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United States v. Szilagyi

United States District Court, D. Arizona

April 27, 2016

United States of America, Plaintiff,
Elizabeth Szilagyi, Defendant.


David G. Campbell United States District Judge.

Defendant Elizabeth Szilagyi has filed a motion to review the order of detention entered by Magistrate Judge John Boyle. Doc. 61. The Court held a hearing on April 26, 2016. For the following reasons, the Court will affirm Judge Boyle’s detention order.

I. Background.

On February 4, 2016, Defendant Elizabeth Szilagyi was temporarily extradited from Switzerland to the District of Arizona to face prosecution in this case. Defendant is a 69 year old woman who is a naturalized citizen of the United States and holds dual citizenship in Hungary. Defendant has held herself out as a financial advisor who assists clients to obtain funding for international transactions. She has no criminal history in the United States.

On August 14, 2011, Defendant left the United States for the stated purpose of assisting her ill mother who resides in Hungary. Docs. 36-2 at 8, 36-3 at 4. On September 15, 2011, Defendant returned to the United States. Doc. 36-2 at 8. In October of 2011, Ms. Szilagyi traveled to Zurich and secured an apartment there. Doc. 35 at 3. Defendant asserts that she stayed in Zurich in part because of her mother’s health, and also for “personal and business reasons.” Id. at 4. Defendant obtained a Hungarian passport in 2012 and a Hungarian driver’s license in 2013. Doc. 36-2 at 10.

Defendant resided in Zurich from October 2011 until her arrest by Swiss authorities, on Swiss charges, in 2014. Letters submitted to Judge Boyle indicate that her Swiss custody began in October or November of 2014. Doc. 35-1 at 1; Defendant’s Ex. 5. Neither party has described the nature of the Swiss charges against Defendant, but it appears that she was awaiting trial until her extradition to the United States. The Supplemental Declaration of Elizabeth Kiingi, a State Department Legal Advisor, asserts that the United States made an October 1, 2014 inquiry about Defendant’s possible extradition from Switzerland. In response, “[t]he Government of Switzerland . . . informed the United States that Ms. Szilagyi was being detained in Switzerland on Swiss-related charges and that her surrender to the United States would be postponed until the end of her detention on those charges.” Doc. 65-1, ¶ 3. When the United States requested on January 29, 2016, that Defendant be temporarily surrendered to the United States, and confirmed to Swiss authorities that “Ms. Szilagyi would be kept in custody during the pendency of the U.S. criminal proceedings” and “returned to Switzerland at the conclusion of those proceedings, ” Switzerland “temporarily surrendered Ms. Szilagyi to the United States[.]” Id., ¶¶ 3-4. Ms. Kiingi states “that the time Ms. Szilagyi spends in U.S. custody will ‘count exclusively’ towards U.S. proceedings.” Doc. 36-1 at 4. The prosecutor at the April 26, 2016 hearing stated that Swiss authorities have requested that Ms. Szilagyi be returned to Switzerland when this case concludes.

II. Legal Standard.

The Court reviews Judge Boyle’s decision de novo. See United States v. Koenig, 912 F.2d 1190, 1192-93 (9th Cir. 1990). The Court must “review the evidence before the magistrate” and any additional evidence submitted by the parties, “and make its own independent determination whether the magistrate’s findings are correct, with no deference.” Id. at 1193. Under the Bail Reform Act, Defendant must be detained if the Court finds that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the safety of the community or her appearance at trial. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(e). The government must prove Defendant is a danger to the community by clear and convincing evidence. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(f). It must prove she is a flight risk by a preponderance of the evidence. See United States v. Motamedi, 767 F.2d 1403, 1407 (9th Cir. 1985).

III. Analysis.

The Bail Reform Act identifies four general factors to be considered in deciding whether a defendant should be detained: the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, the weight of the evidence against the defendant, the history and characteristics of the defendant, and the nature and seriousness of the danger to the community. 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g). The Court will address each factor in turn.

A. Nature and Circumstance of the Offense Charged.

The Superseding Indictment charges Defendant with 35 counts of Wire Fraud. The indictment alleges that between 2004 and 2013 Defendant engaged in wire fraud transactions exceeding $433, 000. Doc. 14.

A Declaration of FBI Special Agent Kyle C. Armstrong describes some of the facts underlying the charges. Doc. 36-2. It identifies several victims who received assurances from Defendant that she had access to hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign funds that could be used to fund the victims’ business activities. Defendant persuaded the victims to pay her hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to gain access to these foreign funds, but none of the victims received the funding Defendant promised. Defendant represented to the victims that she had high-level contacts within the Hungarian government and access to London banks and gold bullion from China. Her alleged scheme included meetings with bank officials in Lichtenstein and travel to China, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. Id. Thu ...

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