Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

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Ashrafkhan came to the U.S. in 1991 after receiving a scholarship to study at Michigan State University. He earned a Ph.D. with a research focus on pathology and the genetics of cancer. In 2006, he founded Compassionate Doctors, a medical practice outside of Detroit, that was actually a “pill mill,” where unscrupulous doctors wrote fraudulent prescriptions for fake patients. Compassionate billed Medicare for the fake patient visits and collected millions of dollars in Medicare payments over the course of several years. The fraudulent prescriptions were filled by individuals recruited by Compassionate at pharmacies that paid Compassionate kickbacks. Those drugs were then sold on the street, resulting in hundreds of thousands of opioid-based drugs being distributed onto the illegal drug market. Ashrafkhan was convicted of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, and money laundering and was sentenced to 23 years of imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting a challenge to the jury instruction on “reasonable doubt.” The instruction stressed to the jury the need to base its decision on “the evidence or lack of evidence” and that a reasonable doubt was one that was “still standing” after all of the evidence had been considered. View "United States v. Ashrafkhan" on Justia Law

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Defendants Ruan and Couch, pain management physicians, appealed their convictions for charges related to their involvement in a health care fraud scheme. Defendants were convicted of conspiring to run a medical practice constituting a racketeering enterprise in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act; conspiring to violate the Controlled Substances Act by dispensing Schedule II drugs, fentanyl, and Schedule III drugs outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose; conspiracies to commit health care fraud and mail or wire fraud; and conspiracies to receive kickbacks in relation to a Federal health care program. Ruan and Couch were individually convicted of multiple counts of substantive drug distribution in violation of the Controlled Substances Act and Ruan was convicted of a money laundering conspiracy and two counts of substantive money laundering. The court vacated defendants' convictions on Count 16 of the Superseding Indictment for conspiring to violate the Anti-Kickback statute based on their operation of their medical clinic’s in-house workers' compensation dispensary. In this case, the evidence was insufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that an insurance provider paid for prescriptions with federal funds or that federal monies otherwise passed through the clinic's workers' compensation dispensary. The court remanded for resentencing and affirmed defendants' remaining convictions and sentences. View "United States v. Xiulu Ruan" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed both of Defendant's federal racketeering-related convictions but vacated and remanded the prison sentence, forfeiture order, and restitution order, holding that the district court erred in several respects. Defendant was convicted of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, federal mail fraud, and violating the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), 21 U.S.C. 331(a), 333(a). The district court sentenced Defendant to ninety-six months' imprisonment, issued a forfeiture order in the amount of $175,000, and ordered restitution. On appeal, Defendant challenged his convictions for racketeering and racketeering conspiracy and his sentence. The First Circuit remanded the case, holding (1) the convictions were supported by sufficient evidence; (2) the district court erred in its reasoning declining to apply certain enhancements; (3) neither of the two reasons the district court gave for limiting the forfeiture order was sustainable; and (4) the district court too narrowly construed who counts as a "victim" under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act. View "United States v. Chin" on Justia Law

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Igboba was convicted on 18 counts under 18 U.S.C. 286, 18 U.S.C. 1343, 18 U.S.C. 287, and 18 U.S.C. 1028A(a)(1), (b), and (c)(5), based on his participation in a conspiracy to defraud the government by preparing and filing false federal income tax returns using others’ identities. He was sentenced to 162 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, and required to pay restitution, special assessment, and forfeiture sums. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that when the district court increased his base offense level based on the total amount of loss his offense caused, U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(1), it failed to distinguish between the loss caused by his individual conduct and that caused by the entire conspiracy and that the district court erred in applying a two-level sophisticated-means enhancement, section 2B1.1(b)(10). the district court could rightly attribute $4.1 million in losses to “acts and omissions committed, aided, abetted, counseled, commanded, induced, procured, or willfully caused by” Igboba. The court noted his “sophisticated” use of technology and multiple aliases. View "United States v. Igboba" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed Defendant David G. Bowser's conviction for charges related his obstruction of an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) into his work as chief of staff to a Member of Congress, Paul Broun. Bowser hired Brett O'Donnell as a communications and messaging consultant for official duties, but O'Donnell's job included increasingly more work on the Congressman's re-election campaign. The court explained that nothing prevented O'Donnell from assisting the campaign as a volunteer or campaign employee, but House Rules forbade the Congressman's office from paying O'Donnell out of the Members' Representational Allowance (MRA). The court affirmed the judgment of acquittal on the obstruction-of-Congress charge and held that the House has structured its internal procedures such that the Office's reviews precede any investigation by the House or the Ethics Committee; affirmed the concealment conviction because defendant had fair notice that he could be criminally prosecuted by failing to disclose particular information; affirmed the two false-statement charges because the charges are justiciable, the jury had sufficient evidence to conclude that his statements to the OCE investigators were false, and the court declined to adopt defendant's proposed jury instruction; because any error was harmless, the court need not address the merits of defendant's Rostenkowski argument; and affirmed three of defendant's false-statement convictions because any failure to instruct the jury to ignore evidence presented for other counts was harmless. View "United States v. Bowser" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for conspiracy to commit access device fraud, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Defendant's conviction stemmed from his involvement, with his brother, in fraudulently using identities to collect unemployment benefits and to intercept preloaded debit cards he and his brother had requested while posing as residents on his brother's mail delivery route. Defendant raised numerous claims of error on appeal. The court rejected defendant's challenges to the admissibility of the images derived from surveillance video taken by PNC Bank ATMs on three fronts; the district court did not abuse its discretion by improperly limiting defendant's ability to present a full and fair defense; there was no error in admitting the lay identification testimony; there was no error in admitting defendant's booking photograph; and there was no cumulative error. View "United States v. Clotaire" on Justia Law

