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Woman charged with impersonating district attorney

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Darryl Enriquez
September 18, 2010
— A Lake Geneva woman is accused of sending fake letters from the Walworth County District Attorney’s Office to derail a pending jury trial on her friend’s sixth drunken driving charge.

Michelle E. Irwin, 31, sent letters to state witnesses who might have testified against Mark “Tony” Cantieri in a Walworth County jury trial in June, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday.


The letters told witnesses that the trial was canceled, according to the complaint.


The drunken driving charge was based on Cantieri’s night of drinking at a strip club, following his completion earlier that day of an intensive outpatient treatment program for alcohol abuse, according to court records.


Cantieri and Irwin were in a relationship at the time of the pending trial. Cantieri pleaded with Irwin to do something to halt his prosecution, according to the complaint.


During their discussion, Cantieri and Irwin came to believe that if no one testified, there would be no charges. Irwin told investigators that she thought up the idea of sending phony letters, according to the complaint.


Irwin faces four felony charges of identity theft. Each count carries a jail term of up to six years.


Instead of going to trial, Cantieri pled guilty to sixth-offense drunken driving, a felony. He is serving a three-year prison term.


According to the complaint:


Irwin had Walworth County stationery and envelopes from previous legal matters. She used the cut and paste function on her computer to create the error-riddled letters.


She signed the name of Assistant District Attorney Steven J. Madson, but misspelled it as Madsen.


The letters had photocopied black and white district attorney logos. The real logos are in color.


The Madson signatures were easily recognized as Irwin’s handwriting.


The district attorney became aware of the letters when the father of a witness called the prosecutor’s office to inquire about the case.


The tangled cases are rooted to Cantieri’s late August 2009 arrest for drunken driving following an argument with a girlfriend, according to court records.


The girlfriend was not identified in court records.


The couple that night was at the Vegas Gentleman’s Club in Darien Township until about 2:30 a.m.


After his truck wouldn’t start, Cantieri tried to leave the club in his girlfriend’s car. She tried to stop him but was elbowed in the mouth, according to court records. Her daughter called police, and Cantieri was arrested.


Cantieri told police he had drank six beers and four shots, according to court records.


Irwin remains free on bond.


Her next court appearance is Oct. 13.



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