by
In 2015, former Virgin Islands Senator James was charged with wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, and federal programs embezzlement, 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(A), stemming from his use of legislative funds to ostensibly obtain historical documents from Denmark related to the Fireburn, an 1878 St. Croix uprising. The indictment specified: obtaining cash advances from the Legislature but retaining a portion of those funds for his personal use; double-billing for expenses for which he had already received a cash advance; submitting invoices and receiving funds for translation work that was never done; and submitting invoices and receiving funds for translation work that was completed before his election to the Legislature. James, who argued that he was engaged in legislative fact-finding, moved to dismiss the indictment on legislative immunity grounds. The district court denied the motion, stating that James’ actions were not legislative acts worthy of statutory protection under the Organic Act of the Virgin Islands. The Third Circuit affirmed. Under 48 U.S.C. 1572(d) legislators are protected from being “held to answer before any tribunal other than the legislature for any speech or debate in the legislature." The conduct underlying the government’s allegations concerning James is clearly not legislative conduct protected by section 1572(d). View "United States v. James" on Justia Law

by
In 2015, former Virgin Islands Senator James was charged with wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, and federal programs embezzlement, 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(A), stemming from his use of legislative funds to ostensibly obtain historical documents from Denmark related to the Fireburn, an 1878 St. Croix uprising. The indictment specified: obtaining cash advances from the Legislature but retaining a portion of those funds for his personal use; double-billing for expenses for which he had already received a cash advance; submitting invoices and receiving funds for translation work that was never done; and submitting invoices and receiving funds for translation work that was completed before his election to the Legislature. James, who argued that he was engaged in legislative fact-finding, moved to dismiss the indictment on legislative immunity grounds. The district court denied the motion, stating that James’ actions were not legislative acts worthy of statutory protection under the Organic Act of the Virgin Islands. The Third Circuit affirmed. Under 48 U.S.C. 1572(d) legislators are protected from being “held to answer before any tribunal other than the legislature for any speech or debate in the legislature." The conduct underlying the government’s allegations concerning James is clearly not legislative conduct protected by section 1572(d). View "United States v. James" on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions and sentence for crimes related to a multi-state tax fraud scheme using Indigent Inmate, a prisoner "charity" defendant founded and financed. The court held that the district court did not err when it admitted evidence seized from defendant's clothing as well as his post-arrest statements; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted evidence of uncharged conduct and photographs of defendant and another individual with large sums of money; the district court did not violate defendant's right not to wear jail clothes; the district court did not err when it gave the jury a Pinkerton jury instruction; sufficient evidence supported defendant's convictions; and the district court did not err when it calculated defendant's sentencing guidelines range, nor did it impose a substantively unreasonable sentence. View "United States v. Shabazz" on Justia Law

by
Starting in 2008, Sunmola carried out an online romance scheme from South Africa, targeting middle-aged women in Georgia and Illinois. Sunmola often used pictures of men in U.S. military uniforms in his online profile to gain the victims' trust; they made electronic fund transfers after his false claims of financial distress. Sunmola secretly recorded some victims in sexually suggestive positions, then sent extortion demands. Authorities also discovered evidence of credit card fraud affecting businesses. He was charged with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and interstate extortion. Authorities arrested Sunmola in London and transferred him to U.S. custody. Three days into his trial, Sunmola openly pleaded guilty to all counts, admitting to the essential elements of each offense. The judge accepted the pleas without a plea agreement. Applying several enhancements and considering other section 3553(a) factors, the district court sentenced Sunmola to 324 months in jail with an adjusted restitution payment of $1,669,050.98. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to a four-level “substantial financial hardship” sentencing enhancement, a two-level “vulnerable victim” adjustment, a two-level enhancement for acting on behalf of a government agency, and a four-level adjustment for acting as the organizer or leader. The court upheld the restitution calculation and application of general deterrence in his final sentencing. View "United States v. Sunmola" on Justia Law

by
28 U.S.C. 2255 jurisdiction does not reach the restitution part of a sentence where, as here, the restitution cannot be deemed custodial punishment. It is not the amount of restitution alone but, rather, the terms of payment that identify those rare cases in which a restitution order might equate to custodial punishment. The Second Circuit held that, because the challenged judgments in this case contemplate the payment of restitution on schedules yet to be set by the district court, defendants could not show on the present record that their restitution obligations were custodial punishments for purposes of section 2255 review. Therefore, the court vacated the judgments reducing restitution and remanded for reinstatement of original judgments. View "United States v. Rutigliano" on Justia Law

