Feds Slam Ex-Fox Exec's Bid To Nix FIFA Bribery Case

By Ryan Boysen
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Law360 (May 15, 2020, 6:11 PM EDT) -- Brooklyn prosecutors hit back hard on Friday against a former 21st Century Fox marketing executive's bid to dismiss the soccer-related bribery charges against him by arguing that a grand jury may not have reached a quorum when it indicted him, calling the suggestion "absurd," "nonsensical" and "frivolous."

In response to ex-Fox Sports official Hernan Lopez's Wednesday motion to dismiss, the government flatly rejected his speculation that coronavirus restrictions may have prevented the grand jury from reaching a quorum when it approved the 53-count superseding indictment targeting him and others.

"The special grand jury that returned the indictment in this case had a quorum on March 18, 2020, and on every date on which it received evidence," the government said. "Accordingly, Lopez's motion should be rejected in its entirety."

That indictment charged Lopez and fellow former Fox Sports marketing executive Carlos Martinez with bribing South American soccer officials to lock down lucrative broadcast deals.

Those charges are just the latest round in a sprawling, years-long probe by Brooklyn prosecutors into alleged corruption in the world of organized soccer.

Lopez's motion to dismiss centered on the fact that the superseding indictment was filed March 18, the same day Chief Judge Roslynn Renee Mauskopf of the Eastern District of New York said no grand jury in her district had achieved a quorum since March 13 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lopez said there is "clearly some discrepancy" between those two events, because an indictment can't be filed unless a grand jury votes to approve it while it has a quorum, meaning the majority of its members are present.

"If in fact there was not a quorum present when the grand jury voted … this court must dismiss the indictment," Lopez said.

But the government shot back on Friday, saying Judge Mauskopf's statement referred to regular grand juries and not the special grand jury that returned the superseding indictment in question.

"That certain grand juries were unable to achieve a quorum of 16 people on certain dates hardly supports an inference that an entirely different panel of grand jurors … also must have been unable to achieve a quorum," the government said.

Prosecutors also pointed out that they already told Lopez's attorney the grand jury achieved a quorum, but Lopez filed the motion anyway without telling prosecutors he intended to do so, a practice that's generally commonplace in federal court.

"Rather than seek clarification or otherwise confer with the government, it appears that defense counsel opted instead to file its motion in an ill-advised attempt at a 'gotcha' moment," the government said.

Prosecutors also pointed out that, if followed to its logical conclusion, Lopez is essentially accusing the government and the grand jury's foreperson of colluding to defraud U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen, an extremely serious allegation.

"The motion thus invites speculation that the government, the grand jurors … U.S. Magistrate Judge Lois Bloom, or some combination thereof engaged in flagrant misconduct," the government said. "The suggestion is unfounded and sharp."

The government also ripped Lopez's motion as "absurd," "nonsensical" and "frivolous."

The superseding indictment against Lopez and Martinez was unsealed in April. Both men have been allowed to remain free after putting up $15 million appearance bonds.

The indictment also charges Gerard Romy, the former co-CEO of Spanish media company Imagina Media Audiovisual SL, and Uruguayan sports marketing company Full Play Group SA with similar offenses.

Romy is in Spain and had not been arraigned as of mid-April, while Full Play's attorney, Carlos Ortiz of Norton Rose Fulbright, previously said the company "looks forward to vigorously defending itself against all charges at trial."

In late April, Israel-based Bank Hapoalim and a Swiss subsidiary admitted they worked with Full Play to hide nearly $22 million in bribes paid to various soccer officials between 2010 and 2015. The bank agreed to pay about $30 million for that conduct under a nonprosecution agreement.

The government is represented by Samuel P. Nitze, M. Kristin Mace, Keith D. Edelman, Patrick T. Hein, Kaitlin T. Farrell, David C. Pitluck and Brian D. Morris of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.

Martinez is represented by Steven McCool of McCool Law PLLC.

Lopez is represented by Matthew Umhofer of Spertus Landes & Umhofer LLP.

Full Play Group is represented by Carlos Ortiz of Norton Rose Fulbright, among others.

The case is U.S. v. Webb et al., case number 1:15-cr-00252, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

--Additional reporting by Zachary Zagger and Stewart Bishop. Editing by Amy Rowe.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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Case Title

USA v. Webb et al


Case Number

1:15-cr-00252

Court

New York Eastern

Nature of Suit

Date Filed

May 20, 2015

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