Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

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Palladinetti and others purchased 30 Chicago-area apartment buildings and resold individual apartments as condominiums. Using a process that Palladinetti helped create, his co-defendants bought the buildings, falsely representing to lenders that they had made down payments. Palladinetti served as his co-defendants’ attorney for the purchases and sales and as the registered agent for LLCs formed to facilitate the scheme. The group recruited buyers for the condominiums and prepared their mortgage applications, misrepresenting facts to ensure they qualified for the loans.Palladinetti and his co-defendants were charged with seven counts of bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344(1) and (2), and nine counts of making false statements on loan applications, 18 U.S.C. 1014 and 2. Count one involved a $345,000 mortgage that Palladinetti’s wife obtained for the purchase of a residence. That mortgage application was prepared using the group’s fraudulent scheme in July 2005. The government agreed to dismiss all other counts if Palladinetti were convicted on count one. Because Palladinetti stipulated to almost all elements of section 1344(1), the trial was limited to whether the bank he defrauded was insured by the FDIC when the mortgage application was submitted.The Seventh Circuit affirmed his conviction. The testimony and exhibits demonstrated that one entity was continuously insured, 1997-2008, that on the date the mortgage was executed that entity was “Washington Mutual Bank” and also did business as “Washington Mutual Bank, FA,” and that entity was the lender for the mortgage at issue. View "United States v. Palladinetti" on Justia Law

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Five co-defendants were charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, and conspiracy for their involvement in a telemarketing scheme to defraud stock investors. After an eight-week trial, during which the defendants made several motions for mistrial, the jury found each defendant guilty on all counts. At a post-trial hearing, the district court found that the prosecution had acted improperly in closing arguments but denied the defendants’ motions for mistrial. The court then granted judgments of acquittal based on insufficient evidence as to two defendants.The Eleventh Circuit reversed the judgments of acquittal granted to Wheeler and Long because there is a reasonable construction of the evidence that supports the jury’s verdicts. Sufficient evidence also supported the convictions of Sgarro, Smigrod, and Topping. The prosecution’s behavior did not rise to the level of misconduct. The theory-of-defense instruction explained that there is a “difference between deceiving and defrauding.” It is "cause for concern: that the prosecutor told the jury that this instruction was “not the law.” When considered in context, however, the prosecutor’s remarks were not -improper. The district judge repeatedly emphasized to the lawyers that the theory-of-defense instruction was not an instruction about the law and did not affect the legal elements for mail and wire fraud. Nor did any of the evidentiary rulings or the jury instructions warrant reversal. View "United States v. Wheeler" on Justia Law

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Tat aided a money-laundering scheme involving cashier’s checks while she managed a bank in San Gabriel, California. She was convicted of conspiring to launder money, 18 U.S.C. 1956(h), and two counts of making false entries in the bank’s records, 18 U.S.C. 1005.The Ninth Circuit reversed her conviction on one count of making a false entry, affirmed her conviction on a second count of the same offense, and remanded for resentencing. The reversed conviction was premised on a bank log record stating that Tat’s customer purchased and then returned three cashier’s checks for a sum of $25,000. The record did not contain a literal falsehood and did not contain an omission such that the bank’s records would not indicate the true nature of the transaction; it could not be said that the bank would not have a picture of the bank’s true condition. Accurate records reflecting a customer’s purchase of a cashier’s check from her bank account are not false entries under section 1005 solely because that check has a nexus to money laundering. As to the second count, a reasonable juror could find beyond a reasonable doubt that Tat knew the log record on which it was based contained a false entry because it listed a fictitious payee. The panel affirmed Tat’s convictions for conspiring to launder money. View "United States v. Tat" on Justia Law

