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On Black Market Peso Exchange Forero Alvarez Extradited In Now SDNY Trial Set Sept 2024

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Nov 13 – Benzion Zirkind was arrested and released on money laundering charges on July 21, 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He put up a $100,000 bond secured by a property at 1349 President Street in Brooklyn owned by a friend of the family, Inner City Press reported.

  Also in the case is co-defendant Andy Garibaldi Lopez, who was up for sentencing on January 29, 2021 He made an argument that his role was minor and that he needs to support his family. It carried weight with SDNY Judge Denise L. Cote - she sentenced him to five years probation, with the admonition that if she has erred he will be remanded.

  Also in the Zirkind family, and in the case, is Zalmund Zirkind. He pleaded guilty and was up for sentencing, in-person, on January 15. Inner City Press live tweeted it, here and below.

 On February 2, 2022, Judge Denise L. Cote had before her co-defendant Liliana Hoyos Palaez, recently arrested in Panama and then presented before SDNY Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave.

  Now she is on the fast track: "as to Liliana Hoyos Pelaez, Government to complete its discovery by February 25, 2022. Any defense motion defendant shall be due May 6, 2022. Govt's opposition due May 13, 2022. Trial date set for July 11, 2022. Time excluded from February 2, 2022 until July 11, 2022 pursuant to 18 USC 3161 (h)(7)(A). Detention continued."

 Inner City Press called in; the discovery is said to involve some 100,000 pages. Watch this site.

  Back on March 9, 2021 this: "ORDER as to David Maleh: On March 3, 2021 defense counsel informed the Court that the defendant prefers that the Change of Plea in this matter occur in person. Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that the defendant is scheduled to plead guilty in person in Courtroom 18B, 500 Pearl Street, on March 25, 2021 at 3:00 PM. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all individuals seeking entry to 500 Pearl Street must complete a questionnaire and have their temperature taken before being allowed entry into the courthouse."

 On February 22, Benzion Zirkind was sentenced to a year and a day: "JUDGMENT IN A CRIMINAL CASE as to Benzion Zirkind (6). THE DEFENDANT: pleaded guilty to count 1. IMPRISONMENT: A year and a day. The court makes the following recommendations to the Bureau of Prisons: That the defendant be designated to a facility as close to New York City as possible. The defendant shall surrender for service of sentence at the institution designated by the Bureau of Prisons: before 10 AM on 4/9/2021. SUPERVISED RELEASE: 3 Years. See SPECIAL CONDITIONS OF SUPERVISION. ASSESSMENT: $100.00 due immediately. The defendant shall forfeit the defendant's interest in the following property to the United States: Pursuant to the February 19, 2021 Consent Preliminary Order of Forfeiture/Money Judgment, the defendant shall forfeit a sum of money in the amount of $20,000.00 in U.S. Currency. (Signed by Judge Denise L. Cote on 2/22/2021)." A year and a day, with "good time," mean less.

  Back on January 21, Benzion Zirkind's lawyer asked to delay his sentencing from February 5 to February 26, to allow rebuttal to the Pre Sentencing Report with reports "from a community service organization, a physician and an outreach organization the defendant has been working closely with... to give the Court a more comprehensive picture of who this defendant is."

  On January 22, Judge Cote denied the request: "ORDER as to Benzion Zirkind (6):The Court having received defense counsels letter dated January 21, 2021 requesting an adjournment of the February 5, 2021 sentencing date, it is herebyORDERED that the request to adjourn the sentencing date is denied.IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that defense counsel shall respond to the following two questions by January 28, 2021: (1) Does the defendant consent to be sentenced through videoconference technology? (2)If the defendant is unable to arrange for a videoconference proceeding, does the defendant consent to be sentenced at a telephone conference proceeding? If the defendant consents to either option, please complete and submit the written consent form attached to this Order if it is feasible to do so. (Signed by Judge Denise L. Cote on 1/22/2021) (Attachment: # (1) Appendix - Waiver of Right to be Present at Criminal Proceeding)."

