Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals

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After a jury trial in the United States district court, Appellant, an attorney, was convicted on bribery, extortion, and conspiracy charges stemming from his involvement in a scheme to purchase the votes of three corrupt town councilmen on two zoning matters. During the trial, the district court admitted into evidence under Fed. R. Evid. 801(d)(2)(E) a number of recorded statements about Appellant made by one of the councilmen to a government informant. On appeal, Appellant argued that some of these statements should have been excluded as hearsay, and challenged the admission of all the statements on constitutional grounds under the Confrontation Clause. Appellant also claimed the district court erred in calculating his sentence under the United States Sentencing Guidelines. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not clearly err in admitting the challenged statements; and (2) the sentence imposed was appropriate. View "United States v. Ciresi" on Justia Law

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Appellants were players in the Boston real estate market. Along with six coconspirators, Appellants devised and executed a mortgage fraud scheme which netted them illegal profits of nearly $2 million between May 2005 and June 2006. Appellants and their coconspirators were found guilty of one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud and with multiple counts of committing wire fraud. In addition, two defendants were found guilty of multiple counts of money laundering. The First Circuit Court Court of Appeals affirmed Appellants' convictions and sentences, holding, inter alia, (1) there was sufficient evidence to support Appellants' convictions; (2) the district court did not err by admitting into evidence four charts summarizing the financial data in this case; (3) the district court did not err in instructing the jury that it had a duty to return a guilty verdict if it concluded that the government had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt; and (4) there was no error in the district court's loss calculation methodology and none in its mathematical application of this methodology. View "United States v. Appolon" on Justia Law

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Venti’s father received federal Civil Service Retirement System benefits. Venti’s father died in 1990, which should have terminated his benefits. The Office of Personnel Management continued to deposit the CSRS funds into a checking account that Venti had shared with his father. In 2003, Venti opened a new joint checking account at RFCU in the names of himself and his father and arranged for the CSRS benefits, as well as his own Social Security benefits, to be deposited in the new account. In 2005, OPM learned of the death of Venti's father and stopped depositing the CSRS benefits. In 2009, Venti was convicted of theft of government property (18 U.S.C. 641), one count for each of nine checks written in his father’s name during 2005, and was sentenced to 15 months. The First Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that one count was time-barred. If the count had been time-barred, the sentence would have been limited to one year because Venti would be treated as a misdemeanant rather than as a felon. View "United States v. Venti" on Justia Law

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Defendants were employees of subcontractor that provided concrete for Boston's Central Artery/Tunnel project, the "Big Dig." The government charged that over nine years, the company knowingly provided concrete that failed to meet project specifications and concealed that failure by creating false documentation purporting to show that the concrete provided complied with specifications. Several employees, including defendants, were convicted of mail fraud, highway project fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the government. The district court calculated the guidelines sentencing range as 87- to 108-months incarceration, then sentenced defendants to six months of home monitoring, three years of probation, and 1,000 hours of community service. The First Circuit affirmed. The district court's explanation ultimately supports the reasonableness of the sentences, based on its finding that the loss amount caused by the crimes, the most significant factor in determining the GSR, was imprecise and did not fairly reflect the defendants' culpability. The court also found that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the defendants' conduct made the Big Dig unsafe in any way or that the defendants profited from the offenses and considered personal circumstances. View "United States v. Stevenson" on Justia Law

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A member of the Boston City Council was convicted of attempted extortion under color of official right (Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. 1951) and three counts of making a false statement to FBI agents, 18 U.S.C. 1001 for accepting $1,000 in exchange for performing official acts to assist a local businessman in obtaining a liquor license for a supper club. That businessman was cooperating with the FBI. The First Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to sufficiency of the evidence and to jury instructions on reciprocity and interstate commerce. The court upheld the 36-month sentence against a contention that the government impermissibly sought vindictively to punish defendant. View "United States v. Turner" on Justia Law

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One defendant pled guilty to seven counts of aggravated identity theft, 18 U.S.C 1028 A, and access device fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1029 (a)(2) and the other was convicted of aggravated identity theft and two counts of identity fraud, arising from their participation in a substantial credit card fraud scheme. The First Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the indictment, evidentiary rulings, and the sentences of 81 months and 168 months. View "United States v. Savarese" on Justia Law

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During 2000-2002, defendant and co-defendant were associated in five instances of depositing large bad checks (one for $15,000,000) in three different bank accounts (the one at issue in the name of a defunct corporation), then writing checks against the resulting, ostensible account balances or requesting substantial wire transfers from them. They were indicted for conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 371, bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344, wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, and money laundering, 18 U.S.C. 1957. Defendant was charged both as a principal and as aiding and abetting co-defendant, who negotiated guilty pleas. Defendant was convicted. He appealed, claiming insufficiency of the evidence to show anything more than his mere (innocent) presence at some events in the sequence of the transactions charged, and abridgement of his Sixth Amendment right to jury trial when the trial judge closed the courtroom doors during jury instructions. The First Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Christi" on Justia Law

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Former Massachusetts state senator Wilkerson, pleaded guilty to attempted extortion (18 U.S.C. 1951) based on her acceptance of money in exchange for favorable influence in her official capacity on issuance of a liquor license and sale and development of publicly-owned land. The district court received a lengthy presentence report, conducted a thorough hearing, and stated reasons for imposing a sentence of 42 months, near the middle of the guidelines. The First Circuit affirmed. The court’s statement that "tax violation by a public official is not a personal matter" is most plausibly interpreted as a segue to make a "larger point" about the public implications of an over-engaged official's failure to attend to her own legal responsibilities. Its statement that Wilkerson "was simply inattentive and inattentive in a way that permitted her to have access to money that she should not have had" was fair comment on the implications of non-compliance with campaign-finance requirements. Its statement that Wilkerson's engagement as a college "consultant" was one of "a series of very embarrassing things" she did in response to her financial troubles was specific to the circumstances of the arrangement. The district court's skeptical appraisal of the arrangement was reasonable. View "United States v. Wilkerson" on Justia Law

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Husband established two "multi-level marketing" companies (pyramid schemes) that supposedly sold health and dietary supplements, but actually sold very little. Wife recruited new members, primarily from an immigrant community. New members would make an initial investment and then receive part of the investments paid in by new recruits. Wife urged potential investors to borrow to invest at the highest possible level, promised that there was no need to sell merchandise, and promised lifetime payments. The couple lived lavishly until they could find no more new investors. By the time the scam imploded, roughly 500 investors had lost about $20,000,000. Both were convicted of numerous counts of mail-fraud, money-laundering, and conspiracy (18 U.S.C. 1341, 1957, 371). Having affirmed husband's convictions in an earlier opinion, the First Circuit affirmed wife's convictions. The court rejected arguments concerning sufficiency of the evidence, wife's knowledge, the elements of money-laundering, and variance from the indictment. View "United States v. Tan" on Justia Law

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Defendant owned and operated a beauty salon in downtown Boston that was lightly damaged by a fire in 2005. Investigators concluded that defendant had set the fire in order to collect insurance proceeds, and he was convicted of attempted arson, 18 U.S.C. 844(i). The First Circuit affirmed. The district court acted within its discretion in admitting testimony about defendant's conversation about his plan to commit arson and his involvement in an earlier arson and in refusing to declare a mistrial after the prosecutor began a line of questioning concerning polygraph evidence. View "United States v. Mare" on Justia Law