by
Baek purchased property through his LLC and obtained financing from Labe Bank; Frank was the loan officer. Frank later moved to NCB and asked Baek to move his business, representing that NCB would provide a larger construction loan at a lower rate. In 2006, Baek entered a construction loan with NCB for $11,750,000. Baek executed a loan agreement, mortgage, promissory note, and commercial guaranty. Baek’s wife did not sign the guaranty at closing. NCB maintains that, 18 months after closing, she signed a guaranty. One loan modification agreement bears her signature but Baek‐Lee contends that it was forged and that she was out of the country on the signing date. NCB repeatedly demanded additional collateral and refused to disburse funds to contractors. The Baeks claim that NCB frustrated Baek’s efforts to comply with its demands. In 2010, NCB filed state suits for foreclosure and on the guaranty. The Baeks filed affirmative defenses and a counterclaim, then filed a breach of contract and fraud suit against NCB. The Baeks later filed a federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1964(c), suit alleging fraud. The state court granted NCB summary judgment. The federal district court dismissed, citing res judicata. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. There has been a final judgment on the merits with the same parties, in state court, on claims arising from a single group of operative facts. View "Baek v. Clausen" on Justia Law

by
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's three convictions for wire fraud, but vacated his 36 month sentence. Applying the four factor test in Barker, the court held that defendant was not denied the right to a speedy trial. In this case, the district court did not err by concluding that the government made good-faith, diligent efforts to locate and arrest defendant. Furthermore, defendant failed to demonstrate actual prejudice. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to prove that he possessed culpable knowledge and intent necessary for his wire fraud convictions; the court rejected defendant's evidentiary challenges; but the district court's failure to address defendant personally about his right to allocution constituted plain error. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Cristiano Machado" on Justia Law

by
Dillard was the executive director of ACAP, an agency created by Alameda County and several cities. Daniels was the grants manager. The two married. The Agency was awarded a $500,000 Department of Health and Human Services AFI grant to fund programs for low-income people, who deposit money in an individual bank account, matched with federal AFI grant funds and equal nonfederal funds, which can be withdrawn for higher education, starting a business, or buying a house. Dillard and Daniels were charged with: Count I, conspiracy to commit grand theft by false pretenses in a letter to HHS “falsely attesting” that ACAP had more than $426,000 in non-federal match funds. Count 2: Grand theft by false pretenses by unlawfully taking grant funds exceeding $200,000. Count 3: Making a false account of public money. Count 4: Using public money for a purpose not authorized by law to fund Agency payroll and other expenses. Count 5: Dillard was charged with instructing employees to work on her residence at below-market rates and obtaining reimbursement for improper business expenses. Count 6: Preparing false documentary evidence regarding the residency status of Agency clients and a seminar agenda. They were convicted on Counts 2, 3, and 6. The court of appeal affirmed the Count 6 convictions but found the other convictions preempted by federal law. View "People v. Dillard" on Justia Law

by
The Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP), designed to increase recruiting to the Air National Guard during the “War on Terror” was run by Docupak, a private corporation. Docupak selected and trained Recruiting Assistants (RAs) to find and direct potential airmen to full-time recruiters. The program paid a $1,000 pre-loaded gift card upon actual enlistment of a potential airman and another $1,000 upon the airman’s completion of training. The RAs were to identify individuals that were not already working with a full-time recruiter and were prohibited from splitting the payment with full-time recruiters. Osborne, a full-time recruiter, was accused of referring names of pre-existing recruits to RA Andolsek so that they could claim the incentive, with kickbacks to Osborne. Osborne was charged with aiding Andolsek in embezzling from the Department of Defense, 18 U.S.C. 641; 18 U.S.C. 2, which “caused” the Department to reimburse Docupak for $9,000. Andolsek pleaded guilty and testified against Osborne. Osborne argued that the funds were stolen from a private contractor, so they only violated Docupak’s internal policy, not a federal regulation. The Sixth Circuit reversed Osborne’s conviction. No reasonable jury could have found that the funds were something of value to the government beyond a reasonable doubt, given the evidence of control. The government did not retain a reversionary interest in the funds and imposed few restrictions. Docupak gave the government access to information, but the government did not retain the right to conduct audits. View "United States v. Osborne" on Justia Law

by
Porter, the mayor of Paintsville, Kentucky, steered business and contracts to companies owned by his co-defendant, Crace, and ensured payment of a fraudulent invoice to Crace’s company, in return for payments disguised as loans. Porter was charged with theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(A), and bribery concerning such programs, section 666(a)(1)(B) and was sentenced to 48 months of imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the conviction under section 666(a)(1)(B) was unsupported by sufficient evidence and that the admission of a witness’s prior statements to investigators and the admission of another witness’s deposition testimony violated his confrontation rights. A conviction under section 666(a)(1)(B) does not require evidence of a quid pro quo “in connection with” any “official act.” It is enough if a defendant corruptly solicits anything of value with the intent to be influenced or rewarded in connection with some transaction involving property or services worth $5000 or more. Testimony concerning prior statements to investigators did not violate Porter’s confrontation rights because they were not offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. The government sufficiently demonstrated the unavailability of the deposition witness to testify at trial, so no Confrontation Clause violation occurred. View "United States v. Porter" on Justia Law