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In SDNY Avenatti Charged With Extorting Nike and Released on $300000 Bail Inner City Press Asks of NCAA Bracket

By Matthew Russell Lee

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 25 – When Michael Avenatti was brought into court on March 25 on charges of extorting Nike and defrauding banks, he sat alone at the defense table for twenty minutes. The two Federal Defenders lawyers representing him then came in, and huddled twice with a group of prosecutors. It emerged they hammered out a bail package: $300,000 bond, turning in both American and Italian passports and not contacting Co-Conspirator 1 without counsel present. U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge  Katharine H. Parker accepted the bail package, and told Avenatti if he does not show up a warrant will be issued for his arrest. Later, much later, Avenatti emerged in front of the SDNY court's Worth Street entrance and spoke without taking questions, saying he will continue to fight. On his way to his 4 by 4 Inner City Press asked, What information do you have on Nike? And, to try to get some response, Has your [NCAA March Madness] bracket been broken? There was no answer. Periscope video here. College basketball scandals involving Adidas and University of Louisville on March 5, with a glancing reference to Rick Pitino, resulted in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in prison sentences of nine months for James Gatto, and six months each for Merl Code and Christian Dawkins. Since then LSU coach Will Wade has been suspended - even as LSU with named Javonte Smart in March Madness beat Maryland on March 23, to next face off against the Spartans of Michigan State, with Wade still sending text message to "his" players. Meanwhile after Pitino's former team Louisville lost against Minnesota coached by his son by 10 - call it karma -- then Minnesota lost to Michigan State (slated to play LSU).  Auburn, see below, again reversed the karmic trend with a win over Kansas after its squeaker win over New Mexico State. The next NCAA corruption trial starts April 22 in the SDNY, with Will Wade already served a subpoena... On March 19 Chuck Person, former coach at Auburn, pled guilty in the SDNY to receiving approximately $91,500 in cash bribes from athlete advisers in exchange for using his influence over Auburn basketball players to retain the services of the advisers paying the bribes.  Person pled guilty before SDNY Judge Loretta A. Preska, who on March 25 is set to sentence UN briber Patrick Ho who paid $500,000 to UN PGA Sam Kutesa of Uganda, and offered $2 million to Chad's Idriss Deby.  Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As he has now admitted, Chuck Person abused his position as a coach and mentor to student-athletes in exchange for personal gain.  In taking tens of thousands of dollars in cash bribes, Person not only placed personal financial gain above his obligations to his employer and the student-athletes he coached, but he broke the law"....  In one recorded meeting, Person stressed to an Auburn University player the importance of keeping their relationship with CW-1 a secret.  Person stated, “most important part is that you  . . . don’t say nothing to anybody . . . don’t share with your sisters, don’t share with any of the teammates, that’s very important cause this is a violation . . . of rules, but this is how the NBA players get it done, they get early relationships, and they form partnerships.”   Person later told that player that CW-1 would purchase him a separate cell phone over which they could communicate so as to conceal the nature of the scheme. It's called guilty knowledge.

On March 5 SDNY Judge Lewis A. Kaplan heard from each of the defendants' lawyers and then from the defendants themselves. A particular wiretap played during the trial was cited by Judge Kaplan, in which the parties said they had to leave Rick Pitino "plausible deniability." Since then Pitino, who was fired by Louisville in 2017 as the school’s basketball program was being investigated as part of the federal corruption probe, has complained. “The Southern District of New York used me for publicity, the University of Louisville buried a Hall of Fame career,” Pitino said in a text message to the Louisville Courier-Journal from Turkey, where his Greek EuroLeague team Panathinaikos plays Thursday. “Let me rest in peace. Please, you have killed enough of my life.  "And by the way, if you care to ask, there are 50-plus players that will attest to my honesty, not some gullible judge. And Judge Kaplan is as guilty as the people he just sentenced for bringing up an innocent person with his remarks." In fairness, Judge Kaplan was quoting for a transcript of a wiretap played in the trial. And it is such a wiretap that has Will Wade not coaching. Now there's speculation, for now shot down, of Pitino returning to Washington State University despite "the sleaze factor." We'll have more on this.

 On March 5, Merl Code's lawyer did most of the talking, in a Southern accent, at one point favorably comparing Judge Kaplan to his own mother. There was laughter in the courtroom. It won't help you, Judge Kaplan quipped. But who knows? In the argument for bailing pending appeal, Judge Kaplan hearkened back to having won bail for a client some forty years ago by arguing to a judge in Rhode Island that the judge's decision was likely to be reversed. The U.S. Attorney's office, represented at the sentencing by Edward B. Diskant, said they were convicted "for conspiring to defraud universities by funneling illicit payments to the families of high-school and college basketball players and concealing those payments – which were prohibited by university policies and NCAA rules – from the schools. GATTO, the Director of Global Basketball Sports Marketing at Adidas, CODE, an Adidas consultant, and DAWKINS, an aspiring manager of professional athletes, will be sentenced on March 5, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. by Judge Kaplan, who presided over the four-week trial. Two other scheme participants, MUNISH SOOD, a financial advisor, and THOMAS “T.J.” GASSNOLA, a former Adidas consultant, previously pled guilty in connection with their participation in the fraudulent scheme." Gatto will be back in front of Judge Kaplan on the restitition issue on Paril 9 at 10 am...

