US Magistrate in St. Louis Recommends Dismissal of Criminal Charges for Deporting Pro-Defense Witnesses

A federal magistrate in St. Louis, Missouri has recommended the dismissal of all criminal charges filed against two men who were accused of participating in a nationwide fraud.  The judge wondered whether federal officials acted in “bad faith” when they deported four witnesses who were favorable to the defense. David Peer and Moshe Aharoni were charged in October 2009.

Prosecutors are claiming that a company named Dependable Locks Inc., which is based in Clearwater, Fla. misled customers by pretending to be a local company and continuously charging customers higher prices than those estimated. Peer ran the company and is in trouble for alleged fraud, as well as for allegedly hiring immigrants who were not authorized to work in the U.S. Aharoni served as the dispatch supervisor and Adam Olivkovich was a manager. Olivkovich was never arrested in the case and charges were filed in St. Louis since most of the victims reside in St. Louis.

Lawyers for Peer and Aharoni challenged the evidence presented and said there was evidence that was favorable to their clients that was being withheld in pretrial hearings. They also argued that the indictments should be dismissed because the witnesses were deported. “Obviously … we think there were a significant number of missteps and those missteps impacted the constitutional rights of our clients. And that doesn’t often happen in the Eastern District of Missouri,” said Peer’s lawyer, Jim Martin, who was once acting U.S. attorney in St. Louis. Judge Frederick Buckles agreed on the deportation issue and recommended that the indictment be dismissed.  Buckles recommendation was subject to approval by a district court judge.

Buckles also noted that the prosecutors “made no effort” to have the witnessed testify in the trial prior to their deportation. U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan disagreed with the ruling and believes that the case should proceed. Because the witnesses are no longer in the country, it is unlikely that the government will appeal if the dismissals become final.

Peer and Aharoni are not completely out of the woods. “Peer and Aharoni were charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens and employment of unauthorized aliens. Peer also faces five mail fraud charges.” The charges remain pending.

Defense lawyers say the company’s practices have changed for the better once Peer was hired and more customers were not misled. The two men also claim to have no knowledge of their employee’s legal status at the time. Aharoni has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Israel and has chosen to stay in Maryland despite the trial. Peer has reportedly fled the country and may not ultimately benefit from the legal motions filed on his behalf.

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