NJ judge rules man must return to Portugal to face sentence for plot to murder ex-wife

January 20, 2012

The Washington Post on January 19, 2012 released the following:

“By Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. — A Portuguese man facing a sentence in his home country for plotting to kill his ex-wife has been ordered to be returned to Portugal, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

Manuel Albert Soares has fought extradition since he was detained in New Jersey last year.

A trial court acquitted Soares in 2007, but Portugal’s Supreme Court of Justice reversed the acquittal and sentenced him to four years and six months in prison.

By the time authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in 2009, Soares was in the U.S. Last year, the warrant was discovered when he was pulled over on the New Jersey Turnpike for driving in a carpool lane without the requisite number of passengers.

Soares and his attorney argued in U.S. District Court in December that the Portuguese court’s decision hadn’t been based on enough evidence to meet the burden of proof required to extradite someone from the U.S.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office contended it wasn’t the role of the U.S. courts to retry the case or consider evidence from the trial in deciding whether he met the criteria for extradition.

Thursday’s ruling upheld the decision of a U.S. Magistrate in Newark last May.

Soares was charged with attempted aggravated homicide in Portugal for trying to hire two hit men in 2006 to kill his ex-wife, Maria Teresa Franqueira Mourao, after Soares was fired from a business the couple jointly owned, according to court papers. The men he had tried to hire reached out to police and cooperated with authorities to continue negotiations with Soares on the hit, which was partially paid for but never carried out.

Soares, a native of Newark who holds dual American and Portuguese citizenship, has denied the charges.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
International Extradition Lawyers Videos:

International Extradition – When the FBI Seeks Extradition

International Extradition – Wire Transfer – Email – Telephone Call

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We previously discussed the extradition treaty between the United States and Portugal here.

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To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Lisbon court places US fugitive, George Wright, under house arrest

October 14, 2011

The Associated Press (AP) on October 14, 2011 released the following:

“By BARRY HATTON, Associated Press

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — A court has allowed captured American fugitive George Wright to leave jail and stay at his Portuguese home while he fights extradition to the U.S., his lawyer said Friday.

A judge hearing the case released Wright from custody on condition he stays at his home near Lisbon and wears an electronic tag that monitors his movements, lawyer Manuel Luis Ferreira said.

Wright spent seven years in prison before escaping in 1970, and was on the run for 41 years until his arrest in Portugal almost three weeks ago. Wright had been held in a Lisbon jail since he was caught.

“He can’t leave the house and he can’t speak about the case to anyone,” Ferreira told The Associated Press.

Under Portuguese law, court proceedings and police investigations are confidential.

The U.S. is trying to extradite Wright to serve the rest of his 15- to 30-year sentence for a 1962 murder in New Jersey.

Portuguese broadcaster S.I.C. showed Wright arriving at his home, in a hamlet near a stunning beach about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, on Friday evening.

Wright, his head shaved and wearing glasses, was escorted into the house by two police officers. He kissed his Portuguese wife, Maria do Rosario Valente, who was waiting at the front door before going inside.

Ferreira contends that Wright is now a Portuguese citizen and should be allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence in Portugal, where his wife and two grown children live.

The judge overseeing the case may call witnesses before announcing his decision in coming weeks. That decision can be appealed to higher courts, and the entire process could take months or longer.

Wright got Portuguese citizenship through marriage in 1991 after Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony in West Africa, gave him the new name of “Jose Luis Jorge dos Santos” and made him a citizen.

The identity from Guinea-Bissau was granted after the country gave Wright political asylum in the 1980s, and that was accepted by Portugal, according to the lawyer.

Wright broke out of Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, New Jersey, on Aug. 19, 1970. He was also part of a Black Liberation Army group that hijacked a U.S. plane to Algeria in 1972, the FBI says.

No one answered the phone Friday afternoon at the Howell, New Jersey, home of Anne Patterson, daughter of Walter Patterson, who was shot and killed by Wright and an associate in 1962.”

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


US fugitive wants to serve time in Portugal

September 30, 2011

Forbes.com on August 30, 2011 released the following:

“By BARRY HATTON

LISBON, Portugal — An American killer and alleged hijacker who was a fugitive for 41 years should serve the rest of his jail time in Portugal where he was captured instead of being extradited to the United States, his lawyer says.

George Wright, 68, deserves to serve the remainder of his 15- to 30-year New Jersey murder sentence in Portugal because he has lived in the country for decades, has a Portuguese wife and grown Portuguese children, said the lawyer, Manuel Luis Ferreira.

