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United States v. Mehta

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Beckley Division

July 31, 2018

SANJAY MEHTA, Defendant.



         The Court has reviewed the United States' Objections to Order Setting Conditions of Release (Document 333) and the Order (Document 330) and attachments entered by Magistrate Judge Omar J. Aboulhosn. The Court has further reviewed the relevant exhibits, financial documents, hearing transcripts, and Pretrial Services Report. Upon careful review, the Court finds that the conditions ordered by the Magistrate Judge will serve to reasonably assure the Defendant's appearance.


         The Magistrate Judge's order details the law governing release or detention pending trial as contained in 18 U.S.C. § 3142. This Court reviews that order de novo, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3145(a)(1). United States v. Stewart, 19 Fed.Appx. 46, 48 (4th Cir. 2001) (unpublished) (“When the district court acts on a motion to revoke or amend a magistrate judge's pretrial detention order, the district court acts de novo and must make an independent determination of the proper pretrial detention or conditions of release.”). The United States invoked the rebuttable presumption for detention applicable to controlled substance offenses with potential sentences of ten or more years. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e)(2). Thus, the issue is whether the Defendant has demonstrated that there are conditions of release that would reasonably assure his appearance at trial.


         The Defendant, along with eleven co-defendants, is charged with unlawful drug distribution, conspiracy, and money laundering offenses related to the operation of pain clinics. Defendant Mehta is also charged with two counts of distributing and dispensing controlled substances causing a death. The United States did not seek to detain any of the other Defendants, although one non-physician Defendant is serving a sentence on an unrelated conviction.

         As to the risk of danger to the community, the Defendant's medical license was revoked in 2016, eliminating any prescribing authority. There is no evidence of any distribution of drugs outside of alleged improper prescriptions. The United States conceded that he is not a danger to the community during the February hearing. Thus, the primary issue is whether the Defendant is a flight risk.

         During the initial hearing on February 22, 2018, the Defendant's counsel proffered that a search warrant was executed at the clinic in March of 2015, and he had made no attempt to flee in the nearly three years before the initial indictment was returned, despite awareness of the investigation. The Defendant has two children, including a daughter with special needs, who attend local schools. His parents live locally and assist him financially, including assisting in financing his defense in this case. He has travelled internationally for vacations on three occasions but has never lived internationally. The Defendant's father was born in India, but the Defendant's only visit to India occurred when he was three years old.

         The United States pointed out that the Defendant failed to respond to two minor traffic infractions in 2008 and 2010, both of which he resolved in 2011. The Pretrial Services Report also indicated that there may be firearms in the residence, which the Defendant said belonged to his estranged wife and were kept in a safe to which he lacks access. The Defendant assured the court that any firearms would be removed prior to his release.

         During the second detention hearing on July 10, 2018, the Defendant's counsel informed the Court that the Defendant's father had serious health concerns. The Defendant's counsel indicated that, if released on home detention, the Defendant would reside with his parents at their residence in the area. The United States cited financial information submitted by the Defendant's parents as evidence that the Defendant could access sufficient resources to flee and stressed that the two counts of distribution causing a death have twenty year mandatory minimum sentences, creating an incentive to flee. The Defendant's counsel stated that the United States had informed him and his client very clearly that the grand jury would be asked to return charges of distribution causing a death and that the Defendant would be facing a life sentence. He argued that other Defendants in this case had the means to flee and, while not facing charges with a potential penalty of twenty years to life, also face significant prison terms.

         The Defendants' parents submitted financial information detailing their income and assets. Their net monthly income is approximately $3, 650. They have some additional interest income from stocks, bonds, and savings. They have significant assets, including, stocks, bonds, and property, with total value in the high six figures to low seven figures.


         The Magistrate Judge found that the Defendant could be released under the standard conditions of release, with special conditions including a surety bond of $500, 000, executed by his parents and secured by 10% cash deposited with the Clerk of the Court, monitored home detention, and residence with his parents. The Magistrate Judge further found that the Defendant's mother should serve as third-party custodian for him.

         The United States argues that the nature of the offense, the potential penalties, and the weight of the evidence against the Defendant require detention. It argues that the Defendant may not be deterred from further criminal conduct, although it does not detail any specific criminal activity of concern. The United States notes the Defendant's parents' assets, as well as stating that the Defendant accrued more than $1, 000, 000 while working at the pain clinic from February 2013 through June 2015. In addition, the United States indicates that the ...

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