After a mix-up over an alleged escape, the Federal Bureau of Prisons soon will release a former Newport News investment broker back to home confinement.
“It could take two days or three weeks — we don’t know,” said Trey Kelleter, an attorney for Jeffrey A. Martinovich. “But he’s coming home.”
The Bureau of Prisons had taken Martinovich back into custody in early June to serve out the remainder of his sentence in a 2013 financial fraud case behind bars.
That came after he failed to answer his phone one night in late May while on home detention.
Deeming that an “escape,” the Bureau of Prisons set Martinovich’s release date as August 2025. That would have meant missing the first four years of the life of a daughter who is expected to be born in September.
Kelleter filed a petition in U.S. District Court in Norfolk on July 9, asserting that Martinovich is being wrongfully imprisoned and asking a judge to reverse the prison system’s decision.
The petition said the Bureau of Prisons’ own evidence — GPS tracking information from Martinovich’s ankle monitor — showed he never left his home in Norfolk’s Ghent section on May 31.
The Daily Press and The Virginian-Pilot published a story about the petition on July 14.
Two days later, Martinovich’s fiancée, Ashleigh Amburn, got a call from the Bureau of Prisons saying the escape finding had been vacated, meaning he would be going back to home confinement.
But although a BOP official told Kelleter the same thing Friday, the U.S. Marshals who are now transporting Martinovich told him they were taking him to a federal prison in West Virginia, and the marshals had apparently not received any word about him going home.
As of late Tuesday, Martinovich was at a federally-affiliated jail in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, a stopping point on the way to West Virginia.
Kelleter filed an “emergency motion” with the Norfolk federal court this week, seeking clarity on “this latest plot twist.”
But he said he spoke to a BOP attorney on Wednesday who gave him much more confidence. That lawyer, he said, “made it clear that he is coming home.”
“She sounded very credible,” Kelleter said. “And she gave this lengthy explanation of the Rube Goldberg Machine of the BOP — that they had to go through 10 different steps, and they have to figure out how to communicate this to the Marshals. But basically, she said he is coming back to home confinement.”
“We are elated, but also conscious that it could take some time,” he said. “And so we will continue to advocate for him to be moved quickly.”
The BOP would not speak about the case this week, and would not independently confirm Tuesday where Martinovich will serve his sentence.
Martinovich, 55, the former CEO of MICG Investment Management in Newport News, was convicted at a month-long trial in 2013 of 17 of the 25 financial fraud counts he faced.
Among other things, jurors found that he had schemed behind the scenes to artificially inflate the appraisal of a company held by one of his hedge funds as a way of boosting the performance fees that he and the company garnered.
Martinovich later pleaded guilty to using investors’ money to pay for his trial lawyer, and was sentenced to 13 years and eight months behind bars on the 18 charges.
He spent most of the past nine years at Federal Correctional Institution Beckley, a medium-security prison in West Virginia.
With standard good behavior credits, his release date was listed as August of 2025.
But he was released to home confinement in May 2020 on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking to reduce the spread of the disease among federal inmates, the Bureau of Prisons released thousands of “low risk” inmates nationwide.
Martinovich began living with Amburn last summer in Norfolk. The Bureau of Prison rules allowed him to go to work, but otherwise stay at the house, with a requirement that he answer his landline phone at random times each day.
That went well for more than a year — with Martinovich answering more than 1,200 “accountability calls” during that time — until a Newport News halfway house couldn’t reach him starting at 7:52 p.m. on May 31.
Halfway house staffers first called his landline, but Martinovich says he didn’t hear it because the phone line wasn’t working.
The halfway house tried to reach him on his cell phone, then his fiancée’s cell phone, to no avail. They also tried three times to activate a vibration mechanism on his ankle, but the device was malfunctioning.
The staffers then called the Norfolk Police Department at 10:48 p.m. asking that officers be sent to the Ghent home to check on Martinovich’s whereabouts.
But when the officers got to the home at 11:22 p.m., they “mistakenly believed they were coming to a halfway house, not a private residence,” the petition says.
The officers knocked lightly on the door, peering through the window, describing body camera footage. But they didn’t ring the door bell, so as not to wake up the person in charge.
Martinovich “was asleep in his second-floor bedroom” at the time, with the officers relaying back to the halfway house that no one answered the door.
“It appears unfathomable that ... the police would not have used the doorbell, which would have sent the three Yorkshire terriers in the house into top-decibel panic,” Martinovich wrote in an affidavit filed with the petition, attaching a video showing the dogs’ normal reaction when the doorbell rings.
Amburn woke up at 1:43 a.m., saw that multiple calls had come in on her cell phone, then woke up Martinovich.
She wrote in an affidavit that she checked the landline, and it had no dial tone. She was able to reboot the Internet-based landline, she said, and Martinovich called the halfway house just before 2 a.m.
Kelleter said Amburn “feels confident that he’ll be home, but she’s anxious about whether or not he’ll be home in time for the birth” in September.
Peter Dujardin, 757-247-4749, firstname.lastname@example.org