BUFFALO — First it was a global pandemic.
Now attorneys representing businessman Frank Parlato Jr., and his partner Chitra Selvaraj, say they are too busy to begin trying the fraud and obstruction charges in an 18-count superseding indictment against the pair until sometime in 2021.
At the request of Parlato, Selvaraj and their lawyers, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Arcara has now agreed to delay the trial, which had been slated to start in May, until June 8, 2021. In return for the delay, Parlato and Selvaraj agreed to waive their rights to a speedy trial.
Arcara's order on the matter, which followed a July 28 virtual hearing, noted that Parlato requested a trial delay "based on his defense counsel's trial schedules which they informed the court prevent them from trying this case prior to June 2021." The order indicated that Selvaraj asked for a delay "based on her own health conditions and the current COVID-19 pandemic."
The presiding judge also noted that "the government objected to this delay."
Neither U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York James P. Kennedy nor defense attorneys Paul Cambria, Hebert Greenman, Justin Ginter and Cheryl Meyers-Buth were immediately available for comment.
Arcara ruled that the delay was in the "interests of justice" to allow the defendants to have "their choice of counsel."
Parlato and Selvaraj were named in a superseding indictment in May 2018, which dropped a number of claims from their original indictment handed down in 2015. The indictment alleges a conspiracy “to defraud the United States and certain members of the public,” while adding additional claims that Parlato and Selvaraj attempted to obstruct the function of the Internal Revenue Service.
Charges of wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering, and corrupt interference with the administration of the IRS laws remain in the superseding indictment.
Parlato, 60, the former owner of the One Niagara building, a local real estate developer, publisher of the Niagara Falls Reporter and editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper ArtVoice, and Selvaraj, 41, who has functioned as the chief financial officer for Parlato’s business enterprises, have each previously pleaded not guilty to the charges contained in the indictment.
Parlato has maintained that nothing has changed as a result of the superseding indictment.
“The government knew they had no case (with the original indictment) and they still have no case,” Parlato said at the time of the superseding indictment. “You’ve heard of fake news, this is a fake indictment.”
The original indictment followed a four-year investigation into Parlato’s business dealings. The investigation first became known in 2011, when federal agents served subpoenas looking for records at the One Niagara building.
Parlato and Selvaraj are accused of orchestrating a scheme to defraud the IRS through the use of an array of limited liability corporations and partnerships. The indictments catalog the use of more than 15 so-called shell companies, 50 bank accounts and multiple attorney trust accounts in perpetrating the scheme.
Prosecutors have charged the scheme involved the movement of large sums of cash through multiple accounts.
Missing from the superseding indictment are the claims that Parlato defrauded business associates, including Canadian liquor business heiresses Clare and Sara Bronfman.