From January 15: the sentencing for money laundering of Zalmund Zirkind. He had asked to have the whole proceeding sealed; still, many of the sentencing submissions are redacted.

  Judge Cote: There is agreement that the sentencing guideline starts at 135 months. Probation recommends 60 months. The defendant wants probation, citing devotion to his family and friends. And other efforts he had made since his arrest...  His brother got 4 years

AUSA: He watched his brother mount an unsuccessful defense, but continued to engage in the conduct. It shows his risk appetite. It is proof that imprisonment is necessary.

 AUSA: His prior withdrawal last a few months, then he got back into entering people contracts to move money. I think he would do it again, absent specific deterrence. Also, I don't know the ins and outs of supervised release in Canada.

Judge Cote: I want to make sure the defense is aware of the whisper phones, so you can confer while still socially distanced. Johanna Zapp: But for COVID, this courtroom would be full. But we understand.

 Zapp: His motivation for committing these crimes, $85,000 over 2 years, was to take care of his daughter, who is autistic. The care is expensive. He felt he had no other option.  Judge Cote: That's not an acceptable reason.

Zapp: Your Honor, I'm a tough cookie. I spoke to him about it. The child has regressed, the school says she is too disruptive.

Zirkind himself: God has blessed me and my wife with children. By trying to make money I thought we need, I made things worse. I was wrong.

Judge Cote: I'm not able to grant the defendant's request how to structure a sentence. The question is the length of the sentence. The defendant's family is suffering, and has been for years. I have defendants who come before me from a variety of backgrounds...

 Judge Cote: I'm going to impose on Mr. Zirkind a sentence of 84 months in prison, then 3 years supervised release.

 Judge Cote: I order forfeiture in the amount of $87,000. I enter this sentence. I know of no grounds for appeal, given the plea agreement. But you have that right. Surrender date is February 26.

Lawyer requests Otisville. Judge Cote says, By region. Northeast.

 Lawyer asks if Zirkind can travel to Montreal for 2 weeks. Judge Cote: See if you can agree with the government. Normally I would not allow a defendant to leave the US.

Lawyer: We've asked the government, without success.

Judge Cote: I am denying it.

  Earlier in the wider case, SDNY Magistrate Judge Barbara Moses held a proceeding late on July 21, and Inner City Press covered it. 

  Benzion Zirkind unlike most defendants in the SDNY at that time had retained counsel, who announced that he had "four questions."    Judge Moses joked that those should be for the youngest child.

One of the questions was how the defendant should avoid speaking with co-defendants, if some of them are sealed. More, apparently, will be family members.  

 The President Street property is valued at over $2 million.

The next court date was before District Judge Denise L. Cote. She  ordered, "ORDER as to Benzion Zirkind: ORDERED that a conference is scheduled for Friday, August 14, 2020 at 10:00 am. in which Mr. Tamir, Mr. Myers, the defendant, and counsel for the Government all must participate. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Government shall provide Mr. Tamir with a copy of this Order. (Pretrial Conference set for 8/14/2020 at 10:00 AM before Judge Denise L. Cote)."

  And late on August 14, this: "ORDER as to Benzion Zirkind. For the reasons set forth at the conference held by telephone on August 14, 2020, it is hereby ORDERED the previously retained counsel Zaki Tamir is relieved and the appearance of retained counsel Matthew D. Myers is accepted. (Signed by Judge Denise L. Cote on 8/14/2020)."

Co-defendant Hector Manuel Forero Alvarez was extradited into the UN on November 8, 2023, detained and is set to appear before Judge Cote on November 17 at 11:30 am.

Inner City Press attended. Forero Alvarez was brought in to his retained counsel, in the green jail uniform of the Hudson County Correctional Facility. Judge Cote set a September 16, 2024 trial date.

The case is US v. Bomba, et al., 19-cr-463 (Cote)


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