Bonnie Sweeten, the Feasterville mom who faked her own abduction last year and was charged by a federal grand jury in May with fraud, aggravated identity theft and related offenses, will remain locked up pending trial.
U.S. Magistrate Linda Caracappa yesterday granted a government request to detain Sweeten, who pleaded not guilty yesterday to a 23-count indictment and is awaiting an Aug. 16 trial date.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Wolf argued that Sweeten "posed a substantial flight risk" and was a "serial fabricator" who should not be released on bail. Wolf said Sweeten was a "con artist" who couldn't be trusted to abide by court rules.
Federal defender James Mc-Hugh had sought Sweeten's release on bail.
He questioned Wolf's premise, pointing out that Sweeten had showed up for all her court appearances in Bucks County after state charges were filed in June 2009 and that the feds had not alleged that she was a danger to the community. (She pleaded guilty last August to identity theft and to making false reports, and was sentenced to nine to 24 months before being paroled last week.)
But Caracappa was not persuaded, observing that this is a "new day" given the seriousness of the federal charges and the potential prison sentence of nine years that Sweeten faces under advisory sentencing guidelines if convicted of all charges.
In addition, Caracappa disputed that Sweeten was not a danger to the community. The judge said that while she was incarcerated in the Bucks County prison earlier this year, Sweeten told her teenage daughter to use her cellphone conference-call device to enable Sweeten to speak with a male inmate. (Prison policy prohibits male and female inmates from conversing by phone.)
The feds allege that Sweeten stole more than $700,000 between 2005 and 2009 while working as a paralegal. They say she fraudulently posed as her boss, stole from relatives and forged a New Jersey judge's signature.