Inside Trader Wins Early Release Due To COVID-19 Concerns

By Reenat Sinay
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Law360 (May 20, 2020, 5:18 PM EDT) -- A New York federal judge granted compassionate release over COVID-19 concerns to an asthmatic French jeweler who traded on an inside tip from former Standard & Poor's analyst Sebastian Pinto-Thomaz, reversing an earlier decision denying the jeweler's request.

Jeremy Millul, who was serving a five-month sentence in a low-security Pennsylvania prison, is set to be released Thursday to home confinement, where he will carry out the final two weeks of his sentence in quarantine, according to U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff's Monday order.

Back in April, Judge Rakoff rejected early release bids by Millul and co-defendant Pinto-Thomaz, finding the argument that their incarceration at Allenwood Low FCI posed an unnecessary health risk was not an "extraordinary and compelling reason."

But Millul urged the judge earlier this month to reconsider his decision, citing additional medical records showing that he suffered from childhood asthma and that he had a "severe acute asthma attack" as recently as 2017, posing "an excess mortality risk" if he continues to be incarcerated.

Judge Rakoff granted that motion over the objections of federal prosecutors, who said last week in a letter to the judge that "Millul's claims of active asthma continue to merit skepticism," noting that the French doctor who purportedly treated Millul's 2017 asthma attack "now practices medicine in the field of reconstructive plastic surgery and esthetics."

Millul was due to be released from prison on June 4, though as a non-U.S. citizen, he is subject to a detainer by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement upon release.

In his reconsideration bid, Millul also raised concerns about being sent to an immigration detention center while several hundred detained immigrants around the country have been confirmed to have the novel coronavirus, including dozens of people held in the New Jersey or Pennsylvania facilities where he is likely to be transferred.

Millul further argued that since Pinto-Thomaz was released early from his 14-month sentence in the first week of May, he, too, should be released in order to "avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct."

Pinto-Thomaz was released on furlough by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and will be in home confinement until his sentence ends in June, according to his attorney, Henry E. Mazurek of Meister Seelig & Fein LLP.

Pinto-Thomaz was convicted of insider trading last year for feeding tips to two family friends about a secret plan, learned about through his work as an S&P debt analyst, by paint giant Sherwin-Williams to buy rival Valspar for $11 billion before the deal was announced on March 20, 2016.

One of those family friends was Millul, who admitted to a conspiracy count in March 2019, not long before he was scheduled to stand trial alongside Pinto-Thomaz, who attempted to convince the jury his mother was actually responsible for the confidential information being shared.

The other friend, Manhattan hairdresser Abell Oujaddou, testified against Pinto-Thomaz and was spared prison time for his own guilty plea by Judge Rakoff, who instead doled out a $500,000 fine for the "sheer greed" of the crime.

The Allenwood Low facility does not currently have any confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the BOP and is incidentally also the prison where pharmaceutical fraudster Martin Shkreli is being held. Shkreli's early release bid was rejected by a Brooklyn federal judge over the weekend.

On Wednesday, Millul's attorney told Law360 that they were pleased with the judge's decision to release him to house arrest.

"As he always does, Judge Rakoff reached the fair result when he agreed that Jeremy's asthma history potentially could trigger a disaster should he be transferred to an immigration facility rife with the COVID-19 virus," said Jeffrey Lichtman of The Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman. "We expect him home to his family on Thursday."

Representatives for the government did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Millul is represented by Jeffrey Lichtman, Jeffrey Einhorn and Jason Goldman of The Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman.

Pinto-Thomaz is represented by Henry Mazurek and Ilana Haramati of Meister Seelig & Fein LLP.

The government is represented by Christine I. Magdo and Andrew Thomas of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

The case is U.S. v. Pinto-Thomaz et al., case number 1:18-cr-00579, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

--Additional reporting by Dean Seal. Editing by Alyssa Miller.

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