Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions on twenty-three felony counts related to his role in schemes to defraud philanthropists, using their money to finance his personal life and political career. Defendant served two nonconsecutive terms in the United States House of Representatives. The court held that the district court's jury instructions were not erroneous; it was not plain error for the district court to define 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations in the charge, and defendant was not entitled to an instruction on good faith; the district court did not err by denying defendant's motions for judgment of acquittal under Rule 29; the government provided ample evidence that defendant fraudulently devised, and implemented, a scheme to deprive two donors of their money and property, thus allowing the jury to rationally find him guilty of mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering; and the Federal Election Campaign Act's contribution limits apply to coordinated spending on political communications, irrespective of whether those communications contain magic words of express advocacy. View "United States v. Stockman" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for wire fraud, Title 18 securities fraud, conversion of U.S. property, and conspiracy, arising from the misappropriation of confidential information from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The federal wire fraud, securities fraud, and conversion statutes, are codified at 18 U.S.C. 1343, 1348, and 641, respectively. The court held that confidential government information may constitute "property" for purposes of the wire fraud and Title 18 securities fraud statutes. The court also held that the "personal-benefit" test announced in Dirks v. SEC, 463 U.S. 646 (1983), does not apply to those Title 18 fraud statutes. Finally, the panel found no prejudicial error with respect to the remaining issues presented on appeal. View "United States v. Blaszczak" on Justia Law

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The Drug Enforcement Administration investigated Dr. Ley and his opioid addiction treatment company, DORN, conducted undercover surveillance, and decided Ley did not have a legitimate medical purpose in prescribing Suboxone. Indiana courts issued warrants, culminating in arrests of four physicians and one nurse and seven non-provider DORN employees. Indiana courts dismissed the charges against the non-providers and the nurse. Ley was acquitted; the state dismissed the charges against the remaining providers. DORN’s providers and non-provider employees sued, alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution, and civil conspiracy. The district court entered summary judgment for the defendants, holding probable cause supported the warrants at issue. The Seventh Circuit affirmed as to every plaintiff except Mackey, a part-time parking lot attendant. One of Ley’s former patients died and that individual’s family expressed concerns about Ley; other doctors voiced concerns, accusing Ley of prescribing Suboxone for pain to avoid the 100-patient limit and bring in more revenue. At least one pharmacy refused to fill DORN prescriptions. Former patients reported that they received their prescriptions without undergoing any physical exam. DORN physicians prescribed an unusually high amount of Suboxone; two expert doctors opined that the DORN physicians were not prescribing Suboxone for a legitimate medical purpose. There was evidence that the non-provider employees knew of DORN’s use of pre-signed prescriptions and sometimes distributed them. There were, however, no facts alleged in the affidavit that Mackey was ever armed, impeded investigations, handled money, or possessed narcotics. View "Vierk v. Whisenand" on Justia Law

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Health benefit plans sued GSK, the manufacturer of the prescription drug Avandia, under state consumer-protection laws and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. ch. 96 (RICO), based on GSK’s marketing of Avandia as having benefits to justify its price, which was higher than the price of other drugs used to treat type-2 diabetes. The district court granted GSK summary judgment, finding that the state-law consumer-protection claims were preempted by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), 21 U.S.C. ch. 9; the Plans had failed to identify a sufficient “enterprise” for purposes of RICO; and the Plans’ arguments related to GSK’s alleged attempts to market Avandia as providing cardiovascular “benefits” were “belated.” The Third Circuit reversed, applying the Supreme Court’s 2019 "Merck" decision. The state-law consumer-protection claims are not preempted by the FDCA. The Plans should have been given the opportunity to seek discovery before summary judgment on the RICO claims. Further, from the inception of this litigation, the Plans’ claims have centered on GSK’s marketing of Avandia as providing cardiovascular benefits as compared to other forms of treatment, so the district court’s refusal to consider the Plans’ “benefits” arguments was in error because those arguments were timely raised. View "In re: Avandia Marketing, Sales and Products Liability Litigation" on Justia Law

