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In Venezuela Sanctions Case Inner City Press Won Unsealing Now Klein Conspiracy Charge OKed

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Transcript

SDNY COURTHOUSE,  May 2 – Victor Mones Coro was charged with brokering private passenger air travel for Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah - and like co-defendant Michols Orsini Quintero was given his discovery late by the US, mixed with other DHS info.

 On March 31 Coro's lawyer posted to the docket a notice "to the public and counsel of record that two sealed submissions... were made by defendant Victor Mones Coro." Inner City Press immediately filed opposition, docketed on April 1, quoted below.

  The US Attorney's Office for the SDNY was told to respond by April 9. When they did, they said this:

"In what appears to have been a coordinated effort, on the same day, Matthew Russell Lee of the Inner City Press contacted the Court by email and requested the unsealing of several sealed documents."   

  On April 13, Inner City Press submitted to the Court, and the US Attorney's Office, the opposition below.

On April 14, Judge Hellerstein ordered the US Attorney's Office to review and release or justify redaction of the many filings it put directly "into the vault" in this case.

Then on May 21, this: "ALVIN K. HELLERSTEIN, U.S.D.J.: On April 15, 2021, I ordered the Government to respond to Inner City Press’ application  to unseal documents in this case and to indicate what aspects of ECF Nos. 1-5, 39, 63, 74, 90- 100, 102-109, 120, 196, 198 shall remain under seal and which shall become public. The  Government responded on April 29, 2021, indicating that Documents 1-5, 63, 90-100, 102, 105- 109 were previously unsealed. The Government also moved to unseal ECF Nos. 39, 74, 103,  and 104, but seeks to maintain documents 120, 196, and 198 under seal. Having reviewed the  documents, and balancing the public’s presumptive right of access to the documents with the  Government’s stated need for secrecy, I hereby rule as follows: 1. The Government’s motion to unseal is hereby granted. The Clerk is instructed to  unseal ECF Nos. 39, 74, 103, and 104." Inner City Press immediately uploaded to its public DocumentCloud here

On March 27, 2023, after sealing a sentencing in another proceeding, Judge Hellerstein ordered: "ORDER as to (19-Cr-144-4) Michols Orsini Quintero. The defendant's motion is denied. Postponing the plea and consolidating with sentencing is undesirable. The manner and extent of defendant's allocution at a plea hearing is an important consideration in sentencing. I am sensitive to the hardship caused by defendant's inability to pay the expense of the return trip to Florida, where he resides. I understand that the Marshal's Service will bring defendant to the court to enable him to change his plea but refuse to pay for the cost of his return. Defendant's counsel, CJA-appointed, should apply to the Office of Federal Defenders for help with funds. If that fails, I shall order payment from CJA funds. The plea hearing is adjourned to April 25, 2023 at 11:45 a.m. SO ORDERED. ( Plea Hearing set for 4/25/2023 at 11:45 AM before Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein. )(Signed by Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein on 3/27/2023)."

On May 2, 2023, Judge Hellerstein ruled: "ORDER as to Samark Jose Lopez Bello: The motion to dismiss Count One on the ground that that the Government has not properly alleged a Klein conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. § 371 is denied. The Clerk of Court shall close the motions at ECF No. 253. (Signed by Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein on 5/2/2023)."

In July 2021, co-defendant sentencing: "Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein: Sentencing held on 7/27/2021 for Alejandro Javier Marin (8) Count 1-3. Deft. pres. w/atty. Kelley Sharkey; AUSA, Samuel Adelsberg pres.; Court reporter Khris Sellin pres.; Deft. sentenced to 22 months custody; 3 years Supervised Release; $547,911.00 Restitution."

From Inner City Press' April 13 filing: "Meaningful reply to the Government's argument remains difficult, as so much of it is redacted. For example, on Page 1, four lines and two full paragraphs after "During the conference, the Court" are redacted. The basis for redacting the Government's summary of or gloss on it is unclear.    Now on April 13, Inner City Press notes and specific requests unsealing of the documents in this case, including to the degree they are not already released (it is impossible to compare the redacted letters later released with the many lines what say merely "SEALED DOCUMENT placed in vault") Docket Numbers 1 through 5, 39, 63, 74, 90-100, 102 through 109, 120, 196 and 198, all listed as entirely withheld. Inner City Press immediately replied to this statement in the Government response:

"In what appears to have been a coordinated effort, on the same day, Matthew Russel[l] Lee of the Inner City Press contacted the Court by email and requested the unsealing of several sealed documents."    Inner City Press routinely files requests to unseal in this District, and other Districts - including as cited in its March 31 request: US v. Weigand, 13-page order here. 

