NEW YORK – A judge has tossed out large amounts of evidence seized from the home and business of a Wall Street executive, saying the government was "grossly negligent" in conducting sweepingly broad searches and with what it did with the information afterward.
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The ruling late Tuesday by Judge Alison J. Nathan was a blow to the government's criminal case against financier Benjamin Wey. The founder and president of New York Global Group, an investment consulting firm, was arrested in 2015 on conspiracy, wire fraud and securities fraud charges. He is free on bail and has pleaded not guilty.
With a trial scheduled for October, it is unclear what effect the decision will have on the prosecution. Dawn Dearden, a spokeswoman for prosecutors, declined comment.
In her written decision, Nathan granted the request in its entirety by Wey's lawyers to toss out evidence seized through search warrants at his home and business.
She said government agents made "indiscriminate physical searches and seizures" and later mined the materials looking for evidence related to new persons and new crimes.
"This conduct reflects, at least, grossly negligent or reckless disregard of the strictures of the Fourth Amendment," which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, "and that is sufficient to infer a lack of good faith," she said. "In the court's view, these are precisely the sort of circumstances, rare or not, that call for blanket suppression."
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Government witnesses at a hearing earlier this year offered "strained explanations" for why materials were properly seized, including children's school records, medical prescriptions, divorce records, and decade-old clippings from the sports section of a college newspaper, the judge said.
"The government and its agents leave the court to find that much, perhaps even most, of the over-seizure was not the result of expediency, mistake, or even simple negligence. To the contrary, it seems, this material was reviewed, and a conscious effort was made to deem patently unresponsive materials responsive to the warrants," she said.
Prosecutors say Wey made tens of millions of dollars illegally by manipulating the stock prices of companies he gained a secret financial interest in.
Last year, a judge reduced from $18 million to $5.6 million the damages awarded to a Swedish woman who had sued Wey for sexual harassment. A jury had ruled in favor of Hanna Bouveng's claims that Wey coerced her into sexual encounters and fired her after learning she had a boyfriend. She said Wey launched a smear campaign against her.