A Honolulu woman representing herself against allegations she defrauded new homeowners, title companies and banks must prepare for her upcoming trial behind bars.
Jennifer McTigue had been out on bond awaiting trial. Last week, authorities announced she was a fugitive who was last seen June 30. Authorities received a tip and found her over the weekend hiding at a friend’s house. A judge Monday revoked her bond.
McTigue was one of three people indicted in a complex real estate scheme involving $3.3 million in property sales using fake claims that more than $4.5 million in mortgage debt had been paid off. Prosecutors say false forms were filed with the state Bureau of Conveyances. Her co-defendants have pleaded guilty.
“If we’re going to trial now, there’s no way for me to prepare sitting in a jail cell,” McTigue said Monday, sitting in court handcuffed and with chains around her waist. She suggested being placed on electronic monitoring.
A federal judge from California is presiding over the case because an alleged victim is a court employee in Honolulu. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, presiding over the hearing via telephone, said she has had ample time to prepare because jury selection was scheduled to begin Monday. That has been rescheduled to next week.
“It was Ms. McTigue’s choice to abscond and she has to live with that,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Wallenstein told the judge. He said postponing the trial will inconvenience witnesses, including 12 from the mainland, one from Canada and one from Japan.
McTigue cited “paperwork” that she said would show she’s not a defendant in the case because the government doesn’t have jurisdiction over her. She said she wasn’t hiding and that there was no warrant for her arrest until hours after she was located. She asked to discuss a “private trust” with the judge in private, but he declined.
A warrant was issued promptly was last week, John Michelich, an attorney with the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., told the judge. Authorities surrounded the house and found her hiding in a storage room or closet, he said.
The media attention about her being a fugitive has tainted the jury pool, McTigue said. On Tuesday, the FBI asked for the public’s help in locating McTigue, saying authorities believe she has “close ties with domestic extremists.”
FBI Special Agent Tom Simon said FBI agents, U.S. Marshals and Honolulu Police officers arrested McTigue at about 11 p.m. Saturday at the home on Pukalani Place in Kaimuki after receiving a tip.
McTigue, 48, failed to show up for a meeting with her pretrial services officer, prompting the FBI to sent out a news release seeking information on her whereabouts.
McTigue — formerly Jennifer Lowe — grew up in East Honolulu and was last seen near Kahala Mall on June 30.
In the news release, Simon said McTigue has ties with the Sovereign Citizen Movement, a group described by the FBI as “anti-government extremists.”
In an interview Tuesday, Simon described the Sovereign Citizens Movement as “a loosely-knit network of people who believe the laws of the U.S. do not apply to them. It has nothing to do with Hawaiian sovereignty.”
Lynn Panagakos, the attorney assigned to act as stand-by representation, declined to comment after Monday’s hearing.
Some information for this story came from previous Star-Advertiser stories.