Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

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In two civil enforcement actions, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgments against the trustee and the trust (collectively, "defendants") and the imposition of civil fines in excess of $6 million. The court held that the trial court's judgments did not violate the double jeopardy clause, because the allegations and evidence before the trial court were insufficient to show that the earlier criminal complaint was based on the same offenses as the civil actions. The court also held that the $5,967,500 in civil penalties were not unconstitutionally excessive under the four-part Bajakajian test. The court rejected defendants' contention that neither the trial court nor the city had the authority to require the trustee to evict the dispensaries. Finally, the court held that the medical-marijuana regulations were not void for vagueness, and the trial court did not err in holding the trustee personally liable for the civil penalties and other relief imposed against him in each of the judgments. View "People v. Braum" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's convictions of securities and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) there was sufficient evidence to sustain Defendant's convictions and that, to the extent that the jury instructions may have been overbroad, any error was harmless; (2) this Court need not address whether the wire fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. 1343, applies extraterritorially because Defendant was convicted under a proper domestic application of the statute; and (3) the district court correctly determined that it lacked the authority to order the government to lodge Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties requests with the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to seek evidence that may have been favorable to Defendant's defense. View "United States v. McLellan" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's order of restitution, imposed after defendant pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud in 2018 for submitting false expense-reimbursement forms to the Department of Labor. The court held that the restitution order was proper under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act because all of the losses resulted from the same "scheme," even though some occurred outside the limitations period for the underlying crime. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion by ordering defendant to pay $72,207.16 in restitution. View "United States v. Parnell" on Justia Law

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Defendants were convicted of conspiracy to engage in Medicare and Medicaid fraud in their operation of a home healthcare business, continuing over a period of three years and causing over $3.5 million in losses. The Fifth Circuit affirmed Defendants Emordi and Isidaehomen's conviction, holding that the evidence was sufficient for the jury to find that defendants knew of and voluntarily joined the conspiracy. The court also affirmed the district court's imposition of a two-level enhancement to Defendant Okwilagwe's sentence for an offense involving 10 or more victims; affirmed an enhancement under USSG 2B1.1(b)(1)(J) for an intended loss between $3.5 million and $9.5 million; and affirmed the restitution amount. Finally, the court affirmed Defendant Etti's sentence, holding that the district court did not plainly err by imposing the below-Guidelines sentence that was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Emordi" on Justia Law

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Freelance bookkeeper Elizabeth Mulder perpetrated a nearly five-year fraud against her client, plaintiff Kurtz-Ahlers. Both Kurtz-Ahlers and Mulder coincidentally had their checking accounts at defendant Bank of America (the Bank). Mulder ran her scam through her account at the Bank. After discovering the fraud, Kurtz-Ahlers notified the Bank and made a claim for its losses. The Bank denied the claim and Kurtz-Ahlers sued the Bank for negligence. After a two-week jury trial, the trial court granted the Bank’s motion for nonsuit, essentially holding the Bank owed Kurtz-Ahlers no duty to investigate or monitor Mulder’s account. Finding no reversible error in that conclusion, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Kurtz-Ahlers, LLC v. Bank of America N.A." on Justia Law

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During former New Jersey Governor Christie’s 2013 reelection campaign, Fort Lee’s mayor refused to endorse Christie. Kelly, Christie's Deputy Chief of Staff, Port Authority Deputy Executive Director, Baroni, and another official decided to reduce from three to one the number of lanes reserved at the George Washington Bridge’s toll plaza for Fort Lee’s commuters. To disguise the political retribution, the lane realignment was said to be for a traffic study. Port Authority traffic engineers were asked to collect some numbers. An extra toll collector was paid overtime. The lane realignment caused four days of gridlock, ending only when the Port Authority’s Executive Director learned of the scheme. The Third Circuit affirmed the convictions of Baroni and Kelly for wire fraud, fraud on a federally funded program, and conspiracy to commit those crimes. The Supreme Court reversed. The scheme did not aim to obtain money or property. The wire fraud statute refers to “any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses,” 18 U.S.C. 1343. The federal-program fraud statute bars “obtain[ing] by fraud” the “property” (including money) of a federally funded program or entity, section 666(a)(1)(A). The statutes are limited to the protection of property rights and do not authorize federal prosecutors to set standards of good government. The Court rejected arguments that the defendants sought to take control of the Bridge’s physical lanes or to deprive the Port Authority of the costs of compensating employees. Their realignment of the access lanes was an exercise of regulatory power; a scheme to alter a regulatory choice is not one to take government property. The time and labor of the employees were an incidental byproduct of that regulatory object. Neither defendant sought to obtain the services that the employees provided. View "Kelly v. United States" on Justia Law