“If he has to serve, then he wants it to be here, which is his home,” Ferreira told Portugal’s TVI television late Thursday.

Wright broke out of the Bayside State Prison in Leesburg, New Jersey, on Aug. 19, 1970, after serving about 7 1/2 years of his sentence for killing a man in a 1962 gas station robbery. He then was part of a Black Liberation Army group that hijacked a U.S. plane to Algeria in 1972.

Wright was captured in a seaside village near Lisbon on Monday after authorities matched his fingerprint on a Portuguese identity card to one in the United States.

Ferreira said Wright will oppose extradition on the ground that he fears reprisals for his past membership in the militant U.S. group. He did not elaborate.

He said his client had been living openly in Portugal and even had a Facebook page.

“He wasn’t running. He wasn’t hiding,” Ferreira told TVI.

But Ferreira didn’t mention that Wright lived in Portugal under the alias Jose Luis Jorge dos Santos, which was listed on his Portuguese residency card.

Wright’s children, said to be in their early 20s, knew nothing about his past until his capture this week, according to Ferreira.

Ann Patterson, whose father Walter was killed by Wright, said she wanted him sent back to the United States.

“I honestly think he should serve (his sentence) where he did the crime,” she told The Associated Press. “I feel sorry for his children. I would not wish them to go through what my sister and I went through. He chose the crime and when you choose the crime you choose the punishment that goes with it.”

U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney declined to comment on the defense counsel’s arguments due to the pending nature of the extradition request.

Ferreira did not outline his legal strategy for trying to prevent Wright from being extradited to face charges in the plane hijacking. He said Friday that he was too busy to discuss the case.

U.S. officials so far have only discussed Wright’s past murder conviction, not any possible future charges from the hijacking.

Hijacking in the United States carries a possible penalty of life in prison, and Portugal does not allow people to be extradited if they will face more than the nation’s maximum sentence of 25 years.

Under Portuguese law, citizens can serve sentences handed down in a foreign country in Portugal. But Portuguese officials say there is doubt about the validity of Wright’s identification documents and whether he is a national. They declined to elaborate because public access to information about court cases is restricted.

A photocopy of a Portuguese identity card issued to Wright in 1993 listed his home country as Guinea-Bissau, where he lived in the 1980s. A foreigner marrying a Portuguese is entitled to Portuguese nationality, but has to formally request it and it is not known whether Wright did.

Wright – dressed as a priest and using an alias – is accused of hijacking a Delta flight from Detroit to Miami in 1972 along with four other Black Liberation Army members and some children.

Wright arrived in Portugal in 1978, his attorney said. Wright also spent years in the 1980s living openly under his own name in Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony in West Africa, and even socialized with U.S. embassy officials there.

Ferreira said he marveled at Wright’s saga, which covered three continents and four decades.

“This story would make a television series. I’m still trying to digest it myself,” he said.

Wright is being held in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, pending extradition hearings and will likely remain in detention for at least several weeks during the hearings, according to the president of the Lisbon court overseeing the case. Wright has asked to be freed during the process, a request that is still pending.

If he loses, he can appeal the extradition decision to Portugal’s Supreme Court and the country’s Constitutional Court, a process likely to last months or even years, the judge, Luis Maria Vaz das Neves, told The AP.

A recent high-profile extradition case involving an Indian terror suspect took years to resolve.

Abu Salem, arrested in Portugal in September 2002, was a prime suspect in 1993 bombings that struck Bombay, killing 257 people and wounding more than 1,100. He was extradited three years later after his appeals to higher courts failed.

But to get Portugal to extradite Salem, India had to promise to forgo the death penalty and impose a prison term of 25 years or less if he’s convicted, Indian officials said.

Wright was convicted of the 1962 murder of a gas station owner in Wall, New Jersey.

In the 1972 hijacking, Wright and the other Black Liberation Army members released the plane’s 86 other passengers for a $1 million ransom. They then forced the plane to fly to Boston, then onto Algeria, where the hijackers sought asylum. Algeria returned the plane and the money to the United States but allowed the hijackers to stay.

Wright and the other hijackers left Algeria in late 1972 or early 1973 and settled in France, according to Mikhael Ganouna, producer of the 2010 documentary “Nobody Knows my Name” about the hijacking.

But Wright left the group, and his associates were subsequently tracked down, arrested and convicted in Paris in 1976. The French government, however, refused to extradite them to the United States.

