By Julie Brooks
At summer's end, as his empire rapidly crumbles, accused Harwich Port embezzler Jeffrey Windle, prisoner #49175 at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility, faces a conference on September 17th which may or may not determine his fate.
Instead of reeling in striped bass from Nantucket Sound from one of his Cape Cod boats , or catching grouper in the Gulf of Mexico from one of his Florida boats, Jeffrey spent his summer as a landlubber in America's Hometown, Plymouth. Perhaps he was able to enjoy the weather by working on the prison's 90-acre farm.
Obsessed by boats and landscaping to a degree which surpasses even most Harwich Port residents, (and that's saying a lot!) Jeffrey's fate is now in the hands of the federal court. But I think it's safe to say this oft-described neatnik is not likely to be polishing his brass boat cleats or admiring his hydrangeas for quite a few years to come.
Jeffrey Windle, age 41, who was arrested May 2 on charges that he embezzled $14 million from his employer, Cambium Learning of Natick, and also $200,000- $400,000 from the South Dennis Congregational Church, where he served as a volunteer treasurer, has been in custody in the Plymouth County Correctional Facility since his arrest, where he is being held with out bail.
On June 26th, he was indicted by a federal grand jury on 5 counts each of mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. Some of Jeffrey Windle's boats and cars at hisFlorida compound were seized July 16th by the U.S. Marshal Service,according to a source close to the Florida property, but his classic VW and his Donzi boat remain. On June 30 his attorney, John Moscardelli, entered a plea of not guilty and a status conference was scheduled for August 4th. At this conference, a final status conference was scheduled for September 17th.
What a difference 4 months makes
Less than 4 months ago, Jeffrey Windle was commuting 5 hours per day, in one of his two Mercedes, to Natick to work at his job as Director of Budget and Finance for Cambium Learning. He was paid $100,000 per year. He lived in a $1.9 million house in Harwich which he purchased in 2004, shortly after he began working full-time for Cambium. He did extensive renovations, including interior work and putting in a lighted tennis court and pool. He enjoyed going fishing in his 5 luxury boats, some of which he kept at Allen Harbor in Harwich and some at his Florida compound. He was in the process of building a home in Duxbury, held a mortgage on a property on Route 6A in Dennis, and owned another house on Trotting Park Road in Dennis. His extensive renovations and landscaping on his two adjacent houses on the Intracoastal waterway in Placida, Florida were just being finished.
His wife Jeannine, whose love of shopping was reportedly legendary, was a stay-at-home mother to their two children. The couple were supporters and hosts for the Harwich Mariners. A few months before, he had forfeited a $450,000 deposit on a $4.5 million home overlooking Wychmere Harbor when he backed out of the sale the night before the closing. He had also ended negotiations with a marine company to buy a 1/3 stake in the company for $7.5 million. He had meetings with a local bank about getting a $2 million commercial loan.
Rarely traveling out of town, (a trait common to many embezzlers), Jeffrey managed his complex empire by making frequent phone calls from his office. In April of this year, Cambium's CFO, Dave Caron, approached Jeffrey with questions about why the company's $870,000 insurance premium to Blue Cross/Blue Shield had gone unpaid. It was the beginning of the end.
During his employment at Cambium Learning from 2004 - 2008, Jeffrey Windle purchased 5 houses, 5 boats, and at least 5 cars, whose combined purchase prices total approximately $7 million. According to my sources, the rest of the money alleged to have been stolen has not been located in the form of bank accounts or tangible assets.
3 never-been-lived-in houses
Recently, a federal judge ordered that the U.S. Marshal Service seize Jeffrey's two houses in Florida, located at 260 and 270 Capstan Drive in Placida, and also a property at 261 Crescent Street in Duxbury. (Pictured right, second one down). The Duxbury property was purchased in February 2007 for $520,000. The existing house was razed and a new house was in the process of being built at the time of Jeffrey's arrest. Although Jeffrey has not yet stood trial or been found guilty, these properties were ordered to be seized due to the imminent danger of their loss in value between now and the trial, if there is one--the Duxbury house is under construction, and has no doors, and the Florida properties, which are two adjacent houses on the Intracoastal Waterway which Jeffrey purchased and then extensively remodeled and landscaped, are in danger of having at least $250,000 worth of landscaping die because the water has been turned off and no one is maintaining the property.
The houses have never been lived in and no one has been managing or maintaining the property since Windle's arrest on May 2nd. There are $300,000 worth of liens on the Florida houses, filed by companies contracted to do finish work, irrigation, and other services. Another source tells me that all the contractors had keys to the properties and that apparently the locks had not been changed.
In mid-July, a source close to the Florida properties informed me that a van appeared at night and removed some objects from the house. The president of Cambium Learning was called and reportedly, when he tried to get the local police to respond, they said that they had to be directed by the FBI to do so. Allegedly the FBI could not be reached. No one returned to the house until the U.S. Marshals seized at least 2 boats and at least 2 cars in mid-July.
What does the U.S. Marshal Service do with confiscated assets?
A visit to the U.S. Marshal Service's website answers this question handily. In nearly all cases they auction it. Whether it's assets confiscated from drug dealers, or whatever the story, the Marshal service auctions its property, usually online through a third-party site, Bid4Assets. The money from the sale of the confiscated goods, in the Windle case at least, as detailed in the judge's order, will be held in escrow by the US Marshal service until Jeffrey's trial is over or he peads guilty. If he's found guilty, Cambium gets the money. If he's not, presumably, he gets the money. I have signed up for Bid4Asset's email alerts and check the site regularly--I haven't seen any of Jeffrey's property yet.
Why did Jeffrey Windle plead not guilty?
