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Federal probe, long trial of Idaho family’s cellphone business stumbles in court

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Idaho federal building courthouse

The James A. McClure Federal Building and U.S. courthouse in Downtown Boise.

BOISE — After a 10-week trial, a jury did not convict on any charges an Idaho family accused of running a counterfeit electronics operation. But this may not be the end of the case.

A federal jury deadlocked or entered not guilty verdicts on all counts for eight members of the Babichenko family Sept. 2, as the court deemed a mistrial on dozens of charges. The jury did not reach a guilty verdict on any charge.

The eight people who faced the jury’s verdicts were Pavel, Piotr, Timofey, Kristina and Natalya Babichenko; David Bibikov; Anna Iyerusalimets; and Mikhail Iyerusalimets. One other person — Gennady Babichenko — had his charges dismissed while the trial was ongoing.

One member of the family, Natalya Babichenko, was found not guilty on all charges she faced.

In the federal court system, a jury must unanimously decide on a guilty or not guilty verdict. If the jurors can’t unanimously agree, the jury deadlocks and no verdict is reached. A deadlocked verdict is also known as a hung jury. If a jury cannot find a verdict on specific charge, those charges remain active and another trial can take place at a later date.

A spokesperson for the Idaho U.S. Attorney’s Office — the prosecuting agency on the case — declined to comment on the jury results.

All eight defendants were initially accused of running a counterfeit cellphone and electronics business and selling the products online via websites like Amazon and eBay. Federal authorities alleged the business was illicit, charging members of the family with counts of conspiracy, wire fraud and trafficking counterfeit goods.

However, the jury’s findings indicate the explanations proposed by defense attorneys at the start of the trial might have made an impact.

During opening statements on June 24, defense counsel said their clients believed their secondary cellphone businesses were legitimate. Attorneys for several defendants — including Piotr, Pavel and Timofey Babichenko — said in opening statements that the federal charges were the result of misunderstandings.

For others charged — like Anna Iyerusalimets, Kristina Babichenko and David Bibikov — defense attorneys said the allegations were made without evidence, and their clients were charged only because of family affiliations.

The jury results came at the end of a lengthy federal investigation that included a series of purchases made by undercover investigators. Those efforts culminated in an August 2018 raid on multiple properties in the Treasure Valley by FBI and Homeland Security agents, including homes in Eagle, warehouses and a church in Boise.

The federal charges did yield one conviction. Artur Pupko, who was charged after the raids, pleaded guilty to three charges of trafficking in counterfeit goods. He agreed to pay $9.5 million in restitution to Apple and Samsung. Pupko has yet to be sentenced.

Court records show the remaining defendants will be back in court next week, as a status conference hearing is scheduled to take place on Tuesday.

Here were the jury results:

Pavel Babichenko: The jury deadlocked on all of his charges, which included one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and four counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods.

Piotr Babichenko: The jury found him not guilty on two counts of wire fraud and one count of trafficking counterfeit goods; and the jury reached no verdict on single counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and trafficking counterfeit goods.

Timofey Babichenko: The jury found him not guilty on one count of conspiracy to traffic counterfeit goods, and reached no verdict on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, two counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud, one count of trafficking counterfeit goods and one count of trafficking counterfeit devices.

Kristina Babichenko: The jury deadlocked on all her charges, including single counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, trafficking counterfeit goods and trafficking in counterfeit devices.

David Bibikov: He was found not guilty on one count of trafficking in counterfeit devices. The jury deadlocked on his single counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, trafficking counterfeit goods and trafficking in counterfeit devices.

Anna Iyersualimets: The jury deadlocked on all her charges, consisting of two counts each of wire fraud and trafficking counterfeit goods, and a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Mikhail Iyerusalimets: The jury deadlocked on all charges, consisting of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, four counts of wire fraud and three counts of trafficking in counterfeit goods.

Natalya Babichenko: Not guilty on the two charges she faced — conspiracy to commit wire fraud and trafficking in counterfeit goods.

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