Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

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Guaranteed was a “reverse distributor,” paid by healthcare providers to return unused or expired pharmaceutical drugs to the drug manufacturers, for refunds for the healthcare-provider clients. Refunds were wired directly to Guaranteed’s general operating account; the company then issued refund checks to the relevant clients, less a service fee. In 2001, the Department of Defense contracted with Guaranteed. The government began investigating Guaranteed after the District of Columbia noticed that it did not receive the full refund on a return of some of its pharmaceuticals. The investigation uncovered a series of schemes that Guaranteed used to defraud its clients.Guaranteed, its CEO, and its CFO, were convicted of multiple counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and theft of government property. In addition to prison sentences, the court imposed more than $100 million in restitution and forfeitures. The Third Circuit reversed the money laundering convictions and remanded for resentencing. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, there is not sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged complex financial transactions—after the initial receipt of “commingled” fraudulent and lawfully obtained funds—were designed for "concealment money laundering." The court otherwise affirmed, rejecting challenges to a search warrant, the sufficiency of the evidence, the jury instructions, and the court’s refusal to permit proposed expert testimony. View "United States v. Fallon" on Justia Law

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Defendants appealed their convictions and the ensuing sentences on multiple counts arising out of their conspiracy to commit access device fraud. On appeal they argued that: (1) law enforcement agents violated their Fourth Amendment rights by illegally entering their house after arresting them; (2) the district court impermissibly lowered the government’s burden of proof during voir dire; (3) the district court erred in applying two-level enhancements to their base offense levels for possessing device-making equipment; (4) the district court erred in applying two-level aggravating-role enhancements; (5) their total sentences were procedurally unreasonable; and, finally, (6) their sentences, overall, were substantively unreasonable.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court the record demonstrates Defendants’ deep involvement in the planning and organization of the fraudulent scheme and their vital role in the commission of the offenses, as well as their involvement in decision-making and recruitment, all of which was far more extensive than the role played by the co-conspirator. To the extent Defendants argue that they could not both receive aggravating-role enhancements since they were equally involved, a defendant eligible for an aggravating-role enhancement “does not have to be the sole leader of the conspiracy for the enhancement to apply.” The district court did not clearly err in applying the aggravating-role enhancements to the brothers’ offense levels. Further, the court wrote that the district court imposed an otherwise substantively reasonable total sentence for each defendant. View "USA v. Igor Grushko, et al." on Justia Law

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In a case in which the Supreme Court vacated the Ninth Circuit’s decision filed April 7, 2020, and reported at 954 F.3d 1251 (9th Cir. 2020), the panel filed an amended order granting the government’s motion to reinstate portions of April 7, 2020, opinion, to the following extent:   The panel reversed the district court’s judgment on Counts Four (money laundering) and Ten (possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence). The panel affirmed—for the reasons explained in April 7, 2020, opinion—on all remaining Counts: One, Eight (conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery); Two (Hobbs Act robbery); Three (possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence); and Nine (attempt to commit Hobbs Act robbery). The panel remanded to the district court for resentencing consistent with United States v. Taylor, 596 U.S. —, 2022 WL 2203334 (June 21, 2022), which held that attempted Hobbs Act robbery does not qualify as a “crime of violence” under 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c)(3)(A) because no element of the offense requires proof that the defendant used, attempted to use, or threatened to use force. View "USA V. MONICO DOMINGUEZ" on Justia Law

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Appellants were charged with conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) statute and various other crimes. After a three-week trial, the jury returned guilty verdicts as to all three Appellants. Appellants now challenge their convictions and sentences on various grounds.   The DC Circuit affirmed the district court’s rulings finding none of Appellants’ challenges persuasive. The court explained that because “the factors upon which the probative value/prejudice evaluations were made are readily apparent from the record, and there is no substantial uncertainty about the correctness of the ruling,” reversal is not required. Further, the court found that the district court abused its discretion by allowing the Agent to testify regarding specific distances and ranges of distances because such testimony was neither disclosed pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16 nor vetted as required by Federal Rules of Evidence 702 and 403. Nevertheless, because the error was harmless, reversal is not warranted. View "USA v. Noe Machado-Erazo (AMENDED)" on Justia Law

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Armbruster, a CPA with experience working at a Big Four accounting firm, began serving as the controller for Roadrunner's predecessor in 1990 and became Roadrunner’s CFO. Roadrunner grew rapidly, acquiring transportation companies and going public in 2010. In 2014, Roadrunner’s then‐controller recognized shortcomings in a subsidiary's (Morgan) accounting and began investigating. In 2016, many deficiencies in Morgan’s accounting remained unresolved. The departing controller found that Morgan had inflated its balance sheet by at least $2 million and perhaps as much as $4–5 million. Armbruster filed Roadrunner's 2016 third quarter SEC Form 10‐Q with no adjustments of the carrying values of Morgan balance sheet items and including other misstatements. Roadrunner’s CEO learned of the misstatements and informed Roadrunner’s Board of Directors. Roadrunner informed its independent auditor. Roadrunner’s share price dropped significantly. Roadrunner filed restated financial statements, reporting a decrease of approximately $66.5 million in net income over the misstated periods.Criminal charges were brought against Armbruster and two former departmental controllers. A mixed verdict acquitted the departmental controllers on all counts but convicted Armbruster on four of 11 charges for knowingly falsifying Roadrunner‘s accounting records by materially misstating the carrying values of Morgan's receivable and prepaid taxes account, 15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(2), (5), i78ff(a), 18 U.S.C. 2, fraudulently influencing Roadrunner’s external auditor, and filing fraudulent SEC financial statements, 18 U.S.C.1348. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. While the case against Armbruster may not have been open‐and‐shut, a rational jury could have concluded that the government presented enough evidence to support the guilty verdicts. View "United States v. Armbruster" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted on all five counts of a 2011 indictment charging himself and two co-conspirators with a variety of offenses arising from a well-orchestrated scheme to circumvent American export controls designed to prevent dual-use commodities—goods with both civilian and military applications—from falling into the hands of adversaries like Iran. On appeal, Defendant seeks reversal and remand on three independent grounds.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court held that because of the Government’s diligence and Defendant’s evasiveness, the first two factors in the Barker balancing test weigh decidedly against Defendant’s speedy trial claim. The court wrote this is a case where a defendant who took steps to avoid being caught now faults the Government for not catching him sooner. Further, Defendant’s efforts to avoid apprehension cut against his speedy trial assertion in another way, as well—they betray a lack of diligence in asserting the right. Thus, because the Barker balancing test weighs overwhelmingly against Defendant, the district court was correct to deny his motion to dismiss for lack of speedy trial.   Finally, because the Sixth Amendment does not require a district court to render a particularized dissertation to justify a partial courtroom closure that is reasonable, neutral, and largely trivial (i.e., requiring spectators to watch and listen on live stream rather than in-person), the district court’s partial closure of Defendant’s jury trial was not unconstitutional. View "USA v. Ansari" on Justia Law

