Ex-fugitive in scam linked to $100m NJ deli, willing to pay millions for bail

Peter Coker Jr., left, receives a police search warrant at his villa on the southern resort island of Phuket, Thailand, on Jan. 11, 2023.

Crime Suppression Department, Royal Thai Police | AP

NEWARK, NJ — The former fugitive, who is linked to a New Jersey delicatessen company whose shares were once worth a ludicrous $100 million, was held without bail — at least for the time being — on Wednesday after being extradited from Thailand.

But Hong Kong businessman Peter Coker Jr. is willing to put all his money – up to $4 million or more – with his parents, who are offering their “dream home” as collateral to secure his release on bail, a defense attorney judge said in the US District Court in Newark, New Jersey.

Assistant US Attorney Shawn Barnes said in court whether he would oppose Coker Jr.’s bail but is expected to do so in the coming days.

Watching from the gallery were Coker’s mother, Susan, and his father, Peter Coker Sr., 80, who is also a defendant in the case.

“He looks good,” Susan Coker told her son’s attorneys, John Azzaerello and Bill McGovern, afterward.

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The male Cokers and a third man, 63-year-old James Patten, are charged of a plan to artificially inflate the prices of publicly traded stocks hometown internationaland a related shell company, E-Waste, to increase its attractiveness as a merger partner for private companies.

Hometown, which owned only the small, loss-making Your Hometown Deli in Paulsboro, rose more than 900% as a result of the alleged plan. E-Waste’s shares plummeted nearly 20,000%.

Both companies were forced to take the highly unusual, if not unprecedented, step of publicly dismissing their massive market valuations after CNBC filed legal troubles related to several people associated with the companies, including Coker Sr.

A bitter homecoming

The older Cokers drove from their home in Chapel, Hill, North Carolina, to what turned out to be just a 10-minute hearing Wednesday to see but not speak to their 54-year-old son, who was in chains for the procedure.

“We love our son,” Susan Coker told CNBC after the hearing. “We miss our son.”

However, Coker Sr. snapped, “You must be struggling” after being asked how he felt about having his son home.

Coker Jr., wearing a black shirt with a Nehru collar and red buttons, was almost 40 pounds lighter than he had been in a Bangkok jail two months ago, under what his defense attorney Azzarello told Judge Michael Hammer “quite deplorable” conditions.

“I think he was pretty happy to see the United States the way some of my ancestors were supposed to see the Statue of Liberty,” joked Azzarello, who pleaded not guilty on behalf of his client.

After educating Coker Jr. on his rights, Hammer said he would keep him pending federal recommendations soon on whether to incarcerate him under certain conditions or allow him to bail.

Azarello told Hammer that Coker Jr. had about $2 million in a Wells Fargo account in the United States and about the same amount in a Hong Kong account. However, the account in Hong Kong has been frozen by local authorities, he said.

The attorney also said the elderly Cokers’ home, which they are willing to use as collateral so their son can be released to live with them or his sister in the same state, is worth $830,000.

Coker Jr. is “pretty willing to stake every nickel he has” to be released on bail, Azzarello said.

After the hearing, Azzarello told CNBC, “I don’t think this case warrants pre-trial detention.”

But Azzarello said he expects the US Attorney for New Jersey to ask a judge to keep the younger Coker locked up until he, Coker Sr. and Patten are tried on serious criminal charges.

Coker Sr. and Patten, who were arrested in September after a grand jury indicted them and Coker Jr. on 12 counts, each remain free on $100,000 bail.

Matthew Reilly, a spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office, declined to comment when asked whether the office’s prosecutors would oppose Coker Jr.’s request for bail.

From deli to detention

Coker Jr., who had lived in Hong Kong for decades, was previously the chairman of Hometown International. His father was a major shareholder in the company, whose market capitalization once exceeded $100 million, although the deli he owned had less than $40,000 in sales over a two-year period.

The younger Coker had also served as executive chairman of South Shore Holdings Ltd., a Hong Kong company The owned a financially troubled hotel in Macau, China: The 13th

Early investors in this property included Steve Cohens SAC Capital Advisors, Fidelity International and Omega Advisors.

Three months after his father and Patten’s arrest, Coker Jr. was arrested by Thai police on January 11 in Phuket’s resort area, where he had been staying at a hotel.

Thai police said he entered the country on a passport issued by the Caribbean island of St Kitts and Nevis, which sells citizenships there for investment.

A prosecutor from the Thai Public Prosecutor’s Office told the Associated Press after the arrest that Coker Jr. had waived extradition to the United States

The prosecutor also told the AP that Coker Jr. “was visibly frail when he was admitted and told us he needed medical attention for his liver condition.”

“We believe he entered Thailand with a possible plan to settle here,” the prosecutor said.

Source : www.cnbc.com

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