It might be informative to readers to get a peek inside the US Attorney’s investigation and prosecution of an American citizen.
The Parlato case might be a good example of how the office works.
While trying to show the US Attorney’s office, then under William Hochul, that indicting him was a deep injustice, Parlato, who has professed his innocence, retained former New York State Attorney General and former US Attorney Dennis Vacco; former Federal Magistrate Judge Carol Heckman; former Assistant US Attorney [under Preet Bharara] Brian Feldman, and Parlato’s two civil litigation lawyers, Ralph Lorigo and James Roscetti, who had successfully battled serial litigant Shmuel Shmueli for years.
Every one of these lawyers, all known for their long history of integrity, went on the record with the US Attorney that they believed Parlato was innocent of criminal wrongdoing.
Former Magistrate Judge Heckman and former Assistant US Attorney Feldman gave a 126 slide Power Point presentation showing extensive, exonerating evidence to Assistant US Attorney Anthony Bruce, FBI Special Agent Brian Burns and others with the US Attorney’s office, then under Hochul.
Assistant US Attorney Bruce reportedly sat there with his legs folded, not taking notes, expressing great annoyance and rudely urging former Magistrate Judge Heckman to hurry up. FBI Burns reportedly made it a point at times to heckle, laugh and scoff during the presentation.
Afterward AUSA Bruce told former Magistrate Judge Heckman that he had “marching orders” from US Attorney Hochul to indict Parlato.
Former New York State Attorney General Vacco presented an exhaustively documented “White Paper” to AUSA Bruce and FBI SA Burns which argued that the government’s theories were demonstrably wrong and that the issues in dispute were at best civil and not criminal matters.
AUSA Bruce reportedly told Vacco that, based on the time FBI Agent Burns and an IRS agent had invested in the case, he had to have at least one fraud (for the FBI) and one tax (for the IRS) felony count.
AUSA Bruce offered Parlato, over a ten month period in 2015, a series of plea deals – each with lower contemplated sentences, from four years, to two, to less than a year and finally one with a possible halfway house and/or home confinement – all with two felony counts – one for the FBI and one for the IRS.
Most offers were accompanied with deadlines of “take the plea or be indicted”.
Parlato refused to accept any plea deal since he claimed it would require him to lie to the judge in admitting to a crime he did not commit.
Parlato was indicted on Nov. 20, 2015 and faces 20 years if convicted on all counts.
Parlato has said he has come to realize that the decision to indict him was decided long before his attorneys met with the US Attorney’s office under Hochul.
He also said he understood that most people are not in a position to fight the enormous forces of the government, and even though they are innocent might be tempted to take a plea deal.
In spite of extensive, exonerating and documentary evidence presented to the government, FBI Agent Burns allegedly ignored documents in his possession and, as alleged in Parlato’s recent motion, made 38 “inaccurate” statements in his affidavit filed with Hon. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr. during the prosecution’s secret (and ex parte) hearing to seize Parlato’s funds.
Parlato said that FBI SA Burns must have felt he needed to insert these inaccuracies since he had documents in his possession that contradicted the false claims made in the affidavit. However, without the inaccuracies, Magistrate Judge Schroeder might have declined to approve the seizure or called for a hearing during which Parlato’s attorneys would have been permitted to appear and explain why it was unjust that their client’s funds should be seized before there was a trial proving any wrongdoing.
How many of the 38 alleged inaccuracies which FBI SA Burns inserted into his affidavit before Magistrate Judge Schroeder were also presented to the grand jury is unknown by the defense, and forms the basis of their motion to review the grand jury minutes.
It will be up to a federal judge and not the prosecution to decide.
Brian Feldman, a former AUSA, made a serious, three-months long effort to try to persuade AUSA Anthony Bruce that it was wrong to indict Frank Parlato. During that time, AUSA Bruce reportedly erupted with anger repeatedly, often swore profusely, refused to listen to exonerating information and only wanted to know if Parlato would take a plea deal, otherwise he would be indicted.
“We provided so much information to the U.S. Attorney’s Office on so many topics,” Ralph Lorigo told the Buffalo News, expressing surprise at how the government ignored all the documentary exonerating evidence. “I’m very taken aback by what I read in the indictment.”
He was both the New York State Attorney General and a US Attorney, making Dennis Vacco probably the most prominent, well known and best qualified prosecutor in Western New York.
According to the Buffalo News, former Federal Magistrate Judge Carol Heckman wrote to AUSA Bruce that she “uncovered new evidence that exonerates Parlato. In subsequent letters, she said the evidence would prove that neither Reger nor the Bronfmans were victimized by her client.”