Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Gaming Law
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In 2008, Johnston, a horse racetrack executive, promised a $100,000 campaign contribution to then-Governor Blagojevich in exchange for his signature on a bill to tax the largest casinos in Illinois for the direct benefit of the Illinois horse racing​ industry. After Blagojevich’s corruption came to light, the casinos sued the racetracks, alleging a conspiracy to violate the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961, and state‐law claims for civil conspiracy and unjust enrichment. A jury awarded the casinos $25,940,000 in damages, which was trebled under RICO to $77,820,000. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part, holding that the jury did not have legally sufficient evidence to support a verdict finding a conspiracy to engage in a “pattern” of racketeering activity, as required for liability on a RICO conspiracy theory. The casinos are still entitled to the $25,940,000 in damages on the state‐law claims, but not to have those damages trebled under RICO. View "Empress Casino Joliet Corp. v. Balmoral Racing Club, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 1997, Player and his wife established EAR, purportedly to refurbish high-tech machinery . In 2005-2009, EAR defrauded creditors and the couple obtained $17 million in fraudulent transfers from EAR. Before the fraud was detected, they used funds for their personal benefit and spent large amounts at the Horseshoe Casino, Player was known to “walk with chips,” rather than cashing them in, and giving chips to a third party to cash in. Neither is illegal, but are potentially indicative of “structuring” transactions to avoid triggering the $10,000 reporting requirement, a federal crime, 31 U.S.C. 5324. When the fraud was discovered, EAR filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The plan administrator sought to avoid transfers to Horseshoe, alleging that Horseshoe had reasons to believe that Player’s money came from EAR. Horseshoe objected to a motion to compel under 31 C.F.R. 1021.320(e), which governs Suspicious Activity Reports filed by financial institutions, including casinos, to detect money laundering and other violations of the Bank Secrecy Act. The district court ordered an ex parte filing by Horseshoe, which was inaccessible to EAR. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of the motion, finding that Horseshoe accepted the transfers without knowledge of the fraud at EAR and could not have uncovered the fraud if it had investigated. View "Brandt v. Horseshoe Hammond, LLC" on Justia Law

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Kaplan operated an illegal sports-booking business in New York that moved to Costa Rica in the 1990s. In 2004, the company went public on the London Stock Exchange. Before going public, Kaplan placed $98 million in trusts off the coast of France. Kaplan neglected to pay federal income or capital gains tax for the trusts for 2004 and 2005. In 2006, Kaplan was indicted for operating an illegal online gambling business within the U.S. Kaplan accepted a plea agreement, which stated: [N]othing contained in this document is meant to limit the rights and authority of the United States … to take any civil, civil tax or administrative action against the defendant. The court asked: Do you understand … that there is a difference between a criminal tax proceeding and a civil tax proceeding … that [this] doesn't preclude the initiation of any civil tax proceeding or administrative action against you? Kaplan replied, "I understand." The court sentenced Kaplan to 51 months of imprisonment, and ordered forfeiture of $43,650,000. Later, the IRS issued Kaplan a notice of deficiency with penalties, totaling more than $36,000,000. The Eighth Circuit affirmed: since Kaplan failed to file a return, the period to assess taxes never began to run; the plea agreement was unambiguous; and the government's failure to object to the Presentence Report did not prevent the government from bringing a civil tax proceeding. View "Kaplan v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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Illinois legalized riverboat casino gambling in 1990. Since then, the state’s once‐thriving horseracing industry has declined. In 2006 and 2008, former Governor Blagojevich signed into law two bills that imposed a tax on in‐state casinos of 3% of their revenue and placed the funds into a trust for the benefit of the horseracing industry. Casinos filed suit under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1964, alleging that defendants, members of the horseracing industry, bribed the governor. On remand, the district court granted summary judgment for the racetracks, finding sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that there was a pattern of racketeering activity; that a jury could find the existence of an enterprise‐in‐fact, consisting of Blagojevich, his associates, and others; sufficient evidence that the defendants bribed Blagojevich to secure his signature on the 2008 Act; but that the casinos could not show that the alleged bribes proximately caused their injury. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, there was enough to survive summary judgment on the claim that the governor agreed to sign the Act in exchange for a bribe. View "Empress Casino Joliet Corp. v. Johnston" on Justia Law

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The Ho-Chunk Nation, a federally recognized Indian Tribe, operates casinos in Wisconsin and nets more than $200 million annually from its gambling operations. Cash Systems, one of three businesses involved in this case, engaged in issuing cash to casino customers via automated teller machines and kiosks, check-cashing, and credit- and debit-card advances. Whiteagle, a member of the Nation, held himself out as an insider and offered vendors an entrée into the tribe’s governance and gaming operations. Cash Systems engaged Whiteagle in 2002 as a confidential consultant. Cash Systems served as the Nation’s cash-access services vendor for the next six years, earning more than seven million dollars, while it paid Whiteagle just under two million dollars. Whiteagles’s “in” was his relationship with Pettibone, who had been serving in the Ho-Chunk legislature since 1995. Ultimately, Whiteagle, Pettibone, and another were charged with conspiracy (18 U.S.C. 371) to commit bribery in connection with the contracts with the Ho-Chunk Nation and substantive bribery (18 U.S.C. 666). Whiteagle was also charged with tax evasion and witness tampering. Pettibone pleaded guilty to corruptly accepting a car with the intent to be influenced in connection with a contract. Whiteagle admitted that he had solicited money and other things of value for Pettibone from three companies, but denied actually paying bribes to Pettibone and insisted that he and Pettibone had advocated for Whiteagle’s clients based on what they believed to be the genuine merits of those clients. Convicted on all counts, Whiteagle was sentenced, below-guidelines, to 120 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence on the bribery charges, the loss calculation, and admission of certain evidence.View "United States v. Whiteagle" on Justia Law