Feds Object to Hakimian's Motion for New Trial in Insurance Fraud Case
May 26, 2010

Attorneys for the federal government, which brought an insurance fraud case against Glass Emporium owner Mehrdad Hakimian in late 2007, have filed an objection in response to his request for a new trial in the case.

Hakimian was found guilty of several charges related to insurance fraud in March, and in April he motioned for a new trial, alleging prejudice and that the court erred on several counts, according to court documents. (CLICK HERE for related story.)

Though Hakimian's counsel argued in the April motion for a new trial that visa fraud evidence should not have been admitted in the case, as he'd previously pleaded guilty to these, U.S. attorney Joseph P. Russoniello argues in his motion that "the visa fraud facilitated the wire fraud offenses," and that "the inextricably intertwined visa fraud was necessary to explain the heightened degree of control Hakimian exercised over certain foreign employees in instructing them to over-bill insurance companies for windshield parts and installation materials."

He goes on to allege that because Hakimian sponsored employees involved in the fraud through the H1-B visa program, their immigration status "was tenuous and contingent on continued employment with Hakimian … This evidence assisted the jury in understanding why certain employees committed fraud at Hakimian's direction instead of refusing, quitting or reporting him to authorities. (The H1-B program allows employers to employ foreign professionals in the United States in a specialty occupation for three years, according to court documents.)

Hakimian's counsel also had argued that his pre-trial 2009 restitution payments should have been permitted to be used as evidence, but the court had accepted a motion to exclude these from the case. However, Russoniello argues that "evidence of payments to insurance companies by Hakimian two years after he was charged with wire fraud, and only months before his first scheduled trial, was irrelevant to Hakimian's intent at the time he committed the fraud."

In support of a new trial, the defendant's counsel also had contended in its motion that by not granting Glass Emporium vice president Emma Deguzman "use immunity" in the trial, his case was impacted negatively, as Deguzman ultimately plead the Fifth Amendment and declined to testify. Hakimian's counsel had pointed out that her testimony regarding the removal of several boxes of invoices to storage and the disposal of some past invoices would have corroborated his defense toward the obstruction of justice charges filed against him.

However, Russionello writes, "Hakimian has not proffered evidence for this accusation of prosecutorial misconduct other than alleging, without proper foundation, in his argument that prosecutors wrongly admonished DeGuzman's attorney that DeGuzman should not testify in support of Hakimian, or 'it would go badly for DeGuzman at sentencing.'"

Likewise, Hakimian had argued that the jury should have received instructions about DeGuzman, and should have been notified "that [she] was only available to the defense."

"But because a witness who invokes the right against self-incrimination is equally unavailable to both parties, a missing person instruction is unwarranted," writes Russoniello in opposition to Hakimian's claim.

Hakimian's motion for a new trial is scheduled to be heard next week, on June 4, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

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