Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Construction Law
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Ballard obtained a $280,000 loan from SBH to construct the Stone Fence residence, then requested another $90,000 to finish the property. There was insufficient equity to cover that amount; SBH lent him $20,000. Ballard obtained construction loans on properties in Bradley. Grant was the SBH loan officer for all three properties. Ballard submitted required Sworn Contractor’s Statements and Owner’s Payment Authorizations to the Kankakee County Title Company (KCTC), identifying the material and labor costs supposedly associated with his work on the Bradley properties. Ballard obtained $188,000 for the Bradley properties, where no work was performed. Ballard used the funds to complete Stone Fence. An SBH employee discovered Ballard’s scheme. Ballard was charged with three counts of bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344. At trial, Ballard admitted that he had misdirected funds; he argued a “good faith” defense that Grant and his supervisors knew and authorized Ballard’s acts and pressured him to complete Stone Fence. Ballard also claimed he did not read or sign the loan documents, implying that someone forged his signature. After Ballard was convicted, his attorney obtained a previously undisclosed audio recording of Grant, made during a prior, unrelated criminal investigation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court in granting a new trial, finding the recording material. View "United States v. Ballard" on Justia Law

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Ballard obtained a $280,000 loan from SBH to construct the Stone Fence residence, then requested another $90,000 to finish the property. There was insufficient equity to cover that amount; SBH lent him $20,000. Ballard obtained construction loans on properties in Bradley. Grant was the SBH loan officer for all three properties. Ballard submitted required Sworn Contractor’s Statements and Owner’s Payment Authorizations to the Kankakee County Title Company (KCTC), identifying the material and labor costs supposedly associated with his work on the Bradley properties. Ballard obtained $188,000 for the Bradley properties, where no work was performed. Ballard used the funds to complete Stone Fence. An SBH employee discovered Ballard’s scheme. Ballard was charged with three counts of bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344. At trial, Ballard admitted that he had misdirected funds; he argued a “good faith” defense that Grant and his supervisors knew and authorized Ballard’s acts and pressured him to complete Stone Fence. Ballard also claimed he did not read or sign the loan documents, implying that someone forged his signature. After Ballard was convicted, his attorney obtained a previously undisclosed audio recording of Grant, made during a prior, unrelated criminal investigation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court in granting a new trial, finding the recording material. View "United States v. Ballard" on Justia Law

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Nagle and Fink were co-owners and executives of concrete manufacturing and construction businesses. The businesses entered into a relationship with a company owned by a person of Filipino descent. His company would bid for subcontracts on Pennsylvania transportation projects as a disadvantaged business enterprise. Federal regulations require states that receive federal transportation funds to set annual goals for participation in transportation construction projects by disadvantaged business enterprises, 49 C.F.R. 26.21. If his company won the bid for the subcontract, Nagle and Fink’s businesses would perform all of the work. Fink pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States. A jury found Nagle guilty of multiple charges relating to the scheme. The Third Circuit affirmed Nagle’s conviction, upholding the admission of electronic evidence discovered during searches of the businesses’ offices, but vacated both sentences, based on loss calculation errors. View "United States v. Nagle" on Justia Law

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Churn, the owner of a Tennessee construction company, was convicted of seven counts of bank fraud stemming from two schemes in which he received bank loans ostensibly to construct houses, but performed little to no work. The district court sentenced him to 33 months in prison and ordered restitution of $237,950.50. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the district court made evidentiary errors concerning admission of an email statement, admission of testimony concerning a permit, and admission of evidence about another transaction, and that the amount of restitution exceeded a statutory maximum under the Victims Restitution Act, 18 U.S.C. 3663A. View "United States v. Churn" on Justia Law

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Brothers Daniel and John owned four companies that offered remodeling services to homeowners. They provided honest work on construction jobs for cash customers, but duped numerous people into refinancing their homes and paying the loan proceeds directly to their companies, then left the jobs unfinished. They targeted neighborhoods on the South and West sides of Chicago, using telemarketers who looked for “elderly, ignorant homeowners,” and had customers sign blank contracts. They referred homeowners to specific loan officers and required the homeowners to sign letters of direction, so the title companies sent checks directly to the companies. From 2002 to 2006, the brothers collected about $1.2 million from more than 40 homeowner-victims. They were convicted of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343. The district court found that the loss calculation was more than $400,000 but less than $1,000,000 and accordingly increased the offense level, then applied enhancements because the conduct involved: vulnerable victims; violation of a prior court order; sophisticated means; mass-marketing; and leadership or organization of the scheme. The district court sentenced each brother to 168 months’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district court reasonably estimated the amount of loss and properly enhanced the offense level further for the other five aggravating factors View "United States v. Sullivan" on Justia Law

