by Darlene J. Taylor
CLARKSBURG -- A local woman accused of 27 counts of mail and wire fraud in an alleged travel scheme will stand trial in U.S. District Court on Jan. 27.
Mitzi Layne Tichenor pleaded not guilty to the federal charges before U.S. Magistrate Judge John S. Kaull Friday in the Northern District of West Virginia in Clarksburg.
Kaull released Tichenor Friday on a personal recognizance bond with the standard conditions, pending trial. The release order received no opposition by the federal government.
Tichenor, 51, of Stonewood was represented by Mike Benninger, a Morgantown attorney.
Benninger noted that he and his client were reviewing more than 3,000 pages of discovery material received by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn Angus Morgan is the chief prosecutor in the case. She was accompanied by U.S. Postal Inspector Steven G. Randolph, case investigator.
Morgan asked that Tichenor be ordered to take one drug test before the trial.
"Although this is not a drug case, this could keep it from being an issue once the trial begins," the assistant U.S. attorney said.
Benninger had no objections, and Kaull ordered one drug test at the outset of supervision by the U.S. Probation Office, one of the standard conditions.
In addition, Kaull ordered Tichenor to forfeit her passport.
He also ordered Tichenor not to travel outside the Northern District of West Virginia.
The listing of all alleged victims in the case was sealed by Kaull.
The indictment alleges there could be between 250 and 500 victims.
Tichenor was informed by the judge that she could receive a sentence of not more than 5 years and a $250,000 fine on each of the 27 counts.
That amounts to a total of 135 years in prison and a $6.75 million fine if
Tichenor is convicted on each count and sentenced to the maximum.
"In addition, the court can require you be assessed $1,800 a month for incarceration or $244 a month for home confinement," Kaull said.
Kaull set a deadline of Nov. 29 for complete discovery.
Trial will begin with jury selection at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 27, 2003
Chief U.S. District Judge Irene Keeley in Clarksburg will preside over Tichenor's trial.
Staff writer Darlene J. Taylor can be reached at 626-1403 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org