Jul. 29—CONCORD — A federal judge has faulted federal prosecutors for withholding evidence and ordered a new trial for a New Hampshire man convicted in 2019 of bilking a Massachusetts United Way chapter out of millions of dollars.
The mistrial is the latest in a nearly three-year legal saga for Imran Alrai of Windham, who is accused of swindling his former employer, the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.
In December 2019, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Laplante convicted Alrai of 44 crimes of wire fraud, money laundering and transportation of stolen property after a 10-day bench trial.
Last week, Laplante threw out the verdict after federal prosecutors turned over evidence they had not produced before the trial. The evidence showed that their expert witness in the case — forensic CPA Greg Naviloff — had worked for the United Way chapter as a consultant on the Alrai case.
Were defense attorneys aware of Naviloff's work history, they could have used it to challenge his credibility, Laplante wrote.
Prosecutors have said United Way lost at least $3.1 million to Alrai's excessive billing, duplicate bills and billing for unprovided services, and that he enriched himself by $3.7 million.
In an emailed statement, John J. Farley, the acting U.S. Attorney in New Hampshire, stressed that Laplante did not find that his prosecutors intentionally violated their duties.
Prosecutors have a constitutional obligation to turn over all evidence to defense lawyers before trial, and Farley said his office takes that obligation, termed discovery, seriously.
"We are continuing to review the Court's decision and will prepare for the new trial," he wrote.
Alrai defense lawyer Donna Brown said: "Mr. Alrai is glad to have another chance to prove his innocence."
If a new trial is held, a judge won't be rendering a verdict, as Laplante did in 2019.
"The court concludes that the proper remedy is a new trial before the traditional trier of fact in a criminal case: a jury of twelve," the judge wrote.
In his 61-page order, Laplante noted that prosecutors repeatedly assured him that all evidence had been turned over during a three-day post-conviction hearing about discovery issues.
But after prosecutors further reviewed the case, they released more than 600 emails and 18 documents stamped "Do Not Produce." Prosecutors believed the documents were exempt from production through attorney-client privilege.
Alrai was jailed after the conviction, but Laplante freed him in March over COVID-19 concerns. He remains under house arrest but is allowed to leave his home for limited reasons.