It looks like Reginald Fowler, the man tied to hundreds of millions of dollars of missing Tether and Bitfinex money, has ditched plans for renegotiating a plea deal. Instead, he is planning to head to trial.
In a letter filed with the New York Southern District Court on July 7 on behalf of both parties, the government stated: “The parties are not currently engaged in plea negotiations and do not anticipate resuming negotiations.”
Prosecutors are requesting a trial date in early February with pretrial motions beginning in October. The trial is expected to last two weeks.
[Update Aug. 4: Fowler’s trial is set for Feb. 14, 2022. Here is the order.]
Fowler was indicted in April 2019, along with Israeli woman Ravid Yosef, who is still at large. The pair allegedly lied to banks, telling them they were in the real estate business so they could illegally open up accounts to store funds for cryptocurrency exchanges on behalf of Crypto Capital, a shadow banking operation.
Fowler is currently represented by Ed Sapone of Sapone & Petrillo. He hired Sapone in April after his previous legal team withdrew from the case due to nonpayment. They claimed to be out over $600,000.
At the time, Judge Andrew Carter gave Sapone three months to get up to speed on the case and warned: “You are going into this with your eyes wide open.”
Preparing for trial means a lot more work for Sapone, so it is a surprise he wasn’t able to work out something with prosecutors.
Fowler came very close to a plea deal on January 17, 2020.
On that day, the former football player stood before the judge in a Manhattan courtroom ready to plead guilty to count four of his indictment — charges of operating an unlicensed money transmitter business — pursuant to negotiating with the government.
Had he accepted the deal, Fowler would have likely spent five years in prison with three years of supervised release, and paid a fine of up to $250,000.
But the deal, which required Fowler to forfeit $371 million held in some 50-odd bank accounts, fell apart at the last minute. Why? Because nobody was sure of the exact amount in the bank accounts and Fowler would have been on the hook for the difference.
James McGovern, Fowler’s defense attorney at the time, told the judge:
“The issue with respect to the forfeiture that became an issue for us today stems from the fact that none of the parties seem to have an idea of how much money is at play here in the forfeiture order because these accounts that have all been frozen by one entity or another have an amount of money that nobody seems to know how much is in there. So our issue is how much actual exposure under the forfeiture order after the accounts are liquidated is Mr. Fowler looking at. That’s kind of the heart of the issue.”
On Feb. 20, 2020, the government filed a superseding indictment against Fowler, adding wire fraud to existing charges of bank fraud, illegal money transfer, and conspiracy. Wire fraud alone is punishable with up to 20 years in prison, so Fowler, 61, could be looking at spending the rest of his life behind bars.
There was speculation that Fowler’s defense team would try again to work out something with the government. He could still negotiate a deal, but by the tone of the prosecutor’s letter today, it sounds unlikely.
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