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Kennedy-Robey was charged with fraud for operating a scheme to defraud the IRS and an unemployment insurance scheme. While awaiting trial, Kennedy-Robey was released on bond. She resumed her fraudulent activities. The government obtained an arrest warrant. Instead of appearing at the bond revocation hearing, Kennedy-Robey remained a fugitive for a few months. When they arrested Kennedy-Robey, officers found her to-do list, which read like a “how-to” guide for fugitives. Kennedy-Robey eventually pleaded guilty. Although the guidelines range was 210-262 months, the court sentenced her to 72 months’ imprisonment and ordered her to pay over $4.8 million in restitution. In 2017, Kennedy-Robey was released to a halfway house. Within weeks, Kenney-Robey filed a fraudulent automobile loan application and obtained a loan exceeding $30,000, which she used to purchase a Mercedes-Benz, and filed a fraudulent credit card application. Months later, she and another defendant purchased another car with funds obtained from another fraudulent loan application. Kennedy-Robey pleaded guilty to mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341. The government sought an 18-month sentence, based on a guidelines range of 12-18 months. After considering Kennedy-Robey’s long history of unrepentant criminal conduct, the court imposed a 36-month sentence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the district court failed to consider either her mental health condition or the more lenient sentences received by defendants convicted of similar crimes and that the sentence was substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Kennedy-Robey" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of twenty counts of health care fraud. Defendant's convictions stemmed from his involvement in a fraud scheme conducted through his ophthalmology office that resulted in a loss of nearly $7 million. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by not allowing defendant's expert to testify, under Daubert and Federal Rule of Evidence 702, about the use of subthreshold micropulse photostimulation as a treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting rebuttal evidence showing that defendant billed Medicare for performing services on a patient's blind left eye. Even if the district court erred in partially limiting defendant's surrebuttal evidence, and that error violated the Sixth Amendment, the court held that it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Finally, the court vacated defendant's sentence on each count and remanded the case for the limited purpose of letting the district court modify defendant's sentence structure to bring it in line with USSG 5G1.2(d). View "United States v. Ming Pon" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit granted the petition for writ of mandamus in part and ordered the district court to grant the government's Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 48 motion to dismiss the charges against Michael Flynn, former National Security Advisor to President Donald J. Trump, who pleaded guilty to making false statements under 18 U.S.C. 1001. The court held that the district court's orders appointing an amicus and scheduling a proposed hearing constitute legal error. The court also held that this is not the unusual case where a more searching inquiry is justified, and there is no adequate remedy for the intrusion on "the Executive's long-settled primacy over charging decisions." The court stated that, although Rule 48 requires "leave of court" before dismissing charges, "decisions to dismiss pending criminal charges—no less than decisions to initiate charges and to identify which charges to bring—lie squarely within the ken of prosecutorial discretion." The court reasoned that, whatever the precise scope of Rule 48's "leave of court" requirement, this is plainly not the rare case where further judicial inquiry is warranted. The court explained that Flynn agrees with the government's motion to dismiss and there has been no allegation that the motion reflects prosecutorial harassment, and the government's motion includes an extensive discussion of newly discovered evidence casting Flynn's guilt into doubt. The court stated that the government specifically points to evidence that the FBI interview at which Flynn allegedly made false statements was "untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn." In light of this evidence, the government maintains that it cannot "prove either the relevant false statements or their materiality beyond a reasonable doubt." The court also stated that the government's representations about the insufficiency of the evidence are entitled to a "presumption of regularity," and, on the record before the district court, there is no clear evidence contrary to the government’s representations. Therefore, the court held that these clearly established legal principles and the Executive's "long-settled primacy over charging decisions" foreclose the district court's proposed scrutiny of the government's motion. The court also held that the district court's appointment of the amicus and demonstrated intent to scrutinize the reasoning and motives of the Department of Justice constitute irreparable harms that cannot be remedied on appeal. The court stated that the district court's actions will result in specific harms to the exercise of the Executive Branch's exclusive prosecutorial power, and the contemplated proceedings would likely require the Executive to reveal the internal deliberative process behind its exercise of prosecutorial discretion, interfering with the Article II charging authority. Furthermore, circumstances of this case demonstrate that mandamus is appropriate to prevent the judicial usurpation of executive power. The court denied Flynn's petition to the extent that he seeks reassignment of the district judge where the district judge's conduct did not indicate a clear inability to decide this case fairly. The court vacated the district court's order appointing an amicus as moot. View "In re: Michael Flynn" on Justia Law

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After defendant, representing himself, pleaded guilty to one charge of bank fraud and one charge of money laundering, he appealed his convictions and the district court's orders directing him to reimburse the United States Treasury. The Eleventh Circuit held that defendant waived his right to counsel knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. The court rejected defendant's argument that 18 U.S.C. 3006A(f) did not authorize the district court to seize money from his jail account, holding that the district court followed the proper procedures under section 3006A before directing that defendant's money be paid from the court registry to the Treasury. The court also held that it lacked jurisdiction to consider defendant's argument that the district court could not use this money to reimburse the Treasury for his counsel's fees and expenses. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and dismissed in part. View "United States v. Owen" on Justia Law