Myles A. Schneider, Arizona Criminal Defense Lawyer with Myles A. Schneider & Associates, LTD. wins a Rare Acquittal for Minnesota Banker charged in Minnesota Federal Criminal Trial Known as Operation Starburst

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Wells Fargo employee acquitted on all charges in a case that spanned two years of investigation from the Secret Service and the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force in which over $50 million was claimed to be defrauded by U.S. banks.

Send Ms. David home to her children, her husband and her church.

After being charged with bank fraud in the case of the United States of America vs. Okeayainneh et al. Court File No. 0:11-cr-00087-MJD/JJK, Fata Leeta Sarnor David, a former Wells Fargo employee and a Liberian immigrant, was acquitted of all charges in a case that has spanned two years and was a priority investigation for the Secret Service and the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force in Operation Starburst. The indictment charged Ms. David one count of bank fraud conspiracy, two counts of aggravated identity theft, and two counts of bank fraud.

According to the indictment, it was alleged that Ms. David provided inside information to individuals who were a part of an international conspiracy to steal identities and defraud banks around the U.S. The total amount in which banks were defrauded was $50 million.

According to a recent press announcement by the Department of Justice, the conspiracy spanned from March 2006 to December 2010 with nearly 9,000 stolen identification documents being pressed, resulting in merchandise from banks and malls being obtained by the use of fraudulent credit cards. Prosecutors said the scheme was centered in Minnesota, ran from 2006 to 2011 and had operations in California, Massachusetts, Arizona, New York and Texas.

After a federal trial in the United States District Court in Minneapolis that spanned 3 weeks where the government introduced 248 exhibits and presented more than 60 witnesses; ending in 2 ½ days of deliberations, two individuals from California and New York were convicted of conspiring in a fraud ring with roots in West Africa. Ms. David was one of only two defendants who were acquitted.

Myles Schneider, Ms. David’s attorney, has been practicing Law since October 2000, but was practicing primarily in the area of business litigation and construction law until 2007, when he begin focusing on criminal defense full time. Mr. Schneider became Ms. David’s attorney because Ms. David was not happy with the public defendant that was appointed to her by the government. Mr. Schneider had previously obtained a dismissal for another member of the Liberian community whom was falsely accused of rape; Ms. David heard of Schneider and retained him as her attorney.

Mr. Schneider was able to navigate more than 150,000 pages of documentation provided by the USA and Wells Fargo. 100,000 of which were provided just two days before the trial was to go to the jury. Through proper preparation, Mr. Schneider was able to decipher the cryptic nature of the allegations against Ms. David and the thousands of pages of documentation through advanced computer skills and civil litigation skills.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, acquittals in Federal Court are extremely rare with those using publicly financed attorneys seeing an acquittal rate of 1.0% and those with private attorneys standing around 1.6%. However, Due to the fact that Ms. David’s story never deviated, Mr. Schneider decided that allowing his client to testify in her own defense was crucial. Schneider said, “She was resolute that she did not do that which she was accused of.”

It was proven through Ms. David’s testimony, aggressive representation by Schneider that identified the facts and truthful witness testimony that Ms. David did nothing wrong. This was the formula for Ms. David’s acquittal.

The pivotal point in the trial came when co-defendant Jonathan Earley, who made a plea deal early in the case, stated that Ms. David was a member of the vast criminal conspiracy, when in fact it was other bankers Earley was seeking to protect. Through careful review of the evidence, Mr. Schneider was able to bring out the true co-conspirators; leaving the jury with only one choice. To acquit Ms. David.

In the end, the documentation and testimony provided by the USA fell short. The jury verdict and the court’s order for acquittal showed that the USA failed to meet the burden required under the law because they ultimately did not have any evidence to support the allegations that Ms. David provided insider information that contributed to the fraud. The USA’s heavy reliance on Earley’s testimony and the Wells Fargo documents was the Governments undoing. Such evidence pointed out the real inside bankers Earley sought to protect and ultimately exonerated Ms. David as an insider.

Mr. Schneider stated to the jury that “she did not provide inside information to anybody” and proved that fact. At the end of his closing, Mr. Schneider asked the jury to “send Ms. David home to her children, her husband and her church.” The Jury did just that: they sent Ms. David home, granting her one of the few acquittals that occur in Federal Court each year.

After acquittal, Ms. David made no comment to the media. Instead, she rushed to her husband, finally putting the whole ordeal behind her.

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