LITTLE RIVER — Perry Don Cortese seeks his own day in court, apart from his alleged co-conspirators in a case involving $8.8 million in fake settlements.
Perry Don Cortese has asked a Florida judge to be tried separately from fellow defendants Ikechukw Derek Amadi, Priscilla Ann Ellis, Akohomen Ighedoise, and Kenietta Rayshawn Johnson, saying their prior actions could upset his chance at a fair trial.
Cortese is accused of working with Texas businesswoman Priscilla Ann Ellis to take more than $8 million from law firms throughout Texas.
“When presented with evidence of a co-defendant’s prior bad acts, the jury is likely to disregard cautionary instructions and consider the extrinsic evidence against all defendants,” the motion read. “To prevent Cortese from being convicted on the basis of irrelevant extrinsic evidence, the district court should ‘grant a severance.'”
Cortese and Ellis are scheduled to stand trial in January. Prosecutors say he and Ellis posed as clients in need of legal services, then changed roles to pose as the parties receiving settlement to collect their money.
"Conspirators would and did contact victim lawyers and law firms, via email and telephone, for the purported purpose of seeking legal representation in transactional dealings and legal disputes," the indictment said. "The purpose of the contacts with the victim lawyers and law firms was merely to gain access to their legal trust accounts."
They are also charged with hacking into financial accounts and then sought out individuals on online dating sites, engaging in relationships with them and persuading them to send money as a result — a practice known as “catfishing.”
This is not the first time Cortese has been in trouble with the law. He was licensed in 1994 by the State Bar of Texas and has been placed on probation several times since, including a multiyear stint from 2006-2009.
Cortese’s attorney, Michael P. Maddux, did not respond to requests for comment.