Ascribing ulterior motives to press requests for transparency is a hallmark of other regimes, like the one the US Attorney's Office claims to be so concerned about in this prosecution.    In the U.S., the presumption of access is "based on the need for federal courts... to have a measure of accountability and for the public to have confidence in the administration of justice." US v. Amodeo, 71 F.3d 1044, 1048 (2d Cir. 1995)."

From Inner City Press' March 31 request: "These are clearly judicial documents. And there is a public interest in US sanctions, on Venezuela and elsewhere, and their enforcement and violation and all filings in such cases.    Mr. Coro's counsel this evening filed that "Notice is hereby given to the public.. that two sealed submissions, dated March 8, 2021 and March 22, 2021, were made by the defendant Victor Mones Coro." Docket No. 194.   While appreciating the notice, no legal argument justifying withholding in full, rather than redacting where absolutely necessary was provided. Inner City Press hereby opposes the sealing, and requests unsealing.   Covering this for Inner City Press, I have noted how many filings are listed as sealed: see, e.g., Docket 120 (10/13/20), and further back. Compare, Judge Jed S. Rakoff's request ruling on Inner City Press' request in US v. Weigand, viewable here."

 On April 1, U.S. District Court for the Southern District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein ordered a response by April 9 - including by the US Attorney's Office. Watch this site.

  Also in the case has been Alejandro Javier Marin, who plead guilty on March 23 to a deal, only one count of false statements to Federal agents about $140,000, see below.

  On January 4, Mones Coro appeared before
Judge Hellerstein to plead guilty. His lawyer said there were contacts with intelligence service(s) but that the issue would come up as mitigation at sentencing, which Inner City Press said it also intended to cover.

Now it has.

On March 17, with Mones Coro up for sentencing, his lawyer began to speak of providing information to the US intelligence services. The Assistant US Attorney cut in and said this should be under seal. The phone line went silent as they went into the robing room.

Afterward the AUSA made reference to what he'd said in the robing room. Mones Coro was sentenced to 55 months, and the US Attorney's Office put out a press release, with sealing not mentioned, as it was not in the current Eaze trial in which an application by Inner City Press has resulted in some unsealing. And here?

  The March 24 guilty plea of Marin was a mystery. Why only a single count? Even the AUSA said it was more complicated. Judge Hellerstein asked for the discrepancy between restitution and forfeiture to be addressed prior to sentencing.

 There are other discrepancies. For example, Judge Hellerstein said the plea deal said Marin is a Venezuelan citizen who will be deported. But he said he is a US citizen; for education he mentioned service in the Venezuelan Naval Academy. We'll have more on this.

  On February 19, with Michols Orsini Quintero's release to home confinement in Florida to review the extensive discovery running out mid March, Judge Hellerstein held another proceeding. Inner City Press covered it.

  AUSA Sam Adelsberg pushed for Orsini Quintero to return to jail on March 15. Judge Hellerstein seemed to agree, but told defense lawyer Sabrina Shroff to "make a record" for his decision or for appeal. So expect some affidavits and legal arguments. Shroff emphasized that there is not even a trial date, and that her client was only a pilot.

On February 25, Shroff wrote to Judge Hellerstein requesting modifications of conditions of bail, specifically to receiving mental health evaluation a treatment, and to attend a house of worship "as religion and God are a source of comfort for Mr. Orsini."

And on February 26, Judge Hellerstein granted it: "MEMO ENDORSEMENT as to Michols Orsini Quintero on re: [183] LETTER by Michols Orsini Quintero addressed to Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein from Sabrina P. Shroff dated February 25, 2021 re: Modification of conditions of release. ENDORSEMENT: So Ordered. (Signed by Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein on 2/26/2021)."

 This case is US v. Coro, 19-cr-144 (Hellerstein)

 Some background: on November 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District Magistrates Court Alejandro Marin, described as having access to Venezuelan private planes, El Aissami and Venezuela's minister of crypto-currency, was ordered detained. It was not announced, but Inner City Press found it, and tweeted: with no announcement in advance, there is a defendant in SDNY Magistrates Court that DOJ is seeking to detain as a flight risk, he flies private plane and, AUSA says, knows Venezuela's minister of crypto-currency.

