FCPA Defendant Passes Away
As highlighted in this prior post, in August 2021 the DOJ announced that Naman Wakil, a Syrian national and U.S. lawful permanent resident, was “arrested in Miami on charges related to his alleged role in a scheme to bribe Venezuelan officials and launder funds to obtain contracts from Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), and Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled food company that purchased food for Venezuela, Corporación de Abastecimiento y Servicios Agrícola (CASA).”
Since his arrest, Wakil was confined to home detention “except for court appearances, attorney visits, religious services, or pre-approved activities by the probation officer.” In early June 2023, the judge granted an unopposed motion to modify the conditions of Wakil’s release to allow him to “leave his residence subject to a curfew between 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.”
Since his arrest, Wakil engaged counsel to mount a defense and his trial was scheduled to begin on October 23, 2023.
However, Wakil (who was diagnosed with cancer in 2022) recently died in his sleep at home. (See here).
Recently, the DOJ dismissed the indictment against Wakil.
Former FCPA Defendant Sued by His Lawyers
In 2017 (in connection with an undercover string) the DOJ unsealed criminal charges against Joseph Baptiste (a retired U.S. Army Colonel, practicing dentist, and founder / president of a Maryland-based Haitian focused non-profit) for alleged Haitian bribery. In 2018 the DOJ added criminal charges against Roger Boncy in connection with the same core conduct. (See here).
Baptiste and Boncy put the DOJ to its burden of proof and in June 2019, after a two-week trial, a federal jury in Boston found Baptiste guilty of one count of violating the Travel Act and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and Boncy guilty of one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and the Travel Act. (See here).
Thereafter, in post-trial motions the defendants sought an acquittal or a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel. (See here). In March 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Allison Burroughs (D. Mass.) granted Baptiste and Boncy a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel. (See here).
In August 2021, the First Circuit affirmed a new trial for the defendants. (See here).
The new trial was set to begin in July 2002.
Similar to pre-trial briefing in the first trial (see here), the defendants filed a pre-trial motion requesting an order compelling the government to turn over evidence in its possession. In effect, the DOJ said that it did not have any evidence to turn over.
To make a long story short, the DOJ eventually moved to dismiss all of the charges after admitting that it failed to turn over exculpatory information to the defense . (See here for the prior post).
At the time, counsel for Baptiste (Fick & Marx LLP) issued a release stating in pertinent part:
“We are pleased that this long nightmare has finally come to just conclusion for Dr. Baptiste and his family. While we would have loved to hear a jury return a verdict that Dr. Baptiste was ‘not guilty,’ this decision also vindicates him. And we are glad Dr. Baptiste, Mr. Boncy, and their families will not have to endure the anxiety and expense of a jury trial to clear their names.”
Recently, Fick & Mark LLP (F&M) filed a civil action against Baptiste seeking to recover $160,000 in fees, expenses, and interest.
In pertinent part, this complaint alleges:
“On July 7, 2022, F&M issued a final invoice for $142,570.94 in fees and expenses to Baptiste for its work on his case. Baptiste has never disputed that the invoice was correct or that the balance is due. To the contrary, he has repeatedly promised to pay F&M. But more than one year later, Baptiste still has not paid.
As a result, Baptiste owes $161,366.86 as of September 11, 2023, in fees, expenses, and interest to F&M.”