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United States v. Chaudhry

October 19, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ZAFAR CHAUDHRY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Denise Cote, District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

Defendant Zafar Chaudhry has moved to dismiss the indictment against him on the ground that his right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was violated. Chaudhry was indicted in 2000, but lived in Pakistan between 1998 and June 2010, when he was arrested upon his return to the United States. He asserts that the Government did not inform him of the charges pending against him until October 8, 2008, at the earliest, or permit him to return to the United States to answer those charges for the eighteen month period between December 22, 2008 and June 12, 2010. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss is denied.

Background

The Government has submitted a detailed factual presentation of the efforts it undertook to locate Chaudhry and to arrest him. In support of the motion, Chaudhry's attorney has submitted a declaration, which Chaudhry adopts in part in a brief affidavit.*fn1 These submissions provide the basis for the following description of events.

1998 Investigation; Chaudhry Leaves United States

According to the indictment against Chaudhry, he participated in a conspiracy from about 1996 to February 1998 to commit health care fraud. Chaudhry is alleged to have participated in a scheme to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare for reimbursement for blood tests purportedly conducted at a laboratory located in the Bronx. The indictment charges that Chaudhry and his uncle Raza Chudry ("Chudry") participated in the scheme together.

The federal investigation of the Bronx laboratory began with a referral by the Department of Health and Human Services to the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") in April 1998. Chaudhry recites that he left the United States in December 1998.

Arrest Warrant Issued: 2000

An arrest complaint was filed on January 11, 2000, charging Chaudhry, Chudry and a third defendant with conspiracy to commit health care fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 1347. Arrest warrants were issued and information regarding the defendants was entered into the National Crime Information Center ("NCIC") database, a computerized index of criminal justice information that is available to all federal and state law enforcement agencies. On January 13, an FBI agent used a database known as ChoicePoint to determine the most current address information for Chaudhry. The database includes information from private businesses and from government agencies. The FBI also ran a database search through its Investigative Information Services Center ("IISC"), which revealed that Chaudhry had two New Jersey addresses.

The FBI arrested Chudry and the second co-conspirator on January 19, but it could not locate Chaudhry at either of the New Jersey addresses it had identified for him. Since Chaudhry was not arrested, NCIC continued to reflect that he would be extradited if arrested outside of New York State.

The original indictment was filed on February 17, 2000, charging the defendants with conspiring to commit health care fraud by preparing false claims seeking reimbursement from Medicare for performing blood tests. On June 13, 2000, Chudry participated in a proffer session with the Assistant United States Attorney ("AUSA"). During the interview, he indicated that the last time he had spoken to Chaudhry was roughly six months earlier; Chudry added, however, that he did not speak to his nephew about the indictment. He indicated that he believed that Chaudhry was living in Pakistan.

A superseding indictment was filed on February 8, 2001. The superseding indictment expanded the time of the conspiracy and eliminated some allegations regarding the amount of the loss. Chudry pleaded guilty in 2001, and was sentenced on January 16, 2002, principally to 55 months' imprisonment, and was required to pay restitution in the amount of $836,910.51. Chudry was released from custody on March 1, 2006.

In October 2002, the FBI interviewed a cooperating witness in an effort to gather more information about Chaudhry's whereabouts. The witness indicated that the last time the witness had seen Chaudhry was in 1998.

In November 2002 and January 2003, the FBI conducted reviews of the ChoicePoint database, and found no new addresses for Chaudhry. In May 2003, the FBI requested Chaudhry's immigration file from the Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS"). The file showed that Chaudhry had arrived in the United ...


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