Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a motion brought by plaintiffs, four affiliated Chinese companies, seeking to dismiss an indictment charging violations of the criminal provisions of the Economic Espionage Act. The Pangang Companies moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that they are "instrumentalities" of the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and are therefore entitled to sovereign immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA).After determining that it had appellate jurisdiction, the panel concluded that, in moving to dismiss the indictment, the Pangang Companies failed to carry their burden to make a prima facie showing that they are instrumentalities of a foreign sovereign within the meaning of the FSIA. In this case, the allegations of the indictment, standing alone, are insufficient to establish that the Pangang Companies were instrumentalities of the PRC on the date they were indicted. The panel explained that, because the Pangang Companies relied solely upon the indictment’s allegations, and presented no evidence to support their motion to dismiss, they necessarily failed to establish a prima facie case that they were foreign states entitled to immunity under section 1604 of the FSIA. Therefore, the motion to dismiss was properly denied. View "United States v. Pangang Group Co." on Justia Law

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Jereno Kinslow's felony conviction for computer trespass was premised on evidence that Kinslow altered his employer’s computer network settings so that e-mail messages meant for Kinslow’s boss would also be copied and forwarded to Kinslow’s personal e-mail account. The Court of Appeals affirmed Kinslow’s conviction, and the Georgia Supreme Court granted Kinslow’s petition for certiorari, posing the question of whether Kinslow’s conduct constituted a violation of OCGA 16-9-93 (b)(2). The Court found that although the statute in general was extremely broad, the portion of (b)(2) on which the State exclusively relied did not reach Kinslow’s conduct. Accordingly, the Supreme Court concluded the evidence presented at Kinslow’s trial was insufficient to support his conviction under Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979), and thus reversed. View "Kinslow v. Georgia" on Justia Law

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Guy Jean-Pierre, a corporate and securities attorney, aided an illegal stock trading operation. Through a series of self-dealing transactions, Jean-Pierre and his co-conspirators artificially inflated stock prices of a company they controlled. Jean- Pierre sent letters on the company’s behalf to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) that contained false and misleading information and omitted material information from disclosures to potential investors. Jean-Pierre appealed his convictions for conspiracy to commit securities fraud and securities fraud as to four of the twenty-eight counts of conviction, arguing the district court erred in admitting evidence that he had previously used his niece’s signature without her permission to submit attorney letters to a stock trading website. Jean- Pierre also argued that three of the four convictions should have been reversed because the district court declined to give a requested instruction reiterating the government’s burden as to a specific factual theory. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Jean-Pierre" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit rejected the efforts of the two defendants in this consolidated appeal to retroactively vacate the forfeiture judgment against them, holding that neither defendant was entitled to relief on their claims of error.The defendants in this case were Donna Saccoccia and her brother, Vincent Hurley. Defendants were convicted for their role in a money laundering conspiracy controlled by Donna's husband, Stephen Saccoccia. In this appeal, Defendants appealed the district court's denial of Donna's petition for a writ of error coram nobis - a petition that Hurley sought to adopt - seeking vacate of a forfeiture judgment of approximately $136 million in proceeds from the conspiracy, arguing that the Supreme Court's decision in Honeycutt v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 1626 (2017), should be applied retroactively to invalidate the forfeiture judgments against them. The First Circuit denied relief, holding (1) Donna's efforts to apply Honeycutt retroactively were unavailing for the same grounds applicable to Stephen, whose same attempt this Court recently rejected; and (2) Hurley waived his argument on appeal. View "United States v. Saccoccia" on Justia Law

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Over the course of a few years, an employee of Severin Mobile Towing Inc. (Severin) took about $157,000 in checks made payable to Severin’s d/b/a, endorsed them with what appears to be his own name or initials, and deposited them into his personal account at JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A. (Chase). Because the employee deposited all the checks at automated teller machines (ATM’s), and because each check was under $1,500, Chase accepted each check without “human review.” When Severin eventually discovered the embezzlement, it sued Chase for negligence and conversion under California’s version of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), and for violating the unfair competition law. Severin moved for summary judgment on its conversion cause of action, and Chase moved for summary judgment of all of Severin’s claims, asserting affirmative defenses under the UCC, and that claims as to 34 of the 211 stolen checks were time- barred. The trial court granted Chase’s motion on statute of limitations and California Uniform Commercial Law section 3405 grounds; the court did not reach UCL section 3406. The court denied Severin’s motion as moot, and entered judgment for Chase. On appeal, Severin argued only that the court erred in granting summary judgment to Chase on Severin’s conversion cause of action (and, by extension, the derivative UCL cause of action). Specifically, Severin argued the court erroneously granted summary judgment under section 3405 because Chase failed to meet its burden of establishing that Severin’s employee fraudulently indorsed the stolen checks in a manner “purporting to be that of [his] employer.” Severin further argued factual disputes about its reasonableness in supervising its employee precluded summary judgment under section 3406. The Court of Appeal agreed with Severin in both respects, and therefore did not reach the merits of Chase’s claim that its automated deposit procedures satisfied the applicable ordinary care standard. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Severin Mobile Towing, Inc. v. JPMorgan Chase etc." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit followed the logical course charted by longstanding precedent to reach two conclusions with respect to 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(2): first, the "agent" of a federally funded organization need not have control over the federal funds, and the agent need not work in a specific program within the organization that uses those federal dollars; and second, the "business" of a federally funded organization need not be commercial in nature.The court affirmed Defendants Dawkins and Code's conviction for conspiracy to commit bribery in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371 and 666(a)(2), as well as Dawkins's conviction of substantive bribery in violation of section 666(a)(2). Defendants' convictions stemmed from their involvement in a scheme to bribe basketball coaches at NCAA Division I universities in exchange for the coaches' agreement to steer their student-athletes toward Dawkins's sports management company after leaving college and becoming professional basketball players.In this case, the court concluded that the superseding indictment properly alleged a violation of section 666(a)(2); the Government proved a violation of section 666(a)(2) where section 666(a)(2) does not require a nexus between the "agent" of a federally funded organization and the federal funds the organization receives, and the bribes paid by defendants to the university basketball coaches in exchange for influence exerted over student-athletes were "in connection" with a university's "business;" the statute is constitutional as applied to defendants; the district court did not abuse its discretion when making the challenged evidentiary rulings; and the district court made no reversible errors in providing the challenged jury instructions. View "United States v. Dawkins" on Justia Law

