Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

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Gan lived in Mexico and worked with U.S. associates to launder money for drug trafficking organizations. One of Gan’s couriers began cooperating with the government and participated undercover in three cash pickups coordinated by Gan. Recordings from those undercover operations and testimony from the courier were central to the government’s case. Gan was convicted on three counts of money laundering and one count of operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business but was acquitted on one count of participating in a money laundering conspiracy. He was sentenced to 168 months in prison.The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that a law enforcement expert improperly provided testimony interpreting communications the jury could have understood itself. Gan waived an argument that jury instruction misstated the mens rea required for the money-laundering convictions. The prosecution’s closing remarks were not improper. Binding Supreme Court precedent allows consideration of acquitted conduct at sentencing when, as in this case, the judge finds the conduct proved by a preponderance of the evidence. View "United States v. Gan" on Justia Law

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This securities fraud lawsuit arises from a series of statements made by K12, Inc., and two of its executives over the spring and summer of 2020. Plaintiffs, a class of K12 shareholders who acquired stock during that time, allege that the statements fraudulently misrepresented the state of K12’s business, thereby artificially inflating the cost of their shares. To survive dismissal under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (PSLRA), however, they must plead a “strong inference” of scienter, which requires establishing an inference of fraud to be “cogent and at least as compelling as any opposing inference.”   The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs claims because Plaintiffs do not satisfy the “heightened pleading instruction”. The court explained by including the language of “we believe,” the statement reflected not an incontestable fact but an individual perspective. The statement was couched as opinion, not as fact. While it is true that the prefatory clause contains an embedded assertion—that K12 is “an innovator in K-12 online education”— plaintiffs do not seriously contest this point. Nor do Plaintiffs deny, in more than conclusory fashion, that K12 “actually holds” its stated belief. Finally, Plaintiffs fail to show that K12’s opinion omitted necessary context. The company’s opinion was not simply emitted into the ether. It was made within the framework of a 10-K filing, where investors could have parsed the ample disclosures at their fingertips before succumbing to K12’s stated view. View "James Boykin v. K12, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of numerous wire fraud and money-laundering charges arising from a fraudulent scheme to cause the Department of Veterans Affairs to pay over $71 million in GI-Bill funding to his trade school. Defendant raised several challenges to his convictions and his sentence.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed in nearly all respects, except that it vacated the forfeiture order and remanded it for further proceedings. The court held that Defendant fails to show the evidence was insufficient to allow a rational jury to convict him on the money-laundering counts. Further, the court concluded that conclude that the indictment was not faulty and the district court did not err in declining to order a bill of particulars.   Moreover, the court explained that illegally provided services that could have “hypothetically” been provided in a “legal manner”—like Defendant’s operation of the school—implicate the second definition of proceeds under Section 981(a)(2)(B), under which a defendant may deduct “the direct costs incurred in providing the goods or services.” The focus of any Section 981(a)(2) analysis is the underlying criminal conduct, not the crime itself.   That subsection further provides that Defendant “shall have the burden of proof with respect to the issue of direct costs” and also that those costs “shall not include any part of the overhead expenses of the entity providing the goods and services, or any part of the income taxes paid by the entity.” Therefore the court remanded for determining whether Defendant can prove any offset under the terms of Section 981(a)(2)(B). View "USA v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Defendant Troy Gregory, a former senior vice president of University National Bank (UNB) in Lawrence, Kansas, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, four counts of bank fraud, and two counts of making false bank entries. These charges arose from Defendant’s arrangement of a $15.2 million loan by 26 banks to fund an apartment development by established clients of UNB. After a ten-day trial, including two days of deliberations, a jury found Defendant guilty on all counts except the conspiracy count, on which the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict. The court sentenced Defendant to 60 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Defendant appealed the district court’s denial of: (1) his motion for a judgment of acquittal; and (2) his motion for a new trial on the ground that the government’s extended hypothetical in closing argument was not based on facts in evidence and constituted prosecutorial misconduct. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court, finding defendant’s conviction was supported by sufficient evidence and the government’s closing argument was rooted in evidence presented at trial or reasonable inferences drawn from that evidence. View "United States v. Gregory" on Justia Law

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Defendant was sentenced to 22 years for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and for three substantive wire-fraud counts, based on the three wire transmissions sent to victims in Maryland.The Fourth Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. The court explained that Defendant hatched a massive fraudulent scheme that targeted victims in the United States using wires in the United States. Even though the court agreed that the wire-fraud statute does not apply extraterritorially, its focus is the misuse of wires in the United States for fraudulent purposes, so Defendant was convicted of the domestic act of using wires in the United States. The district court did not err in refusing to impose the extraordinary remedy of granting use immunity to witnesses, and the court sufficiently cleansed the proceeding of any prejudice caused by the juror who overheard outside the discussion of the defendant. Any error based on the district court’s consideration of Defendant’s extraterritorial conduct at sentencing was harmless. But the district court too broadly imposed restitution, so the court remanded for a new restitution order. Finally, the court did not plainly err when imposing supervised release conditions, and the conditions were both reasonable and constitutional. The conviction and sentence are therefore affirmed except for the restitution order. View "US v. Lee Elbaz" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's sentence of twenty-four months' imprisonment imposed in connection with his plea of guilty to health care fraud, holding that the sentence was neither procedurally nor substantively unreasonable.Defendant pleaded guilty to health care fraud for his multiyear scheme to defraud MaineCare, a state-run program that administers Medicaid benefits in the state of Maine and reimburses Maine health care providers for MaineCare services. After a hearing, the court varied downward and imposed a sentence of twenty-four months' imprisonment. The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's sentence, holding (1) the district court did not err in its loss calculations or in imposing a four-level leader/organizer enhancement; and (2) Defendant's downward variant sentence satisfied the substantive reasonableness standard. View "United States v. Ahmed" on Justia Law