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Galeotti, a former Union Local 3 employee, filed a complaint against Local 3 and three of individual union leaders, alleging that the individual defendants required union employees to pay them money to keep their jobs, lied about the reason for collecting the money, and caused Local 3 to terminate Galeotti’s employment when he failed to pay the full amount demanded. The trial court dismissed his second amended complaint without leave to amend. The court of appeal reversed in part, reasoning that a threat to terminate employment can provide a basis for an extortion claim and that the allegations of the second amended complaint stated a cause of action for wrongful termination in violation of the public policy underlying the extortion statutes. The complaint stated a cause of action for violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO; 18 U.S.C. 1961), based on the predicate acts of extortion, but did not state a cause of action for interference with prospective economic advantage. View "Galeotti v. International Union of Operating Engineers" on Justia Law

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Respondent Rick Quinn, Jr. was a former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, representing constituents in Richland and Lexington counties from 1989-2004 and 2010-2017 and serving as House Majority Leader from 1999- 2004. He owned and operated a mail business called Mail Marketing Strategies (MMS) in Columbia, while his father owned and operated a political consulting firm, Richard Quinn & Associates (RQ&A). In 2014, Attorney General Alan Wilson designated First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe as special prosecutor to conduct a State grand jury investigation into alleged public corruption committed by current and former members of the South Carolina General Assembly. This case arose from a prior state grand jury investigation of former House Speaker Bobby Harrell, which resulted in six counts of misusing campaign funds, to which he pleaded guilty. During the course of the investigation into Speaker Harrell, SLED uncovered potentially criminal conduct by Representative Jimmy Merrill and Representative Rick Quinn, and a second grand jury investigation was initiated to investigate the conduct of these individuals. The investigation focused on Quinn's practice of using his office as House Majority Leader and leader of the House Republican Caucus to direct mailing and political services to his family's businesses. Quinn only admitted to a limited set of facts supporting the indictment. Believing the plea lacked a sufficient basis, the State moved to vacate Quinn's guilty plea, reconsider the sentence, and for the trial court's recusal. The State appealed the order denying its motions. After review, the South Carolina Supreme Court determined that the State could not appeal the guilty plea, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing, and there was no evidence of judicial bias or prejudice requiring the court to recuse itself. Therefore, the Court dismissed the State's appeal of the guilty plea, and affirmed as to all other issues. View "South Carolina v. Quinn" on Justia Law

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VOG billed itself as an advocacy group helping victims of timeshare fraud get out of their timeshare debts. A jury determined that VOG had actually defrauded its customers and that three individual defendants (including Lacerda) were each knowing participants in that fraud. Lacerda was sentenced to 324 months’ imprisonment for his leading role in the fraudulent enterprise. The Third Circuit affirmed the respective convictions and sentences. The court rejected a claim of impermissible “overview testimony” by an FBI agent; an officer who is familiar with an investigation or was personally involved may tell the story of that investigation—how the investigation began, who was involved, and what techniques were used, and, with a proper foundation, may offer lay opinion testimony and testify about matters within his personal knowledge. The district court did not abuse its discretion when it disqualified defense counsel based on a conflict of interest; when it denied replacement counsel’s motion for a continuance; when it excluded from evidence, as hearsay, an email sent by Lacerda to VOG’s former CFO; in exercising its sentencing discretion; or by ordering the forfeiture of all VOG’s gross proceeds. View "United States v. Lacerda" on Justia Law

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The City of Almaty, in Kazakhstan, filed suit against defendant and his family under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), alleging that they engaged in a scheme to defraud the city of millions of dollars. The City claimed that it was forced to spend money and resources in the United States to trace where its money was laundered. The district court dismissed the City's claim on the basis that it failed to state a domestic injury pursuant to the Supreme Court's recent decision in RJR Nabisco, Inc. v. European Community, 136 S. Ct. 2090 (2016). The Ninth Circuit held that the City failed to state any cognizable injury other than the foreign theft of its funds, and its voluntary expenditures were not proximately caused by defendants' acts of money laundering. In this case, the City's expenditure of funds to trace its allegedly stolen funds is a consequential damage of the initial theft suffered in Kazakhstan and is not causally connected to the predicate act of money laundering. View "City of Almaty v. Khrapunov" on Justia Law