Ex-fugitive in $100 million New Jersey deli case leaves Thailand for U.S. court hearing

Ex-fugitive in $100 million New Jersey deli case leaves Thailand for U.S. court hearing

A former fugitive charged with stock manipulation in the bizarre case of a money-losing New Jersey deli once valued at $100 million was flying in custody from Thailand late Tuesday, en route to a planned court appearance in the United States, his lawyer said.

The defendant, fallen Hong Kong businessman Peter Coker Jr., is expected to appear in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., as early as Wednesday afternoon, or as late as Thursday, the attorney John Azzarello told CNBC.

Coker Jr., 54, was arrested in the resort area of Phuket, Thailand, in mid-January. He was apprehended more than three months after the well-publicized arrests in North Carolina of his two co-defendants: his father Peter Coker Sr., and James Patten.

Since his arrest by Thai authorities, Coker Jr. had been held in a Bangkok jail and was awaiting transport to the U.S., having waived extradition.

Azzarello said that Coker Jr.’s legal team “is still in discussions with” the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey on a possible bail package. He would not comment on whether prosecutors were opposed to a judge releasing Coker Jr. on bond.

A spokesman for the prosecutors’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The 80-year-old Coker Sr. and the 64-year-old Patten were freed on $100,000 bond each after their arrests in September for the alleged scheme, which spanned eight years.

All three defendants are charged in a 12-count indictment in Camden, N.J., federal court, that alleges they committed financial crimes related to two publicly traded companies.

One of those companies, Hometown International, owned only a modest, now-shuttered deli in Paulsboro, New Jersey. The other firm, E-Waste, was a shell company that had no assets.

Prosecutors accuse the trio of a scheme to artificially inflate the value of stock shares of both companies to sky-high levels in an effort to make them attractive takeover candidates for private firms hoping to take advantage of their stock market tickers.

“These tactics artificially inflated the price of Hometown International and E-Waste’s stock by giving the false impression that there was a genuine market interest in the stock,” prosecutors said in a news release last fall. “Their scheme had the ultimate impact of artificially inflating Hometown International’s stock by approximately 939 percent and E-Waste’s stock by approximately 19,900 percent.”


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