– immigration status will be affected
By Leonard Gildarie
A Guyanese-born pilot nabbed by Puerto Rican authorities in a high profile arrest back in November while transporting more than US$600,000 in cash aboard his jet, is facing up to two years in jail.
In a plea deal submitted and being reviewed by the United States District Court of Puerto Rico, Captain Khamraj Lall agreed for US$620,588 along with the 1988 Israel fixed wing multi-engine aircraft bearing Registration N822Ql and used in the crime, to be forfeited.
Under the deal with the US Government, Lall pleaded guilty to one count– of concealing more than US$10,000 in his plane and attempting to transfer it outside of the US to Guyana.
He would have been facing up to five years on a number of charges if he had opted for a trial and found guilty, according to court documents seen by Kaieteur News.
Lall, who operates a hangar at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and controlled KayLees Gas Station at Coverden, East Bank Demerara, has also agreed that other assets may be subject to forfeiture as there is still a pending civil matter for assets seizure in New Jersey, another US territory, where he has homes, vehicles, cash and other properties.
He will remain on restricted freedom until a sentencing hearing on October 27 before Judge Jay Garcia-Gregory.
Through his attorney Rafael Castro-Lang, Lall’s plea deal was yesterday filed and accepted in open court. The defendant was found competent to plea. The court yesterday ordered a pre-sentence report.
As part of his filings, Lall, who had his licences revoked, submitted a waiver of right to trial by jury.
In addition to imprisonment, the court will impose a term of supervised release of not more than five years with no possibilities of parole or that the sentence be suspended for any reasons.
The court may order a fine to reimburse the US Government for costs of imprisonment, probation and even supervised release.
The court may even go higher on the minimum 18 months sentence being offered by prosecutors but Lall cannot withdraw his plea if this happens.
The Puerto Rican court made it clear in the deal that it does not have to follow the recommended sentencing of between 18 and 24 months.
Lall agreed that he will take steps to transfer the plane and cash to the US Government.
More importantly and to the detriment of the Guyanese-born businessman is the fact that the US Government agreed that the plea deal will not affect a civil case filed against him, stemming for the cash smuggling charge, in the district of New Jersey.
In the civil matter, the prosecutors of that state are going after luxury vehicles, another plane, more than US$400,000 cash lying in several frozen bank accounts as well as at least three properties.
Lall will not be able to appeal the final judgment of the court come October when he is sentence and his immigration status in the US could also be affected.
Lall’s arrest in November in Puerto Rico had sparked swift investigations by the US Government in New Jersey where some US$442,743.59 was frozen in accounts at Wells Fargo bank, Citibank and Morgan Chase Bank.
They zeroed in on properties Lall owned or controlled in Ringwood, New Jersey; Citra, Florida and Hamptonburgh, New York along with a 2013 Lexus GX wagon.
Lall was arrested after his jet made a stop to refuel in Puerto Rico, on its way to Guyana.
Stashed in different parts of the plane was more than US$600,000 that Prosecutors say was not declared by Lall. He reportedly took responsibility for the cash at the time of arrest. On board were his father and another person.
It was disclosed that the pilot, who also owns a limousine service in Guyana, had flown Government officials. There were swirling questions over the operations of the hangar and its accessibility.
Government had denied that it granted the company any special privileges and said that the operations were in keeping with regulations.
Lall who was bailed after his initial court appearance, was forced to close his Exec Jet offices at Gainesville, Florida because of the troubles.
The US Government had used laws which allow for properties that are linked to illegal transactions to be seized. As Puerto Rico is a territory of the US, the country’s tax body, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), had stepped into the matter, going after the bank accounts, the Lexus car and two planes. Investigators, apparently working on information, started tracking Lall’s deposits to accounts held at Wells Fargo, Citibank and JP Morgan and found startling evidence that between April 2011 and September 2014, the pilot and family members deposited an astounding US$6,324,411.41 (G$1.3B). There were over a thousand transactions.
The IRS believes that a scheme was devised where Lall and others deliberately deposited less than US$10,000 each time in attempts not to trigger suspicion by banks which are mandated to report transactions above that amount. Lall’s wife, Nadinee, and mother Joyce, were named in the transactions.
The US Government said that while it is not yet requesting seizures of properties that the Lalls controlled in three states, it intends to do so, as proceeds of the deposits were used to renovate or pay mortgages.
Lall’s case has been generating much attention in Guyana, Puerto Rico and mainland US, because of the amount of cash that he was found with and the fact that he was well known here.
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