DENVER – Federal prosecutors in the case of four poultry industry executives accused of fixing prices of chicken argued that one of the defendants should not be permitted to leave the United States for a hunting trip to Tanzania, Africa. In a court filing dated July 20, prosecutors said the government would have little recourse if Mikell Fries, president of Claxton Poultry, decided to not return from Tanzania.
“Extradition from Tanzania is an extremely difficult, resource-intensive, and time-consuming undertaking,” prosecutors said in a motion opposing the travel. “To the best of the government’s knowledge the last successful extradition from Tanzania to the United States for any crime occurred for a drug offense in 2017, and prior to that there was an extradition for a homicide/kidnapping offense in 1996.”
On July 13, a lawyer for Fries filed a motion to modify his clients’ bond conditions to allow Fries to travel to Tanzania for a safari hunting trip. Before his indictment by a federal grand jury, Fries and three close friends booked a trip to Tanzania from Aug. 14 to 31. He paid $37,000 for the trip which is non-refundable and not covered by trip insurance, according to a court document.
“Mr. Fries does not have a history of non-compliance with court orders, has no criminal history, and has deep ties to the United States,” the court document states. “Further, he does not have connections to any foreign country, including Tanzania. He also does not have assets outside of the United States.
“Tanzania and the United States have entered into an International Extradition Treaty. Despite the treaty, Mr. Fries agrees to execute or stipulate any form of Waiver of Extradition the government proposes. He further agrees to return his passport to Recht Kornfeld, P.C., upon return from Tanzania and authorize undersigned counsel to notify the Court of his doing so.
“Finally, should Mr. Fries be permitted to travel, he will enroll his trip with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program with the US Embassy in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.”
Also, Fries is married with two children and has extended family in the Savannah, Ga., and Claxton areas. But prosecutors were not persuaded by these reassurances. If convicted, Fries faces time in prison, $1 million fine, three years of supervised release, a $100 special assessment and restitution.
“For the first time in his life, Mr. Fries stands accused of a felony — one that carries a maximum term of 10 years of imprisonment,” prosecutors argued. “Once in a foreign country, away from the counsel of his attorneys, Mr. Fries — a person of substantial financial means — may find that the circumstances awaiting him upon his return weigh in favor of remaining in Tanzania or fleeing to another country.
“The fact that the United States would face considerable legal challenges to extradition only compounds the problem and creates an unreasonable risk of nonappearance that would deny the public its right to have Mr. Fries stand trial.”
Further, in its opposition motion, prosecutors said that Fries applied for a Tanzanian visa with a start date the same day his trial was set to begin — eight days after he was ordered not to obtain any international travel documents. His trial has since been delayed until February 2021.
“Moreover, he did so with the intent to travel to Tanzania during his trial, which was then-scheduled to begin August 10,” prosecutors said. “Simply put, those are not the actions of a defendant who respects the gravity of his situation and who should be entrusted to return voluntarily pursuant to an order of the Court.”