Judge Dismisses Bank Fraud Charges Against Retailer

Boston–A Massachusetts federal judge has thrown out a criminal case against a retailer charged with falsifying inventory documents to obtain bank loans.

Raman Handa, the former owner of seven-store Boston area chain Alpha Omega Jewelers who abruptly left the country as his business was crumbling, was arrested in February 2017 at the Los Angeles International Airport. Handa was returning to the United States from India, where he had been living for almost 10 years.

At the time of his arrest, a 2011 indictment was unsealed charging Handa with 12 counts of wire fraud, a February press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Massachusetts states.

According to the indictment, between May and December 2007, Handa experienced severe financial troubles and was having difficulty staying current with his bank loans.

In order to obtain more loans, the jeweler allegedly had fabricated inventory on reports–stating that he had high-end watches and jewelry from Indian vendors that the store never possessed–submitted to the banks, the indictment states. The banks used these reports to calculate the credit limit for the store.

In the midst of the financial melee, Handa and his family left the U.S. in December 2007.

After his departure, Alpha Omega’s lender took control of the company and conducted a detailed review of the retailer’s inventory, which revealed more than $7 million dollars in missing or unaccounted-for inventory.

The seven-store chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008 and eventually shuttered.

In July, U.S. District Judge Rya W. Zobel threw out the 2011 indictment after Handa argued that the delay between the charges and his arrest–nearly six years–violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial, according to court documents.

The motion was granted on the basis that the government took too long in making its arrest. (In fact, the court said, Handa wasn’t even aware of the indictment until his arrest earlier this year.)

The government also had filed a superseding indictment in April, two days prior to the deadline for its brief responding to Handa’s Sixth Amendment argument. That indictment charged him with the same 12 counts, as well as one new count of bank fraud.

Handa moved to dismiss count 13 of the superseding indictment, for both violation of his Sixth Amendment right again in addition to the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Judge Zobel allowed the motion on Monday, saying that the superseding indictment suffers from the “same constitutional defects” as the first and rejecting the government’s argument that the length of delay should begin with its April filing rather than the initial 2011 indictment, thereby throwing out the entire case.

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