A federal appeals court has ruled against a Miami Beach man seeking to overturn a 30-year prison sentence for sex trafficking and wire fraud.
On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued an opinion affirming defendant Jeffrey Cooper’s November 2016 conviction in the Southern District of Florida.
Cooper was found guilty by a jury on 11 criminal counts for operating a prostitution ring based at the Bayshore Yacht and Tennis Club in Miami Beach from at least July 2010 through his May 2016 arrest. Authorities alleged he adopted an online pseudonym, Dr. Janardana Dasa, and enticed young women from Kazakhstan to obtain visas and travel to Miami Beach in order to work in a clerical capacity for his purported yoga business. Upon arrival the women learned there was no yoga studio and were pressured by Cooper into giving sensual massages and having intercourse with clients.
“Cooper suggested that if the students refused, they would lose their work, their pay and their housing,” the appellate court’s opinion said.
After being sentenced to a 30-year imprisonment by Chief U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore in April 2017, Cooper appealed on the grounds that errors had been made in the submission of evidence. The defendant also argued the opposing counsel had “impugned [his] character” by referring to him as a “two-faced fraud” and “phony” during opening remarks.
The appeals court found even if the errors singled out by Cooper had occurred, “none provides a basis for reversal or new trial” and emphasized “the properly admitted evidence overwhelmingly established Cooper’s guilt.” Although the court conceded some issues raised by Cooper warranted their input — including the admittance of testimony from a law enforcement officer including statements made by clients visiting the Bayshore Yacht and Tennis Club for sexual services — “any error in admitting them was, however, harmless.”
“The government introduced substantial evidence showing that Cooper used the apartments for his business, including testimony by Cooper’s employees,” the opinion said. “Any error ‘did not contribute to the verdict obtained,’ beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Read the Eleventh Circuit’s opinion:
The opinion also vindicated the prosecution of any misconduct in their characterization of Cooper as a “two-faced fraud” and “phony.”
“The government introduced evidence that Cooper used a fake name to run his prostitution business and used false pretenses to recruit the Kazakhstani students to come to Miami to work for him in his prostitution business,” the opinion said. “The prosecutor’s statement was neither improper nor so pronounced and persistent that it permeate[d] the entire atmosphere of the trial.’”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to provide a statement on the ruling. Miami attorney Gennaro Cariglio Jr. represented Cooper in the Southern District of Florida as well as the Eleventh Circuit. A receptionist with Cariglio’s law office told the Daily Business Review he was not interested in commenting, and Cariglio did not respond to an email inquiry by press time.