Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
by
In 2000 Go-Best wired $5 million to an account entitled "Morris M. Goldings client account" at Citizens Bank, based on representations made by Morris M. Goldings, who was then a Massachusetts attorney. Goldings later admitted that the representations were false and that he had used the money to pay other debts. Go-Best filed suit against Citizens Bank, bringing claims of misrepresentation, conversion, aiding and abetting a fraud, aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty, aiding and abetting a conversion, and negligence. Citizens Bank had no knowledge of Goldings's scheme to defraud Go-Best but failed to notify the Board of Bar Overseers of dishonored checks issued on the client account more than six months before Go-Best wired funds into that account. The trial court dismissed, but a divided Appeals Court reversed in part, vacating dismissal of claims of negligence and of aiding and abetting. The Massachusetts Supreme Court reinstated dismissal. Without actual knowledge, the bank's duty to notify the board of dishonored checks from trust accounts arose only from its contractual duty, not from any duty in tort, so the bank could not be liable to Go-Best for any negligence in fulfilling that duty.View "Go-Best Assets Ltd. v. Citizens Bank of MA" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs sued the former spouse of Stephen Walsh, who was a defendant in related actions brought by plaintiffs, alleging that the property derived from Walsh's illegal securities activities went into the former spouse's possession under the parties' separation agreement and divorce decree. At issue, in certified questions to the court, was whether the former spouse had a legitimate claim to those funds, which would prevent plaintiffs from obtaining disgorgement from her. The court held that an innocent spouse who received possession of tainted property in good faith and gave fair consideration for it should prevail over the claims of the original owner or owners consistent with the state's strong public policy of ensuring finality in divorce proceedings.View "Commodity Futures Trading Commission v. Walsh, et al." on Justia Law

by
Satyam approached the Trust about forming a joint venture to provide engineering services to the automotive industry. Satyam represented that it was an IT-services provider with a base of automotive customers, that it was publicly-traded, audited, and financially stable. The Trust formed VGE, a separate legal entity; in 2000, VGE and Satyam formed SVES under the laws of India; VGE contributed $735,000. VGE and Satyam signed agreements calling for binding arbitration. In 2005, Satyam initiated arbitration. VGE counterclaimed that Satyam had breached its obligations. The arbitrator rejected VGE’s counterclaims, found that Satyam never competed with SVES, and found an event of default entitling Satyam to purchase VGE’s shares in the joint venture for book value. Satyam filed an enforcement action. The district court ordered VGE to comply with the award. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Following a 2007 contempt proceeding, VGE complied. In 2010, VGE and the Trust sued, alleging that, starting before the joint venture, Satyam engaged in a massive fraud scheme about its financial stability, and claiming civil violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961–1968. The district court dismissed, based on res judicata defense, and denied leave to amend. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The complaint adequately alleged that Satyam wrongfully concealed the factual predicate to claims, so the defense of claim preclusion does not apply. View "Venture Global Eng'g, LLC v. Satyam Computer Servs., Ltd." on Justia Law

by
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

by
In 1990 Plummer, a recognized expert in horse-breeding and the tax consequences of related investments, created the Mare Lease Program to enable investors to participate in his horse-breeding business and take advantage of tax code provision classification of horse-breeding investments as farming expenses, with a five-year net operating loss carryback period instead of the typical two years, 26 U.S.C. 172(b)(1)(G). Plummer’s investors would lease a mare, which would be paired with a stallion, and investors could sell resulting foals, deducting the amount of the initial investment while realizing the gain from owning a thoroughbred foal. If they kept foals for at least two years, the sale qualified for the long-term capital gains tax rate, 26 U.S.C. 1231(b)(3)(A). Between 2001 and 2005, the Program generated more than $600 million. Law and accounting firms hired by defendants purportedly vetted the Program. Plummer and other defendants began funneling Program funds into an oil-and-gas lease scheme. It was later discovered that the Program’s assets were substantially overvalued or nonexistent. Investors sued under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(c), also alleging fraud and breach of contract. The district court granted summary judgment and awarded $49.4 million with prejudgment interest of $15.6 million. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that there was no genuine dispute over any material facts. View "West Hills Farms, LLC v. ClassicStar Farms, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Condominium Association’s declaration required Bayside to provide fresh water and wastewater treatment to the Association and made all of the water facilities common property of the Association. Bayside contracted with TSG to construct and operate a system to fulfill its obligations. TSG charged Bayside $0.02 per gallon. By 2005, Bayside owed millions of dollars to creditors including TSG and the Association. Bayside assigned its rights to TSG, permitting TSG to charge $0.05 per gallon. To secure the Association’s consent Bayside and TSG threatened to cease providing services even though it was not feasible to obtain those services elsewhere. The Association’s Board consented and signed a Water Supply Agreement, which provided that Bayside owned the water facilities and contained an arbitration clause. After not receiving payments under the WSA, TSG temporarily stopped producing potable water for the Association, which then filed suit, asserting criminal extortion under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act; breach of obligations under the Declaration; and ownership of the water treatment systems. The district court ordered arbitration. The Third Circuit affirmed in part but vacated in part. The Association raised a bona fide question as to whether its Board had authority to enter into the WSA, a question that requires judicial determination. View "SBRMCOA, LLC v. Bayside Resort Inc." on Justia Law

