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Tantchev, a native of Bulgaria, owned a trucking business that operated out of a warehouse in Chicago. Chogsom, a Mongolian immigrant, worked for Tantchev. Large deposits into Tantchev’s bank account prompted an investigation. After a six-day trial involving 29 witnesses, a federal jury convicted Tantchev of exporting and attempting to export stolen cars, submitting false documents to customs officials, and structuring financial transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements. That same jury acquitted Tantchev’s co-defendant, Chogsom, of charges related to the stolen cars and false documents, but convicted Chogsom of making a false statement to an IRS agent. The district court sentenced Tantchev to 40 months’ imprisonment and Chogsom to three years’ probation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court rejected Tantchev’s argument that the district court should not have given a deliberate avoidance or “ostrich” instruction. The jury was entitled to conclude Tantchev purposely did not subject the shipping containers to the scrutiny he exercised in the other part of his business and draw a negative inference from that change in behavior. The court upheld the use of a jury instruction, “If you find that the defendant was in possession of property that recently had been stolen, you may infer that he knew it was stolen.” View "United States v. Chogsom" on Justia Law

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Diana Merritt was convicted of ten counts of mortgage fraud in 2015. The actual crimes were committed between 2008 and 2009, but law enforcement did not discover the extent of those crimes until 2014. Merritt argued the charging document did not sufficiently provide information that the alleged charges occurred within the applicable statute of limitations. She also argued failure to comply with the statute of limitations constituted a violation of her due process rights. The Court of Appeals affirmed Merritt's convictions, and finding no reversible error, so too did the Washington Supreme Court. View "Washington v. Merritt" on Justia Law

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Amodeo pleaded guilty to involvement in a criminal scheme to divert his clients’ payroll taxes. He agreed to forfeit many assets, including the ownership of two shell corporations. The district court entered a preliminary forfeiture order that divested Amodeo of those assets. After no third parties asserted an interest in the corporations, the court entered a final forfeiture order that transferred ownership of them to the government. Years later, the corporations were named as defendants in a lawsuit brought by victims of Amodeo’s scheme. The government then successfully moved to vacate the final forfeiture order as to the corporations. Amodeo appealed the partial vacatur on the ground that the district court lacked the authority to enter it. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed his appeal. The partial vacatur caused him no injury, so Amodeo lacks standing to complain about it regardless of whether or not the district court possessed authority. View "United States v. Amodeo" on Justia Law

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Mathew worked at Parkland Health and Hospital System as a registration specialist and also owned Dallas Home Health Care (DHH). Mathew stole confidential patient information from Parkland and gave it to DHH employees to call the individuals and solicit them as patients. Based on information from a former DHH employee, authorities obtained a search warrant for DHH’s office and determined DHH to be in the possession of approximately 1,300 Parkland patients’ identifying information, including their health insurance claim numbers (HICNs). Mathew pleaded guilty to “knowingly possess[ing] with intent to use unlawfully or transfer unlawfully five or more authentication features, to wit, [HICNs], and the authentication features were or appeared to have been issued by or under the authority of the United States,” 18 U.S.C. 1028(a)(3), (b)(2)(B), (c)(1). The Fifth Circuit vacated his sentence of 30 months’ imprisonment plus $277,957.89 in restitution. The restitution order under the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act, 18 U.S.C. 3663A, was unlawful because it included amounts for Medicare payments that preceded the temporal scope of the offense of conviction. Mathew’s statements at rearraignment cannot serve as the justification for broadening restitution to include conduct not contained in the indictment or factual resume. The court rejected other challenges to the restitution award. View "United States v. Mathew" on Justia Law

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In 2014, CNB auditors conducted a surprise audit of the Burlington, Kansas Central National Bank (“CNB” or “Bank”) vault. The vault was missing $764,000. When they began to suspect defendant Denise Christy, she forged documents to purport that she had sent the missing cash to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City (“FRB”). A grand jury indicted her on one count of bank embezzlement, six counts of making false bank entries, six counts of failing to report income on her taxes, and 10 counts of money laundering. After a six-day trial, a jury found Christy guilty of all charges except four money laundering counts. On appeal, Christy argued: (1) cumulative prosecutorial misconduct violated her due process rights; (2) the evidence was insufficient for her money laundering convictions; and (3) the jury instructions improperly omitted a “materiality” element for the false-bank-entry charges. The Tenth Circuit: (1) rejected Christy’s prosecutorial misconduct challenge because she has not shown the prosecutor’s comments influenced the jury’s verdict; (2) reversed Christy’s money laundering convictions because the Government did not produce sufficient evidence of the intent to file a false tax return; and (3) affirmed Christy’s false-bank-entry convictions because, even assuming materiality was an implied element of 18 U.S.C. 1005, its omission from the jury instruction was harmless error. The matter was remanded to the district court with instructions to vacate the convictions for money laundering, resentence the defendant, and further proceedings. View "United States v. Christy" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his sentence after he pleaded guilty to an information charging securities fraud, mail fraud, and obstruction and impeding the Internal Revenue Laws. Defendant, a former registered investment broker, perpetrated fraud on the clients of ELIV Group, an unregistered investment and consulting group that he owned and operated. The Second Circuit vacated in part the district court's sentence of incarceration as procedurally unreasonable because of an incorrect criminal history finding. Accordingly, the court remanded as to this issue. The court affirmed the district court's imposition of the amended restitution order where the district court corrected the restitution amount during resentencing. View "United States v. Valente" on Justia Law

