Dmitry Shubov, the founder of LegalMatch.com who is accused of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old Modesto girl, wants the court to hand back his passports to travel internationally for business meetings.
Prosecutors allege that Shubov, 44, met the girl on seekingarrangment.com. The website offers a venue for older men, “Sugar Daddies,” wanting to meet and pamper younger women, “Sugar Babies,” with “fine dinners, exotic trips and allowances,” according to the website.
Shubov was in Stanislaus County Superior Court on Thursday morning asking the court to amend its bail ruling. Michael N. Burt, Shubov's San Francisco-based attorney, told the judge his client will not flee the country like Roman Polanski, the Oscar-winning film director who fled the United States in 1978 before he could be sentenced for a conviction of having sex with a minor.
Judge Ricardo Córdova already had expressed his concerns about the possibility of Shubov leaving the country to avoid his criminal case, like Polanski had done nearly 40 years ago. On Thursday, Córdova said he worries Shubov could use his passports to flee to a country without an extradition treaty with the United States.
Burt argued that Shubov was willing to waive his right to fight extradition. He told the judge that his client also was willing to waive his right to be present in court to stand trial or be sentenced if convicted.
Along with $200,000 bail, Burt said Shubov would then have enough incentive to appear in court "and fight this case."
Shubov, a former New York resident who now lives in the Bay Area, is accused of traveling to Modesto to have sex with the girl over a period of two years. Prosecutors believe Shubov knew the girl was underage. She was 14 years old when they first met online, according to authorities.
Shubov has been indicted on 10 felony counts, including unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor younger than 16, oral copulation with a minor and sodomy.
In May, the court had set Shubov’s bail at $200,000 and ordered the defendant to hand over his U.S. passport. The court, at the time, was not aware that Shubov has dual citizenship in the United States and Canada, and he also has a Canadian passport. He was born in Ukraine.
On Thursday, Shubov handed his Canadian passport to Judge Córdova. Now, the court has both of Shubov's passports.
Deputy District Attorney Erin Schwartz argued that the defense's request to change Shubov's bail was the same argument he made in his first bail review hearing. The prosecutor said she was concerned Shubov never informed the court he had a Canadian passport until now.
The defense attorney said that the fact Shubov hasn't fled the country and has continued to appear in court as ordered supports his argument. "If he wanted to flee, he certainly could've," Burt told the judge.
Shubov founded legalmatch.com, a website to “help individuals and small businesses make educated decisions when choosing a lawyer,” according to the website. Shubov in 2004 pleaded guilty to retrieving and deleting voicemails of a rival website, according to a 2006 article from Forbes.
LegalMatch had sued the rival website, accusing it of recruiting and poaching LegalMatch’s sales staff. Shubov was sentenced to two years’ probation and a $5,000 fine.
Burt argued Thursday that Shubov's history of appearing in court in his previous criminal case shows his willingness to follow the Stanislaus court's orders. He said Shubov needs to operate his business to support his family and fund his legal defense.
"His ability to conduct his business is being seriously impaired," Burt said in court.
Shubov, a former attorney, was disbarred in New York in October 2005, and he gave up the title of LegalMatch’s chief, Forbes reported. On Shubov’s LinkedIn page, he identifies himself as the founder and CEO since 2015 of a company called Adzoco.
Córdova said he is willing to give back the passports to the defendant but on a limited basis. The judge said Shubov would have to give the court information about his flights and business meetings before leaving the country and surrendering his passports each time he returned. The court also would increase his bail amount to $1 million.
Burt told the judge that they will need time to secure a new bail bond, but his client was willing to fulfill all the court's requirements to travel internationally again. For now, Shubov's passports will remain with the court.
The judge scheduled Shubov to return to court Jan. 16 for a continued arraignment hearing on the criminal grand jury indictment. His trial cannot be scheduled until after he's arraigned.