by
Watkins, an African-American, worked for the school district, overseeing security systems. Fultz supervised Watkins and, relying on Watkins’s advice, Fultz awarded Vision a $182,000 annual contract for service of security cameras. Vision’s president, Newsome, testified that Watkins called her and talked about a “finder’s fee.. Newsome went to Cleveland for a customer visit. She e-mailed Watkins and he replied: “Absolutely$.” Newsome believed that Watkins expected her to pay him at their meeting. Newsome notified Fultz. At the meeting, Watkins requested “an envelope.” After Fultz contacted police, the FBI recorded meetings at which Newsome gave Watkins $5,000 and $2,000. A white jury convicted on two counts of attempted extortion “under color of official right” (Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951), and one count of bribery in a federally funded program, 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(B). The court determined a total offense level of 22, applying a two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice, another two-level enhancement for bribes exceeding $5,000, and a four-level enhancement for high level of authority, plus an upward variance of 21 months under 18 U.S.C. 3553(a), and sentenced Watkins to six years’ incarceration. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to jury instructions, sufficiency of the evidence, the jury’s racial composition, and the reasonableness of the sentence.View "United States v. Watkins" on Justia Law

by
Andrews was designated as contractor for improvements to the sewage system, in a no-bid process involving kickbacks and bribery, having made numerous false statements in the bond application package. After the contract was terminated, he submitted a claim of $748,304, based on false statements and duplicate charges. Evidence indicated that Andrews was not capable of the project work and that the entire scheme was fraudulent. He was convicted of one count of conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. 371, four counts of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, 1346, and 2, one count of program fraud, 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(B) and 2, one count of making a false claim upon the Government of the Virgin Islands, 14 V.I.C. 843(4), and one count of inducing a conflict of interest, 3 V.I.C. 1102, 1103, and 1107. The Third Circuit affirmed the conviction, but remanded for resentencing. Errors in the indictment and jury instructions concerning honest services fraud did not affect substantial rights. Although the 151-month term of imprisonment was within the statutory maximum for Counts Two through Five, it exceeded the statutory maximum for Counts One and Six; it was not possible to determine whether the sentence was legal as to each count View "United States v. Andrew" on Justia Law

by
In 2009, fire severely damaged the insureds' home. They submitted a claim to under their homeowners’ policy the next day. The insurer began requesting documents, authorizations, and interviews and learned that the insureds had at least two businesses, held numerous personal and business accounts, and were involved in several lawsuits. A fire investigator concluded that the fire was intentionally set. The insurer requested additional documents: detailed phone records, bank histories, tax returns, and mortgage information and reminded the insureds that proof of loss was due by May 2. The insurer granted extensions; on the day of the final deadline the insureds delivered almost 1,000 pages of documents. Several months later, the insurer had not received most of the requested documents or an explanation why they could not be produced. After initially acknowledging their failure to produce the documents, the insureds attempted to impose a deadline for settlement of the $2.6 million claim. The district court entered summary judgment for the insurer in the insureds' breach of contract suit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The insureds failed to perform the specific "duties after loss" listed in the policy.View "Foster v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co." on Justia Law

by
Following published stories about an investigation of their business practices, principals of a waste-management company improved their chances of winning a bid for a contract to refurbish garbage carts for the City of Chicago by slashing their bid. They encouraged other companies to bid in hopes of being hired as a subcontractor if another company won the bid. Each bidder had to certify that it had not entered into any agreement with any other bidder or prospective bidder relating to the price, nor any agreement restraining free competition among bidders. The company won the bid, and after a Justice Department investigation for antitrust violations, the principals were convicted of mail and wire fraud. The Seventh Circuit reversed, reasoning that the purpose of "colluding" with other potential bidders had not been to prevent them from underbidding but to provide insurance against the bid being rejected based on the earlier investigation. There was no harm as a result of the company encouraging additional bidders. View "United States v. Fenzl" on Justia Law