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Moeser was a commercial loan officer at a Milwaukee bank and, in 2004, prepared a presentation on behalf of co-conspirator Woyan for a $790,000 construction loan. Woyan operated PARC, which planned to build townhouses. Other conspirators included the project’s manager, architect, and real estate agent. Moeser told his superiors that the project’s land would serve as collateral and that PARC would provide the land up front. The bank approved the loan. Before closing, Moeser learned that Woyan did not own the land and did not have the funds to purchase it. Rather than informing his superiors, Moeser loaned Woyan $30,500 to purchase the land; Woyan paid Moeser back, plus $15,000 in interest, using funds from the loan’s initial disbursement of $111,299. Although Moeser learned that the project was not progressing and that disbursements were being used for other purposes, he continued to deceive his superiors. The project was never completed and PARC defaulted on its loan. Three contractors and a lumber supplier were never fully paid. The bank foreclosed. Moeser was charged with bank fraud, corrupt acceptance of money, fraud of a financial institution by an employee, and making false statements during an investigation. Moeser and his co-defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344. The district court gave Moeser a below-guidelines sentence of two years’ probation, which Moeser did not appeal, but found him jointly and severally liable for full restitution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that he should be liable for a lesser share. View "United States v. Moeser" on Justia Law

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The Fillers planned to demolish an unused Chattanooga factory. They knew the site contained asbestos, a hazardous pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Environmental Protection Agency regulations require removal of all asbestos before any demolition. Asbestos materials must be wetted, lowered to the ground, not dropped, labeled, and disposed of at an authorized site. Fillers hired AA, a certified asbestos surveying company, which estimated that it would cost $214,650 to remove the material safely. Fillers hired Mathis to demolish the factory in exchange for salvageable materials. Mathis was required to use a certified asbestos contractor. Mathis applied for an EPA demolition permit, showing an estimated amount of asbestos far less than in the AA survey. The agency’s asbestos coordinator contacted Fillers to verify the amount of asbestos. Fillers did not send the survey, but provided a revised estimate, far less than the survey’s estimate. After the permit issued, the asbestos contractor removed “[m]aybe, like, 1/100th” of the asbestos listed in the AA survey. Temporary laborers were hired, not equipped with protective gear or trained to remove asbestos. Fillers supervised. The work dispersed dust throughout the neighborhood. An employee of a daycare facility testified that the children were unable to play outside. Eventually, the EPA sent out an emergency response coordinator and declared the site an imminent threat. Mathis and Fillers were convicted of conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. 371, and violations of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7413(c). Fillers was also convicted of making a false statement, 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(2), and obstruction of justice, 18 U.S.C.1519. The district court sentenced Mathis to 18 months’ imprisonment and Fillers to 44 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Mathis" on Justia Law

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Greco worked at MetroHealth, a county-owned health-care provider in Cleveland, from 1997 until 2009, supervising independent contractors who worked on MetroHealth construction projects, selecting contractors for small-scale no-bid maintenance projects, and authorizing payment for their work. Greco used his authority to facilitate a bribery scheme set up by his boss and Patel, the vice-president of a construction company. The participants became nervous and Greco took action to hide his involvement in the scheme, but Patel contacted the government and confessed; in exchange for a reduced sentence, Patel provided detailed information about the scheme. Greco was convicted of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery involving programs receiving federal funds (18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(B) and 371), violation of and conspiracy to violate the Hobbs Act (18 U.S.C. 1951), making false tax returns (26 U.S.C. 7206(1)), and conspiracy to commit mail fraud (18 U.S.C. 1349) and was sentenced to 112 months’ imprisonment and required to pay $994,734.84 in restitution to MetroHealth. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the court improperly applied a 12-level enhancement based on an erroneous loss calculation; improperly applied a two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice; and imposed a substantively unreasonable sentence. View "United States v. Greco" on Justia Law

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Volpentesta owned and operated a construction business and used the company to defraud customers, investors, subcontractors, and the government. Charged with six counts of mail and wire fraud and 17 counts of federal tax violations, Volpentesta was represented by Federal Defender Gaziano. Due to the volume of discovery (about 11,000 pages of Bates-stamped discovery and 40 banker’s boxes of documents seized by the IRS), Gaziano ensured that Volpentesta could review the discovery electronically from the jail. When Volpentesta complained that the computer was too slow, Gaziano obtained an order for periodic transport to review the documents. Volpentesta eventually filed nine motions to substitute counsel, most related to the difficulty in reviewing discovery. The court ultimately allowed him to proceed pro se. Volpentesta was convicted, sentenced to a total of 133 months in prison, and ordered to pay more than one million dollars in restitution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that he was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel; that his waiver of his right to counsel was not knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently given; and that the district court erroneously denied his motions to continue the trial once he had decided to represent himself. View "United States v. Volpentesta" on Justia Law

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Clark, the owner and president of an East St. Louis Illinois company, was charged with making false statements in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(3). Clark’s company had entered into a hauling services subcontract with Gateway, general contractor on a federally funded highway project in St. Louis, Missouri. Employers must pay laborers working on certain federally-funded projects the “prevailing wage,” calculated by the Secretary of Labor based on wages earned by corresponding classes of workers employed on projects of similar character in a given area, and maintain payroll records demonstrating prevailing wage compliance, 40 U.S.C. 3142(b) The indictment charged that Clark submitted false payroll records and a false affidavit to Gateway, representing that his employees were paid $35 per hour, when they actually received $13-$14 per hour. The district court dismissed for improper venue, finding that when a false document is filed under a statute that makes the filing a condition precedent to federal jurisdiction, venue is proper only in the district where the document was filed for final agency action. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Although the effects of the alleged wrongdoing may be felt more strongly in Missouri than in Illinois, the Southern District of Illinois is a proper venue. View "United States v. Clark" on Justia Law