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When the Florida attorney general began investigating customer complaints, McCorkle hired F. Lee Bailey to defend him. Bailey came straight from the O.J. Simpson case and received $2 million for his work with the McCorkles, and his wife was dying of pancreatic cancer at the same time as he was handling the McCorkle case. The distracted Bailey conferred with the state attorney general and helped McCorkle set up a $2 million fund to provide quick refunds for dissatisfied customers.
Bailey also advised McCorkle to hire a chief executive officer. But after an argument with McCorkle, the new CEO went to the U.S. attorney general to report fraud. Soon afterward, the government obtained forfeiture and racketeering liens against the McCorkles' property. In May, agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, and other government agencies stormed the McCorkles' home and seized their bank accounts, cars, jewelry, and credit cards. McCorkle asked if they were closing down his business, but the agents told him no and that he could continue operations the following day.
Chantal says McCorkle told her not to worry, that it was all a mistake. For the next year, the company continued operating as it had been.
The couple were vacationing in Mexico when Bailey called with news that indictments had come down, charging them with fraud and money laundering. Ten of McCorkle's companies were also indicted. The two flew back to Orlando and turned themselves in at the federal courthouse. Chantal was handcuffed and shackled, strip searched, and transported to the county jail. The judge set bond at $3 million -- exactly the amount of money sitting in the bank in the Cayman Islands.
The McCorkles spent every free moment preparing for trial. They hired a separate attorney for Chantal, who did not consider making a deal with prosecutors; she was sure she would be found innocent. She later pointed out that she and her husband could have fled from Mexico, since they had bank accounts in the Caymans.
During the nine-week trial, the government called in witnesses who complained that the McCorkles had ripped them off -- including several elderly customers and a mother whose paraplegic son had ordered the program.
The pair was also charged with money laundering for transferring the fraudulently earned cash into the bank account in the Caymans. Instead of one or two years in prison with parole for fraud, the McCorkles faced decades in prison, as each act of money laundering carried a mandatory minimum sentence. The government portrayed the transfers as hiding money in offshore accounts, even though the account was in McCorkle's name and Bailey had told state and federal investigators about it. Each time she had made a transfer of money, Chantal accumulated more points under mandatory minimum sentencing rules.
"One more week and I would have had a mandatory life sentence," Chantal says over the phone from jail.
Her mother and stepfather were in the country for the trial's closing arguments. They all went out for breakfast on the first day of the jury's deliberations. They visited the lawyer's office and were discussing where to eat dinner that night when the call came that the jury had reached a verdict. Though the two McCorkles and three of their employees were facing 60 to 90 counts each, it had taken the jury just four hours to make a decision.