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Judge orders Aaron Rossi to remain in custody until federal tax and mail fraud trial

Aaron Rossi exits the federal courthouse in Peoria following a previous court appearance.
Hannah Alani
Aaron Rossi exits the federal courthouse in Peoria following a previous court appearance.

Former Reditus Labs CEO Aaron Rossi is set to remain in custody until a December trial where he faces federal charges of mail fraud and tax fraud.

Rossi appeared Tuesday in Illinois Central District Court, attending a video hearing over Zoom from the Peoria County Jail. Rossi was arrested last week after prosecutors alleged he again violated the conditions of his pretrial release.

Judge Sara Darrow presided over the bond hearing.

Assistant United States attorneys Douglas McMeyer and Tanner Jacobs represented the prosecution. Attorneys Richard Blake and Nancy DePodesta represented Rossi.

Rossi spoke very little throughout the hearing, except to acknowledge he consented to conducting it over video.

McMeyer summarized testimony from three witnesses, two probation officers and an FBI forensic investigator, for Darrow. Testimony followed allegations outlined by prosecutors in a violation petition filed last week.

The government’s evidence suggests Rossi sold off as many as 17 vehicles between roughly September 2022 and April 2023, with a total value of almost $5 million — without asking for the court’s permission. A condition of Rossi’s release requires permission before liquidating any of his assets. He previously received the court’s approval to sell two planes and a house.

Evidence included title transfers signed with Rossi’s name, or agents representing Rossi, and a letter provided after a subpoena of the Sam Leman dealerships in Bloomington and Morton. The letter details a wire transaction of just under $2 million for 11 different vehicles and motorcycles. Additionally, the forensic investigator’s testimony claimed the money from the plane and house sales wasn’t properly deposited in an escrow account, as ordered by the court.

Blake did not contest the government’s claims, or request to cross examine any of the three witnesses. He also declined to offer up Rossi for explanations because it would open Rossi up to cross examination by the prosecution. Blake did request house arrest, instead of prison custody.

The evidence also included an alleged violation of Rossi’s parole after a court-approved visit to Chicago for meetings with his attorneys.

“I don’t even need to reach the curfew issue,” said judge Darrow in issuing her ruling. She said the evidence of the vehicle transactions represented a “bold and blatant” violation of Rossi’s bond.

Darrow explained the applicable statute, U.S. Code 3148, requires both clear evidence of a probation violation and a finding whether or not the defendant intends to follow the conditions of a release in the future.

“He has established to this court that he does not,” said Darrow. The requirements for Rossi’s release have been restricted before, after arrests for failing a drug testand admitting the government could prove he had used methamphetamine.

Blake argued prison confinement would make it difficult for him to build a defense and for Rossi to continue to develop and run his current businesses. Examples provided by Blake include a company creating software for hospitals and another one developing skin grafts.

Darrow found these concerns weren’t relevant to the statute and remanded Rossi to the custody of the U.S. Marshals until his trial.

Rossi’s next hearing is a pretrial conference set for Sep. 21, 2023, with his jury trial scheduled for Dec. 11, 2023.

Transparency Note: The reporter is Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanner Jacobs’ cousin. Jacobs did not present any evidence or speak during the hearing.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.