Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Insurance Law
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France had a Chicago dental business and fraudulently billed insurers for city employees. France closed his practice after being injured in an accident and started collecting benefits from a disability income policy. In 1999, he exchanged monthly payments, for a limited time, for a lump sum of $300,000. He transferred this money to other people, including his wife, Duperon, before filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. He failed to disclose the payment or transfers. He later pleaded guilty to mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341, and to knowingly making a false declaration under penalty of perjury, 18 U.S.C. 152(3). The district court sentenced France to 30 months in prison and ordered him to pay $800,000 in restitution. The bankruptcy trustee obtained title to ongoing disability insurance payments. France and Duperon divorced. A California court approved a settlement with payments for child support from the disability payments. France’s insurance company sued in California to resolve conflicting claims. The parties reached an agreement, which the bankruptcy court approved, purporting to control all other judgments, but did not mention the criminal restitution lien. The government filed Illinois citations to discover assets. France moved to quash, but the insurance company responded and began withholding $9,296 that had been going to France. The government moved to garnish the entire distribution under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA), 18 U.S.C. 3613(a). The Seventh Circuit affirmed a ruling allowing the government to garnish the entire disability payment. View "United States v. France" on Justia Law

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Defendant Paul Wentzlaff, an insurance agent, stole thousands of dollars from Harvey Severson, an elderly man who asked Defendant to help manage his financial affairs. Plaintiff Donald Hass, as personal representative for Severson’s estate, sued Defendant and two insurance companies who appointed Defendant as an agent, North American Company for Life and Health Insurance (North American) and Allianz Life Insurance of North America (Allianz). Hass and North American each moved for summary judgment and Allianz joined North American’s motion. After a hearing, the circuit court denied Plaintiff's motion and granted the insurance companies’ motion. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the insurance companies were vicariously liable for Defendant's acts. Based on undisputed material facts on the record in this case, the Supreme Court found that Defendant Wentzlaff was not acting within the scope of his employment when he stole money from Severson, and thus, as a matter of law, North American and Allianz were not vicariously liable for his acts. The Court affirmed the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the insurance companies. View "Hass v. Wentzlaff" on Justia Law

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In 2001, Appellant Daniel Goodson was involved in a car accident. His insurance company paid $6,300 for the loss to the bank which still held title to the Appellant's car; Appellant received $135. Appellant, dissatisfied with his "meager" share of the insurance proceeds, presented a forged check for $6,300 to his bank with which to open a new account. The bank permitted Appellant to withdraw several thousand dollars before learning that the check was forged. The insurance company confirmed that it had not paid Appellant $6,300. Appellant paid back all the money he had withdrawn, but the State still pressed charges for forgery, insurance fraud and theft. Defendant challenged his sentence and conviction, arguing that he was not guilty of insurance fraud, and that his sentence was accordingly unreasonable. Finding that the trial court erred in convicting Appellant on insurance fraud charges, the Supreme Court remanded the case for resentencing based on forgery and theft. View "Pennsylvania v. Goodson" on Justia Law

