Miami federal judge rejects man’s bid for new trial

 

jweaver@MiamiHerald.com

A convicted Miami businessman who ran a multimillion-dollar check-cashing operation won’t be getting a new trial — after his lawyer tried to prove that prosecutors held back information that a key witness, one-time University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, was under criminal investigation when he testified against the man.

U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard ruled Tuesday that federal prosecutors in Miami did not know that Shapiro was being investigated in New Jersey for a Ponzi scheme in December 2008, when he testified against Juan Rene Caro, owner of the La Bamba check-cashing company.

Caro, who was found guilty, is serving an 18-year prison sentence for filing $132 million in false currency transaction reports.

Lenard rejected a new bid by defense attorney Arturo Hernandez to hold an evidentiary hearing to explore whether a Justice Department lawyer who teamed up with a Miami prosecutor in the La Bamba trial knew about the FBI’s investigation of Shapiro in New Jersey months before he took the stand.

Hernandez filed documents such as government emails in hopes of challenging the Miami prosecution team’s timeline.

The Miami prosecutors first informed Hernandez of the Shapiro criminal probe when Shapiro was charged in April 2010.

Hernandez argued that had he been told about the Shapiro probe, he would have asked him about his investment scam on the witness stand. Hernandez said he was “disappointed” with the judge’s ruling.

Hernandez made his move after Shapiro wrote the judge in May, saying Caro did not receive a fair trial.

Shapiro, who had borrowed money from Caro to pay off gambling debts, acknowledged he committed perjury when he took the stand and testified about his occupation as head of Miami Beach-based Capital Investments USA. He described it as a grocery brokerage business.

Shapiro, who gained notoriety for reporting to the NCAA about his gift-giving to UM athletes, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2011 for his $930 million Ponzi scheme.

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