Thursday, September 16, 2010

Northern California judge denies convicted con-man's RICO complaint

In Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, the
defendant called a police officer a
racketeer, here the Bhatia is
doing the same to Wig.
Photo courtesy of James J. Carroll
On Tuesday, Oakland Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong granted judgment against pro se prisoner Lal Bhatia's RICO action against the man a jury convicted him of swindling.  Mr. Bhatia is presently serving four years in prison for nine counts of mail fraud and eighteen counts of money laundering.

According to court documents, Mr. Bhatia and the plaintiff Manmohan K. Wig are related by marriage.  In October 1998, Wig was involved in developing two pieces of real estate and Bhatia claimed he could acquire financing at a reasonable rate for a modest fee of $120,868, which Wig paid.  While the first deal pended, Bhatia informed Wig that he had a business opportunity where Wig could buy shares of stock for $300,000.  Wig did so, realized no such company existed and sued Bhatia in Washington State.

After winning at trial the parties settled prior to appeal.  Shortly thereafter, the FBI arrested Bhatia and charged him with mail fraud and money laundering which lead to his current incarceration.  In the present action, "the gravamen of Bhatia's legnthy and turgid complaint is that he is victim of Wig's fraudulent scheme - not vice-versa."  Wig repeatedly lied to the FBI to convince them that Bhatia was the center of the crime.

The judge explained that RICO requires a pattern of racketeering activity.  While Bhatia cites over three hundred mail and wire transactions between himself and Wig, none of those reflected the illegal act alleged in the conspiracy - to put Bhatia in jail.  Further, civil damages for RICO are not available because the purported conspiracy has ended because Bhatia is in prison.

The judge granted summary judgment for Wig.  The case is Bhatia v. Wig No. C 10-0072 and the opinion is below the jump.

Here is the opinion:

Bhatia v. Wig

No comments:

Post a Comment