 They kept calling him Marin - quickly seemed it was  Alejandro Marin, witness against Venezuelans Vice President El Aissami and his alleged frontman, businessman Samark Lopez - now accused of lying. Inner City Press can report: he is being ordered detained .

  We said, We'll have more on this. And now we do. In Orsini Quintero's counsel Sabrina Shroff's letter dated December 10, she recounts that "On December 8, 2020, the Court ordered the government “to produce by Thursday, December 10, 2020 at noon, at to both defendants, its estimate of probable applications of the sentencing guidelines.” ECF No. 153. Knowing full well the difficulties the parties, the Bureau of Prisons, and the Court have scheduling remote court appearances, and while also cognizant of legal calls can only be arranged 4 days in advance, the government waited until just 24 hours before the bail argument to file its substantive opposition to Mr. Orsini Quintero’s bail motion. Sadly, this type of gamesmanship is typical of the government’s conduct in this case."

 And at a December 11 proceeding, there was more gamesmanship. After Judge Hellerstein said he was going to grant Shroff's request to free her client to Florida to assist in his defense, AUSA Sam Adelsberg suddenly announced there is an immigration detainer against him.

Judge Hellerstein said that could be address in an order, since he would retain jurisdiction. He asked Shroff and Adelsberg to finalize an order for him by December 16.

  On December 15, Adelsberg filed a proposed order, including that "the defendant is temporarily released for the preparation of his defense, pursuant to 18 USC 3142(i) to the custody of the Court's Pretrial Services supervision arm, and shall not be subject to the custody of ICE for the duration of his temporary release." It also says he he must "refrain from accessing the website of any consulate or embassy."

 Inner City Press will continue to cover this case -- Mones will now have his (re-) pleading proceeding by December 29. Watch this site.

It is said that Marin, a Confidential Source, "repeatedly approached Mr. Orsini Quintero's wife and question her about her husband's trial...The Government merely had the same agents who were handling the CS ask the CS about these concerns." Both then denied them.

  Marin told his handlers, "Why is so difficult to help to expedite something that is eminient [sic] like my citizenship?" He arguably committed immigration fraud. His adulterous relationship are referred to, followed by a redacted sentence.

Now on November 24 from Judge Hellerstein, this: "ORDER denying [140] LETTER MOTION Sanctions for late delivery of production, and bail as to Michols Orsini Quintero (4). The governments late productions of Rule 16 and Brady and Giglio evidence is not responsible for the approximately 20 months of defendants detention. Defendant has not shown an inability to process the governments production while remaining in detention, but the court remains open to applications for temporary release under conditions pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3142 (i). Defendants motion for bail is denied. The government has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that defendants capabilities as a pilot of chartered aircraft make him a flight risk. I8 U.S.C. 3142(e); U.S. v. English, 629 F.3D 311, 319 (2d Cir. 2011).. (Signed by Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein on November 24, 2020)."

   In October, Judge Hellerstein held a publicly-noticed proceeding. Inner City Press covered it. 

 It emerged that AUSA Amanda Houle has made ex parte sealed filings with Judge Hellerstein, with not a wisp of them in the docket.

There was a discussion of showing some but not all of the information to Orsini's lawyer, Sabrina Shroff, on an "attorney's eyes only" basis. Shroff, to her credit, pushed back.

 On October 28, Judge Hellerstein held another proceeding after the US Attorney's Office late-produced some eight terabytes of information, more than double the volume it produced before one of the co-defendant pleaded guilty. This is post the US v. Nejad case Inner City Press has reported on and in which it anticipates making a filing - watch this site.

  While Shroff is still digging through the terabytes, attorney Christine Chung was  mulling withdrawing Victor Mones Coro's plea.

Mones moved to withdraw the plea; the Court accepted the withdrawal of plea.

  Now on November 11, Mones has requested sanctions, stating that on October 25 the US Attorney's Office turned over a hard drive containing, erroneously, "confidential material regarding another investigation that DHS had mistakenly copied onto the drive." We'll have more on this.

In the interest of increased transparency, here is the October 28 transcript, on Inner City Press' DocumentCloud, here.

And Inner City Press' filing to further unseal in Nejad has been docketed.

This case is US v. Orsini Quintero, 19-cr-144 (Hellerstein)


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