Douglas McNabb, a Washington-based lawyer who has defended people in extradition cases for more than 20 years, said he expects the U.S. to add some charges related to the hijacking to make an example of Wright.

“This taints the U.S’s, image that someone could be gone and not found as long as he was,” McNabb said.

However, Danielle Hunter, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Corrections, said there has not been talk so far of adding charges relating to Wright’s prison escape.

Norris Gelman, the Philadelphia lawyer who represented Ira Einhorn, who fled the U.S. in 1981 just before a trial for the murder of his ex-girlfriend in 1977 and was returned to the U.S. in 2001, said he expects authorities to pursue Wright to the end now that they have found him.

The U.S. “will move heaven and earth to get him back here, and I believe they will be successful. If they have to do it through diplomacy, they will do it through diplomacy,” he said. “I will tell you on good authority, time will not heal this wound.””

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Fugitive cop who fled to Brazil likely to avoid extradition

September 9, 2011

Sun Sentinel on September 8, 2011 released the following:

“Fugitive cop who fled to Brazil likely to avoid extradition

By Megan O’Matz and Jerome Burdi, Sun Sentinel

BOYNTON BEACH— Fugitive David Britto may be out of reach of American authorities forever.

This city’s former Police Officer of the Year was under house arrest, awaiting trial on drug trafficking charges, when he cut the electronic monitoring bracelet from his ankle Aug. 24 and hopped on a plane in Miami, bound for his native country, Brazil, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Brazil’s constitution prohibits the extradition of Brazilian nationals.

“Basically he’s gone unless the Brazilian government, through political pressure, allows U.S. agents to pick him up,” said attorney David Rowe, an adjunct law professor at the University of Miami and an extradition expert.

Britto, 28, appears to have successfully gambled on a high-stakes escape, rather than risk facing years in prison. He is to stand trial beginning Tuesday.

The daring run, however, raises questions about how he pulled it off and who, if anyone, helped him.

On Thursday, the U.S. Marshals Service, which is spearheading the hunt for Britto, said federal agents are looking at every possible way of getting Britto back to Miami, where he faces one count of conspiring to possess and traffic 500 grams of methamphetamine.

“We’re still pursuing him,” Marshals Service spokesman Barry Golden said. “He’s one of the big cases that are on the top of our list … We’re still tracking down every lead. We’re trying to get him back into custody at all costs.”

Attempts to get Britto back are sure to be challenging, if not downright impossible.

A 1964 treaty between the United States and Brazil allows for the extradition of anyone accused or convicted of a crime carrying a sentence of a year or more.

But in 1988, Brazil amended its constitution, expressly stating that “no Brazilian shall be extradited.”

People born elsewhere who become Brazilian citizens, however, can be handed over if they’re charged with certain drug-related crimes. Foreigners who find safe harbor in Brazil and are accused of political crimes elsewhere are not extradited.

The strict policy has strained Brazil’s diplomatic relations.

Earlier this summer Italy denounced Brazil for refusing to turn over political refugee Cesare Battisti, a former Italian militant, convicted in absentia of killing four people in the 1970s.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s refusal to extradite an Ohio woman, Claudia Hoerig, charged in the 2007 murder of her husband, has outraged an Ohio congressman.

U.S. Rep. Timothy Ryan, a Democrat, introduced legislation in June to withhold $14 million a year in aid to Brazil until it reverses its ban on extraditing nationals. The bill is in a House committee.

Ryan has gone so far as to post an ever-changing clock on his website, showing the number of days, hours, minutes and seconds that Hoerig “has escaped justice.” On Thursday, it registered 1,641 days.

“It’s been a nightmare experience on our end up here,” Trumbull County, Ohio, Prosecuting Attorney Dennis Wilkins said of efforts to extradite Hoerig. “I’ve dealt with President [George W.] Bush, Condoleezza Rice, the attorney general and now with [President Barack] Obama and Hillary Clinton, and we’ve not gotten satisfactory action.”

In Florida, the tamper alert on Britto’s ankle bracelet went off the night of Aug. 24, notifying a federal probation officer, according to court records. But U.S. Marshals were not told until the next morning. Only then was a warrant was issued for his arrest, authorities said.

That gave Britto a window of time to escape.

“You cannot respond the next morning. That’s a major security breach,” said Rowe, the University of Miami law professor.

Court documents say Britto, who speaks Portuguese, boarded a plane Aug. 24 in Miami bound for Brasilia, the capital of Brazil.

It is unclear what documentation he used to board the international flight.

As a standard condition of bond, Britto had to relinquish “all passports and travel documents” to the Pretrial Services Office.

