Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

by
Defendant Karen McClaflin pled guilty to two counts stemming from the operation of a “fix and flip” real estate Ponzi scheme which defrauded investors of more than $14.5 million dollars. At sentencing, the district court calculated the advisory sentencing guidelines at 135 to 168 months’ imprisonment, applied a 6-level enhancement for substantial financial hardship to more than twenty-five victims, and then determined a downward variant sentence of 96 months was appropriate. On appeal, McClaflin argued the district court: (1) abused its discretion by denying her motion for an additional continuance of the sentencing hearing; (2) procedurally erred by imposing the 6-level enhancement based upon victim impact statements; and (3) failed to consider all of the requisite 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) factors. The Tenth Circuit determined the district court did not plainly err when it sentenced McClaflin, therefore it affirmed the judgment and sentence. View "United States v. McClaflin" on Justia Law

by
Shortly after defendant was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and securities fraud, the Second Circuit decided United States v. Litvak, 889 2 F.3d 56 (2d Cir. 2018) (Litvak II), which held in the context of a similar prosecution that the erroneous and idiosyncratic viewpoint of a defendant's counterparty could not be relevant to the objective, "reasonable investor" standard for materiality in a securities fraud prosecution. The district court relied on Litvak II to grant defendant's motion for a new trial on the basis that counterparty testimony had been improperly admitted against defendant at trial. The court held, however, that the counterparty testimony at defendant's trial was not improperly admitted and did not implicate the court's holding in Litvak II. In this case, the testimony did not reflect the counterparty's idiosyncratic and erroneous belief, and the testimony was relevant to the jury's assessment of materiality under FRE 401. Furthermore, the testimony did not advance the government's theory of materiality in an impermissible manner. The court held that, even if the admission of the testimony did constitute error, the error was harmless. Finally, the district court's cumulative prejudice analysis did not provide a valid alternative ground for affirmance. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "United States v. Gramins" on Justia Law

by
Robert Holloway was convicted by jury of four counts of wire fraud, and one count of submitting a false tax return. Holloway was the president and CEO of US Ventures, a company that traded in the futures market. Holloway told investors he had developed a special algorithm that allowed him to trade without losses. He claimed that because of the algorithm he “could trade the markets and make money whether the market went up or the market went down.” Holloway’s grandiose claims were false, and revealed to be a Ponzi scheme. The district court sentenced Holloway to 225 months’ imprisonment, after applying a six-level enhancement for crimes involving 250 or more victims under U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(2)(C) (2014). After unsuccessfully challenging his conviction and sentence on direct appeal, Holloway filed a 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion, arguing: (1) a total breakdown of communication between Holloway and his trial counsel caused his trial counsel to perform ineffectively; (2) his trial counsel acted ineffectively by failing to argue that the evidence did not support the district court’s application of the six-level sentencing enhancement; and (3) the prosecution violated his due process rights by failing to turn over to the defense favorable information possessed by a prosecution witness contrary to Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). The district court denied Holloway’s 2255 motion, but granted a certificate of appealability on all three issues. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court judgment. View "United States v. Holloway" on Justia Law

by
Segal was convicted in 2004 of racketeering, mail and wire fraud, making false statements, embezzlement, and conspiring to interfere with operations of the IRS. His company, NNIB, was convicted of mail fraud, making false statements, and embezzlement. Segal and his wife, Joy, divorced after his conviction. After Segal served prison time, he was ordered to forfeit $15 million and his interest in NNIB. NNIB was ordered to pay restitution and a fine. The government initially restrained $47 million worth of assets of Segal and NNIB. Joy intervened and settled her claims with the government, which released to her about $7.7 million in restrained assets. Joy relinquished all further claims—save one contingent future interest. Liquidation proceedings continue. Segal and the government agreed on a court-approved settlement that fulfilled Segal’s $15 million personal forfeiture obligation. Segal later sought to rescind or modify that agreement. The district court denied his attempt and denied Joy’s attempt to intervene in the liquidation proceedings because her contingent future interest is not yet ripe. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court rejected Michael’s unconscionability argument, noting that he previously won strict enforcement of the settlement agreement, preserving his right to repurchase an interest in the Chicago Bulls. He is judicially estopped from pursuing this challenge. The court also rejected a “windfall” argument and, noting the number of appeals, stated that if there are further proceedings, the parties and their counsel will be subject to Rule 11. View "United States v. Segal" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for health care fraud where the evidence of actual knowledge was overwhelming, and thus the court did not need to determinate whether the district court erred in giving a deliberate ignorance instruction on the knowledge element of health care fraud. Furthermore, the panel rejected defendant's arguments regarding the sufficiency of the illegal remunerations convictions. However, the panel reversed the aggravated identity theft convictions, because defendant did not "use" the patients' identities within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. 1028A. The panel also held that United States v. Osuna-Alvarez, 788 F.3d 1183 (9th Cir. 2015), foreclosed defendant's claim that the "without lawful authority" element of aggravated identity theft was not satisfied because the patients voluntarily provided their information. Finally, the panel held that the district court did not err in applying sentencing enhancements for obstruction of justice and aggravating role in the offense. The panel remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Hong" on Justia Law