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Kenneth Brewington told potential investors that he owned or controlled billions in assets that didn’t exist. At trial, Brewington acknowledged that much of what he had said was untrue. But he argued to the jury that he had been duped. "The jury was apparently unimpressed," and found him guilty on eleven counts of: (1) conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud; (2) mail fraud; (3) wire fraud; (4) conspiracy to commit money laundering; (5) money laundering; and (6) monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity. Brewington was sentenced to 70 months in prison. Brewington appealed the convictions based on the district court’s: (1) exclusion of emails that he had sent and received and (2) restriction of testimony by another person duped by the same man who had allegedly duped Brewington. The Tenth Circuit rejected these challenges, finding Brewington never offered some of the emails into evidence, so the court never had an opportunity to consider their admissibility. The district court did exclude three other emails. But if the court did err in these rulings, the errors would have been harmless because the district court ultimately allowed Brewington to testify about the emails, and the evidence of his guilt was overwhelming. View "United States v. Brewington" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for charges related to his role in a massive conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. The court held that defendant's claim that the district court violated Federal Rule of Evidence 1006 when it admitted into evidence certain summary charts was meritless under any standard of review; there was no error in admitting evidence of the criminal convictions of two of his co-conspirators for legitimate purposes, and any error in admitting evidence of the criminal convictions of three other co-conspirators was harmless; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by issuing the deliberate ignorance instruction. The court also rejected defendant's challenges to the district court's calculation of his recommended sentence under the sentencing guidelines, and upheld the district court's finding of the loss amount, that his fraud involved ten or more victims, and that his case involved a large number of vulnerable victims. Finally, the court upheld the district court's calculations of restitution and held that the district court did not clearly err in its forfeiture calculation. View "United States v. Mazkouri" on Justia Law

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Ludwikowski went to the police station to report extortionate threats. He was there for about seven hours and was questioned extensively about why he was vulnerable to extortion. He was given water and offered pizza. He went to the restroom, unaccompanied, at least three times. He was interviewed for about four hours, in three phases, punctuated by breaks. He had his phone and used it to make a call. It came to light that Ludwikowski, a pharmacist, had been filling fraudulent oxycodone prescriptions. He was later tried for distribution of a controlled substance. He moved to suppress the statements he made at the police station, arguing that they were inadmissible because no one read him his Miranda rights. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion. Ludwikowski was not in custody, so no Miranda warnings were needed. Much of the interview was devoted to trying to identify the extorter and the motivation; the interview would have been shorter if Ludwikowski had been more responsive. His statements at the police station were not involuntary. A reasonable person would have understood he could leave; Ludwikowski’s calm demeanor and calculated answers belie his argument that he subjectively felt his freedom was constrained. There was no plain error in the admission of expert testimony on the practice of pharmacy. . View "United States v. Ludwikowski" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions for insider-trading securities fraud and related conspiracy offenses, holding that there was sufficient evidence to sustain the convictions and that the district court did not err in instructing the jury or in denying Defendant's motion for a new trial. Defendant was convicted of eleven counts of inside-trading securities fraud and related conspiracy offenses. The First Circuit affirmed the convictions, holding (1) the jury's verdicts rested on sufficient evidence showing that Defendant owed a corporate inside a duty of trust and confidence, and the evidence similarly sufficed to prove Defendant's willful breach of his duty to the corporate insider; (2) the district court's decisions to give or refuse to give certain jury instructions were without error; and (3) the district court did not manifestly abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion for a new trial. View "United States v. Kanodia" on Justia Law

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Insurance executive Menzies sold over $64 million in his company’s stock but did not report any capital gains on his 2006 federal income tax return. He alleges that his underpayment of capital gains taxes (and related penalties and interest imposed by the IRS) was because of a fraudulent tax shelter peddled to him and others by a lawyer, law firm, and financial services firms. Menzies brought claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and Illinois law. The district court dismissed all claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part. Menzies’s RICO claim falls short on the statute’s pattern-of-racketeering element. Menzies failed to plead not only the particulars of how the defendants marketed the same or a similar tax shelter to other taxpayers, but also facts to support a finding that the alleged racketeering activity would continue. A fraudulent tax shelter scheme can violate RICO; the shortcoming here is one of pleading and it occurred after the district court authorized discovery to allow Menzies to develop his claims. Menzies’s Illinois state law claims were untimely as to the lawyer and law firm defendants. The claims against the remaining financial services defendants can proceed. View "Menzies v. Seyfarth Shaw LLP" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Buck Leon Hammers served as the Superintendent of the Grant-Goodland Public School District in Grant, Oklahoma, until he was charged with conspiring with his secretary to commit bank fraud and embezzle federal program funds. Prior to trial, the Government moved to exclude a suicide note written by defendant’s secretary and co-conspirator, Pamela Keeling. In that note, Keeling took full responsibility for the fraud and exculpated Defendant of any wrongdoing. The district court granted the Government’s motion and prohibited Defendant from introducing the note at trial. The jury subsequently convicted Defendant of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and conspiracy to embezzle federal program funds. The jury acquitted Defendant on the seven substantive counts of embezzlement and bank fraud. On appeal, defendant argued: (1) the district court erred in excluding the suicide note; (2) the Government did not present sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction; (3) the Government committed prosecutorial misconduct; and (4) the district court committed procedural error at sentencing. After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the suicide note; the record contained evidence sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction, there was no prosecutorial misconduct, and no procedural error in the court’s calculation of Defendant’s sentence. View "United States v. Hammers" on Justia Law