Justia White Collar Crime Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Zayed v. Associated Bank, N.A.
For about three years ending in 2009, five schemers bilked unsuspecting investors of an estimated $190 million in a Minnesota Ponzi scheme. They took more than $79 million of the investors’ funds with the help of Associated Bank. After the scheme was exposed, the district judge in a related case appointed a receiver to take custody of funds owned by the schemers’ estates and by organizations under their control (receiver entities). The receiver filed suit on behalf of the receiver entities, alleging Associated Bank aided and abetted the scheme. The district court granted Associated Bank’s motion to dismiss. The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded, stating that, while it could not predict whether a jury will find Associated Bank either had actual knowledge of or substantially assisted in the asserted torts, the facts alleged in the complaint give the receiver’s claims “facial plausibility.” The receiver pled “factual content that allows the court [and a jury] to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” View "Zayed v. Associated Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
CDR Creances S.A.S. v. Cohen
Plaintiff initiated litigation to recover wrongfully diverted and concealed proceeds of a loan agreement, asserting that Defendants conspired to avoid repayment by denying their ownership and control over entities used to conceal converted funds. Before the conclusion of discovery in New York, federal authorities arrested Defendants, charging them with tax evasion and alleging a conspiracy to commit fraud on the New York court by forging documents and suborning perjury. A jury convicted Defendants of tax evasion, and the district court concluded that Defendants had perpetrated fraud on Supreme Court in New York. After Defendants’ sentencing, Plaintiff filed a motion to strike Defendants’ pleadings and for a default judgment. Supreme Court determined that Defendants had perpetrated a fraud on the court and granted the motion. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part, holding (1) where a court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, conduct that constitutes fraud on the court, the court may impose sanctions including striking pleadings and entering default judgment against the offending parties; and (2) with one exception, the record supported such sanctions against Defendants. View "CDR Creances S.A.S. v. Cohen" on Justia Law
United States v. Tai
In the late 1990s, people who had taken the prescription diet-drug combination Fen-Phen began suing Wyeth, claiming that the drugs caused valvular heart disease. A 2000 settlement included creation of the Fen-Phen Settlement Trust to compensate class members who had sustained heart damage. Claims required medical evidence. Attorneys who represented certain claimants retained Tai, a board-certified Level 2-qualified cardiologist, to read tests and prepare reports. Tai read 12,000 tests and asserted that he was owed $2 million dollars for his services. Tai later acknowledged that in about 10% of the cases, he dictated reports consistent with the technicians’ reports despite knowing that the measurements were wrong, and that he had his technician and office manager review about 1,000 of the tests because he did not have enough time to do the work. A review of the forms Tai submitted found that, in a substantial number of cases, the measurements were clearly incorrect and were actually inconsistent with a human adult heart. Tai was convicted of mail and wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341 and 1343, was sentenced to 72 months’ imprisonment, and was ordered to pay restitution of $4,579,663 and a fine of $15,000. The Third Circuit rejected arguments that the court erred by implicitly shifting the burden of proof in its “willful blindness” jury instruction and applying upward adjustments under the advisory Sentencing Guidelines for abuse of a position of trust and use of a special skill, but remanded for factual findings concerning whether Tai supervised a criminally culpable subordinate, as required for an aggravated role enhancement. View "United States v. Tai" on Justia Law
United States v. Edwards, et al.
Defendants Jeffrey W. Edwards and Frontier Holdings appealed the district court's order of restitution under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act, 18 U.S.C. 3663A. Edwards' convictions stemmed from his involvement in a scheme to solicit funds from investors by promising astronomical returns and then using the funds for extravagant personal expenditures. The court concluded that the district court correctly ignored Edwards' finances when determining the amount of restitution; the district court did not clearly err by ordering restitution to Camencita Jocson for losses caused by a related scheme; the district court properly found that Edwards owed restitution to victims whose related counts were dismissed at trial; and there was insufficient evidence supporting the restitution order to Teana Reece's alleged victims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the convictions; affirmed the restitution order generally; vacated the restitution order in respect to Reece's alleged victims; and remanded for a hearing to determine whether they were entitled to restitution. View "United States v. Edwards, et al." on Justia Law
Baer v. United States
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Office of Investigations (OIG) found that the SEC had received numerous substantive complaints since 1992 that raised significant concerns about Madoff’s hedge fund operations that should have led to a thorough investigation of the possibility that Madoff was operating a Ponzi scheme. The SEC conducted five examinations and investigations, but never took the steps necessary to determine whether Madoff was misrepresenting his trading. The OIG found that had these efforts been made, the SEC could have uncovered the Ponzi scheme. Madoff’s clients filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 1346(b), 2671, to recover damages resulting from the SEC’s failure to uncover and terminate the scheme in a timely manner. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, finding that the claims were barred by the discretionary function exception to the FTCA. The Third Circuit affirmed, reasoning that SEC regulations afford examiners discretion regarding the timing, manner, and scope of investigations and that there is a strong presumption that the SEC’s conduct is susceptible to policy analysis. View "Baer v. United States" on Justia Law
Alexander v. United States
