PITTSBURGH (AP) - An American deported from Uganda and charged in a massive counterfeiting scheme won't learn for a few weeks whether he'll be released from jail until he stands trial.
Ryan Gustafson, 28, on Friday asked to be released to the custody of a non-denominational Christian missionary group, Youth With A Mission, in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, which wouldn't let him use drugs or alcohol and require church attendance. The facility has a curfew, but isn't locked down, its director testified Friday.
U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak in Pittsburgh heard Gustafson's request, but wanted to consider written arguments before he rules.
Gustafson is charged with printing at least $1.4 million in fake U.S. currency in Uganda through Community-X, an encrypted Internet site Gustafson allegedly created that enabled users to remain anonymous.
Gustafson was indicted in western Pennsylvania because roughly $400,000 in bogus bills were sold and shipped to the U.S. where they were passed, prosecutors said. The scheme unraveled when a bogus $100 passed at a Pittsburgh coffee shop was traced to a man who was prosecuted in that and other scams, who then fingered Gustafson for the feds.
Assistant U. S. Attorney Shardul Desai argued that Gustafson is a threat to flee to Uganda because his child and wife live there. Gustafson's wife is the granddaughter of Idi Amin, the ruthless Ugandan dictator who's alleged to have had 300,000 people killed when he ruled in the 1970s. Gustafson's father-in-law, the dictator's son, remains a powerful general in the country, testified James Pardini, a Secret Service agent who helped investigate the case.
"Is this your everyday African family?" Desai asked.
"No, they have a lot of power," Pardini said.
Defense attorney Stephen Misko suggested Gustafson has ties to his extended family throughout the United States, although the defendant's father, LeRoy Gustafson, couldn't spell several of the relative's names when he testified. Gustafson's parents are Christian missionaries to Rwanda, but returned to the United States last month for an indefinite period.
Misko wants the judge to release Gustafson on the condition he'd wear an electronic ankle bracelet.
But Desai contends Gustafson still hasn't surrendered his passport and took extraordinary steps to try to remain in Uganda, including offering to bribe a Ugandan official to free him from custody and faking tuberculosis so he couldn't be deported.
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