A couple accused of soliciting their teenage daughter’s friends for sex were cleared May 11 when Ottowa County, Michigan prosecutors dismissed all charges against the pair.
Anuj Chopra, an Indian American resident of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and his wife Leslie Chopra had been charged with three felony counts of soliciting their daughter’s teenage friends to have sex while they videotaped them. Anuj Chopra was also charged with human trafficking. Chopra, who faced 20 years in prison, said he was joking around with the teen boys, who called each other “Babe.”
Leslie Chopra, who faced six years in prison, was accused of distributing sexually explicit messages to minors and using a computer to commit a crime. She allegedly sent a "selfie" while in lingerie. The Chopras were also accused of distributing nude photographs of a teen to kids at their daughter’s high school.
The couple were free on bail of $250,000 each as they awaited trial.
Last year, at a pre-trial hearing, one of the victims told the court that Anuj Chopra had offered him and another boy $100 to kiss each other, and $1,000 to have sex. The first teen said he thought the offers from Chopra were “a little bit crazy,” and that he felt “weird” and “embarrassed” about the propositions.
“It comes up almost every day; it’s awkward,” said the boy, about the incident, which allegedly took place sometime during winter break in December, 2016.
The Chopras’ attorney, Damian Nunzio, said in a statement May 14 – and reported by several publications – that police coached witnesses and threatened them with jail if they didn't go along.
"Clearly, after the cases went to court, the alleged victim and witnesses were pressured into keeping with their false stories so that they wouldn't get in trouble," Nunzio said, adding that he had discovered “thousands” of text messages from the alleged victim which exonerated the Chopras.
"(The alleged victims) were merely acting as confederates to save their own hides. They never thought that (the defense) would get the text messages and unearth the scheme," Nunzio said.
"(The Chopras) are very relieved, extremely relieved, but it took them a year to clear their names when the text messages and other information was right in (investigators') hands – they refused to look," Nunzio told MLive/The Grand Rapids Press.
Nunzio said police essentially told the teen witnesses to "bait Leslie Chopra."
"The alleged victim revealed that he was merely joking around with the Chopras and that he, too, was threatened with jail if he did not cooperate with police. The alleged victim said that he told authorities what they wanted to hear,” said the attorney.
Ottawa County Prosecutor Ronald Frantz said that "further investigation uncovered significant exculpatory evidence that resulted in a dismissal."
Police used a search warrant at the Chopras’ home in October 2017, seizing computers and cell phones, but found no evidence that the Chopras sent the nude photos, Nunzio said.
Despite that, he said, students were warned to stay away from the Chopras.
Shortly after police raided the couple's home, three 17-year-old male students – one an alleged victim, the other two witnesses – befriended the couple's daughter, who also attended the high school, the attorney said, reported MLive.