Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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Plaintiffs here were Bryan Behrens, Bryan Behrens Co., Inc., National Investments, Inc., and Thomas Stalnaker. Defendants were Christian Blunk, Berkshire and Blunk, and Abrahams Kaslow & Cassman LLP. In 2008, the SEC filed a civil enforcement action against all plaintiffs except Stalnaker. In 2009, the federal government indicted Behrens on charges of securities fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. Prior to the filing of the indictment, Plaintiffs filed their complaint alleging that Blunk had committed legal malpractice. Plaintiffs also sued Blunk's former partnership and the firm that later employed Blunk. Both civil and criminal cases were proceeding at roughly the same time. In 2010, Behrens pled guilty to securities fraud. Later that year, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint against Defendants for legal malpractice. The district court found the action was barred by the applicable statute of limitations and by the doctrine of in pari delicto. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs' suit was barred by the two-year statute of limitations set forth in Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-222.View "Behrens v. Blunk" on Justia Law

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After a grand jury indicted the Kaleys for reselling stolen medical devices and laundering the proceeds, the government obtained a restraining order against their assets under 21 U.S.C. 853(e)(1), to “preserve the availability of [forfeitable] property” while criminal proceedings are pending. An order is available if probable cause exists to think that a defendant has committed an offense permitting forfeiture and the disputed assets are traceable or sufficiently related to the crime. The Kaleys moved to vacate the order, to use disputed assets for their legal fees. The district court allowed them to challenge traceability to the crimes but not the facts supporting the underlying indictment. The Eleventh Circuit and Supreme Court affirmed. In challenging a section 853(e)(1) pre-trial seizure, an indicted defendant is not entitled to contest the grand jury determination of probable cause to believe the defendant committed the crimes. A probable cause finding sufficient to initiate prosecution for a serious crime is conclusive and, generally, a challenge to the reliability or competence of evidence supporting that finding will not be heard. A grand jury’s probable cause finding may effect a pre-trial restraint on a person’s liberty or property. Because the government’s interest in freezing potentially forfeitable assets without an adversarial hearing about the probable cause underlying criminal charges and the Kaleys’ interest in retaining counsel of their own choosing are both substantial, the issue boils down to the “probable value, if any,” of a judicial hearing in uncovering mistaken grand jury probable cause findings. The legal standard is merely probable cause, however, and the grand jury has already made that finding; a full-dress hearing will provide little benefit. View "Kaley v. United States" on Justia Law

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After a grand jury indicted the Kaleys for reselling stolen medical devices and laundering the proceeds, the government obtained a restraining order against their assets under 21 U.S.C. 853(e)(1), to “preserve the availability of [forfeitable] property” while criminal proceedings are pending. An order is available if probable cause exists to think that a defendant has committed an offense permitting forfeiture and the disputed assets are traceable or sufficiently related to the crime. The Kaleys moved to vacate the order, to use disputed assets for their legal fees. The district court allowed them to challenge traceability to the crimes but not the facts supporting the underlying indictment. The Eleventh Circuit and Supreme Court affirmed. In challenging a section 853(e)(1) pre-trial seizure, an indicted defendant is not entitled to contest the grand jury determination of probable cause to believe the defendant committed the crimes. A probable cause finding sufficient to initiate prosecution for a serious crime is conclusive and, generally, a challenge to the reliability or competence of evidence supporting that finding will not be heard. A grand jury’s probable cause finding may effect a pre-trial restraint on a person’s liberty or property. Because the government’s interest in freezing potentially forfeitable assets without an adversarial hearing about the probable cause underlying criminal charges and the Kaleys’ interest in retaining counsel of their own choosing are both substantial, the issue boils down to the “probable value, if any,” of a judicial hearing in uncovering mistaken grand jury probable cause findings. The legal standard is merely probable cause, however, and the grand jury has already made that finding; a full-dress hearing will provide little benefit. View "Kaley v. United States" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendants, Catherine Floyd and William Dion, were convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States of payroll and income taxes and endeavoring to obstruct and impede the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions; (2) the district court did not err in failing to suppress certain evidence; (3) the district court did not err in denying Defendants’ motions for severance and in trying Defendants jointly with their coconspirator; (4) Defendants’ claim that the IRS’s failure to comply with the Federal Register Act engendered dismissal of some of the charges was without merit; and (5) the district court did not err in sentencing Dion. View "United States v. Dion" on Justia Law