by
The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with a foreign currency exchange transaction with Cairn Energy. Defendant was the former global head of the foreign exchange trading desk at the investment bank HSBC. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to convict defendant on the right‐to‐control theory because a reasonable jury could conclude that his misrepresentations to Cairn related to the price of the transaction, which was an essential element of the parties' bargain, and were capable of influencing Cairn's decisionmaking. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

by
Defendant appealed the district court's denial of the government's motion under Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 35(b)(2)(B) to resentence defendant based on his substantial assistance in the prosecution of others. The Second Circuit rejected the government's argument that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal. In a separate summary order filed under seal, the court affirmed the judgment on the merits. View "United States v. Doe" on Justia Law

by
The IRS searched Ellis’s apartment and found personal identifying information for more than 400 people on printouts from the Alabama Department of Corrections’ database and in a TurboTax database on laptops seized from Ellis’s bedroom. Her computers had been used to file hundreds of electronic tax returns in 2008-2012. Ellis was charged with devising a scheme to submit fraudulent tax returns in “2012,” including eight counts of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, and eight counts of aggravated identity theft, 18 U.S.C. 1028A(a)(1), (c)(5) and 18 U.S.C. 2. After the government admitted that some of Agent Ward’s grand jury statements had been wrong, Ellis unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the indictment. The court found that the “inaccurate statements did not have a substantial influence" given "overwhelming other evidence he presented.” Agent Ward testified that the intended loss from Ellis’s scheme was approximately $700,000, based on the total requested refunds, not the actual refunds. The court agreed and applied a 12-step ioffense level increase (U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(1)(H)), with a resulting Guidelines range for the wire fraud counts of 51-71 months. The court imposed a 48-month sentence for wire fraud and a consecutive, mandatory, 24-month sentence for aggravated identity theft and ordered forfeiture of $11,670, the total of the eight tax returns for which Ellis was convicted. The court imposed the government’s requested $352,183.20, in restitution to governmental entities. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion to dismiss, the calculation of the forfeiture, and the restitution order, rejecting arguments that the government had not presented evidence that all of the refunds used to calculate restitution were part of the same scheme and that some of that amount was tied to conduct that occurred outside of the limitations period. View "United States v. Ellis" on Justia Law

by
Defendants, Mr. Feldman and Mrs. Feldman, appealed their convictions stemming from their operation of a pain management clinic. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the convictions, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Mrs. Feldman's motion for severance; the district court did not plainly err by admitting the testimony of the government's witness; because Mrs. Feldman implicitly consented to the order declaring a mistrial, she was not entitled to relief on her double jeopardy claim; and the court rejected Mrs. Feldman's remaining claims of prosecutorial misconduct and claims of error regarding the jury instructions. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to support each of defendant's conspiracy convictions, and convictions based on dispensation of controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose that resulted in death (Counts 2 through 4). However, the court reversed the district court's application of 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(C)'s 20-year mandatory minimum sentence on Counts 2–4 and remanded the case for the district court to resentence Dr. Feldman to a term of imprisonment of not more than 20 years as to each of these counts. View "United States v. Feldman" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for engaging in a monetary transaction of over $10,000 derived from a specified unlawful activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1956. In this case, defendant, a citizen of South Korea employed at a government-funded research institute, solicited and received payments from two seismometer manufacturers in exchange for ensuring that the research institute purchased their products, and gave the companies inside information about their competitors. The panel held that "bribery of a public official" in section 1956 is defined by that phrase's ordinary, contemporary, common meaning and is not constrained by 18 U.S.C. 201, a statute to which section 1956 makes no reference. Because the panel found the crime described in Article 129 of the South Korean Criminal Code fits comfortably within the ordinary meaning of "bribery of a public official" as used in section 1956, the panel held that the indictment was sufficient and that there was no instructional error. View "United States v. Heon-Cheol Chi" on Justia Law