A federal judge in Camden, New Jersey ordered the former fugitive who was at the heart of a securities case involving a $100,000,000 New Jersey deli to be held without bail on Monday after determining that he poses a serious risk of flight.
In late March, a magistrate judge approved Peter Coker Jr.’s release under a $1.5m bond. However, he was still in jail in Essex County while prosecutors appealed.
In a motion filed in Camden federal court on Monday, the prosecutors said that Coker Jr. was to be held in custody pending trial, because he renounced U.S. Citizenship, had "extensive links" with foreign countries, and owned assets worth more than $3,000,000.
Judge Christine O'Hearn took the side of the government. She noted repeatedly that Coker Jr. who lived in Phuket, Thailand for the last year and a quarter, made no attempt to contact authorities to turn himself into them after learning he had been indicted.
She claimed that Coker Jr. only came to the U.S. because the federal authorities tracked him down in Phuket and then extradited him back to the U.S.
Coker Jr. did not make any formal remarks to the judge. He was smiling when he was led in court wearing a yellow jumpsuit.
Coker Jr. (53), his father Peter Coker Sr. and James Patten, a third person, were all charged with securities fraud and conspiracy in a 12-count charge. They were accused of concocting an elaborate scheme to boost the stock price of two companies: Hometown International, and E-Waste.
According to prosecutors, at the time of the alleged acts, the market capitalizations of both firms exceeded $100 million, even though Hometown had only a small deli located in Paulsboro (New Jersey) that was not profitable and E-Waste, a shell corporation, was its sole asset.
John Azzarello is the defense lawyer for Coker Jr. He argues that his client did not hide in Phuket. He said Coker Jr. hadn't changed his name, or tried to avoid authorities when he learned of the charges against him.
Azzarello responded to O'Hearn's question about why Coker Jr. did not contact the government after learning he was indicted. He explained that Coker Jr. had been hospitalized for cirrhosis, hepatitis, and hepatitis.
Azzarello stated that there was "fear and worry" about Coker Jr. being forced to take a plane for more than 25 hours to return to the U.S. if he turned himself in to Thai officials. Azzarello said that Coker Jr. was advised not to travel by his local doctors because of health problems.
Coker Jr.'s health issues were acknowledged by Assistant U.S. attorney Shawn Barnes, but Barnes said that officials could have taken steps to ensure Coker Jr.'s safety when traveling.
O'Hearn ruled Monday that there were no conditions which could be reasonably imposed to ensure Coker Jr.'s appearance in court. She accepted that he was considered a flight threat because, among other things, he wasn't a U.S. Citizen, didn't have any significant ties with the U.S., and was not currently employed.
O'Hearn called Coker Jr. "a sophisticated defendant" who was "very familiar" with international travel. She said that her "main concern," was the fact that he did not attempt to surrender when he found out he had been indicted. She cited Coker Jr.'s assets and his "little, if any", family ties.
Azzarello, speaking to CNBC after the hearing, said: "I'm surprised."
He was unsure of his next step and if he would try to appeal the decision or propose a new bail package.
Coker Jr.'s mother wept in the gallery as well as outside the courtroom after the judge gave her ruling. She and her elder husband, Coker, refused to comment on CNBC.