Lawyers for Michael Wright say the FBI illegally seized his phone during a raid earlier this month that also included the arrest of WFAN radio host Craig Carton. Both men are accused of allegedly stealing $5.6 million from investors and are accused of participating in a larger Ponzi scheme involving tickets to concerts and sporting events, allegedly orchestrated by mastermind Joe Meli.
On Sept. 12, Wright’s attorney Jonathan Marc Davidoff sent a letter to U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman, asking for a protective order blocking the FBI from any searches of the phone, which he says the agency obtained illegally. The attorney wants the phone returned in its original condition and wants to block the government from using anything it finds inside.
The court should issue an injunction, Davidoff warned “because the Phone was obtained by an illegal search and seizure that occurred after Mr. Wright was removed from his home, handcuffed (which effectuated and satisfied the arrest warrant) and then was brought back into his home without any permission or authority in violation of Mr. Wright’s Constitutional rights.”
Furthermore, “the Agents demanded that Mr. Wright’s wife obtain the Phone (along with other items) from the Wright’s bedroom on the floor above where they detained Mr. Wright in handcuffs, and once retrieved, demanded that the Phone be turned over to them,” Davidoff writes. “Thus, the Phone was obtained by the Government pursuant to an illegal search and seizure with no consent from Mr. Wright or anyone with authority to provide the Government with the Phone.”
Wright and Carton are accused of using fake documents to allegedly steal money from hedge funds and institutional investors, telling them the money was used to buy and resale sports tickets when in actuality, it was allegedly stolen or used to pay gambling debts. Authorities say Meli, meanwhile, oversaw a Ponzi scheme that tricked more than 120 investors into handing money over for what they thought was the purchase of concert tickets. Instead, the money was allegedly used to pay back old investors.
Davidoff said the FBI insists the phone was legally obtained. He disputes that claim, telling the court:
“At approximately 6:07 a.m. on September 6, 2017, the Agents went to Mr. Wright’s house and banged on the front door. When Mr. Wright answered the door, he was wearing nothing more than a pair of gym shorts and he possessed no property.”
Wright was ordered out of his home and taken into custody, he continued. “The Agents handcuffed Mr. Wright and then brought him back into his home, illegally entered Mr. Wright’s home without any legal or justifiable purpose, without a search warrant, any need to conduct a security search, or consent from anyone.”
Also at the house at the time of the raid were Wright’s wife, three kids and nanny. According to Davidoff, FBI agent Sean Sweeny ordered Wright’s wife “to go upstairs with a female FBI agent to obtain Mr. Wright’s passport, and cellular phones (and Mrs. Wright also obtained a shirt and a pair of shoes for Mr. Wright to wear).” Davidoff argued that “at no point during the events at the home was Mr. Wright ever in possession of the Phone, and he was only temporarily uncuffed for a few seconds to have his shirt placed on him. Further, Mr. Wright was never asked if he consented to the Phone being provided to the Government, and in fact he was never read his Miranda Rights prior to being handcuffed or at any time in the home.”
While being detained “by the Agents in the Courthouse, Mr. Wright’s counsel appeared and met with him,” Davidoff said. “When Mr. Wright’s counsel asked Sweeny for the Phone so Mr. Wright could make phone calls to his wife and employer, Sweeny stated ‘No, it is evidence.’ Then, in the Clerk’s office at the time Mr. Wright was executing his pre-trial release papers, in response to Mr. Wright’s counsel’s inquiry for when the Phone would be returned to him, Sweeny stated that he obtained the Phone directly from Mr. Wright at the time he was arrested and that ‘I am not going to address the phone at this time.'”