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Defendants 1 and 2 are siblings and were indicted on substantive counts of health care fraud, conspiracy to commit health care fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit money laundering related to their activities running a "pill mill." The District Court precluded evidence that Defendant 1 provided good care to his patients. The court also precluded evidence proffered by Defendant 2 (the younger sibling) that it is part of the Nigerian culture to defer to older siblings' decisions. Following their convictions, Defendant's challenged the court's evidentiary rulings as well as the sufficiency of the evidence.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed Defendants' convictions, rejecting all claims of error. The court also determined that the evidence was sufficient to support their convictions. View "USA v. Patrick Emeka Ifediba, et al" on Justia Law

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Defendants were convicted by a jury of conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) by interfering with its lawful functions and evasion of payment of taxes. On appeal, Defendants both challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting their convictions and raise challenges to a number of jury instructions.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court held that the district court’s denial of Defendant’s last-minute continuance request was not an abuse of discretion, and Defendant was not denied the counsel of his choice. Further, because Defendant failed to meaningfully address all four prongs of plain error review either in his opening brief or in reply, his constructive amendment challenge fails.   Further, the court wrote, that viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence showed that Defendant failed to report a substantial amount of income; influenced MyMail to amend its tax return to underreport how much income it distributed to Defendant; converted at least $1 million of income into gold coins; purchased a house with gold coins and transferred it to a trust controlled by a relative; and hid his income in Co-Defendant’s trust accounts and used the concealed funds to pay his living expenses for at least a decade, including during the years that the IRS Agent was contacting Defendants, as Defendant’s IRS power-of-attorney, in an attempt to collect Defendant’s unpaid tax liabilities. Based on the foregoing evidence, a reasonable jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt both willfulness and an affirmative act of evasion. View "USA v. Selgas" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his convictions for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, money laundering conspiracy, and conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970 (RICO).   The Ninth Circuit affirmed Defendant’s convictions. The panel held that sufficient evidence supported Defendant’s conviction for money laundering conspiracy, which required the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was an agreement to commit money laundering, Defendant knew the objective of the agreement, and Defendant joined the agreement with the intent to further its unlawful purpose. Defendant did not dispute that the CRO conspired to launder money by transferring extortionate “taxes” collected by foot soldiers to incarcerated gang leaders.   The panel concluded that there was sufficient evidence that Defendant himself knew of and intended to support the CRO’s money laundering, and that he was not convicted solely on the basis of his CRO membership. The panel held that, as related to the money laundering conspiracy charge, the district court did not plainly err in instructing the jury, in the course of generally defining the term “knowingly,” that the government was “not required to prove that the defendant knew that his acts or omissions were unlawful.”   The panel held that a conspiracy conviction can stand if one of the objects is only factually, but not legally, insufficient. Thus, even if there had been insufficient evidence for money laundering conspiracy, the RICO conviction would still stand because there was sufficient evidence for the other two valid predicate activities, drug distribution conspiracy and extortion. View "USA V. ALEXIS JAIMEZ" on Justia Law

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Several members of the Romania-based “Alexandria Online Auction Fraud Network,” including Nedelcu, were charged with conspiracy to violate RICO, 18 U.S.C 1962(d); conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1349; and conspiracy to commit money laundering, 18 U.S.C. 1956(h). Romania extradited Nedelcu to the U.S. He pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy in exchange for the dismissal of his other charges and admitted that the government could prove certain facts beyond a reasonable doubt including that a Confidential Source would, in accordance with Nedelcu’s instructions, launder the proceeds of fraud by exchanging fraud proceeds into bitcoin to conceal the source, nature, ownership, and control of those proceeds. Nedelcu and the CS laundered approximately $5,600. The PSR concluded that two money-laundering provisions applied: U.S.S.G. 2S1.1(b)(2)(B) increases a defendant’s offense level by two “[i]f the defendant was convicted under 18 U.S.C. 1956” and section 2S1.1(b)(3), provides that, if 2S1.1(b)(2)(B) applies and the offense involved “sophisticated laundering” a further two-level increase is necessary.With a Guidelines Range of 78-97 months’ imprisonment, the court imposed a sentence of 82 months. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Because the factual basis for Nedelcu’s plea agreement specifically established that he committed money laundering as a predicate for his RICO conviction, the Guidelines compelled the district court to sentence him “as if” he had been convicted of money laundering. View "United States v. Nedelcu" on Justia Law