I have to admit, this threw me for a loop. I, along with many people, assumed that the trail of evidence linking Jeffrey to the embezzlements was so solid that he would plead guilty, like many white collar criminals, in exchange for reduced time in a federal facility somewhere. But instead, his attorney entered a plea of not guilty. Perhaps the lowest maximum number of years Jeffrey was willing to agree to was not enough for the prosecutor, Carmen Ortiz, and so they are going to trial, where she must be reasonably certain a jury will find him guilty. Or, perhaps his attorney was able to buy some time to allow for further negotiations. A recently filed court document alludes to the fact that "no trial is expected to take place." Perhaps this means he is going to enter a guilty plea sometime soon?
Don't forget, as I have reported in a previous blog posting, that on June 19, 1998, (a bit more than 10 years ago), Jeffrey was released from a federal boot-camp-style prison , where he had served 18 months for filing false tax returns. There are no more boot-camp style federal prisons, as they were shown not to reduce recidivism, as they were intended to, and they have since been phased out. To serve your federal time at a boot camp instead of a regular federal prison was considered to be a privilege reserved for young or first -time offenders.
Ten years later, it appears that Jeffrey hasn't learned his lesson, and I think the prosecutor is not happy about this at all. After all, it's not the prosecutor's job to avoid going to trial at all costs--it's the prosecutor's job to put bad guys behind bars for as long as reasonably possible.
Landscaping at properties in Harwich Port and Dennis looking surprisingly spiffy
Jeffrey and Jeannine's first house they purchased on Cape Cod is located at 346 Trotting Park Road in Dennis, adjacent to the Ezra Baker Elementary School. The property is still in their names. The tenant who was living in the Trotting Park Road property has reportedly moved out and that house was supposedly empty for most of the summer.
The Trotting Park Road's mortgage was paid off by funds allegedly embezzled from Cambium. As recently as this week , the lawn at the Harwich Port house was being mowed by a landscaping service whose name I know but will not mention here. I saw a well-muscled, shirtless and tattooed guy mowing in front of the hydrangeas just the other day. Since there are numerous court documents showing that all Jeffrey and Jeannine's bank accounts have been frozen, I wonder who is paying the landscaper? Between working, summertime fun and blogging, the landscaping at my house looks like s***. I wish I could afford a landscaper. Particularly the one I saw at the Windle's house. There' s just no justice in this world, I'll tell ya.
Cambium Learning versus J & J Marine Fabricating versus South Dennis Congregational Church
When $14 million goes missing, lawyers get hired. Over the summer there has been a lot of activity around a separate civil lawsuits initiated by J & J Marine and by Cambium. It's all about the boats and falls under admiralty, or maritime law, which has different and even more obfuscatory language (in my opinion) than regular law. ("Regular law"--that's my term-- a legal genius I'm not.) Basically, Jeffrey Windle was sued by J & J Marine Fabricating before he was even arrested, on grounds that he owed this marine service over six figures in repairs, parts, and storage fees. This was the same outfit that he was in negotiations with to buy a 1/3 stake in for $7.5 million. He didn't buy them, and then they sued. Then comes Cambium, filing suit saying that the boats belong to Cambium because they were paid for with Cambium's money, and that J & J shouldn't get the money they're asking for because it's impossible to prove the repairs were done and "storage services" didn't incur any out-of-pocket expenses for J & J. And also, Cambium says, the South Dennis Congregational Church isn't entitled to the money since the funds were commingled and it isn't possible to establish which funds belonged to the church.
Fraud insurance for the church
It has been reported to me that one of the few bills Jeffrey actually paid on time when he was the treasurer at the church was a fraud insurance premium, and it was not clear to my source whether or not the policy covered this particular incident. Very thoughtful of him to have paid the premium ;) It was also reported to me that Jeffrey allegedly took the church's nest egg within weeks of assuming his role as treasurer. Allegedly, some people involved in running the church had their suspicions about Jeffrey but were reluctant to say anything because he purportedly made a substantial donation to the church every week. The lawyer for the Church just resigned from the case. It appears that Cambium has out-lawyered the other two plaintiffs on this one.
The Windle FAQ
I get lots of emails and calls with some of these questions, so I decided to put together a FAQ.
Where's Jeannine living? What's she doing?
Jeannine has reportedly recently moved out of the Harwich Port house and backinto the Trotting Park Road house in Dennis, where she lived whileJeffrey was serving his first federal prison sentence ten years ago. One could draw a logical conclusion that there is a job in Jeannine's future, but then again, this entire case is not bursting with logic. Yes, the lawn jockey next to the stone inscribed "Windle" is still in the front yard, but the hosta around it has grown so much over the summer that you can't read the stone.
Is Jeannine going to face any criminal charges?
Allegedly, the FBI tried, but was not able to come up with, any evidence that Jeannine had knowledge of her husband's activities.
What's going to happen to the $1.9 million Harwich Port house at 562 Main Street?
I don't know. I check the Barnstable County registry of deeds site frequently and there's no activity as far as I can see.
What about all the expensive furnishings, etc. in the Harwich Port house? What's going to happen to those?
It would a violation of a court order for anything of value to be moved from the Harwich Port house. If anyone notices anything regarding an estate sale on Craigslist or wherever, please for the love of God let me know. We'll hit the sale and then go to Brax for cocktails afterwards.
I have received many emails and calls with tips about this case. All are appreciated.
Call or email me: Julie Brooks --508-385-0003 x 106
Photos (top to bottom): Jeffrey Windle's compound at 260 and 270 Capstan Drive, Placida, FL; his house at 261 Crescent Street, Duxbury, a 41' Tiara, a 41' Albemarle, a 31' Albemarle, a 24' Captain's launch sloop, a 2004 Mercedes E320, a 2005 Mercedes CLK500, a 2007 Mercedes GL450, a 46' Ocean Yacht.
All past blog postings on the Windle case: