Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

by
The IRS began a criminal investigation of Gaetano, who owns Michigan cannabis dispensaries. Portal 42, a software company that provides the cannabis industry with point-of-sale systems, confirmed that Gaetano was a client. Agents served a summons, ordering Portal 42 to produce records “and other data relating to the tax liability or the collection of the tax liability or for the purpose of inquiring into any offense connected with the administration or enforcement of the internal revenue laws concerning [Gaetano] for the periods shown.” The IRS did not notify Gaetano about the summons. Portal 42 sent the IRS an email with a hyperlink to the requested records. An IRS computer specialist copied the documents. None of the personnel in the IRS’s Criminal Investigation Division have viewed the records.Gaetano filed a petition under 26 U.S.C. 7609, seeking to quash the summons, arguing that the IRS should have notified Gaetano about the summons and that it was issued in bad faith. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction because Gaetano lacked standing. Section 7609 waives the government’s sovereign immunity to allow taxpayers to bring an action to quash certain third-party IRS summonses. An exception applies because the summons here was issued by an IRS criminal investigator “in connection” with an IRS criminal investigation and the summoned party is not a third-party recordkeeper. Without a statutory waiver of sovereign immunity, subject-matter jurisdiction cannot obtain. View "Gaetano v. United States" on Justia Law

by
In 2013, Raia ran for election to the Hoboken city council and chaired a political action committee, promoting a ballot referendum to weaken rent control laws. Raia’s PAC cut $50 checks to hundreds of voters. Raia claimed that those voters had done get-out-the-vote work, such as wearing campaign-branded t-shirts and handing out campaign literature. Raia lost the election. The government concluded that Raia instructed campaign workers to collect unsealed mail-in ballots so that he could verify whether each bribed voter cast his ballot as directed before having a $50 check issued to the voter. Charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, 18 U.S.C. 371, with the underlying offense being the use of the mails to facilitate an “unlawful activity” in violation of the Travel Act, 18 U.S.C. 1952(a)(3) (state bribery offenses), Raia’s co-conspirators pleaded guilty. Raia was convicted.The court calculated Raia’s Guidelines range as 15–21 months’ imprisonment and sentenced Raia to three months. The government appealed, claiming that the court miscalculated the Guidelines offense level by not applying a four-level aggravating role enhancement under U.S.S.G. 3B1.1(a) and a two-level obstruction of justice enhancement under section 3C1.1. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded for the district court to make whatever factual findings are necessary to determine whether either or both of the enhancements apply. View "United States v. Raia" on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's amended judgment following defendant's conviction for one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371, one count of securities fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1348 and 2, and six counts of insider trading in violation of 15 U.S.C. 78j(b) and 78ff, 17 C.F.R. 240.10b-5 and 10b5-2, and 18 U.S.C. 2.In viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, the court concluded that defendant's execution of confidentiality agreements with a company whose acquisition he was exploring was sufficient to subject him to prohibitions against insider trading. In this case, there is no dispute that defendant signed two nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) with the company; that in both NDAs, each party agreed not to disclose any confidential or proprietary information of the other; and that the fact that the parties' exploration and evaluation of the potential acquisition of the company was explicitly classified as "Proprietary Information" that was to remain "Confidential." Therefore, the evidence was sufficient to support inferences that defendant knowingly and intentionally breached his duty of confidentiality by disclosing material nonpublic information as to the prospects for a merger agreement between the company and his fund, intending for the third party to make trades based on that information. Furthermore, defendant's challenges to his convictions for securities fraud and conspiracy to commit such fraud also fail. Finally, venue was proper in the Southern District of New York. View "United States v. Chow" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit against Lexington Law and its vendor, Progrexion, for purportedly perpetrating a fraud in which the firm failed to disclose that it was sending letters to the companies in its clients' names and on their behalves. After a jury agreed that defendants violated Texas law in committing fraud and fraud by non-disclosure, the district court set aside the verdict and issued judgment in favor of defendants as a matter of law.The Fifth Circuit affirmed, concluding that plaintiffs have not shown that defendants committed fraud. In this case, the district court concluded that defendants did not make any false representations (material or otherwise) when signing and sending the dispute letters because Lexington Law had the legal right to sign its clients' names on the correspondence it sent on their behalf to data furnishers who reported inaccurate information about the clients' credit. Furthermore, Progrexion cannot be liable for fraud since it, like Lexington Law, did not make any material misrepresentations. The court also concluded that plaintiffs' fraud by non-disclosure claim must be dismissed because they did not justifiably rely on any failure of defendants to disclose material facts, and plaintiffs have not shown that defendants had a duty to disclose that they were the ones actually sending the dispute letters. Additionally, plaintiffs have not shown that Progrexion disclosed any facts—material or otherwise—and so cannot be liable for fraud by nondisclosure. The court explained that the fact that Lexington Law had the legal right to send dispute letters on their clients behalves and in their names suggests that the firm did not make any false representations, and thus the firm did not create any false impressions requiring disclosure. Finally, plaintiffs waived their conspiracy claim by failing to move for judgment as a matter of law on the claim before and after the case was submitted to the jury or for a new trial. View "The CBE Group, Inc. v. Lexington Law Firm" on Justia Law

by
In March 2012, Edington and his father agreed Edington would apply for a Farm Services Agency (FSA) farm operating loan and list assets belonging to his father as collateral. Edington listed as collateral many assets he did not own. In 2012, Edington also presented documents to the FSA falsely claiming he had purchased cattle from his friend. Edington defaulted on the loans; his father died. Edington did not inherit the assets listed in the security agreement. In 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed felony charges for conspiring to violate 18 U.S.C. 1014, which prohibits: “knowingly make[] a false statement or report . . . for the purpose of influencing in any way the action of the” FSA. The district court dismissed, citing the five-year statute of limitations under 18 U.S.C. 3282(a).The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded; 18 U.S.C. 3293(1) expressly provides a 10-year limitations period for certain offenses including “a violation of, or a conspiracy to violate . . . section . . . 1014.” Section 3293 extends the statute of limitations from five to 10 years for certain crimes including a violation of and conspiracy to violate section 1014. The most recent alleged overt acts listed in the information occurred in 2012; the charges were timely. View "United States v. Edington" on Justia Law

by
Drill riser buoyancy modules (DRBMs) are the high-tech equivalent of water wings for the miles of steel pipe that extend from drillships to the ocean floor and carry oil from natural deposits tens of thousands of feet below the surface. In 2012, only four major companies in the world produced DRBMs. CBMF was sponsored by China to develop DRBM technology. CBMF partnered with Shi, a Ph.D. with 25 years of experience in offshore structural design. Shi visited factories where DRBM was being produced; the manufacturers took precautions to protect their information. Shi hired former employees of those companies, making clear that they were to provide their former employers’ nonpublic information. CBMF was successful in duplicating the technology. At a pitch meeting by Shi to representatives of a company Shi believed to be Lockheed Martin, FBI agents arrested Shi.Three coconspirators pled guilty to conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, 18 U.S.C. 1832; one absconded, and a CBMF employee remained in China. CBMF never appeared, leaving Shi as the only defendant at trial. The D.C. Circuit affirmed Shi's conviction as supported by substantial evidence. The information at issue was not publicly available; it came from a competitor. Shi joined an agreement to acquire and use trade secret information and believed the documents he received contained trade secrets. View "United States v. Shi" on Justia Law

by
Gonzalo Paredes was found guilty by jury of 35 counts of offering or delivering compensation for workers’ compensation patient referrals and 16 counts of concealing an event affecting an insurance claim. The trial court sentenced Paredes to an aggregate term of five years in prison. On appeal, Paredes claimed the prosecutor committed misconduct during his examination of one of the witnesses and during closing argument by suggesting the existence of facts not in evidence. He also contended the trial court erred in excluding as hearsay, an unavailable witness' testimony from a prior federal trial. Further, Paredes contended the evidence presented was insufficient to support the jury's verdicts. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed Paredes' convictions and sentences. View "California v. Paredes" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was indicted in a second superseding indictment on eight charges of false use of a passport in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1543, and eight charges of misuse of a passport in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1544. The Government now agrees that the convictions under section 1544 must be vacated based on insufficient evidence.The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for false use of a passport and held that there was ample evidence, both direct and circumstantial, to conclude that defendant used fraudulent passports to open accounts at various banks in the Houston area. Because the court has determined that there is insufficient evidence to support defendant's section 1544 convictions for misuse of a passport, the court need not address defendant's argument that the district court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the indictment as to those charges. Finally, the court also held that defendant failed to show that the district court plainly erred in allowing certain lay opinion testimony and failed to demonstrate that the district court clearly erred in its loss calculation. Accordingly, the court vacated the section 1544 convictions and affirmed the section 1543 convictions. View "United States v. Masha" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. 1343. Defendant's conviction stemmed from his involvement in a scheme to construct an aquaponics facility. The court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction; the district court did not abuse its discretion by instructing the jury on willful blindness; the district court did not err by giving a jury instruction that enabled a finding that only defendant committed wire fraud; the district court did not err by giving an explicit unanimity instruction where there was no genuine risk of the jury finding nonunanimously; and defendant waived his argument that the district court did not err by sua sponte individually polling the jury. View "United States v. Burns" on Justia Law

by
Defendant-Appellant Justin Foust appealed his conviction on six counts of wire fraud, and one count each of aggravated identity theft and money laundering. He was sentenced to 121 months’ imprisonment and three years’ supervised release. Foust’s company, Platinum Express, LLC, submitted false and fraudulent invoices to its customer, Chesapeake Energy Corporation (“Chesapeake”). Chesapeake identified more than $4.5 million that it had paid out on these invoices. Foust did not deny that the invoices were improper and that Platinum Express had not performed the work. But he denied that he had forged the signatures and employee identification numbers of Chesapeake employees. A handwriting expert testified otherwise regarding invoices associated with Chesapeake employee Bobby Gene Putman. The jury convicted Foust on the wire-fraud and aggravated-identity-theft counts associated with these invoices. On appeal, Foust argued the district court abused its discretion by allowing the handwriting expert to testify at trial. He contended: (1) the government did not adequately show that the expert’s methodology was reliable; and (2) the handwriting expert used unreliable data in reaching his opinion. Finding no abuse of discretion, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court judgment. View "United States v. Foust" on Justia Law