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After losing his job as a stockbroker and financial advisor and his accompanying health insurance, Appellant applied for and received subsidized health insurance for several years. Russell represented on each application that he had no income to report and was unemployed, but Appellant was working under the table during those years. After a government investigation and an ensuing jury trial, Appellant was convicted of making false statements in connection with the payment of health care benefits. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the jury instruction on the definition of willfulness was not error; (2) the government presented sufficient evidence that Appellant's false statements were material to support the conviction; (3) the district court did not err in excluding certain testimony as state-of-mind hearsay; and (4) neither the prosecutor's statements during closing arguments nor his questions in eliciting testimony from a witness necessitated reversal. View "United States v. Russell" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendants Salvatore DiMasi, the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and Richard McDonough, a lobbyist, were convicted of several crimes, including honest-services fraud and conspiracy to commit honest-services fraud, resulting from a scheme to funnel money to DiMasi in exchange for political favors. The district court sentenced DiMasi to ninety-six months' imprisonment and McDonough to eight-four months' imprisonment. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions and sentences, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendants' convictions; (2) the trial court did not prejudicially err in instructing the jury; (3) the trial court did not err in its challenged evidentiary rulings; and (4) the trial court did not err in sentencing Defendants. View "United States v. McDonough" on Justia Law

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Defendants in this case were a Puerto Rico legislator and a Commonwealth businessman who were charged with unlawfully exchanging favorable action on legislation for a trip to Las Vegas to attend a prize fight. After a jury trial, Defendants were convicted of, inter alia, federal program bribery in violation of 18 U.S.C. 666. Defendants appealed, contending, among other issues, that the district court erred in instructing the jury to find guilt on the section 666 counts based on a gratuity theory rather than a bribery theory. The First Circuit Court of appeals (1) vacated Defendants' section 666 convictions, holding that because section 666 does not criminalize gratuities in addition to bribes, the district court erred in its instructions; and (2) directed the district court to enter a judgment of acquittal on Defendants' conspiracy charges, holding that the Double Jeopardy Clause entitled both men to acquittal on their respective conspiracy charges. View "United States v. Bravo-Fernandez" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of seventeen counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Appellant appealed, arguing (1) the trial court violated his Sixth Amendment right to confront the witnesses against him by admitting testimony of a forensic examiner about another examiner's prior examination; and (2) the evidence was insufficient to support his aggravated identity theft convictions. The First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Appellant's convictions on all counts, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Appellant was guilty of aggravated identity theft; and (2) the district court did not plainly err in admitting the testimony of the forensic examiner about the conclusions in another examiner's report, as the statements did not affect Appellant's substantial rights. View "United States v. Soto" on Justia Law

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Defendants, Baldwin and Gladys Ihenacho, were the owners and operators of a neighborhood pharmacy. Defendants were convicted of dispensing and shipping drugs to customers pursuant to invalid online prescriptions for Internet pharmacy operations headquartered in the Dominican Republic. Baldwin pled guilty to almost all of the charges. Gladys went to trial, and a jury convicted of her eight counts. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Baldwin's sentence and Gladys's convictions, holding (1) the district court did not err in applying the fraud sentencing guideline to Baldwin and in calculating the loss caused by Baldwin's offenses for purposes of the fraud guideline; and (2) the evidence was sufficient to support Gladys's convictions for distributing controlled substances, conspiracy, and money laundering. View "United States v. Ihenacho" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of conspiring to commit wire fraud and committing wire fraud for his participation in a wire fraud scheme. Appellant was sentenced to a term of imprisonment followed by supervised release. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Appellant's convictions and sentences, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; (2) the district court did not err in admitting files by an attorney involved in the real estate transactions that were the basis of Appellant's indictment; (3) the district court properly admitted evidence related to Appellant's involvement in two real estate transactions that were not the basis of his indictment; and (4) the district court properly sentenced Appellant. View "United States v. Appolon" on Justia Law