The day before in the same courthouse the jury in a week-long Bronx gang case  passed a note on to Judge Robert W. Sweet, who said it indicted a lack of unanimity, but not necessarily division. But should he read the note into the record? Initially the prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's office said yes, and provided Judge Sweet a citation. But when he re-emerged from his chambers agreeing to show both sides the note, he asked why he should read it into the record. Now the prosecutors said they would defer to the lawyers for the defendant, Christopher Howard, and not read it into the record. Which meant, and still for now means, that the press and public have no way to know what it says.

  Isn't there's an interest in the public, separate from the government's interest, in knowing of this process? The interest was cited recently in this SDNY to release some of what was seized in the raid on Michael Cohen's home. Why does that logic not apply to this? And how does the Press, entering each day from the metal detectors, go about asserting and pursuing that interest? Inner City Press, on this day and in this case the only media in the courtroom, last month covered the decision by SDNY Judge Pauley
From the SDNY decision in U.S. v. Cohen, 18-cr-00602: "the presumption of access is at its core tethered to the need for public monitoring of the federal courts and their exercise of judicial power. Cf. SEC v. Van Waeyenberghe, 990 F.2d 845, 847 (5th Cir. 1993) (explaining that “[t]he public’s right to information does not protect the same interests that the right of access is designed to protect”). As the Second Circuit explained, Monitoring both provides judges with critical views of their work and deters arbitrary judicial behavior. Without monitoring, moreover, the public could have no confidence in the conscientiousness, reasonableness, or honesty of judicial proceedings. Such monitoring is not possible without access to testimony and documents that are used in the performance of Article III functions. Amodeo II, 71 F.3d at 1050." 

  The same question has been raised in another SDNY case, this one civil and involving the employment practices of the Qatari royals who live in a mansion on 72nd Street. There, Judge Oetken told the parties to agree among themselves how much to seal. But this is a criminal case.

On March 1 with the jury already out, defendant Howard upon returning to the courthouse at 2 pm had to jump to the front of the security line to ensure arrival in the courtroom on time. So did others. This case in ongoing - watch this site. How guns eject shell casings was the subject of expert testimony in this case on February 27. An ATF agent traced a bullet back to Illinois; under cross examination he said a shell casing might eject feet rather than yards unless it bounced on something. The next day on February 28 the defense's failure to cross examine this testimony was emphasized in the government's summation; that the bullet was made in Illinois was presented as a basis to find that these half-block gangs impact inter-state commerce. A Facebook official testified, and the defendant's messages were shown, aiming to "peter roll that birch ass 'N-word.'" Judge Sweet in his March 1 lengthy charge to the jury said that "the defendant is not even required to cross examine witness." He told the jurors to disregard any questions he had asked witnesses, add that he didn't remember asking any (unlike for example Judge Hellerstein in the other racketeering trial still ongoing in the SDNY, of Joe Cammarano.) The differing demographics of the two courtrooms, and the lack of any other media in the Bronx case, were striking. The testimony went back to 2007, a 14-year old with a gun heading from the Millbrook projects to the Mitchell Houses. The defense asked for a mistrial when the name of a second gang was introduced; the prosecution shot back (so to speak) that it came from the photos on the defendant's own Facebook page. And so it was in summation. Back on February 25 a prison sentence of life plus five years was imposed for a Bronx murder by SDNY Chief Judge Colleen McMahon on February 25. She presided over the trial in which Stiven Siri-Reynoso was convicted of, among other things, murder in aid of racketeering for the death of Jessica White, a 28 year old mother of three, in the Bronx in 2016. Jessica White's mother was in the court room; she was greeted by Judge McMahon but declined to speak before sentencing. Siri-Reynoso was representing himself by this point, with a back-up counsel by his side. Judge McMahon told him, "You're a very smart man... a tough guy, a calculating person... You are a coward, sent a child to do it for you... Your emissary shot the wrong person, a lovely lady... It was a vicious, evil attack against the good people of that neighborhood." When she imposed the life plus five sentence, a woman on the Jessica White side of the courtroom cried out, yes Ma'am, put the animal away! Later, after Siri-Reynoso ended asking how he can get more documents about the case, a woman on his side of the courtroom said, "No te preocupes, muchacho, Dios sabe lo que hace" - don't worry, God knows what he is doing. But does He? Earlier on February 25 when the government tried to defend its 2018 change of policy or practice on Special Immigrant Juvenile status in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge John G. Koeltl had many questions about the change. He asked, are you saying that all the decisions before 2018 were just wrong, under a policy in place but not implemented at the time? In the overflow courtroom 15C the largely young audience laughed, as the government lawyer tried to say it wasn't a change of policy but rather an agency interpretation of the statute. Shouldn't there have been notice and comment rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act? The government said the argument proffered for this was about the Freedom of Information Act (on which, as Inner City Press has noted, the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has similarly reversed its policy 180 degrees without justification). SDNY Judge Koeltl demanded t know if the government is arguing that no juvenile court in New York, California (and maybe Texas for other reasons he said) is empowered to grant relief. The answer was far from clear - but where the ruling is going does seem so. Watch this site. The Bangladeshi Central Bank which was hacked for $81 million in February 2016, on January 31 sued in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Now the first pre-trial conference in the case has been set, for 2 April 2019 before SDNY Judge Lorna G. Schofield. Inner City Press will be there.