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Heine and Yates, bank executives, were convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud (18 U.S.C. 1349) and 12 counts of making a false bank entry (18 U.S.C. 1005). The government told the jury that the two conspired to deprive the bank of accurate financial information in its records, the defendants’ salaries, and the use of bank funds.The Ninth Circuit vacated. There is no cognizable property interest in the ethereal right to accurate information. Distinguishing between a scheme to obtain a new or higher salary and a scheme to deceive an employer while continuing to draw an existing salary, the court held that the salary-maintenance theory was also legally insufficient. Even assuming the bank-funds theory was valid, the government’s reliance on those theories was not harmless. The court instructed the jury that it could find the defendants guilty of making false entries as co-conspirators, so the court also vacated the false-entry convictions. The court noted that insufficient evidence supported certain false entry convictions. View "United States v. Yates" on Justia Law

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Following a preliminary hearing, petitioner Dr. Sanjoy Banerjee was charged in an information with two counts of presenting a false or fraudulent health care claim to an insurer (a form of insurance fraud, counts 1-2), and three counts of perjury (counts 3-5). The superior court denied Banerjee’s motion to dismiss the information as unsupported by reasonable or probable cause. Banerjee petitioned for a writ of prohibition to direct the superior court to vacate its order denying his Penal Code section 995 motion and to issue an order setting aside the information. The Court of Appeal issued an order to show cause and an order staying further proceedings on the information, pending the Court's resolution of the merits of Banerjee’s petition. The State filed a return, and Banerjee filed a traverse. The State argued the evidence supported a strong suspicion that Banerjee committed two counts of insurance fraud and three counts of perjury, based on his violations of Labor Code section 139.3(a) between 2014 and 2016. During that period, Banerjee billed a workers’ compensation insurer for services he rendered to patients through his professional corporation and through two other legal entities he owned and controlled. The insurance fraud charges are based on Banerjee’s 2014-2016 billings to the insurer through the two other entities. The perjury charges were based on three instances in which Banerjee signed doctor’s reports, certifying under penalty of perjury that he had not violated “section 139.3.” Banerjee argued: (1) the evidence showed he did not violate the statute's referral prohibition; (2) even if he did not comply with section 139.3(e), the “physician’s office” exception to the referral prohibition applied to all of his referrals to his two other legal entities; and (3) the patient disclosure requirement of section 139.3(e), the referral prohibition of section 139.3(a), and the physician’s office exception to the referral prohibition were unconstitutionally vague. The Court of Appeal concluded: (1) Banerjee did not violate section 139.3(a) by referring his patients to his two other legal entities; and (2) the evidence supported a strong suspicion that Banerjee specifically intended to present false and fraudulent claims for health care benefits, in violation of Penal Code section 550(a)(6), by billing the workers’ compensation insurer substantially higher amounts through his two other legal entities than he previously and customarily billed the insurer for the same services he formerly rendered through his professional corporation and his former group practice. Thus, the Court granted the writ as to the perjury charges but denied it as to the insurance fraud charges. View "Banerjee v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Nicolescu, Miclaus, and coconspirators posted fake eBay car auctions. Operating from Romania, they concealed their IP addresses, and employed US-based “money mules,” to collect payments from unsuspecting buyers, taking in $3.5-$4.5 million. In 2014, a virus created by Nicolescu was embedded in the eBay auctions and in spam emails to collect more than 70,000 account credentials, including 25,000 stolen credit-card numbers. Their network of virus-infected computers “mined” for cryptocurrency, reaping $10,000–$40,000 per month, 2014-2016. The FBI and Romanian police executed a search warrant on members’ residences and retrieved electronic devices. Nicolescu and Miclaus were convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 12 counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit service marks, five counts of aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.The district court added 18 levels to their Guidelines calculation (U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(1)(J)) for causing a loss of $3.5-$9.5 million, two levels (2B1.1(b)(4)) for being in the business of receiving and selling stolen property, two levels (2B1.1(b)(11)(B)(i)) for trafficking unauthorized access devices, four levels (2B1.1(b)(19)(A)(ii)) for being convicted under 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(5)(A), and four levels (3B1.1(a)) for being an organizer or leader. They were sentenced to 216 and 240 months’ imprisonment.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the convictions, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence and to jury instructions, but vacated the sentences. The court upheld the loss calculation and leadership enhancement. The court erred in applying the stolen property enhancement and in applying a 2B1.1(b)(19)(A)(ii) enhancement because the men were convicted of conspiracy, not a substantive section 1030(a)(5)(A) offense. View "United States v. Miclaus" on Justia Law

