Analysis

Two men, accused of defrauding investors of $722 million in a crypto mining pool scam, have requested an early release from jail on the grounds the coronavirus poses a risk to their health.

In emergency motions for release to the District Court of New Jersey, Matthew Goettsche and Jobadiah Weeks argue they should be temporarily released from Essex County Correctional Facility as the chances of contracting coronavirus are higher in an enclosed jail environment.

“While the harsh realities of COVID-19 affect the world at large, the risks presented by the virus are particularly acute for inmates. Conditions of pretrial confinement have proven time and time again to create the ideal environment for the transmission of contagious disease,” Goettsche says in a letter to the court.

Goettsche and Weeks founded the BitClub Network, a bitcoin mining pool that claimed to have multiple mining operations, in 2014. U.S. authorities accused them of falsifying earnings figures to defraud investors out of a total of $722 million and formally charged them with committing wire fraud and conspiracy to offer unregistered securities in December.

In their submissions this month, Goettsche and Weeks argue they are unable to follow medical advice in jail because hand sanitizer is a controlled substance, and inmates are frequently in close proximity to one another. Weeks added that Essex County already has an “exceptionally poor record of maintaining detainee health” and that its measures to prevent a coronavirus outbreak did little to protect the health of inmates.

Confinement in these circumstances will place greater restrictions on contact with their legal team, which could severely hamper their ability to prepare a defense ahead of trial, they add.

Being accused of non-violent crimes, both Goettsche and Weeks say they would not pose any risk to society for the duration of their release. The pair also say they are unlikely to flee justice due to international travel bans and the fact their passports have already been confiscated.

Last week, a New York judge granted a motion for temporary release for another individual on the grounds that crowded detention centers allowed the virus to spread more easily. In his submission, Weeks argues he is at particular risk because he is a lifelong asthma sufferer.

See the full filings below:

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