In Dhaka, the Criminal Investigation Department which failed to submit its probe report into the heist on time has now been ordered by Metropolitan Magistrate Sadbir Yasir Ahsan Chowdhury to do so by March 13 in Bangladesh Bank cyber heist case.

In the U.S. District Court for Central California, the unsealed criminal complaint against Park Jin Hyuk lists four email addresses involved in spear-phishing Bangladesh Bank and among others an unnamed "African Bank;" one of these addresses is said to also have communicated with an individual in Australia about importing commodities to North Korea in violations of UN sanctions.

To the Federal Reserve, Inner City Press has requested records relating to the Fed's role with response due in 20 working days - watch this site. In the SDNY, the case is Bangladesh Bank v Rizal Commercial Banking Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-00983. On February 3 in Dhaka Bangladesh Bank's lawyer Ajmalul Hossain said it could take three years to recover the money. The Bank's deputy governor Abu Hena Razee Hasan said those being accused -- in the civil not criminal suit -- include three Chinese nationals. Ajmalul Hossain said the Bank is seeking its hacked million plus interest and its expenses in the case. He said US Federal Reserve will extend its full support and that SWIFT, the international money transfer network, also assured of providing all the necessary cooperation in recovering the hacked money.  The Philippines returned $14.54 million in November 2016, so $66.46 million has yet to be retrieved. Now defendant RCBC Bank of the Philippines has hired the Quinn Emanuel law firm to defend it, and it already fighting back in words. RCBC’s lead counsel on the SDNY case, Tai-Heng Cheng, said:  “This is nothing more than a thinly veiled PR campaign disguised as a lawsuit. Based on what we have heard this suit is completely baseless. If the Bank of Bangladesh was serious about recovering the money, they would have pursued their claims three years ago and not wait until days before the statute of limitations. Not only are the allegations false, they don’t have the right to file here since none of the defendants are in the US." But it seems the funds were transferred to and through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. And as Inner City Press reported in the US v. Patrick Ho case last year, the wiring of funds through New York can confer jurisdiction. Inner City Press will be covering this case. The first paragraph of the 103 page complaint reads, "This litigation involves a massive, multi-year conspiracy to carry out one of the largest banks heists in modern history right here in New York City. On February 4, 2016, thieves reached into a bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (“New York Fed”) and stole approximately $101 million (out of the nearly $1 billion they attempted to steal). The bank account was held for the benefit of Bangladesh Bank, which is Bangladesh’s Central Bank. Bangladesh Bank has had a 45-year banking relationship under which it has placed its international reserves with the New York Fed. The New York Fed is a critical component of the United States’ central banking system and its link to the international financial system." Bangladesh's lawyers on the case are "COZEN O’CONNOR John J. Sullivan, Esq.  Jesse Loffler, Esq. Yehudah Gordon, Esq." We'll have more on this.

Debaprasad Debnath, a general manager at the central bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit, Joint Director Mohammad Abdur Rab and Account and Budgeting Department General Manager Zakir Hossain all left Dhaka to head to New York, for the filing of the lawsuit, which Inner City Press will be following.

They say the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which on January 29 was instructed by the US State Department to allow Juan Guaido to access Venezuelan accounts, will be helping its Bangladeshi counterpart to get to the bottom of the hack.  Those eyed include Philippines’ Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation or RCBC and some of its officials, and Philrem Service Corporation, casino owners and beneficiaries. Ajmalul Hossain QC, a lawyer for the central bank, is with them to file the case.

It is an interesting twist on the SDNY as venue for the money laundering and FCPA prosecution of Patrick Ho of CEFC for bribery in Chad and to Uganda - in this case, too, the money flowed through New York. Inner City Press intends to cover the case.


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