Two men accused of setting up the BitClub Network, a cryptocurrency mining Ponzi scheme that allegedly duped thousands of investors out of USD 722 million, have petitioned a New Jersey federal judge to release them from a county jail – as they fear they could contract the coronavirus if they are not freed.
Matthew Brent Goettsche and Jobadiah Sinclair Weeks have asked the court to let them out of the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark, New Jersey, ahead of their fraud trials, reports Law360.
Weeks’ attorneys stated the county jail had “an exceptionally poor record of maintaining detainee health.” They also referred to findings made public last year by the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, which highlighted issues at the jail that represented major threats to the health and safety of its detainees.
Michael L. Yaeger, a litigator and shareholder at Carlton Fields, the law firm representing Weeks, was quoted as stating,
“These are scary times for everyone, and especially for people who are not allowed to protect themselves in the ways the rest of us are trying to. Joby Weeks just wants to stay healthy and be in a place where he can safely prepare for his day in court.”
District Judge Claire C. Cecchi will now decide whether to release the accused men as the coronavirus pandemic worsens in the United States.
Goettsche and Weeks were arrested in December last year, along with a third man named Joseph Frank Abel, as part of a crackdown on BitClub Network, which the men have been accused of co-running.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey claims that, between April 2014 and December 2019, the defendants solicited money from investors in exchange for what they believed were shares of the earnings of cryptocurrency mining pools. The men allegedly provided investors with fake figures on what they said were “bitcoin (BTC) mining earnings.”
Goettsche and Weeks were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and all three men were also hit with conspiracy to offer and sell unregistered securities charges.
Wire fraud conspiracy offenses are punishable with a maximum of 20 years in prison, and a fine of up to USD 250,000. Conspiracy to sell unregistered securities offenses, meanwhile, are punishable with a maximum of five years in prison, and a fine of up to USD 250,000.