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Prosecutor Says Crypto Scammers Should Stay in Jail Despite COVID-19 Concerns

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A federal prosecutor is fighting the release requests of two alleged scammers accused of operating a $722 million cryptocurrency-related Ponzi scheme.

New Jersey federal prosecutor Craig Carpenito is fighting the request of two alleged crypto scammers to be released from a county jail amid the coronavirus pandemic.

According to court documents filed with the United States Department of Justice on March 24, Carpenito asserted that the recently enacted Bail Reform only preferences pretrial release of a defendant when their appearance at trial could be reasonably assured. 

Carpenito noted that COVID-19 has sparked a “national conversation” regarding whether pretrial detainees accused of nonviolent crimes should be released, in order to reduce the risk of coronavirus rapidly spreading in U.S. jails.  

However, he emphasized that Matthew Goettsche and Jobadiah Weeks — both accused of the  $722 million BitClub Network cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme — have “strong incentives” to flee:

"The facts that compelled their detention have not changed — they maintain, among other things, unaccounted for wealth, overseas contacts, and strong incentives to flee. Although the pandemic has curtailed international commercial air travel, there remain numerous flights out of the country."

Defendants worry about COVID-19 outbreak in county jail

Goettsche and Weeks filed motions petitioning the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark, New Jersey for their release on March 20 and 23, respectively. 

Goettsche’s representation asserted that “it is not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’” the jail hosts a serious COVID-19 outbreak, adding that “it will be nearly impossible to stop its spread” once the virus reaches the facility.

Weeks’ attorney argued that the jail has “an exceptionally poor record maintaining detainee health,” citing a U.S Department of Homeland Security report that identified numerous food safety issues and “leaks causing mold and mildew growth in every housing unit holding detainees.”

Goettsche and Weeks comprise flight risks

Despite their attorneys’ claims of health and safety concerns, Carpenito emphasizes that the pair “are not elderly and, with the exception of Weeks' asthma condition, which apparently has moderated in adulthood, they do not present with health conditions that make them particularly susceptible to COVID-19 complication.”

The prosecutor cited the determinations of Judge Michael Hammer following a previous detention hearing, who noted that both men had access to assets that could “fund a risk of flight.”

Carpentino added that the pair had failed to present a “compelling reason” for their release.

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