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Covid Delays Island Luck Co-Founder’S Us Sentencing

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Adrian Fox

• Adrian Fox tested positive for virus August 31

• Judge puts hearing back 30 days to October 15

• US travel protocols block September 15 date

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A co-founder of the Island Luck web shop chain has persuaded a US federal court to delay his sentencing by 30 days because he has become ill with COVID-19.

Attorneys for Adrian Fox, in a September 2, 2021, letter to Judge Denise Cote had initially requested that sentencing be put back by 28 days until October 13, 2021, as their client’s illness meant he would not be able to comply with US COVID entry guidelines in time for the original September 15 hearing.

However, the judge in the southern New York district court granted Mr Fox an additional two days until October 15, 2021 according to documents obtained by Tribune Business. “Defendant Adrian Fox respectfully requests that his sentencing be adjourned for 28 days (until October 13, 2021). The [US] government has informed defense counsel that it assents to this request,” his attorneys wrote.

“Mr Fox, who lives in The Bahamas, was scheduled to travel to New York on September 15, 2021, for a Rule 11 hearing followed immediately by a sentencing hearing. Two days ago, however, Mr Fox tested positive for COVID-19.”

A copy of the positive COVID-19 PCR test result produced by the 52 year-old Mr Fox on August 31, 2021, was attached to the letter sent to Judge Cote. The test and analysis were shown as having been performed by East Bay Street-based Access Bahamas Medical Laboratories, with the physician named as Nadia Gilbert.

Pointing to current Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on entering the US, Mr Fox’s attorneys added: “Since it cannot be known how long it will take before Mr Fox is symptom-free and can be cleared for travel, the defense respectfully requests that the court allow ample time by adjourning the combined Rule 11 and sentencing hearing for 28 days, until October 13, 2021.”

The Island Luck co-founder was due to be sentenced on one count of helping to operate a vessel in US waters “in a grossly negligent manner”, which endangered the lives of other unidentified persons. This resulted from him reaching a plea bargain with US authorities that dropped the human smuggling offences he was initially charged with.

Papers filed with the southern New York federal court on March 25, 2021, revealed that Mr Fox and attorneys for the US Justice Department reached their plea agreement just months after the Island Luck co-founder’s bid to have decade-old human smuggling charges against him thrown out completely was rejected by Judge Cote.

Michael Herman, an assistant US government attorney, in a letter informing the judge of the plea bargain, wrote: “Since the court issued its decision on January 27, 2020, denying Fox’s motion to dismiss the indictment on speedy-trial grounds pursuant to the fugitive disentitlement doctrine, the parties have continued to discuss a pre-trial disposition of this matter.

“In May 2020, the parties reached an agreement in principal, as part of which Fox has agreed to plead guilty to a one-count superseding misdemeanour information charging him with aiding and abetting the grossly negligent operation of a vessel pursuant to a plea agreement with the government.”

Given the relatively minor count he is pleading guilty to, it is highly possible that Mr Fox will avoid any US jail sentence, which marks a major reversal from as recently as January 2020, when Judge Cote branded him a “fugitive” from US justice after dismissing his bid to have the federal authorities’ case thrown out.

The Island Luck co-founder had previously argued that the human trafficking charges should be dismissed because the US government’s near 10-year failure to launch extradition proceedings against him had breached his “right to a speedy trial” - an objective he has now achieved through the plea bargain.

He was charged in a sealed April 4, 2010, indictment that was subsequently revealed three months later after his alleged co-conspirator, fellow Bahamian citizen, Mario Bowe, was arrested by US law enforcement.

Bowe, the son of the late Sir Lynden Pindling’s confidant, Felix “Mailman” Bowe, ultimately pled guilty in September 2010 and was sentenced to 33 months in prison in early 2011. He is understood to have been released from prison and returned to The Bahamas, but Mr Fox had remained outside the US judicial system’s reach ever since until now.

The pair were initially accused of masterminding a three-year human smuggling operation that involved bringing Chinese and other migrants into the US, arranging “transportation and safe houses” for them in The Bahamas while they waited to travel to New York Via Miami.

However, Mr Fox’s attorneys had earlier challenged their client’s labelling as “a fugitive” on the basis that he had never “set foot” in New York or the US when committing the alleged offences.

“The government has done nothing to bring Fox to justice other than reject every one of his efforts to negotiate a voluntary self-surrender,” they blasted. “The government had a constitutional duty to extradite Fox yet took no steps to do so for over nine years. It has offered no excuse for this apparently flagrant violation of Fox’s constitutional rights.”

Mr Fox was Sebas Bastian’s 50/50 partner in Island Luck’s rapid expansion prior to the industry’s legalisation, regulation and taxation by the former Christie administration. He has remained in the public spotlight through the charitable activities of his Fox Foundation, which has previously financed an extensive neighbourhood clean-up in the Kemp Road area/Freetown constituency.

The foundation traditionally holds an annual Christmas block party and gift/food giveaway for residents in the same area, but switched its giving to a beautification project in 2019 just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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