A federal judge on Friday ordered that a man convicted in a $10.5 million bank fraud case be taken into custody.
A magistrate judge made the decision, which was later affirmed by a U.S. district court judge after a federal prosecutor said the defendant was a flight risk because he had been in negotiations to buy a multi-million-dollar airplane.
The convicted man sat down in his chair and shook his head after the magistrate announced he was revoking the convict’s bond.
The man pleaded guilty on Dec. 9 to defrauding a bank, causing a $10.5 million loss. He had been released on bond as he awaited sentencing next month in the case, an arrangement that initially raised no objections from federal prosecutors.
But the assistant U.S. attorney urged the magistrate to revoke that bond during Friday’s court hearing. The assistant U.S. attorney laid out a case in court where the now-convicted man tried to purchase the aircraft for no more than $4 million using an airplane broker.
“There are new circumstances that scream out that say he is a risk of flight,” the assistant U.S. attorney said.
An FBI special agent testified that she received an email Feb. 6 from officials at a complaint line that the bureau maintains. That email summarized a complaint from a plane broker who told federal law enforcement officials that he had been in contact with the convict about him buying the plane.
Negotiations over the plane had cooled down for a period of time before the man contacted the broker again on Feb. 2, the FBI special agent said. A federal probation officer testified that she had received a call from the man’s wife saying he was distraught and had suicidal thoughts over the possibility of going to prison and worried about his safety while incarcerated.
The assistant U.S. attorney had argued in court papers that the man’s attempts to buy the plane amounted to an attempt to “obtain property by false pretenses” since he had nowhere near $4 million in assets, is unemployed and is likely going to jail over the bank fraud.
The assistant U.S. attorney told the magistrate that the man’s actions constituted wire fraud and demonstrated he was a danger to the community, but the judge rejected those arguments. The federal magistrate was more swayed by the assistant U.S. attorney’s argument that the man might flee if he wasn’t taken into custody.
The magistrate asked the man’s defense attorney what his client was planning to do with the aircraft.
“Why else buy the airplane if not flight?” the magistrate asked the defense attorney.
The attorney explained during the court hearing that his client has long had an interest in airplanes. The defense attorney dismissed as “pure folly” any notion that securing an aircraft would be the most efficient way to flee authorities.
Under questioning by the defense attorneys, federal witnesses acknowledged they had no evidence that the man is a pilot or that he put down any money for the airplane.
In court documents, the defense attorney wrote that emails the government relied on for its case indicated he met the airplane broker in August, months before he first appeared in court.