Federal prosecutors said that between early 2009 and late 2010, Mendez’s co-defendants made “unsolicited calls to owners of resort time-share properties,” convincing them to pay fees for the “bogus sales of their property.” The owners, thinking the sales were legit, would shell out thousands in alleged “closing costs.”
Mendez says he fired his sales staff when he discovered they were using “scripts” to lure people into paying money. He reopened, but when the shady conduct continued, Mendez closed shop.
“He shut down his business before the police were ever involved,” Reizenstein said.
His legal team says local state and federal prosecutors both passed on taking the case. But in 2015, a grand jury in Dallas indicted the case because one of the credit-card processing companies was based in Texas. At least eight people wound up indicted on allegations they stole millions.
Mendez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and cooperated with investigators, paying over $300,000 in restitution. Still, Dallas Assistant U.S. Attorney Candida Heath insisted on up to 9 years in prison, and possibly even more.
“You can’t buy your way out of a sentence of incarceration based on the amount of restitution you pay,” Heath said at his July 8, 2019, sentencing hearing.
His other defense lawyer, former Dallas U.S. Attorney James Jacks, shot back: “I don’t really understand the aggressiveness — maybe is the word — of the government’s efforts to put him in prison for what I think would be an incredibly long period of time.”
U.S. Judge Sam Lindsay praised Mendez’s work employing people through his rising music business, but still imposed the five years because he wanted to avoid “unwarranted sentencing disparities” between him and the co-defendants who got similar sentences.
A U.S. Attorney’s spokeswoman, Erin Dooley, noted that Mendez pleaded guilty because he was faced with “overwhelming evidence” In a statement Friday, she added: “Sentencing was at the discretion of a U.S. District Judge. “
Mendez has been free on bond since July.
His defense attorneys won’t say what, if any, behind-the-scenes efforts have been made to grab the White House’s attention about Mendez’s case.
Trump, who has long raged against criminal investigations into his own conduct, hasn’t shied away from granting clemency.
Famously, Trump pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who earned a criminal contempt charge while leading a high-profile and divisive crackdown on undocumented immigrants. In November, critics blasted Trump for issuing clemency to three military men convicted of war crimes.
Less controversially, Trump last year pardoned Ronen Nahmani, an Israeli-born ultra-Orthodox Jewish man who was convicted in South Florida in 2015 of selling synthetic marijuana. A federal judge had sentenced him to 20 years, and Nahmani got out after serving four years.
At the urging of celebrity Kim Kardashian West, the president also pardoned Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old grandmother who’d been locked up for life for cocaine trafficking.
Mendez’s plight has also been taken up by Bernie Kerik, the New York police commissioner who served more than three years in prison for federal tax fraud, and now serves as conservative commentator and advocate for justice reform.
“His case is a demonstration of why we need real criminal justice reform within the Department of Justice today,” Kerik said. “We take a guy like Rich Mendez out of the work force, destroy his life, destroy his family. It’s complete insanity.”
Ironically, Rich Music blossomed during the years the legal case was hanging over his head.
Sitting back in the studio, Mendez is unruffled by what’s to come. When he gets out, Mendez wants to work in the area of criminal-justice reform.
For now, he’ll report Tuesday to Miami’s Federal Correctional Institution, a low-security facility. He’s already been briefed on how to survive in prison, and make the most of rehabilitation programs.
“I want to get this part over with already,” he said.
Sunday, January 05, 2020
Will Trump pardon Latin music mogul Rich Mendez?
That's the question posed by David Ovalle in this article. If anyone can get it done, it's Mendez's lawyer Phil Reizenstein: