Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for healthcare fraud and conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. The court held that sufficient evidence supported defendant's convictions, and that the indictment was plainly sufficient. The court rejected defendant's two evidentiary claims, holding that the district court did not err in permitting an FBI forensic accountant to testify as a lay witness or in allowing a government witness to testify as an expert. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's motions for continuance; there was no cumulative error requiring reversal; and the district court did not clearly err in calculating the loss amount and thus the guidelines range. View "United States v. Chalker" on Justia Law

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Blake, who has an MBA, engaged in a fraudulent tax scheme but claims unnamed users in internet chat rooms persuaded him to pursue his hidden federal “legacy trusts.” Blake filed eight different individual tax returns using fraudulent information, at one point faking his own death. He was convicted of presenting a false or fictitious claim to a U.S. agency, 18 U.S.C. 287, and theft of government money, 18 U.S.C. 641. Blake’s base offense level was six; 16 levels were added for an intended loss in excess of $1.5 million (U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(1)(I)). Two more levels were added for obstruction of justice (3C1.1). Blake’s guidelines range was 51–63 months' imprisonment. Blake objected to including in the loss calculation $900,000 in claimed refunds in the 2008–2010 filings, arguing he was not responsible for those filings. He also claimed $300,000 should be the intended loss amount because he intended to obtain only his “legacy trust” funds which he believed were about that amount. Under Blake’s calculations, his guidelines range was 33–41 months. The district court rejected his arguments. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his sentence of 36 months in prison plus restitution. The district court did not commit reversible error. Blake's ineffective assistance of counsel claim was dismissed without prejudice as “better raised on collateral review.” View "United States v. Blake" on Justia Law

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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