“Mr. Britto’s Brazilian passport was revoked as a standard condition of release by the court,” said Laura Sweeney, a Justice Department spokeswoman in Washington.

Britto was free on a $100,000 bond. He and his mother signed for half the bond and the other half was guaranteed by bailbonds.com, a Miami company.

Britto may be able to live out his days in Brazil, but he likely is landlocked, said Douglas McNabb, whose Washington, D.C., firm specializes in international extradition law.

Federal authorities likely will file a lifetime “red notice” with Interpol’s 188 member countries that will trigger Britto’s arrest if he leaves Brazil.

“He may leave Brazil a month from now or 30 years from now and go to Costa Rica,” McNabb said. “And when he goes through customs, his red notice [shows up].”

That’s what happened to director Roman Polanski, who was arrested in 2009 in Switzerland after being wanted by the United States since 1978 on a statutory-rape conviction. He hid in France, avoiding extradition countries, until he was captured. Polanski was freed by Swiss authorities on a legal technicality the following year.

It’s unknown if someone helped Britto reach Brazil.

According to his website, http://www.blessedwarrior.com, he was born in Brazil and moved to Queens, N.Y., when he was 7.

He joined the Boynton Beach police in 2006.

The Police Department still has an open internal investigation into Britto’s escape, but he’s likely to be fired soon, police said Thursday.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Miguel Angel Nevarez, Accused Killer of U.S. Consulate and Others, Extradited to U.S. For Trial

August 30, 2011

The Las Crucues Sun-News on August 29, 2011 released the following:

“LAS CRUCES – One of the accused killers in the murders of a U.S. consulate employee, her husband and another man in Juárez has been extradited to the United States to stand trial, the Justice Department announced.

Miguel Angel Nevarez was among 10 alleged members and associates of a Southwest border gang indicted in the slayings of consulate employee Leslie Ann Enriquez Catton and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs. They were killed on March 13, 2010, when gunmen opened fire on their sport utility vehicle after they left a birthday party.

Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, the husband of a Mexican employee of the consulate, also was killed by gunmen after leaving the same event in a separate vehicle.

Nevarez, 30, was charged with conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering and federal firearm charges in the killings of the three. Nevarez arrived in the United States on Thursday and made his initial appearance Friday before a federal magistrate judge in El Paso. He had been in the custody of Mexican authorities pending extradition since his arrest on Oct. 30, 2010.

A grand jury indictment unsealed in March in El Paso charged 10 defendants in the killings along with 25 other people – saying all 35 were linked to the Barrio Azteca gang. All but four of the 35 are in custody in the United States or Mexico and all including Nevarez are charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, drug distribution, drug importation and money laundering.

The indictment did not supply a motive for the killings – which U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in March were so brutal that the motive was almost irrelevant.

At the time, FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry said the case was an important step in dismantling one of the most violent gangs along the Southwest border.

U.S. law enforcement officials said that to increase its power, Barrio Azteca formed an alliance with the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes drug trafficking organization in Mexico and conducted enforcement operations against VCF rivals.”

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Costa Rican doctor German Enrique Moreno Rojas Faces New Charges of Allegedly Sexually Molesting a Minor

August 26, 2011

The Tico Times on August 26, 2011 released the following:

“Child molester jailed, now what?

German Moreno was convicted of sexually abusing children in Costa Rica in 1993, but the doctor fled to the U.S. before he could be sentenced. On Monday, Moreno was arrested on new charges – but will the fugitive doc face justice this time?

For the third time in his life, Costa Rican doctor German Enrique Moreno Rojas has been charged with sexually molesting a minor.

Moreno’s latest arrest happened Monday after a 19-year-old Costa Rican filed a criminal complaint in Jacó accusing the doctor, who is a fugitive from justice in the United States, of sexually assaulting him when he was 16.

Agents from the Judicial Investigation Police, or OIJ, arrested Moreno, 50, at his mother’s residence in the northern San José district of Tibás. He had been staying there since closing his medical practice Aug. 6 in the southern Nicoya Peninsula town of Playa Carmen (TT, Aug. 19, 12). He was booked at downtown San José’s judicial headquarters and transferred to a holding cell in Jacó, on the central Pacific coast, pending a preliminary hearing.

Moreno did not respond to questions by The Tico Times at the time of his arrest.

A judge on Tuesday ordered Moreno held for three months in preventive custody while prosecutors build a case, a spokeswoman from the Chief Prosecutor’s Office said on Wednesday. Prosecutors had asked for six months of preventive detention, but a government official with knowledge of the hearing said most of the evidence in the case, including witness testimony, has already been collected.

