It was a sad story the two brothers allegedly told: their aunt had lost one leg in the Boston Marathon bombing, and her other leg was so badly injured that it, too, would probably need to be amputated. The brothers described her plight to a reporter, to Red Cross workers, and to officials at the One Fund Boston charity, from which prosecutors say they sought to collect more than $2 million for their aunt’s pain and suffering.
But privately, their text messages told a different story, prosecutors say.
“Get ready for that fat-ass check,” Domunique Grice, 28, allegedly texted to his brother, Branden Mattier, 23, according to Assistant Attorney General Gina Masotta.
The aunt had been dead for more than a decade, Masotta said during opening statements at the brothers’ trial in Suffolk Superior Court Tuesday.
Grice and Mattier only claimed their aunt’s second leg would need to be amputated after they learned that such an injury would pay more than if she had just lost one, Masotta said.
“The evidence in this case is going to show that these defendants spent two months trying to turn a tragedy that left three people dead and over 200 others injured into a $2 million payday for themselves,” said Masotta.
But lawyers for the two men urged jurors to keep an open mind as they hear the evidence in the case, and to not let their feelings about the Marathon bombings color their judgment.
“This is not about the bombing, it’s not even about what the fund was about,” said John Hayes, Mattier’s defense lawyer. “It’s simply a question of whether or not these defendants were trying to steal that money. Do not be swayed. Do not let your emotions get in front of you.”
Michael Roitman, the attorney for Grice, asked the jury to consider the men separately.
“They are two different people,” Roitman said. “Pay attention to the evidence that relates to each man.”
Mattier and Grice face fraud and conspiracy charges and prison time if convicted.
Masotta said in her opening statement that authorities began investigating the claim for the aunt’s double amputation, which was filed to the One Fund and signed by Mattier, almost immediately, because it lacked medical documentation.
She said the brothers initially claimed that their dead relative had lost only one leg in the bombing, but changed their story when they learned that two missing limbs would pay more.
She cited another text message Grice allegedly sent to Mattier, saying, “Yes to double amputation.”
On July 2, Masotta said, an undercover state trooper delivered a check for $2.195 million to Mattier, and promptly arrested him. Mattier, she said, insisted that he was not trying to steal — instead, he said, he was trying to start his own charity.
But on that same day, Masotta said, Mattier had an appointment to test-drive a Mercedes-Benz.
Camille Biros, the business manager for the law firm Feinberg Rozen, LLP, which distributed donations from the One Fund, said the claim Mattier allegedly submitted on June 12, 2013, for his aunt “didn’t look quite right.” Though it contained a letter from a Boston Medical Center doctor dated May 2, 2013, confirming the double amputation, it was shorter than other claims, she testified. The doctor whose name was on the letter testified that it was fake.
Two Red Cross workers also testified Tuesday. Jamie Barry of the group’s recovery support program testified that she explained to Mattier in a phone call that the Red Cross could provide assistance after checking with authorities that the aunt had truly been injured. Barry never heard back from Mattier, she said.
Attorneys for Mattier and Grice said that they were not sure whether their clients will take the stand, and that they did not plan to call any witnesses.
Mattier and Grice appeared to listen attentively throughout the proceedings, taking notes and speaking with their attorneys. They made an obscene gesture toward reporters during a break.
“Remember, the crime is alleged,” Mattier said later.
Mattier and Grice are the second and third people to be prosecuted for allegedly attempting to defraud The One Fund Boston, according to a spokeswoman for the state Attorney General’s Office. Last month, Audrea Gause, 27, of New York, was sentenced to 2½ to 3 years in state prison for fraudulently collecting $480,000 from the charity after claiming she suffered a traumatic brain injury in the bombing.