MEMPHIS (AP) – A Missouri financial adviser and campaign fundraiser for President Barack Obama was sentenced to six months of house arrest and five years' probation Monday for conducting a bizarre plot to stalk her daughter's ex-boyfriend.
U.S. District Judge John Fowlkes accepted an agreement that allowed Nadia Cavner to plead guilty to one count of felony interstate stalking and avoid a trial that could have resulted in a maximum five-year prison term upon conviction.
Federal prosecutor Brian Coleman had recommended only probation for Cavner, an Iranian immigrant who built a successful career in Springfield, Mo. But Fowlkes added house arrest after expressing concerns that probation alone wasn't enough of a punishment for an organized plot that included threats of violence.
Fowlkes heard statements from the daughter's ex-boyfriend Patrick McFarland, his current girlfriend Kristen Stancher and their relatives, who said they were racked by panic and fear throughout the months-long harassment scheme that began in July 2011. McFarland and Stancher attended medical school at the University of Memphis.
Prosecutors say that Cavner sent harassing letters to the couple and had them followed by a private investigator.
Stancher's father John said his daughter would call him crying, and he feared for her safety. He said Cavner only stopped her "sick plot" was because she was caught.
"I'm fearful for anyone that crosses Ms. Cavner," he said. "She appears to have no regard for the law or for human life."
Cavner, 53, had been an adviser with Cambridge Investment Research, the brokerage arm of BancorpSouth in Springfield. She had overseen over $485 million in assets, mostly for high net worth clients, according to her website. She has since been fired from BancorpSouth but is still working for herself, her lawyers said.
Cavner organized a fundraiser for Obama in Springfield in July 2008, collecting $250,000 for the campaign. She also worked for Obama's 2008 campaign, collecting between $50,000 and $100,000, according to opensecrets.org.
Cavner also has donated to Democrat U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and the Missouri Democratic State Committee. She has also been active in several charities.
McFarland was Maral Cavner's boyfriend when she attended Emory University in Atlanta, but they broke up and McFarland moved to Memphis. McFarland then began dating Stancher.
At the time of the harassment, McFarland and Stancher were both second-year medical students at the University of Tennessee.
Coleman said Cavner sent harassing letters to the couple and asked private investigators to follow and watch them. She also asked investigators to plant a recording device in McFarland's home, but they refused, saying it was illegal.
Cavner also discussed the possibility of someone becoming violent with McFarland, but not to the point of killing him, Coleman said.
"You know, break an arm or two," Cavner is accused of saying.
Cavner also discussed a drive-by shooting to scare the couple. The drive-by would have been blamed on gang members, Coleman said.
Private investigators eventually contacted the FBI. Prosecutors said Cavner spent $26,000 on the scheme.
No violence was committed, but the couple was emotionally injured by the plot, Fowlkes said.
"Malice and ill will were the driving force," Patrick McFarland said in a statement in open court. "It made me sick, disgusted."
Cavner received several letters of support that were sealed under court order. She apologized to the couple in court.
Her lawyer, Steve Farese, said her conduct was an aberration and that Cavner was guilty of being an overprotective mother.
"This case is not about money. This case is not about politics," Farese said. "This is about a person who has made a mistake."
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