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From 1997 through 2009 Sachdeva, the vice president for accounting at Koss, instructed Park Bank, where Koss had an account, to prepare more than 570 cashier’s checks, payable to Sachdeva’s creditors and used to satisfy personal debts. She embezzled about $17.4 million, pleaded guilty to federal crimes, and was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment. The SEC sued Sachdeva and an accomplice because their scheme caused Koss to misstate its financial position. Koss and Park Bank are litigating which bears the loss in Wisconsin. In this suit, Park Bank argued that Federal Insurance must defend and indemnify it under a financial-institution bond (fidelity bond) provision that promises indemnity for “Loss of Property resulting directly from . . . false pretenses, or common law or statutory larceny, committed by a natural person while on the premises of” the Bank. Sachdeva did not enter the Bank’s premises. She gave instructions by phone, then sent employees to fetch the checks. The district court entered judgment in the insurer’s favor. The Seventh Circuit affirmed; every court that has considered the subject has held that a fraud orchestrated from outside a financial institution’s premises is not covered under the provision, which is standard in the industry. View "Bankmanagers Corp. v. Fed. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Lesley and Fogg presented the Benistar 419 Plan to the Ouwingas, their accountant, and their attorney, providing a legal opinion that contributions were tax-deductible and that the Ouwingas could take money out tax-free. The Ouwingas made substantial contributions, which were used to purchase John Hancock life insurance policies. In 2003, Lesley and Fogg told the Ouwingas that the IRS had changed the rules; that the Ouwingas would need to contribute additional money; and that, while this might signal closing of the “loophole,” there was no concern about tax benefits already claimed. In 2006, the Ouwingas decided to transfer out of the Plans. John Hancock again advised that there would be no taxable consequences and that the Plan met IRS requirements for tax deductible treatment. The Ouwingas signed a purported liability release. In 2008, the IRS notified the Ouwingas that it was disallowing deductions, deeming the Plan an “abusive tax shelter.” The Ouwingas filed a class action against Benistar Defendants, John Hancock entities, lawyers, Lesley, and Fogg, alleging conspiracy to defraud (RICO, 18 U.S.C. 1962(c), (d)), negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and violations of consumer protection laws. The district court dismissed. The Sixth Circuit reversed, View "Ouwinga v. Benistar 419 Plan Servs., Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2007, Fifth Third loaned Buford $406,000 in exchange for a mortgage on property that Buford purportedly owned. Fifth Third obtained a title-insurance policy from Direct Title, an issuing agent for Chicago Title. Direct Title was a fraudulent agent; its sole “member” was the actual title owner of the property and conspired with Buford to use that single property as collateral to obtain multiple loans from different lenders. When creditors foreclosed on the property in state court, Fifth Third intervened and asked Chicago Title to defend and compensate. Chicago Title refused to defend or indemnify. Chicago Title sought to avoid summary judgment, indicating that it needed discovery on the questions whether “Fifth Third failed to follow objectively reasonable and prudent underwriting standards” in processing Buford’s loan application and whether Direct Title had authority to issue the title-insurance policy. The district court granted Fifth Third summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, noting that “When a party comes to us with nine grounds for reversing the district court, that usually means there are none.”View "Fifth Third Mortg. Co. v. Chicago Title Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit consolidated two criminal cases involving sophisticated financial structuring arrangements between related corporate subsidiaries. Appellants, William Allen Broughton and Richard William Peterson were convicted of conducting a "modern-day financial shell game" in which they falsified financial statements, exchanged paper ownership over non-extant fraudulent assets, and collected insurance premiums and monthly payments from unwitting innocents. Collectively, they stated two bases for reversal: (1) Broughton contended that the Government's purported failure to file charges within the relevant statutes of limitations "demand[ed]" reversal; and (2) both Appellants claimed that the district court erred in denying their motions for judgment of acquittal due to an insufficiency of evidence. Finding no error, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed Appellants' convictions. View "United States v. Peterson" on Justia Law

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In 2005 Truman and partners purchased a vacant commercial building for $175,000, insured for $4,250,000 in fire-related losses. The property, without the building, was worth more than with the building. After a minor accidental fire, Truman told an employee that if it ever caught fire again, just get out. Considering leasing, Truman stated that it would make more money if it burnt. By late 2006, Truman had less than $5,000 in personal bank accounts. Premiums were paid through November 17. The building burned down November 12. Truman, Jr. confessed that he had burned the building at his father’s direction. State charges were dismissed because of inability to corroborate junior’s testimony, as required under New York law. Truman was charged with aiding and abetting arson, 18 U.S.C. 844(i); mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341; use of fire in commission of a felony, 18 U.S.C. 844(h); and loan fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341. Following a guilty verdict the district court granted acquittal and conditionally granted a new trial. The Second Circuit vacated and remanded for sentencing. Junior’s refusal to answer certain questions did not render his testimony incredible as a matter of law, and his prior state testimony was nonhearsay. Truman was not prejudiced by improper cross-examination or summation argument references to the cooperation agreement. View "United States v. Truman" on Justia Law

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A new customer of the bank (Ott) obtained a loan to finance the purchase of a motor home from the dealership that Ott himself owned. Ott presented the certificate of origin and pledged the motor home as collateral. When Ott defaulted two years later, the bank discovered that the certificate of origin was a fake and the motor home did not exist. The bank’s insurer denied recovery because the fake certificate of origin did not meet the insurance bond definition of "Counterfeit." The district court ruled in favor of the insurer. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The certificate of origin did not imitate an actual, original certificate of origin for a 2007 motor home because there never was an actual, valid, original certificate for the vehicle pledged as collateral: the manufacturer never produced the vehicle described.View "North Shore Bank, FSB v. Progressive Cas. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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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