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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to securities fraud crimes. The court held that the district court did not plainly err by concluding that FINRA's order was a prior administrative order for purposes of USSG 2B1.1(b)(9)(C), nor did the district court plainly err by applying the two-level sentencing enhancement to defendant because he was engaged in securities activity that violated FINRA's order. View "United States v. Blount" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed Defendant Charles Bolton and Linda Bolton's convictions and sentences for various counts of attempted tax evasion and filing false tax returns. The court held that Charles failed to show plain error with respect to the sufficiency of the indictments for tax evasion and filing false tax returns; the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's verdicts of guilt against both defendants; claims of Brady violations were rejected; the district court's admission of hearsay statements was invited error by both sets of defense counsel, but the error did not rise to the level of manifest injustice and defendants have waived their Confrontation Clause rights under United States v. Ceballos, 789 F.3d 607, 616 (5th Cir. 2015); claims of prosecutorial misconduct rejected; there was no plain error in the jury instructions; the district court properly calculated the loss amount; and defendants' sentences were substantively reasonable and not otherwise defective. The court modified the district court's judgment to show that the restitution owed by the Boltons does not become due until they begin their terms of supervised release. View "United States v. Bolton" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after she pleaded guilty without a plea agreement to bank fraud. The court held that the district court did not clearly err by applying a two-level enhancement under USSG 3B1.3 for abusing a position of trust where she was the accounts payable clerk for her company and used her position to significantly commission and conceal her fraudulent scheme. The court also held that the district court did not clearly err by applying a two-level enhancement under USSG 2B1.1(b)(10)(C) for using sophisticated means where defendant employed multiple methods that made it more difficult to detect her bank fraud. View "United States v. Miller" on Justia Law

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Shannon Porter used over-the-counter tax preparation software to complete and electronically file 123 false tax returns with the IRS. Although the IRS rejected many of the returns and requested refunds, it paid out $180,397 to Porter, which she promptly spent. For this conduct, she pled guilty to making a false statement to the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. 287 and was sentenced to imprisonment to be followed by a term of supervised release. She would be given two terms of prison-and-supervised release. The third time, no supervised release was recommended or approved by the trial court. Porter appealed the last sentence that did not include supervised release. The Tenth Circuit determined that each of Porter’s previous supervised release violations were punishable as a “breach of trust,” and as such, did not abuse its discretion in denying a request for supervised release upon Porter’s third revocation hearing. View "United States v. Porter" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs founded ChinaWhys, which assists foreign companies doing business in China with American anti-bribery regulations compliance. Plaintiffs allege that the GSK Defendants engaged in bribery in China, with the approval of Reilly, the CEO of GSK China. In 2011, a whistleblower sent Chinese regulators correspondence accusing GSK of bribery. Defendants tried to uncover the whistleblower’s identity. Plaintiffs met with Reilly. According to Plaintiffs, GSK China representatives stated they believed Shi, a GSK China employee who had been fired, was orchestrating a “smear campaign.” ChinaWhys agreed to investigate Shi under an agreement to be governed by Chinese law, with all disputes subject to arbitration in China. Plaintiffs were arrested, convicted, imprisoned, and deported from China. Reilly was convicted of bribing physicians and was also imprisoned and deported. The Chinese government fined GSK $492 million for its bribery practices; GSK entered a settlement agreement with the U.S. SEC. Plaintiffs sued under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961–1968, contending that their business was “destroyed and their prospective business ventures eviscerated” as a result of Defendants’ misconduct. RICO creates a private right of action for a plaintiff injured in his business or property as a result of prohibited conduct; for racketeering activity committed abroad, section 1964(c)’s private right of action requires that the plaintiff “allege and prove a domestic injury to its business or property.” The Third Circuit held that Plaintiffs did not plead sufficient facts to establish that they suffered a domestic injury under section 1964(c). View "Humphrey v. GlaxoSmithKline PLC" on Justia Law

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In his petition for discretionary review, appellant Eddie Ette challenged the court of appeals' judgment upholding the imposition of a $10,000 fine assessed as part of his punishment for misapplication of fiduciary property. The fine was lawfully assessed by a jury, included in the trial court’s written judgment, but not orally pronounced at sentencing. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reduced the issues presented by this appeal as: (1) whether a trial court has no authority to alter a jury’s lawful verdict on punishment; or (2) whether sentences, including fines, must be orally pronounced in a defendant’s presence, and, as a matter of due process and fair notice, the sentence orally pronounced by the trial judge controls if it differs from the sentence detailed in the written judgment. The Court held the latter judicially created rule giving precedence to the oral pronouncement over the written judgment could not supplant a jury’s lawful verdict on punishment that has been correctly read aloud in a defendant’s presence in court. Accordingly, the Court held the trial court’s judgment could properly impose the fine against appellant despite the failure to orally pronounce it. Imposition of the fine was affirmed. View "Ette v. Texas" on Justia Law

