Irma Changtin -- 35215-037

13 Years -- Drug Conspiracy

Irma Changtin, prisoner of the drug war
I was convicted and sentenced on four counts of the indictment: conspiracy -151 months with 5 years supervised release; and three money-laundering charges -151 months, 3 years supervised release. At trial I learned that my ex-boyfriend had been under investigation for drug trafficking for about four years. Facing a life sentence, he 'cooperated' with the government and was given 20 years. He 'turned in' six of us, among them his baby's mother, his brother, three others and myself.

I met him in 1994. We became friends and then intimate partners. He was different, intelligent, well groomed, well mannered and friendly with a great sense of humor. We were lovers for almost four years, and I gave him a key to my house. I believed him to be trustworthy; though I didn't see much of him and could only contact him through a pager number. Most of the time I didn't see him on a daily basis, usually just twice a week.

Because I am an accountant, he asked me to prepare his self-employment tax return for 1994 based on his clothing business. During trial, I found out that he used this information to purchase a property for his baby's mother. He also stated during trial that he used my house as a safe place to hide drugs, a gun and to prepare drugs. According to his testimony, he prepared drugs in the presence of my 12-year-old son and my brother who were both living with me.

In 1997 he asked me if I would sign my name on a car he was planning to purchase because he had some financial problems. Looking back, I wonder why I asked no questions, and later that week he picked me up during lunch from work. The transaction only took a few minutes. I trusted him so completely that I did not attempt to read what I was about to sign. The owner and workers from the dealership were extremely friendly, helpful, and documents were handled efficiently.

Irma Changtin with her son
Weeks later he asked me to pick up his license-plate tags and other related documentation. He said he ran into a problem and had to make a car payment right away. I called the dealership, and was told to make the last car payment. His temporary tags were about to expire, but once payment was made he would get his permanent tags. He didn't have the money to make the last payment, and I offered to make it for him.

He picked me up at work, and before heading to the dealership we stopped at my bank and I withdrew $1,500. He took me to the dealership, and I made the final payment on his car. Instead of getting the tags, I was given a business card with instructions to contact a federal agent. Dutifully, I contacted the agent and was told to bring the car in for inspection. My boyfriend drove me to a federal building in Washington, DC where the car was confiscated. I was given an itemized list of property taken from the car along with other documentation.

I contacted a lawyer and was advised not to worry about anything. I attempted to get the car back without success. A week before my trial I was shown evidence that my ex-boyfriend had signed my name at least eight times to purchase other cars. I was in disbelief! At different hearings the prosecutor and my own attorney laughed at me, but I thought their remarks were just part of the whole, strange process.

They raided my house in February 1998. I contracted with three different, incompetent lawyers before federal trial started. My ex-boyfriend was the first government witness who testified against me, and I found that out when he took the stand against me. I was offered a plea bargain agreement of 34 months, but I could not understand the confusing, contradictory language of the "plea bargain."

I hold a four-year degree in accounting as well as a two-year word processing diploma. Due to my incarceration, I have lost custody of my 15-year-old son whom I have not seen since 1999. I have no contact with him at all. I have also lost all of my personal property, including my house and car which I obtained working honestly for years. I worked as an account analyst in Georgetown University and believed in an American dream. I had a great life, working extended hours and traveling. Now I have only memories of my past life and experiences I will ever endure - the scar of this prosecution and imprisonment that will remain with me for the rest of my life.