Moreno was moved to a jail in the Pacific port city of Puntarenas. Investigators will collect more evidence in Puntarenas province before deciding if the case will proceed to a trial phase. The source said Moreno’s attorney did not request special protective measures for his client.

The Tico Times attempted to contact Moreno’s attorney, but was unable to reach him by press time.

The alleged victim in the case, who asked The Tico Times to withhold his name, said he filed a criminal complaint after learning through media reports that the doctor is wanted in the United States on nine counts of child sexual abuse in Houston, Texas (TT, Aug. 19, 12). An Interpol arrest warrant issued after Moreno fled the U.S. in May 2005 is still valid, although the Costa Rican Constitution bars nationals from being extradited.

Moreno also evaded jail by fleeing the country after being convicted in 1993 in Costa Rica of sexually molesting five boys in the Caribbean slope town of Turrialba.

“With the story going public, my client felt empowered enough to trust that Moreno would some day pay for his crimes,” said attorney Alexandra Morales, who represents the 19-year-old and his family.

Morales said Moreno was “obsessed” with her client, who lived with the doctor for two years in Playa Carmen, along with his mother and two siblings. It was during this time that the alleged abuse occurred. Prosecutors will not comment on the details of the abuse.

The family moved out of Moreno’s residence last December, but the doctor continued to harass and intimidate them, according to family members and witnesses who spoke to The Tico Times.

After meeting with a lawyer, a psychologist and a social worker, the family obtained a restraining order against Moreno last month in Jacó. They said he continued to contact them through an acquaintance.

Is a Costa Rican Trial Possible?

In Houston, Moreno faces charges of sexually abusing at least seven victims, all minors at the time the alleged abuses occurred. Although he cannot be extradited to the U.S., the constitution, Costa Rica’s penal code and an extradition treaty between the two countries allow Moreno to be tried in a Costa Rican court for his alleged crimes in the U.S., according to Costa Rica’s Chief Prosecutor Jorge Chavarría and other legal experts consulted by The Tico Times.

For Costa Rican prosecutors to move forward with that strategy, they must first receive an official request from the U.S.

“We can’t step on the United States’ sovereignty and start our own investigation for crimes committed on foreign soil. We need a formal request from the prosecutor in charge of this investigation in the U.S. in order to start coordinating the numerous aspects of this process,” Chavarría said.

Moreno’s 2005 sexual abuse case was headed by the Harris County District Attorney’s office in Houston, Texas. Donna Hawkins, a spokeswoman at that office, said the DA is aware of Moreno’s arrest in Costa Rica. She could not comment further by press time.

If an official request is made, Costa Rica’s Chief Prosecutor’s Office would coordinate both the relocation of evidence from the U.S. and the method for witness testimony, Chavarría said.

According to a U.S. Embassy official, under the bilateral treaty between Costa Rica and the U.S., a formal request for extradition must be made by the U.S. and denied on the basis of nationality by the government of Costa Rica. Only then can a U.S. court request local prosecution. Witnesses would be allowed to testify via video conference, the official said.

The U.S. Justice Department would not “confirm or comment on specific matters of extradition,” a department spokeswoman said. However, a spokeswoman for Costa Rica’s judicial system told The Tico Times on Wednesday that the Costa Rican government has not received an extradition request from the U.S. in the Moreno case, nor an official request from any U.S. government agency for judicial assistance.

“In the past we have had similar processes where criminal organizations were divided between the two countries. In those cases, we never had trouble, since U.S. authorities were always eager to collaborate and finance the cost of bringing witnesses here,” Chavarría said.

Longing for Justice

The latest accusations against Moreno surfaced because his accuser stepped forward after learning of the doctor’s other alleged victims in the U.S. It helped him overcome his fear of retribution, he said. He hopes the criminal complaint will help bring justice not only in his case, but in the U.S. case as well.

In Houston, some of Moreno’s accusers say they follow the news in Costa Rica online almost daily. They too say they are no longer afraid to speak out.

In Playa Carmen, news of Moreno’s arrest spread quickly. It was local neighbors who first alerted The Tico Times that the fugitive Moreno was living in their community, practicing medicine legally at a local clinic and spending time at local schools.

Residents are relieved that Costa Rican police were able to arrest Moreno, thanks to a concerted community effort to raise awareness about his past. But they still worry that the doctor might somehow slip away, again.”

