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Feds Drop Case Against Final Africa Sting Defendants

The Justice Department today filed a motion to dismiss the indictments against the three Africa sting defendants who pleaded guilty.

It asked for dismissal with prejudice of the cases against Jonathan M. Spiller, Haim Geri, and Daniel Alvirez. That means their guilty pleas are withdrawn and they can’t be retried for the same crimes.

Spiller, Geri, and Alvirez were among the 22 Africa sting defendants charged in a 2010 superseding indictment with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, violations of the FCPA, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The three pleaded guilty to conspiracy counts in early 2011.

In December 2011, at the close of the government’s case in the second Africa sting trial, the judge dismissed all conspiracy counts against defendants then on trial. He said the government’s proof didn’t support the conspiracy.

Because of that ruling, the DOJ dismissed with prejudice the superseding indictment against all defendants facing trials — including seven who were granted mistrials following hung juries, and nine defendants who had yet to be tried. Three defendants in the second Africa sting trial were acquitted, one by the judge and two by the jury.

The DOJ’s dismissal didn’t apply to Spiller, Geri, and Alvirez, who had pleaded guilty and weren’t facing trials. Today’s motion extends the dismissal to them.

All but one of the twenty-two defendants were arrested in Las Vegas in 2010 during an annual trade show for military and law enforcement equipment companies. FBI agents had posed as officials and representatives of the government of Gabon, Africa. The DOJ said the defendants agreed to pay bribes to the undercover agents to win contracts to sell body armor, weapons, and military gear.

In today’s motion to dismiss, the DOJ said,

Based on a review of the record, the government has concluded that the Court’s ruling in the second trial as to the Gabon conspiracy count would apply equally to defendants Spiller, Geri, and Alvirez. Although, as the Court knows, the government argued extensively in opposition to the defendants’ Rule 29 motions and does not agree with the Court’s ruling, the government accepts the Court’s decision. As a result of the Court’s ruling on the Gabon conspiracy count, and in light of the reasons set forth in its prior motion to dismiss, the government has concluded that further prosecution of the Gabon-related charges against defendants Spiller, Geri, and Alvirez is unlikely to be successful.

The DOJ said it is still investigating a separate conspiracy charge against Alvirez and ‘will determine whether to bring criminal charges relating to that conduct’ sometime later.

In two separate Africa sting trials that lasted a total of six months, there were three acquittals and juries deadlocked on all counts as to seven other defendants. The 0-10 result for the DOJ led one defense lawyer in the case to refer to the entire Africa sting prosecution as a ‘made-up fantasy.’

Judge Richard Leon, who presided over both Africa sting trials, called the prosecution ‘a long and sad chapter in the annals of white collar criminal enforcement.’

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