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Metaxas was the president and CEO of Gateway Bank in 2008, during the financial crisis. Federal regulators categorized Gateway as a “troubled institution.” Gateway tried to raise capital and deal with its troubled assets. Certain transactions resulted in a lengthy investigation. The U.S. Attorney became involved. Metaxas was indicted. In 2015, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Gateway sued Metaxas based on two transactions involving Ideal Mortgage: a March 2009 $3.65 million working capital loan and a November 2009 $757,000 wire transfer. A court-appointed referee awarded Gateway $250,000 in tort-of-another damages arising from “the fallout” from the first transaction, and $132,000 in damages for the second.The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that the first transaction resulted in “substantial benefit” to Gateway and that Metaxas had no alternative but to approve the wire transfer. Gateway did not ask for any purported “benefit.” The evidence showed that the Board would not have approved either the toxic asset sale or the working capital loan if Metaxas had disclosed the true facts. Metaxas damaged Gateway’s reputation. Metaxas knew that the government was trying to shut Ideal down but approved the wire transfer on the last business day before Ideal was shut down, by expressly, angrily, overruling the CFO. View "Gateway Bank, F.S.B. v. Metaxas" on Justia Law

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Former Georgia police sergeant Van Buren used his credentials on a patrol-car computer to access a law enforcement database to retrieve license plate information in exchange for money. His conduct violated a department policy against obtaining database information for non-law-enforcement purposes. The Eleventh Circuit upheld Van Buren's conviction for a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 (CFAA), which covers anyone who “intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access,” 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(2), defined to mean “to access a computer with authorization and to use such access to obtain or alter information in the computer that the accesser is not entitled so to obtain or alter.”The Supreme Court reversed. An individual “exceeds authorized access” when he accesses a computer with authorization but then obtains information located in particular areas of the computer (files, folders, databases) that are off-limits to him. Van Buren “access[ed] a computer with authorization” and “obtain[ed] . . . information in the computer.” The phrase “is not entitled so to obtain” refers to information one is not allowed to obtain by using a computer that he is authorized to access.“Without authorization” protects computers themselves from outside hackers; the “exceeds authorized access” clause protects certain information within computers from "inside hackers." One either can or cannot access a computer system, and one either can or cannot access certain areas within the system. The Act’s precursor to the “exceeds authorized access” language covered any person who, “having accessed a computer with authorization, uses the opportunity such access provides for purposes to which such authorization does not extend.” Congress removed any reference to “purpose” in the CFAA. On the government’s reading, an employee who sends a personal e-mail or reads the news using a work computer may have violated the CFAA. View "Van Buren v. United States" on Justia Law

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Jarigese was the vice president of Castle Construction and the president of its successor, Tower, when he signed three contracts for public construction projects. Each contract was designated by Markham’s mayor, Webb, as “design-build” projects, not subject to a public bidding process. Webb invited only one company to submit a proposal for a new city hall, a senior living facility, and the renovation and expansion of a park district building. Webb signed each contract on behalf of Markham. Webb solicited bribes, which were paid to KAT Remodeling. Webb later testified that he had formed KAT years earlier and used its bank account as a repository for bribes. KAT never performed work of any kind. Jarigese hand-delivered bribes, by check and by cash. Webb understood that Jarigese had created an invoice from KAT to disguise the nature of the payment. Evidence at trial showed that Webb solicited bribes from others, using the same pattern.The Seventh Circuit affirmed Jarigese’s convictions for nine counts of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343 and 1346, and one count of bribery, 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(2). Evidence of Webb’s solicitation of other bribes was not evidence of “other bad acts” but rather was directly relevant to proving the charged scheme. The evidence was sufficient to support the convictions and there was no evidence of unwarranted discrepancy with respect to Jarigese’s 41-month sentence. View "United States v. Jarigese" on Justia Law

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Jensen was charged as a coconspirator in a felony indictment alleging a scheme under which members of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department issued hard-to-obtain concealed firearms permits in exchange for substantial donations to an independent expenditure committee supporting the reelection campaign of Sheriff Smith. Jensen is a sheriff’s department captain identified as the individual within the sheriff’s department who facilitated the conspiracy. Jensen unsuccessfully moved to disqualify the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting him, alleging that that office leaked grand jury transcripts to the press days before the transcripts became public which created a conflict of interest requiring disqualification. He also joined in codefendant Schumb’s motion to disqualify the office due to Schumb’s friendship with District Attorney Rosen and Rosen’s chief assistant, Boyarsky.The court of appeal rejected Jensen’s arguments for finding a conflict of interest requiring disqualification: the grand jury transcript leak, Schumb’s relationships with Rosen and Boyarsky, and a dispute between Rosen and Sheriff Smith about access to recordings of county jail inmate phone calls. The trial court could reasonably conclude Jensen did not demonstrate that the district attorney’s office was the source of the leak. Jensen himself does not have a personal relationship with Rosen or Boyarsky. The trial court could reasonably conclude that Jensen did not establish a conflict of interest based on the existence of a dispute between the district attorney and the elected official with supervisory power over Jensen. View "Jensen v. Superior Court" on Justia Law