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From 2002-2008 Boliaux operated EMC, a used-car dealership. He borrowed money. Most loans were secured by the cars’ certificates of title. Because there should be only one title certificate per car, the dealer cannot transfer good title to a customer without paying the lender. In 2007 Boliaux persuaded state officials to issue duplicate certificates of title on the pretense that the originals had been lost. He obtained multiple loans against single vehicles, exceeding the cars’ market value and leaving the lenders under-secured. He sold cars without repaying the loans. After a lender detected this and impounded the collateral, Boliaux persuaded the custodian to release eight cars, which he sold for his own benefit. In 2008, Boliaux’s wife incorporated Joliet Motors, which Boliaux operated from the former EMC premises. Joliet Motors received installment payments from EMC customers but did not remit them to lenders. Boliaux began check kiting. He was convicted of four counts of wire fraud and six of bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, 1344, and sentenced to 48 months’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the evidence was insufficient on the wire fraud counts because he did not transmit anything by wire, and on the bank fraud counts because no one from the banks testified that the banks lost money. The district judge properly declined to instruct the jury that it had to agree, unanimously, how Boliaux carried out his scheme. View "United States v. Boliaux" on Justia Law

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Creditors filed suit alleging that a husband and wife worked together to commit multiple acts of mail and wire fraud over several years for the purpose of hiding the husband's assets—acts which, in the creditors' telling, violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The district court found in favor of the wife, finding that no reasonable juror could conclude that they formed an organization with some sort of framework, formal or informal, for the purpose of engaging in racketeering activity. The Eleventh Circuit reversed and held that there was a genuine factual dispute as to whether the couple formed an association-in-fact enterprise separate and apart from their marital relationship. In this case, the district court erred by applying a heightened standard for association-in-fact enterprises consisting of married couples, rather than applying the sames rules to married couples as to everyone else. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings and vacated the district court's order awarding the wife costs. View "Al-Rayes v. Willingham" on Justia Law

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After investigating complaints regarding the tax-preparation services of defendant Donald Iley, the Colorado Board of Accountancy (Board) issued an “Agreement and Final Agency Order” in which Iley admitted to engaging in professionally negligent conduct and agreed to accept certain disciplinary sanctions, including a $10,000 fine and a five-year probationary period. Among the acts for which the Board disciplined Iley was taking a client’s money, ostensibly to pay the client’s payroll taxes, but then failing to promptly and properly pay those funds to the IRS. While serving the Order’s probationary term, Iley executed a fraudulent scheme in which he fleeced his clients of more than $11 million. As part of this scheme, Iley fraudulently misrepresented to his clients that he was taking their funds to pay outstanding payroll taxes to the IRS but, instead, Iley used those funds for personal purposes. After this fraud was discovered, Iley pleaded guilty to wire fraud and aiding in the preparation of a false tax return. At sentencing, the district court enhanced Iley’s sentence under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, section 2B1.1(b)(9)(C). The question presented to the Tenth Circuit was whether the court erred in doing so. The Court held that under the particular circumstances of this case, the court did not err in Iley's sentence, and affirmed. View "United States v. Iley" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of mail and wire fraud and sentence of 87 months in prison. Defendant's conviction stemmed from his scheme to promote the creation of a Hmong homeland by accepting money from donors. The court held that the district court did not err in preventing defendant from raising a public authority defense at trial because he failed to show even apparent authority. Furthermore, the district court did not err by precluding him from presenting an entrapment by estoppel defense. The court also held that defendant's Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination was not violated; defendant's right to compulsory process under the Sixth Amendment was not violated; and the court declined to consider defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Finally, the court held that defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable where the district court did not abuse its discretion and explicitly considered sentencing disparities. View "United States v. Seng Xiong" on Justia Law