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Dawson, the City Manager of Del Rey Oaks, purchased the Portola lot, “the last vacant lot” in the City. It had a water meter but no water credits and could not be built upon without water credits. The prior owner had never been able to obtain water rights or water credits. The City lacked any water credits and had no surplus water. In 2015, the City leased the Rosita property, part of Work Memorial Park, to Mori for a garden center. Dawson contracted on behalf of the City for a new well on the Rosita property and arranged for the water credit from the Rosita property to be transferred to Dawson’s Portola lot. Dawson never reported his ownership of the Portola lot on his Form 700 disclosure.Dawson was convicted of a felony count of violating Government Code section 10901 (conflict of interest as to a contract entered into in his official capacity) and a misdemeanor count of violating section 91000 (failing to report an interest in real property under the Political Reform Act). The court granted him probation. The court of appeal affirmed. The prosecution was not required to prove the inapplicability of an exception to section 1090 “for remote or minimal interests” because it was an affirmative defense; Dawson bore the burden of raising a reasonable doubt. View "People v. Dawson" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendants' convictions connected with the murder of Steven DiSarro, holding that Defendants were not entitled to relief on their allegations of error.Defendants, Francis Salemme and Paul Weadick, were convicted of the 1993 murder of DiSarro. At the time of the murder, Salemme was the boss of a criminal organization known as the New England La Cosa Nostra. Defendants murdered DiSarro to prevent him from talking with federal agents about his activities with Salemme, Weadick and Salemme's son. On appeal, Defendants challenged the trial court's admission of a significant amount of evidence concerning the prior criminal activities of Salemme and several witnesses. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in admitting the evidence. View "United States v. Weadick" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit for fraud, rescission, conspiracy, aiding and abetting, fraudulent conveyance, and unjust enrichment alleging that defendants had misrepresented that collateral managers would exercise independence in selecting assets for collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants.The Second Circuit affirmed and held that plaintiffs have failed to establish, by clear and convincing evidence, reliance on defendants' representations. In this case, plaintiffs based their investment decisions solely on the investment proposals their investment advisor developed; the advisor developed these detailed investment proposals based on offering materials defendants provided and on the advisor's own due diligence; plaintiffs premised their fraud claims on the advisor's reliance on defendants' representations; but New York law does not support this theory of third-party representations. The court also held that plaintiffs have failed to establish that defendants misrepresented or omitted material information for two of the three CDO deals at issue—the Octans II CDO and the Sagittarius CDO I. The court explained that defendants' representations that the collateral managers would exercise independence in selecting assets were not misrepresentations at all, and defendants did not have a duty to disclose their knowledge of the hedge fund's investment strategy because this information could have been discovered through the exercise of due care. View "Loreley Financing (Jersey) No. 3 Ltd. v. Wells Fargo" on Justia Law

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Percoco, a longtime friend and top aide to former Governor Andrew Cuomo, accepted payment in exchange for promising to use his position to perform official actions. For one scheme, Percoco promised to further the interests of an energy company, CPV; for another, Percoco agreed with Aiello to advance the interests of Aiello’s real estate development company. Aiello was convicted of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1349. Percoco was convicted of both conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud and solicitation of bribes or gratuities, 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(B). The court had instructed the jury that the quid-pro-quo element of the offenses would be satisfied if Percoco wrongfully “obtained . . . property . . . in exchange [for] official acts as the opportunities arose.”The Second Circuit affirmed. Although the as-opportunities-arise instruction fell short of a recently clarified standard, which requires that the honest-services fraud involve a commitment to take official action on a particular matter or question, that error was harmless. A person who is not technically employed by the government may nevertheless owe a fiduciary duty to the public if he dominates and controls governmental business, and is actually relied on by people in the government because of some special relationship. View "United States v. Percoco" on Justia Law