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As early as 2009, Dickey recruited followers for her church, “DTM,” grooming vulnerable victims and forcing them to disavow their families, live in the church, and work multiple full-time jobs. The victims gave Dickey all their wages, which she kept for herself. She required multiple victims to find employment at Hyatt hotels, where Dickey forced them to falsify reservation bookings, thereby fraudulently misdirecting kickbacks to Dickey’s own travel company. If someone disobeyed, Dickey threatened them with violence and required them to be homeless until she considered them redeemed. Her scheme netted $1.5 million, most of which came from DTM members. She spent over $1 million on personal expenses, such as travel, rental and vacation properties, and luxury hotels.The Seventh Circuit affirmed Dickey’s convictions for wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, and forced labor, 18 U.S.C. 1589, upholding the district court’s denial of her fourth motion to continue her trial, rejection of a proposed jury instruction regarding religious liberty, and the imposition of restitution ordering her to pay for future mental health treatment for her victims. Dickey’s proposed instruction would have excused her criminal conduct based on her religious assertions and was not an accurate statement of the law. View "United States v. Dickey" on Justia Law

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Memphis attorney Skouteris practiced plaintiff-side, personal injury law. He routinely settled cases without permission, forged client signatures on settlement checks, and deposited those checks into his own account. Skouteris was arrested on state charges, was disbarred, and was indicted in federal court for bank fraud. At Skouteris’s federal trial, lay testimony suggested that Skouteris was not acting under any sort of diminished cognitive capacity. Two psychologists examined Skouteris. The defense expert maintained that Skouteris suffered from a “major depressive disorder,” “alcohol use disorder,” and “seizure disorder,” which began during Skouteris’s college football career, which, taken together, would have “significantly limited” Skouteris’s “ability to organize his mental efforts.” The government’s expert agreed that Skouteris suffered from depression and alcohol use disorder but concluded that Skouteris was “capable of having the mental ability to form and carry out complex thoughts, schemes, and plans.” Skouteris’s attorney unsuccessfully sought a jury instruction that evidence of “diminished mental capacity” could provide “reasonable doubt that” Skouteris had the “requisite culpable state of mind.”Convicted, Skouteris had a sentencing range of 46-57 months, with enhancements for “losses,” abusing a position of trust or using a special skill, and committing an offense that resulted in “substantial financial hardship” to at least one victim. The district court varied downward for a sentence of 30 months plus restitution of $147,406. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence, the jury instructions, and the sentence. View "United States v. Skouteris" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff brought this putative class action against more than twenty banks and brokers, alleging a conspiracy to manipulate two benchmark rates known as Yen-LIBOR and Euroyen TIBOR. Plaintiff brought claims under the Commodity Exchange Act (“CEA”), and the Sherman Antitrust Act, and sought leave to assert claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). The district court dismissed the CEA and antitrust claims and denied leave to add the RICO claims. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the district court erred by holding that the CEA claims were impermissibly extraterritorial, that he lacked antitrust standing to assert a Sherman Act claim, and that he failed to allege proximate causation for his proposed RICO claims.   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the conduct—i.e., that the bank defendants presented fraudulent submissions to an organization based in London that set a benchmark rate related to a foreign currency—occurred almost entirely overseas. Indeed, Plaintiff fails to allege any significant acts that took place in the United States. Plaintiff’s CEA claims are based predominantly on foreign conduct and are thus impermissibly extraterritorial. Further, the court wrote that the district court also correctly concluded that Plaintiff lacked antitrust standing because he would not be an efficient enforcer of the antitrust laws. Lastly, the court agreed that Plaintiff failed to allege proximate causation for his RICO claims. View "Laydon v. Coöperatieve Rabobank U.A., et al." on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted after a jury trial of conspiracy to commit mail, wire, and bank fraud. On appeal, Defendant argued that her pretrial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to transmit a plea offer from the government to Defendant before it expired, thereby depriving her of the chance to plead guilty under the terms of the offer.   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment of conviction. The court concluded that Defendant has waived any claim that the alleged error violated her Sixth Amendment rights. Unlike the defendant in Frye, Defendant learned of her expired plea offer and received new court-appointed counsel two months before trial. She nonetheless chose to go to trial rather than to plead guilty or to petition the court for reinstatement of the offer. This knowing and the voluntary choice was inconsistent with seeking the benefit of the expired plea offer and thus constitutes waiver.
The court further found that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of Defendant’s other fraudulent activity that was similar and/or related to the charged conduct; the court did not err by allowing the government to introduce certain “red flag” emails from an outside attorney for the limited purpose of proving her knowledge, and the court’s decision to instruct the jury on conscious avoidance was proper. View "United States v. Graham" on Justia Law