s a pharmacist and we’ve been married for 40 years and he would never give me anything without a prescription from a doctor. He wouldn’t give me as much as an aspirin if he didn’t think it was legitimate.”

Meanwhile, the couple has been released from custody to Andrea Swartz, presumably a relative, who lives in Gaithersburg. According to the terms of their release, the couple may travel to Ocean City and stay there at the approved address in order to make arrangements to deal with their move and for their local properties, but may not travel out of the state of Maryland.

The official terms of their release also require Joel and Esther Swartz to notify all current and future employers of the pending charges and the alleged offenses. In addition, the couple is prohibited from applying for or opening any new lines of credit without the approval of the court. On Wednesday, they officially surrendered their passports to court officials.