This article originally appeared on Professor Koehler’s FCPA Professor website (www.fcpaprofessor.com) and is reprinted with his permission.
A “long and sad chapter in the annals of white collar criminal enforcement.” Those were the words used by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon yesterday in granting the DOJ’s motion to dismiss charges against the remaining Africa Sting defendants. As noted in a Washington Post story, Judge Leon further stated, “I, for one, hope this very long, and I’m sure expensive, ordeal will be a true learning experience for both the [Justice] Department and the FBI.”
As to the three defendants (Jonathan Spiller, Haim Geri and Daniel Alvirez) who previously plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, a charge Judge Leon dismissed as to all defendants in the second Africa Sting trial, Main Justice reports that the DOJ “is working on scheduling a hearing for those defendants ‘to give them an opportunity to be heard on this issue.’” As indicated in a previous article, Alvirez was also charged with non-sting conduct related to the Republic of Georgia.
Below are comments of several of the lawyers involved in the Africa Sting case below.
David Krakoff (BuckleySandler LLP) who represented John Mushriqui stated:
“We are extremely pleased that the Department of Justice has decided to do the right thing by moving to dismiss the Indictment against our client, John Mushriqui, ending his two year nightmare. We recognize that this was a difficult decision given the substantial resources that the government invested in this case. It’s really hard to take on the government, but when you believe in your innocence and fight for your freedom, these cases can be won. Ultimately, the system worked for John Mushriqui. John can start the rest of his life today with his good name intact.”
Charles Leeper (Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP) who represented Jeanna Mushriqui stated:
“Jeanna is innocent of these charges, a fact recognized by nearly all of the jurors who considered the evidence produced by the government at trial, and she was prepared to confront and refuse these charges again at re-trial. Nevertheless, Jeanna is grateful that the decision-makers at the Department of Justice recognized that it was time to bring this case to an end.”
Lisa Prager (Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello & Bohrer PC) who represented Israel Weisler stated:
“I am very pleased with the government’s dismissal. For my client, it has been a long two years. I believe it was a wise decision to put this case, finally, to rest.”
Michael Madigan (Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP) who represented John Godsey, who was found not guilty in the second Africa Sting trial, stated:
“While I commend the DOJ from the Attorney General on down for making the right decision today, the Government filing before Judge Leon (who was as fair, careful and thorough as any trial judge could be throughout the 66-day jury trial) missed its mark terribly in failing to recognize that the case was flawed from Day 1, both by it’s choice of a snitch (a despicable, dishonest 30-year cocaine addict and admitted thief of millions of dollars hidden in Swiss bank accounts from his prior employer), the ‘it’s all just a game’ commentary from the agents who disrespected the rule of law, and the structuring of the ‘sting’ in its documents and taped conversations to make the Defendants think it was a legal transaction they were being asked to participate in—all of which a courageous and always attentive jury so found. My client was acquitted of all charges almost two years to the day after he was arrested and chained to a chair for several hours—he rightly asks how our Justice system could have gone so awry and where he goes to get his reputation and two full years of his life back!”
At the end of the day, the Africa Sting case was about real people. Real people with real parents, real spouses, real children and real friends. Real people with real lives disrupted, real careers sidetracked, real reputations damaged and real wallets emptied to defend themselves in this manufactured case.
Dee Wempler, Joseph Passanise and Adam Woody (Law Offices of Dee Wempler and Joseph Passanise) who represented Lee Tolleson captured the human element in a release that stated:
“Lee Tolleson and his family are elated at this unnecessary and worthless nightmare is now over with the Government dismissing the multicount indictment with prejudice. Lee was a victim of a scheme by the Government, which was the mother of all gigantic taxpayers’ waste of dollars, to entrap him and others by faking an overseas business scam. The prosecutors were testing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by setting up a sting to raise a national awareness of the law, but the little guy suffers. The Government went to great expense to attempt to sucker many businesses into a fake business deal in Gabon, West Africa. The Government pinned its entire investigation on a despicable character, Bistrong, who manipulated Federal Agents throughout the investigation, in order to save his soul for his misdeeds. Ultimately, the Government finally did the right thing today and should think twice about going after honest business people in the future. Now, where does Lee go to get back his good name back? He is from a small Arkansas town with a GED and has a home school education. His family has been devastated financially by this process. Two things have kept him grounded; his faith in God and his family.”
About the Author
Mike Koehler is an assistant professor of business law at Butler University and is an expert FCPA columnist for Corporate Compliance Insights. He is a leading expert on FCPA and other anti-corruption laws and initiatives. Professor Koehler has testified before Congress on FCPA, and he is also frequently speaks about such topics before business and academic audiences.