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United States v. Handa

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

July 19, 2017




         Defendant Raman Handa was charged by a federal grand jury with twelve counts of wire fraud in 2011, but he was not arrested until February 2017. That delay, he asserts, violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial and he moves to dismiss the indictment. Docket # 22. The motion is granted.

         I. Factual Background

         Defendant co-owned and operated Alpha Omega Jewelers, a jewelry business that had significant financial difficulties in 2007. Around late December 2007, defendant himself was “undergoing sever [sic] stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation, ” that resulted in his admission to the Lahey Clinic after his wife found him unresponsive in their home. Docket # 22, at 4. He contends that he left the United States shortly thereafter in order to seek medical treatment in India.[1] In 2008, defendant was embroiled in a bankruptcy proceeding involving Alpha Omega in this district, in which he was represented by Edward J. Quinlan of Quinlan & Sadowski, PC. Quinlin by affidavit attests that he did not learn of the indictment or warrant issued for the arrest of defendant until February 21, 2017. Also in 2008, defendant retained Edward McLaughlin, another Massachusetts attorney, to represent defendant's interests in connection with the government's search of Alpha Omega. McLaughlin in his affidavit states that he “had several communications with prosecutors in an effort to return Mr. Handa's personal belongings, ” Docket # 42-2, at ¶ 5[2], which were seized during the search, but that he was never informed that defendant, individually, was the target of a criminal investigation or that defendant had been charged in an indictment. The government has not produced any evidence to the contrary; indeed, it concedes that McLaughlin “was in frequent communication with prosecutors regarding the investigation including . . . requests for Alpha Omega business records and coordinating the return of personal items to the Handa family.” Docket # 38, at 3.

         From December 2007 to March 2008, defendant openly resided in India. He later traveled to the United Kingdom to live with his brother. Around 2010 or 2011, defendant permanently moved to India, but at all times, retained his U.S. citizenship and passport.

         On March 3, 2011, a grand jury returned an indictment charging defendant with twelve counts of wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343. The indictment alleges that fraudulent inventory entries were made in the Alpha Omega computer system in order to expand the company's borrowing base, which allowed the company to receive additional financing from banks.

         One month later, in April 2011, government agents tracked down defendant's daughter, Nidhi Handa, in Los Angeles, California, and “employed a ruse in an effort to learn of Handa's whereabouts.” Docket # 38, at 4. She informed them that her father was spending his time between India and Europe, and to contact her father's attorney, Quinlan. The government conceded during the hearing that its agents never directly asked her how to specifically contact her father. The agents also never followed up with Quinlan to inquire further about the defendant's whereabouts or to inform Quinlan about the indictment against his client. Instead, the government sought the assistance of the International Criminal Police Organization (“INTERPOL”) in locating and apprehending defendant. Specifically, in August 2011, it filed a Red Notice application, which allows INTERPOL to send an alert to its member countries that the United States has issued an arrest warrant for an individual. A Prosecutor's Agreement to Extradite was completed in June 2012 and a formal Red Notice for defendant was issued on November 26, 2012. The government provides no account for the period between November 2012 and March 2014. In March 2014, INTERPOL-Washington requested that INTERPOL-New Delhi check its databases to locate defendant. INTERPOL-New Delhi could not provide the requested information about defendant “without Handa's Indian address and passport number.” Docket # 38, at 6.

         Meanwhile, in 2012, defendant began collecting Social Security benefits while living in India. In 2014, he received a letter from the U.S. Department of Health that was mailed to his Indian address informing him that he was eligible for Medicare benefits, for which he applied, and which he began receiving effective June 1, 2014. He visited the U.S. embassy in India several times in 2015 and 2016 to renew his U.S. passport and to resolve payments of Social Security benefits.

         Finally, on February 22, 2017, the government arrested defendant upon his arrival in Los Angeles, California. Defendant asserted his Sixth Amendment right to speedy trial during his arraignment on March 16, 2017. He now moves to dismiss the 2011 indictment, arguing that the government's near six-year delay to prosecute him violated his constitutional right. Docket # 22.

         II. Analysis

         The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial . . . .” U.S. Const. Amend. VI. “This right attaches upon arrest or indictment, whichever occurs first.” United States v. Santiago-Becerril, 130 F.3d 11, 21 (1st Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). If the accused is deprived of the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial, the “only possible remedy” is the dismissal of the indictment. Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 522 (1972). To determine whether post-indictment delay violates a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial, the court weighs the following four factors: (1) the length of the delay; (2) the reason for the delay; (3) the defendant's assertion of his rights; and (4) prejudice to the defendant. Id. at 530.

         A. The Length of the Delay

         The first threshold factor is the length of the delay. Generally, delays approaching one year are considered presumptively prejudicial. See United States v. Carpenter, 781 F.3d 599, 610 (1st Cir. 2015). There is no dispute that the delay here of nearly six years creates a presumption of prejudice and justifies further inquiry.[3] The first factor therefore weighs strongly in favor of defendant.

         B. The ...

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