Accused Ponzi schemer Eliyahu Weinstein is shopping for a new criminal attorney.
Ephraim Savitt, the New York City-based lawyer who represented Weinstein in his preliminary hearings, on Oct. 14 asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Esther Salas for permission to be relieved as Weinstein's counsel.
"The reason for my application to be relieved is that I have waited — to no avail — to be properly retained," Savitt wrote in his letter to the judge. "Should the retainer preconditions be met in the near future, I hope the Court will entertain my motion to re-file a notice of appearance."
Savitt also wrote that Weinstein is "in the process of retaining other counsel."
In an e-mail Monday, Savitt said the retainer preconditions to which he was refering were "agreed-upon fee payments."
"I am in the business of helping people who need help, and that's what I did by fighting to get my client out of jail over the government's strenuous objections," Savitt said in the e-mail. "I just don't want it to become a hobby."
Weinstein, a real estate developer, was charged on Aug. 12 with having masterminded a $200 million scheme to defraud his investors. He and another defendant, Vladimir Siforov, were charged with defrauding a bank and defrauding an investor.
Siforov remains at large.
Weinstein was released from a Hudson County jail in late August on $10 million bail and a list of restrictions.
The $10 million was secured by liens on property owned by his parents, sister, brother-in-law and two men who Weinstein has never met.
The restrictions placed on Weinstein include 24-hour house arrest, GPS monitoring with exclusionary zones — no airports — and the forfeiture of passports belonging to Weinstein, his wife and children.
Weinstein's travel is limited to New Jersey, and he is only allowed to leave his house to meet with his attorney, medical visits and religious observances.
The U.S. Attorney's Office argued against bail, saying that Weinstein was a high flight risk.
Weinstein faces about 50 years in prison if he is convicted of all charges.
But Savitt argued that Weinstein knew the government was going to arrest him for some time, and during that period of time made a number of overseas trips, returning every time.
The case is on hold until Sunday to allow both sides to negotiate a deal, according to court papers.
Weinstein could not be reached for comment.
Eliyahu Weinstein Arrested (8/12/10)