Glass Emporium Owner Motions for New Trial in Fraud Case; Alleges Case was Prejudiced and That Court Erred on Several Counts

April 21, 2010

Glass Emporium owner Mehrdad Hakimian, who recently was found guilty of charges related to insurance fraud in a U.S. District Court jury trial, has motioned for a new trial, alleging prejudice against him and that the court erred on several counts, according to court documents. (CLICK HERE for related story.)

Hakimian alleges that though he had pled guilty to charges related to visa fraud and harboring illegal aliens, visa fraud-related evidence was admitted in court as part of the fraud trial, which he claims had a negative outcome the of the trial.

"It consumed court time and required [Hakimian] to respond to numerous questions about it," writes Hakimian's counsel. "It diverted the jury's attention from the issues on trial, which had to do with whether the defendant had knowingly inflated invoices to defraud insurance companies, to the volatile issues involving illegal immigration and employment of undocumented workers. It required Mr. Hakimian to repeatedly admit his responsibility for this wrongful conduct, allowing the government to portray him as a person who would be likely wrongfully and unlawfully defraud insurance companies as alleged."

In addition, Hakimian alleges that the jury was not told that he had pled guilty to the visa fraud charges, leading them to "assume that he had not been criminally prosecuted and had thus 'gotten away' with visa fraud in spite of his admissions."

Hakimian's counsel also claims that he was prejudiced by the fact that the court did not allow him to "testify or present evidence concerning his repayment to numerous insurance companies of money he concluded they had been overcharged in the invoices submitted to them."

"This evidence was relevant [to] assessing the defendant's intent and knowledge at the time the original invoices were submitted," writes Hakimian's counsel. "It was the defendant's trial position that he was unaware of the over-billing and neither authorized nor directed it. When he learned it had occurred, he made restitution to the greatest extent possible."

Hakimian's counsel goes on to allege that the court erred by not ordering the government to provide Glass Emporium vice president Emma DeGuzman, who had accepted a plea bargain, "use immunity." According to the defendant, at the time DeGuzman pled guilty, she was advised by the prosecution that "if she elected to testify at trial on Mr. Hakimian's behalf in a manner the government believed inconsistent with their view of the facts relating to the obstruction of justice charge, they would seek to have such testimony held against her at sentencing." (CLICK HERE for related story.)

For that reason, Hakimian's counsel claims DeGuzman invoked her right to remain silent upon being subpoenaed to testify "concerning her knowledge of the moving of boxes of GEMI paperwork to storage and recycling." (In the details of the obstruction of justice charges issued in mid-January, the prosecution had alleged that Hakimian and DeGuzman "did, and did attempt to, corruptly alter, destroy, mutilate, and conceal documents and records, namely, glass invoices, glass work orders, and electronically stored invoice records, with the intent to impair their integrity and availability for use in an official proceeding.")

"In this case, by virtue of its admonition to DeGuzman that testimony favorable to the defendant (or unfavorable to the government) will expose her to serious consequences at her own sentencing, the government also has interfered with the defendant's ability to present his defense in violation of the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution," writes Hakimian's counsel.

Defendant Hakimian's motion for a new trial is scheduled to be heard on June 4, which also is scheduled to be the day of his sentencing.

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