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Steve Taylor unwittingly invested millions of dollars in what proved to be a massive Ponzi scheme. Before the scheme’s collapse, Taylor fortuitously withdrew his entire investment, plus nearly half a million dollars in profit. After the Ponzi scheme’s collapse, a court-appointed receiver brought what is commonly referred to as an “actual fraud” claim under the Colorado Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (“CUFTA”) section 38-8-105(1)(a), C.R.S. (2018), to claw back Taylor’s profits. As an innocent investor, Taylor argued he should be allowed to keep the money, contending (in the words of a statutory affirmative defense) that he provided “reasonably equivalent value” in exchange for his profits. A division of the court of appeals concluded that Taylor was not precluded as a matter of law from keeping some of the profit, because he may have provided reasonably equivalent value in the form of the time value of his investment. The receiver appealed. The Colorado Supreme Court determined Taylor could not keep the profit exceeding his initial investment based on the time value of money: under CUFTA, an innocent investor who profited from his investment in an equity-type Ponzi scheme, lacking any right to a return on investment, does not provide reasonably equivalent value based simply on the time value of his investment. View "Lewis v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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McKnight, a bartender, became friends with Fewlas. McKnight rented an apartment in his duplex. For 17 years, McKnight lived in this upstairs apartment with her boyfriend, Kurt. Fewlas and McKnight did not always get along. Fewlas disliked Kurt. Fewlas died, having accumulated more than $2.2 million. McKnight went on a spending spree. She withdrew over $600,000 in 171 different transactions—all in amounts less than $10,000. This suspicious conduct got the IRS’s attention; the IRS suspected that Fewlas had not left his estate to McKnight. Kurt confessed that he had forged Fewlas’s signature on a fake will, prepared by attorney Pioch. His confession resulted in multiple convictions. The Sixth Circuit affirmed in part, rejecting a Confrontation Clause claim based on the admission of Kurt’s videotaped deposition testimony. Kurt was 76 years old, in poor health, and unable to travel at the time of trial. The court also upheld the admission of testimony concerning handwriting analysis. The court remanded for reconsideration of a motion for a new trial because the court conflated the rules, repeatedly characterizing its task as evaluating the sufficiency of the evidence, rather than weighing the evidence for itself. The court vacated the sentences: the court enhanced sentencing ranges after concluding that the defendants caused financial hardship to the putative beneficiary of Fewlas’s estate but the Guidelines did not contain that enhancement at the time of the misconduct. View "United States v. Pioch" on Justia Law

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A conspiracy to defraud financial institutions in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area involved cashing counterfeit checks. Participants, including 25 co-defendants, created the counterfeit checks using check-printing software and blank check stock. “Bank insiders” provided bank account information for use on counterfeit checks. "Runners" were enlisted to serve as payees and take the checks to the bank to cash or deposit. Conspiracy members acquired account information through various means. Using social media, participants searched the hashtag “#myfirstpaycheck” and found photographs of legitimate paychecks that unwitting victims had posted online. Bank insiders sometimes provided account information. Some conspirators used their own payroll or personal checks to be counterfeited. During the period between November 2007 and September 2013 alone, more than 500 runners negotiated over 1500 counterfeit or fraudulent checks. Gaye pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344 and 1349, 20 counts of aiding and abetting bank fraud, and two counts of aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft, 18 U.S.C. 1028A. Fillie pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft. Sumoso pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and four counts of aiding and abetting bank fraud. The Eighth Circuit affirmed sentences of (respectively) 144, 134, and 54 months’ imprisonment and restitution orders, rejecting arguments that the district court committed procedural error in applying the guidelines. View "United States v. Gaye" on Justia Law

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An Indiana judge appointed Stochel as receiver for Tip Top Supermarkets, while its proprietors were embroiled in protracted litigation. Over several years Stochel stole more than $330,000 from the receivership. Stochel evaded detection by diverting funds from other sources to pay bills. As the litigation and receivership were winding down, the principals had suspicions and asked the court to appoint an independent auditor. The judge ordered Stochel to turn over the receivership’s files. To delay discovery, Stochel moved to vacate the order, falsely stating that the receivership had sufficient funds to pay the auditor and claiming that he needed more time to assemble the records. The judge removed Stochel as the receiver; the auditor uncovered the fraud. Stochel was charged with mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341, based on Stochel’s motion, which he had mailed to the court; the indictment alleged that the motion perpetuated the fraudulent scheme by delaying the detection of Stochel’s embezzlement. The district judge imposed a sentence of 24 months in prison. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence’ the denial of credit for acceptance of responsibility, U.S.S.G. 3E1.1(a); the loss-amount calculation, U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(1)(G); and the application of a two-level enhancement for violating a judicial order, U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(9)(C). View "United States v. Stochel" on Justia Law