To find additional global criminal news, please read The Global Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Viktor Bout Statements to U.S. Agents Coerced, Federal Judge Rules

August 25, 2011

San Francisco Chronicle on August 24, 2011 released the following:

“Aug. 24 (Bloomberg) — Viktor Bout, a Russian accused of conspiring to sell weapons to a Colombian terrorist group, won a bid to bar from his trial statements he made after U.S. authorities threatened to abandon him in a Thai prison.

U.S. District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin in Manhattan today granted Bout’s request to exclude his comments to Drug Enforcement Administration agents after his arrest in Bangkok, saying the agents ignored Bout’s request for more time to decide whether to talk. Bout, 44, said he was told that if he didn’t speak immediately, he’d be left in a Thai jail to face “heat, hunger, disease and rape,” Scheindlin wrote in her ruling.

“When coupled with the agents’ deceptive suggestion that if Bout ‘cooperated’ he could come back to the United States with them (rather than be ‘abandoned’ in a Thai jail), I find that this credible threat of violence also materially induced Bout to make statements,” Scheindlin said.

Albert Dayan, one of Bout’s attorneys, didn’t immediately return a telephone message left at his office seeking comment on the decision.

“We respectfully disagree with the judge’s opinion and plan to request that it be reconsidered,” Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office, said in a statement.

Rocket Launchers

Bout was arrested on March 6, 2008, in a sting operation. The government said undercover agents told Bout they wanted to buy weapons for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, including surface-to-air missiles, armor-piercing rocket launchers and machine guns. His trial is set for Oct. 11.

Scheindlin, who this month denied a second request by Bout to have the charges dismissed, said in today’s ruling that his “dramatic arrest,” during which he was handcuffed and walked in front of reporters and photographers, along with denial of his requests for an attorney and contact with his embassy, led him to make involuntary statements.

According to Bout’s version of events, he was taken into custody by 15 to 20 officers at the Sofitel Hotel in Bangkok, and then strip-searched as police looked for evidence in his hotel room, Scheindlin wrote in today’s order. He was then transferred to police headquarters, where he was confronted with 40 to 50 members of the media who took pictures of him, Scheindlin said.

Thai Police Official

A Thai police official then told Bout that U.S. agents wanted to speak with him, and Bout responded that he didn’t want to talk to them, saying that he wanted to meet with an attorney and see a representative of the Russian embassy, requests that were denied, Scheindlin said.

About an hour after his arrest, Bout was placed in a room with six or seven U.S. agents and was advised of his rights, which he said he understood, Scheindlin said. During a 20-minute interview that followed, Bout told the agents several times that he was “not in a very good state of mind” and needed more time before he could speak with them, the judge said.

Bout was handcuffed throughout the interview and repeatedly asked the agents if he could speak with them the next day, Scheindlin said.

Two of the agents said during a May court hearing that they weren’t aware that Bout had asked for an attorney or a representative of the Russian embassy, the judge said. One of the agents, Robert Zachariasiewicz, denied telling Bout that he wouldn’t be able to survive in a Thai jail or that he would be subject to “heat, hunger, disease and rape,” Scheindlin said.

Waive Extradition

Zachariasiewicz admitted that he told Bout that the conditions in a Thai jail may not be “pleasant,” and that he told him he was facing 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the charges, the judge said. Zachariasiewicz also denied that any of the agents asked Bout to waive extradition and said that Thai authorities made it clear he wasn’t coming with them, Scheindlin wrote.

The agents acknowledged that Bout told them he wasn’t in a good frame of mind and needed more time before he could speak with them, and also that Bout asked for them to come back the next day, Scheindlin said.

“Both agents testified that they told Bout that it was unlikely that the Thai police would permit them to speak with him tomorrow,” the judge said. “I find that the agents’ representation on this point was false and find that it is likely they knew that they would have been permitted to see Bout the next day if they had made that request of the Thai police.”

The agents also weren’t credible when they denied insinuating that Bout might return to the U.S. with them if he cooperated and waived extradition and denied telling Bout that he would face “disease, hunger, heat and rape” in Thai jails, the judge said.

‘Credit Them Fully’

“To the extent that the statements in Bout’s affidavit are uncontradicted I obviously credit them fully,” Scheindlin wrote. “To the extent the statements are contradicted they would ordinarily be entitled to less weight than sworn testimony. However, based on Bout’s uncontradicted description of the events surrounding the arrest, I find his version of the interview more credible than the version advanced by the agents.”

The case is U.S. v. Bout, 08-cr-0365, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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