Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

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Defendant appealed her restitution order after pleading guilty to conspiracy to accept gratuities with the intent to be influenced or rewarded in connection with a bank transaction. The district court ordered her to pay $251,860.31 to her former employer, Wells Fargo, pursuant to the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act, 18 U.S.C. 3663A, finding that her conviction qualified as an "offense against property." The court affirmed the judgment, concluding that defendant facilitated bank transactions that proximately caused Wells Fargo's losses, and she intended to derive an unlawful benefit from the property that was the subject of these transactions. Therefore, the court concluded that defendant committed an "offense against property" as that phrase was understood in its ordinary and contemporary sense. View "United States v. Collins" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted under 18 U.S.C. 666 of embezzlement from an organization receiving federal funds. In this case, defendant, a professor in the College of Business, was embezzling from Florida State University (FSU). Defendant was also a director and officer of the Student Investment Fund (SIF), a non-profit corporation established by FSU for charitable and educational purposes, and had signatory authority over the SIF's bank account. On appeal, defendant argued, among other things, that any embezzlement was not from FSU and that the Government did not prove that the victimized organization under the statute was a recipient of federal benefits. The court concluded that its decision in United States v. McLean was dispositive. The court reasoned that the SIF received no federal funding, directly or indirectly. Therefore, there were no federal funds owned by, or under the care, custody, or control of the SIF. The court explained that defendant was a director and officer and thus an agent of the SIF, and his employment as a professor at FSU was irrelevant inasmuch as he did not embezzle any FSU funds. Therefore, because the Government failed to prove that the relevant local organization, the SIF, received any federal benefits, the court reversed the judgment and directed the district court to enter a judgment of acquittal. View "United States v. Doran" on Justia Law

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Defendant was found guilty of violating the Driver's Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. 2721(a), 2725(3), because she provided email addresses of residents in Mobile County from a License Commission database. Defendant, the former License Commissioner, provided the emails to a mayoral campaign. The court held that the term "personal information" in the Act, includes email addresses, and that the government presented sufficient evidence in this case for the jury to find that the License Commissioner was an "officer, employee, or contractor" of a "State department of motor vehicles." Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Hastie" on Justia Law

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Midamar Corporation and Jalel Aossey conditionally plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit several offenses in connection with a scheme to sale falsely labeled halal meat. William Aossey was convicted of conspiracy, making false statements on export certificates, and wire fraud in connection with the scheme. On appeal, defendants challenged the district court's denial of their motion to dismiss, arguing that Congress had reserved exclusive enforcement authority over the alleged statutory violations to the Secretary of Agriculture, and that the United States Attorney could not proceed against defendants in a criminal prosecution. The court rejected defendants' contention that two sections of the Meat Inspection Act, 21 U.S.C. 674 and 607(e), show that Congress removed these prosecutions from the jurisdiction of the district courts. Rather, the court concluded that the district court did not err in denying the motion to dismiss, because Congress afforded the Executive two independent avenues to address false or misleading meat labeling. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Aossey, Jr." on Justia Law

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Defendant, owner of a wholesale salon equipment business, appealed his 36 month sentence after pleading guilty to aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false and fraudulent tax return. The court held that the district court did not clearly err when it determined, based on the circumstantial evidence, that it was more likely than not that defendant participated in his customers' structuring activities. Therefore, the court concluded that defendant's sentence was not procedurally unreasonable. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in imposing the upward variance to defendant's sentence where the district court explained that it was imposing the above-Guidelines sentence based on a variety of factors, including, inter alia, the magnitude of defendant's dishonesty and unwillingness to abide by society's rules, the aggravated nature of the criminal conduct, and defendant's exceptional business success had a significant foundation in his unlawful activity. Accordingly, the court affirmed the sentence. View "United States v. Nguyen" on Justia Law

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Defendants Kenneth and Kimberly Horner, owners and operators of Topcat Towing, were convicted of assisting in the preparation of a fraudulent corporate tax return and filing a false individual income tax return. The court rejected defendants' claim of prosecutorial misconduct and concluded that no Giglio violation occurred in this case; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendants' two requested jury instructions regarding good faith reliance and due diligence obligations of tax preparers; and the court rejected defendants' evidentiary challenges, concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendants' motion in limine to exclude evidence of structuring cash deposits and false tax returns. Accordingly, the court affirmed the convictions. View "United States v. Horner" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his convictions for conspiring to commit immigration fraud, and aiding and abetting fraud and misuse of immigration documents. The court concluded that there was no error in excluding the testimony of a witness that defendant argued was material and favorable to the defense; the court need not address the issue of whether bad faith was an element of a compulsory process claim because defendant failed to establish prejudice; and, to the extent that defendant styled his argument as a due process claim, the court likewise rejected it. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting an email listing the names of customers who still wanted to obtain a green card over defendants Federal Rule of Evidence 901 objection; on the record, the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the April 24th email as a witness's statement, rather than hearsay from the translator; and the court rejected defendant's argument that the district court improperly interfered with his presentation of a defense by repeatedly interrupting counsel's questions to witnesses and interfering with counsel's closing argument to the jury, essentially taking on the role of a prosecutor. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Kaixiang Zhu" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his sentence and order of restitution after pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud. The court concluded that the district court committed procedural error when it departed upward from the advisory sentencing guidelines and thus remanded for resentencing. In this case, the analysis the district court provided did not adequately explain and support the district court's significant departure from Criminal History Category II to Category VI. The court also concluded that defendant's appeal waiver was enforceable as to the restitution order and thus dismissed the appeal of the restitution order. View "United States v. Sullivan" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the parties asked the Court of Appeal to determine the value of a blank check for the purpose of distinguishing between misdemeanor and felony receiving stolen property after passage of the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act (Proposition 47). Respondent Angela Vandiver pled guilty in 2012 to a single felony count of receiving stolen property based on her possession of blank checks she knew had been stolen. She later petitioned to have the conviction redesignated a misdemeanor under the new provisions of Proposition 47 on the ground the checks were worth $950 or less. The State opposed, arguing the balance of the victim’s checking account was greater than $950. The trial court found the value of the blank checks to be de minimis and granted the petition. The State argued on appeal the court erred by: (1) reaching the merits because Vandiver did not attach evidence of value to her petition; and (2) determining the checks’ value was de minimis. The State contended the court should have dismissed the petition as unsupported or found the checks were worth the full amount in the linked checking account and denied the petition on the merits. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "California v. Vandiver" on Justia Law

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Defendants Delgrosso and Cain were convicted of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Delgrosso also was found guilty of failing to file IRS Form 8300. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendants' motions for a new trial based on Jerry Wright's post-trial affidavit because, even if Wright testified or the affidavit were admitted, the Government could impeach Wright's credibility by introducing evidence of his seven prior felony convictions. Furthermore, even if the jury believed Wright's statements, that does not mean that it would likely acquit defendants. In this case, the Government provided ample evidence that would allow the jury to conclude that Delgrosso and Cain knew or willfully blinded themselves to the fact that Wright acquired his cash through drug sales. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Delgrosso's motion for a new trial based on Government misconduct under Brady v. Maryland where it was untimely and, even if it was timely, his allegations either relate to issues that were irrelevant or were directly contradicted; the district court did not plainly err by instructing the jury on willful blindness; the district court did not err in denying Delgrosso's motion for acquittal where sufficient evidence supported the jury's verdict; and the district court did not clearly err in denying Delgrosso safety-valve relief. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Delgrosso" on Justia Law