Last week, the U.S. District court sitting in Illinois dismissed the complaints against Olalekan Ponle, the Nigerian facing charges on multi-million dollar wire fraud.
Mr Ponle, popularly addressed as Woodberry, was arrested, alongside Ramon Abbas (Hushpuppi) in the United Arab Emirate, on June 10, for multiple fraud charges after a raid by operatives of the Dubai crime unit.
They were extradited to the U.S on July 2.
According to the complaint against Mr Ponle, an unnamed Chicago company was tricked into sending wire transfers totalling $15.2 million. Companies based in Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, New York and California also were victims of the fraud, prosecutors say.
In what seemed like a plot twist on Wednesday, the U.S government applied for a motion of dismissal without prejudice and it was granted by the presiding Judge, Robert W. Gettleman.
When a case is dismissed with prejudice, it is over and done with, once and for all, and cannot be brought back to court.
On the other hand, when it is dismissed without prejudice, as in the case of Mr Ponle, the dismissal is temporary as the prosecutor can refile such within a certain period of time.
Although, the government attorney, when contacted by PREMIUM TIMES, declined to disclose the reasons for the dismissal of the complaints, plausible reasons for such step include but not limited to; insufficiency of evidence or inclusion of superfluous details.
The attorney, however, hinted that the grand jury indictment, which summed the allegations against him to an eight-count charge, is still active.
With or without the dismissal, Mr Ponle is not yet a free man.
Between complaints and indictments
According to the administration of criminal justice in the U.S., both the indictment and the complaint serve the same function of initiating a criminal case and informing the defendant of the charges.
They also ensure that a prosecutor has sufficient evidence to establish probable cause that a crime has been committed.
A complaint is a statement of the essential facts of the offence to be charged, made under oath by a law enforcement official. This was what the FBI investigator first presented against Mr Ponle.
In order to make an arrest, prosecutors often file a complaint to hasten the process.
Unlike the complaint, to obtain an indictment, the prosecutor must present proposed charges to a grand jury – a body of jurors that investigates crimes and decides whether charges should be filed.
The Jury, done in strict confidence, may demand that some of the witnesses and evidence be provided, after which they vote. Grand juries do not need a unanimous decision from all members to indict, but it does need a supermajority of 2/3 or 3/4 agreement for an indictment.
Most federal criminal offenses require an indictment under the U.S constitution because the grand jury proceedings are often a valuable test for prosecutors in making the decision to bring the case to fore.
Nevertheless, if a grand jury chooses not to indict, the prosecutor may still bring the defendant to trial if he/she thinks that the case is strong enough, using the complaint.
In conclusion, Mr Ponle may either be arraigned using the indictment or an amended version of the complaints, since it was dismissed without prejudice.
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