San Francisco, California - Joel Zweig, an attorney who resides in New York, was sentenced to 56 months in prison for obstruction of justice and perjury, announced United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service Inspector in Charge Rafael Nuñez. The sentence was handed down yesterday by the Honorable William H. Orrick, U.S. District Judge, following Zweig’s guilty plea to the charges on Tuesday.
According to the plea agreement, Zweig, 54, admitted he manufactured evidence in an effort to establish damages in the lawsuit Pet Food Express, Limited v. Royal Canin USA, Inc., C09-1483 EMC. The lawsuit was pending in the Northern District of California. Zweig admitted he created a phony commercial lease, complete with fake signatures and a fake notarial stamp, as evidence that a business was being established in New York City. In addition, Zweig acknowledged he directed an architect to visit a property in New York City so the architect could create drawings showing a store was being opened at the property. Zweig admitted that at the time, he wrote to the architect it was unlikely that the store would be built. Nevertheless, Zweig then failed to produce his communications with the architect in response to a grand jury subpoena and lied to a postal inspector by denying he knew the phony lease would be used to support a claim for damages in the California litigation.
On May 17, 2016, a federal grand jury indicted Zweig, charging him with four counts of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343; two counts of obstruction of justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1503; four counts of perjury, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1623(a); one count of aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A; and one count of false statements to a government agency, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. A trial on the charges commenced on September 11, 2017, however, on September 19, 2017, Zweig pleaded guilty to the obstruction of justice and perjury counts. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the remaining counts were dismissed.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robin Harris and William Frentzen are prosecuting the case. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.