By Derrick Rose, Reporter CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – A federal grand jury indicted a Charlotte mother on 3 counts of trying to kill or hurt federal witnesses in the trial of men accused in a cross-country diamond heist crime spree, according to records filed in U.S. District Court.
According to the 3 page indictment, Brittany Ladd, 22, “did knowingly attempt to kill V.L. with the intent to prevent the attendance and testimony of V.L. in an official proceeding.” The records also said Ladd wanted to have another witness intimidated with the “threat of physical force.”
Ladd’s defense attorney Rick Winiker, painted a different picture of his client that is a contrast to the mugshots taken by police.
“Brittany is a full-time student, single mother of 2 young children,” he told WBTV, “this has been devastating for her; she’s been separated from her children.” Ladd’s Facebook profile listed her as a student at Central Peidmont Community College.
Winiker said Ladd has the complete support of her family and friends in Charlotte.
That was evident at the bond hearing where Ladd’s relatives filled the public seating area. Her parents pleaded to U.S. District Court Judge David Keesler to grant a bond for Ladd to allow her to care for her young children.
“All of her friends and family have rallied around her and offered their unconditional support,” Winiker said.
Winiker said Ladd has been cooperative with FBI investigators, even voluntarily turning over her cell phone as evidence of her innocence. During the bond hearing, Winiker said the FBI informant ‘Ray’ pressured Ladd to meet with he and the undercover agent via text messages.
Winiker said Ladd was a person who was easily manipulated by the informant.
He said the informant was unreliable because the only reason the informant reached out to the feds about the alleged plot was to get out of his own legal problems.
Judge Keesler ordered Ladd held without bond.
The Charlotte Observer also included a story:
Pleading her case“This has been devastating for her,” Winiker said. “She has been separated from her children. She’s a lifelong resident of the Charlotte area and has the unconditional support of her family, friends and church community.
“She hopes to get this matter resolved as quickly as possible so she can be reunited with her children.”
At a hearing this week, Winiker argued that a government informant had persuaded Ladd to hire a hit man and had set up the meeting with the FBI agent posing as a hit man.
The defense lawyer said the informant suggested to his client that she hire a hit man, communicated with her multiple times and sent her money to help her pay her rent. That was done, he said, to manipulate her into attending the meeting with the undercover agent. Winiker called that entrapment.
The indictment against the five men alleges that the defendants conducted surveillance on jewelry stores and identify security vulnerabilities and store employees they could target to steal diamonds.
The stolen diamonds would be transported to Philadelphia to be sold at another jewelry store, according to the indictment. The conspirators would divide the profits after the sale of the diamonds.
Jewelry stores targetedOne court document says that Victor Lupis told authorities that he was part of a nationwide diamond theft enterprise that targeted jewelry stores across the country.
Lupis said he and Trey Adams stole jewelry in Nashville in February, according to one court document.
Lupis said he stole rings valued of more than $270,000, the document says, and that he and Adams traveled to Philadelphia to sell the diamonds. They were paid $64,000 by a jeweler.