Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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This case arose when defendant was charged with one count of embezzlement and theft of labor union assets. At issue was whether the district court's employment of supplemental arguments impermissibly coerced a guilty verdict and whether the district court committed plain error by failing to instruct the jury regarding defendant's defense that her actions were authorized by the union's president. The court held that the district court neither coerced a guilty verdict nor abused its discretion by ordering supplemental closing arguments under the circumstances presented in this case. The district court also did not commit reversible plain error by failing to instruct the jury on an authorization defense, as the evidence presented and relied on by defendant at trial did not support a finding that her actions were authorized by the union. Accordingly, the judgment of the district court was affirmed.

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Defendant Herman Ransom appealed a district court's denial of his motion for acquittal or for a new trial after he was convicted on wire fraud and theft of public money. Defendant was accused of falsifying his time sheets from work at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). When Defendant took full-day leaves, he listed "8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m." as his working hours. Though an assistant prepared the time sheets, he signed them and a supervisor approved them. The records were then forwarded via wire to a central processing unit. HUD received an anonymous complaint about Defendant's frequent absences from the office, and an internal investigation would reveal the discrepancy in his time sheets. On appeal to the Tenth Circuit, Defendant challenged the validity of the evidence presented against him at trial. Upon review of the record and the applicable legal standard, the Tenth Circuit found sufficient evidence to support Defendant's conviction on wire fraud and theft charges. The Court affirmed the lower court's decision and Defendant's conviction.

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Defendants, the chairman and chief executive officer of Lunde Electric Company ("company"), appealed convictions stemming from the misappropriation of employee 401(k) contributions to pay the company's operating expenses. At issue was whether there was sufficient evidence to support defendants' convictions under 18 U.S.C. 664, for embezzlement or conversion of elective deferrals, and 18 U.S.C. 1027, for false or misleading statements in a required Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C 1001 et seq., document. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to support defendants' convictions on Counts 17 and 18 under section 664 where there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that the 1991 Profit Sharing Plan had been restated before defendants retained their employees' elective deferrals in the company's general account; where defendants commingled their employees' contributions with the company's assets to prop up their failing business and therefore, intentionally used their employees' assets for an unauthorized purpose; where they sent participants account statements showing 401(k) balances which were in fact non-existent; where defendants' decision to deviate was the wilful criminal misappropriation punished by section 664; and where defendants were alerted repeatedly about their obligation to remit the deferrals and defendants hid their actions from employees. The court also held that there was sufficient evidence to support defendants' convictions on Count 21 under section 1027 where defendants' initial decision to mislead their own employees about the solvency of their retirement plans by filing false account statements and false Form 5500s were the behaviors targeted by section 1027.