FBI agents Freeman and Howell investigated the Hinds, who worked for Indiana criminal defense attorney Alexander, for bribery of witnesses, including Kirtz. They equipped Kirtz and Chrisp with recording devices for a meeting, during which Alexander stated that he did not know about Hinds’s bribery and would attempt to find out what was going on. Although Kirtz and Chrisp later confirmed that this meeting occurred and that they delivered the recordings, the agents never produced the recordings and claimed that the meeting never occurred. Months later, McKinney, who had a grudge against Alexander, became the new prosecutor. Alexander claims that McKinney conspired with Kirtz and Chrisp (then under investigation for participation in an arson ring) to destroy the recording and manufacture evidence against Alexander. Alexander was acquitted of bribery charges and filed a Notice of Tort Claim with the FBI, stating his intention to sue under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 2671-2680. The FBI declined to act. Alexander filed suit, alleging malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The district court dismissed, based on failure to state a claim for malicious prosecution and untimely filing of the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Alexander alleged specific events that fell within the limitations period. View "Alexander v. United States" on Justia Law
El Camino Res., LTD. v. Huntington Nat’l Bank
In 2004, El Camino executed equipment leases with Cyberco, a corporation held out to be a computer sales and consulting business. Cyberco actually operated under several names and was engaged in fraud. Its affiliate, Teleservices, a shell corporation, was represented as an arms-length computer manufacturer. The equipment to be leased by El Camina, which likely never existed, was allegedly manufactured by Teleservices and delivered to Cyberco, which released payment to Teleservices. In 2002, Huntington established a banking relationship with Cyberco. Cyberco used its accounts to deposit funds from El Camino. Huntington investigated a series of overdrafts. Ultimately Cyberco elected to undergo a “gradual migration” from Huntington, and Huntington agreed to credit extensions for Cyberco during the transition. El Camino purchased more than $25 million in computer equipment. El Camino sued Huntington for conversion, aiding and abetting conversion, aiding and abetting fraud, and unjust enrichment. The district court granted summary judgment on the first three claims, concluding that El Camino could not establish the requisite level of knowledge to sustain aiding and abetting and conversion claims. It later dismissed the unjust enrichment claim. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that findings, in a related bankruptcy case, that Huntington did not act in good faith, were irrelevant. View "El Camino Res., LTD. v. Huntington Nat'l Bank" on Justia Law
Stewart Title v. Dude, et al
Defendant-Appellant Harald Dude secured a $1.9 million loan on his Aspen home from Washington Mutual Bank. He sought to borrow another $500,000 from Wells Fargo Bank. As part of the application process, Defendant completed a form for Wells Fargo's title insurance company, Plaintiff-Appellee Stewart Title Guaranty Company. The form required Defendant to disclose existing liens on property. Knowing that the company failed to discover the existence of the Washington Mutual loan, Defendant did not list the lien on Stewart Title's form. Wells Fargo proceeded with the second loan based on representations made on the form. Several years later, Defendant elected to sell the property. Stewart Title was contacted to provide title insurance. A second title search failed to reveal the Washington Mutual loan. The company again provided its disclosure form to Defendant who again omitted the Washington Mutual loan. At some point, Defendant stopped making payments on the Washington Mutual loan. Eventually it threatened the property's new owner with foreclosure. The new owner made a claim on her title insurance with Stewart Title. Honoring what it perceived to be its contractual obligations, Stewart Title paid Washington Mutual’s loan amount in full. Stewart Title then sued. A jury found Defendant liable for fraudulent misrepresentation. On appeal, Defendant and his company argued there was insufficient evidence to hold him liable. Finding sufficient evidence for which the jury could have found Defendant liable, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the verdict against him. View "Stewart Title v. Dude, et al" on Justia Law
Jackson v. Segwick Claims Mgmt Serv., Inc.
Two former employees of Coca-Cola claim that they were injured while performing their jobs. They reported their injuries to Coca-Cola’s third-party administrator for worker’s compensation claims, Sedgwick, which denied benefits. Plaintiffs claim that the medical evidence strongly supported their injuries, but that Sedgwick engaged in a fraudulent scheme involving the mail: using Dr. Drouillard as a “cut-off” doctor. They sued alleging that the actions of Sedgwick, Coca-Cola, and Dr. Drouillard violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961(1)(B), 1962(c), and 1964(c). The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded, noting that since the dismissal, several of the issues were resolved by its 2012 opinion in another case. The district court misapplied the elements of a RICO cause of action to the plaintiffs’ allegations. The court declined to abstain from exercising jurisdiction pending the outcome of state workers comp proceedings. The alleged acts have the same purpose: to reduce Coca-Cola’s payment obligations towards worker’s compensation benefits by fraudulently denying worker’s compensation benefits to which the employees are lawfully entitled. The allegations suggest that the defendants’ scheme would continue on well past the denial of any individual plaintiff’s benefits View "Jackson v. Segwick Claims Mgmt Serv., Inc." on Justia Law
Zavala v. Wal Mart Stores, Inc.
Wal-Mart cleaning crew members sought compensation for unpaid overtime and certification of a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, civil damages under RICO, and damages for false imprisonment. The workers, illegal immigrants who took jobs with contractors and subcontractors Wal-Mart engaged to clean its stores, alleged: Wal-Mart had hiring and firing authority over them and closely directed their actions such that Wal-Mart was their employer under the FLSA; Wal-Mart took part in a RICO enterprise by transporting and harboring illegal immigrants, encouraging illegal immigration, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and involuntary servitude (18 U.S.C. 1961(1)(F)); Wal-Mart‘s practice of locking some stores at night and on weekends, without always having a manager available with a key, constituted false imprisonment. Over eight years and multiple opinions, the district court rejected final certification of an FLSA class and rejected the RICO and false imprisonment claims on several grounds, and rejected the false imprisonment claim on the merits. The Third Circuit affirmed. Plaintiffs were not “similarly situated” under the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. 626(b). View "Zavala v. Wal Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law