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Handlers Indicted For Day Care Fraud Now Arie Rangott Brought In before January 9 Trial

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Sept 12 – Isidore Handler, Martin Handler, Menachem Lieberman, Harold Schwartz and Ben Werczberger were indicted and then presented on January 11 before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Magistrate Judge Robert W. Lehrburger.

Inner City Press was there, the only media in the Mag Court. There was an argument about the defendants phones being searched, see below.

  The charges include wire fraud, theft of government funds, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

On August 31, a change of plea (to guilty) hearing was docketed: "ORDER as to Isidore Handler: The Court has been informed that Defendant Isidore Handler may wish to enter a change of plea. Accordingly, on September 6, 2023 at 11:30 a.m., a plea proceeding will take place in Courtroom 12B, 500 Pearl Street, New York, New York 10007. (Signed by Judge Jennifer H. Rearden on 8/30/2023)."

The indictment, while ordered unsealed on January 11, was still not in PACER - in its place were two copies of the order to unseal. Inner City Press has obtained and published it on its DocumentCloud, here. 

Summary: They are charged with participating in schemes to steal millions of dollars from government-funded childcare programs for low-income families, including by stealing proceeds from a fake after-school program that received millions in funding and by using funds to purchase private real estate, items at auction, and a luxury vehicle.

  The defendants were ordered released on bond on January 11.

There was an argument about phones seized from the defendants. Defense counsel wanted to litigate before any search warrant can be obtained. But Assistant US Attorney Daniel Wolf said the issue wasn't ripe, that they could move to suppress later. 

 Judge Lehrburger recommended that defense counsel write a letter to the assigned District Judge Jennifer H. Rearden.

On January 18, they did, arguing that "the government has not set forth the basis for the agents' belief that - at the time of the seizure - they had probable cause to believe that these specific phones contained evidence of criminality." And some phones, they say, were not in plain view. Motion on Patreon here

On January 19, Judge Rearden held the arraignment, and moved on to trial date. Inner City Press thread here, more on Patreon here

On March 14, 2023, the US Attorney's Office docketed redacted letters as to Martin Handler and Martin Lieberman, asserting their lawyers have conflicts of interest - that could be waived - with the blacked out material said to "address ongoing non-public matters before the grand jury."

On March 16, Judge Rearden ordered: "ORDER as to Martin Handler, Menachem Lieberman. Defendant Martin Handler, his counsel, and the Government shall appear for a Curcio Hearing on March 22, 2023 at 11:00 a.m. Defendant Menachem Lieberman, his counsel, and the Government shall appear for a Curcio Hearing on March 22, 2023 at 2:00 p.m." Inner City Press asked in its March 16 story, Can they hold a Curcio hearing which does not disclose the conflicts?

  Almost, is the answer. Inner City Press attended and covered both Curcio hearings on March 22. The 11 am, or Menachem Lieberman, when smoothly: he waived the conflict. But at 2 pm, Martin Handler's lawyer contested several of the questions - and then argued that the Court cannot order her client to speak to another lawyer. Judge Rearden asked for a letter by 5 pm on March 23 before she issues an order.

At the end, the AUSA asked to redact the transcript, as the name of one of the companies was said. Inner City Press heard it and wrote it down, but is voluntarily not reporting it here.

On the afternoon of March 23, Handler proposed his own Curcio counsel, citing Supreme Court precedent on a defendant's right "to choose who will represent him."

On March 23, the US Attorney's Office responded that the Court should question the counsel Handler has proposed. Then it separately reported on cellphones, some of which it has still been unable to decrypt or extract.

On March 30, Judge Rearden ordered: "ORDER as to Martin Handler: Martin Handler's application to retain Stacey Richman as independent Curcio counsel, ECF No. 74, is GRANTED. Mr. Handler, his counsel, his independent counsel, and the Government shall appear ... on April 11, 2023 at 10:30 am to continue the March 22, 2023 Curcio hearing."

  Inner City Press was there. Midway through the more than an hour hearing, Handler said he couldn't or wouldn't waive the right to cross examine employees of the two entities. His lawyer added that is not what in her understanding the law or ethics requires - only that information gained in the previous representation cannot be used. It emerged that both entities in the last 24 hours provided waivers. But the AUSA sought and got a question on that these waivers are not necessarily forever. After all this, a knowing acceptance of the (possible) conflict was found, and the case proceeds.

On April 18, all defendants and their counsel were before Judge Rearden. The defense requested a trial date in mid May 2024 but Judge Rearden said that was too far off. One has a conflict in EDNY in March; Judge Rearden asked for emailed about other dates in the first     quarter of 2024.

On May 1, Judge Rearden docketed the trial date and more: "ORDER as to Martin Handler, Menachem Lieberman, Harold Schwartz, Isidore Handler, Ben Werczberger. It is hereby ORDERED that: 1. Trial will commence on January 9, 2024 at 10:00 AM. 2. Defendants' pretrial motions are due August 30, 2023, with the Government's responses due September 13, 2023, and Defendants' replies, if any, due September 20, 2023. 3. Any motions in limine or trial memoranda, as well as proposed voir dire questions, proposed jury instructions, and proposed verdict forms, shall be filed by December 4, 2023. Any oppositions to motions in limine or trial memoranda shall be filed by December 18, 2023. The parties are directed to Rule 8 of the Court's Individual Rules and Practices in Criminal Cases for further requirements as to the submission of pretrial materials, exhibit lists, exhibits, and materials pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3500. 4. Any motions to sever are due December 4, 2023, with responses due December 18, 2023. 5. A final pretrial conference will be held on December 28, 2023 at 11:30 AM."

On September 12, a new co-defendant was brought in on a superseding indictment: Arie Rangott. He appeared before SDNY Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave. Inner City Press was there.

  The AUSA wanted GPS location monitoring, citing the danger of flight to Canada. But Judge Cave said it wasn't necessary. She called for a $250,000 bond with three co-signers. Rangott can continue to work as a day care administrator or supervisor, but if he changes employers must confer with Pre-Trial Services.

Watch this site.

Inner City Press will continue to cover this case.

The case is US v. Handler, et al., 23-cr-4 (Rearden)


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