Justia White Collar Crime Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
United States v. Mathis
The Fillers planned to demolish an unused Chattanooga factory. They knew the site contained asbestos, a hazardous pollutant under the Clean Air Act. Environmental Protection Agency regulations require removal of all asbestos before any demolition. Asbestos materials must be wetted, lowered to the ground, not dropped, labeled, and disposed of at an authorized site. Fillers hired AA, a certified asbestos surveying company, which estimated that it would cost $214,650 to remove the material safely. Fillers hired Mathis to demolish the factory in exchange for salvageable materials. Mathis was required to use a certified asbestos contractor. Mathis applied for an EPA demolition permit, showing an estimated amount of asbestos far less than in the AA survey. The agency’s asbestos coordinator contacted Fillers to verify the amount of asbestos. Fillers did not send the survey, but provided a revised estimate, far less than the survey’s estimate. After the permit issued, the asbestos contractor removed “[m]aybe, like, 1/100th” of the asbestos listed in the AA survey. Temporary laborers were hired, not equipped with protective gear or trained to remove asbestos. Fillers supervised. The work dispersed dust throughout the neighborhood. An employee of a daycare facility testified that the children were unable to play outside. Eventually, the EPA sent out an emergency response coordinator and declared the site an imminent threat. Mathis and Fillers were convicted of conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. 371, and violations of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. 7413(c). Fillers was also convicted of making a false statement, 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(2), and obstruction of justice, 18 U.S.C.1519. The district court sentenced Mathis to 18 months’ imprisonment and Fillers to 44 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Mathis" on Justia Law
United States v. Volkman
Volkman, an M.D. and a Ph.D. in pharmacology from University of Chicago, was board-certified in emergency medicine and a “diplomat” of the American Academy of Pain Management. Following lawsuits, he had no malpractice insurance and no job. Hired by Tri-State, a cash-only clinic with 18-20 patients per day, he was paid $5,000 to $5,500 per week. After a few months, pharmacies refused to fill his prescriptions, citing improper dosing. Volkman opened a dispensary in the clinic. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy issued a license, although a Glock was found in the safe where the drugs were stored. Follow-up inspections disclosed poorly maintained dispensary logs; that no licensed physician or pharmacist oversaw the actual dispensing process; and lax security of the drug safe. Patients returned unmarked and intermixed medication. The dispensary did a heavy business in oxycodone. A federal investigation revealed a chaotic environment. Cup filled with urine were scattered on the floor. The clinic lacked essential equipment. Pills were strewn throughout the premises. Months later, the owners fired Volkman, so he opened his own shop. Twelve of Volkman’s patients died. Volkman and the Tri-State owners were charged with conspiring to unlawfully distribute a controlled substance, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1); maintaining a drug-involved premises, 21 U.S.C. 856(a)(1); unlawful distribution of a controlled substance leading to death, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C), and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, 18 U.S.C. 24(c)(1) and (2). The owners accepted plea agreements and testified against Volkman, leading to his conviction on most counts, and a sentence of four consecutive terms of life imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Volkman" on Justia Law
United States v. Miller
Miller and his pastor Wellons wanted to buy investment land for $790,000. Miller formed Fellowship, with eight investment units valued at $112,500 each, to purchase the land and recruited investors. Miller and Wellons did not purchase units, but Miller obtained a 19.5% interest as Fellowship’s manager and Wellons obtained a 4.5% interest as secretary. Miller secured $675,000 in investments before closing and obtained a loan from First Bank, representing that DEMCO, one of Miller’s development companies, needed a $337,500 loan that would be paid within six months. Because DEMCO pledged Fellowship’s property, First Bank required a written resolution. The resolution contained false statements that all Fellowship members were present at a meeting, and that, at this nonexistent meeting, they unanimously voted to pledge the property as collateral. Fellowship’s members, other than Miller and Wellons, believed that the property was being purchased free of encumbrances. After the closing, $146,956.75 remained in Fellowship’s account. Miller then exchanged his ownership in Fellowship for satisfactions of debts. Despite having no ownership interest, Miller modified and renewed the loan. Later Miller told Fellowship members the truth. Miller was convicted of two counts of making false statements to a bank, 18 U.S.C. 1014, and two counts of aggravated identity theft, 18 U.S.C. 1028A. The Sixth Circuit affirmed conviction on one count of false statements, but vacated and remanded the other convictions. View "United States v. Miller" on Justia Law
Venture Global Eng’g, LLC v. Satyam Computer Servs., Ltd.
Satyam approached the Trust about forming a joint venture to provide engineering services to the automotive industry. Satyam represented that it was an IT-services provider with a base of automotive customers, that it was publicly-traded, audited, and financially stable. The Trust formed VGE, a separate legal entity; in 2000, VGE and Satyam formed SVES under the laws of India; VGE contributed $735,000. VGE and Satyam signed agreements calling for binding arbitration. In 2005, Satyam initiated arbitration. VGE counterclaimed that Satyam had breached its obligations. The arbitrator rejected VGE’s counterclaims, found that Satyam never competed with SVES, and found an event of default entitling Satyam to purchase VGE’s shares in the joint venture for book value. Satyam filed an enforcement action. The district court ordered VGE to comply with the award. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Following a 2007 contempt proceeding, VGE complied. In 2010, VGE and the Trust sued, alleging that, starting before the joint venture, Satyam engaged in a massive fraud scheme about its financial stability, and claiming civil violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961–1968. The district court dismissed, based on res judicata defense, and denied leave to amend. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The complaint adequately alleged that Satyam wrongfully concealed the factual predicate to claims, so the defense of claim preclusion does not apply. View "Venture Global Eng'g, LLC v. Satyam Computer Servs., Ltd." on Justia Law
United States v. Tragas
Tragas bought information that is encoded in the magnetic strip on the back of credit and debit cards from overseas suppliers and re-sold the information to the Hunter brothers, who created “clone” gift and credit cards with which they purchased goods and bona fide gift cards. Tragas and the Hunters communicated online. Police discovered records of their conversations on the Hunters’ computer. Transcripts of the conversations were read at trial. Although the parties did not use names, a picture of Tragas appeared on the account and Tragas made purchases with card information exchanged during the conversations. Tragas purchased a house in Florida after a conversation about buying a house in Florida. As a result of the scheme, credit and debit card users and their financial institutions lost $2.18 million. Tragas was convicted of conspiracy to commit access device fraud offenses, 18 U.S.C. 1029(b); aiding and abetting unlawful activity under the Travel Act, 18 U.S.C. 1952(a); bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1344; and wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, and sentenced to 300 months’ imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the convictions, rejecting claims that the prosecutor improperly read evidence aloud, that the court should have given the jury a specific unanimity instruction, that the Travel Act convictions were not supported by sufficient evidence, and that her Vienna Convention rights were violated. The court remanded the sentence; the court used an incorrect version of the Guidelines. View "United States v. Tragas" on Justia Law
United States v. Greco
Greco worked at MetroHealth, a county-owned health-care provider in Cleveland, from 1997 until 2009, supervising independent contractors who worked on MetroHealth construction projects, selecting contractors for small-scale no-bid maintenance projects, and authorizing payment for their work. Greco used his authority to facilitate a bribery scheme set up by his boss and Patel, the vice-president of a construction company. The participants became nervous and Greco took action to hide his involvement in the scheme, but Patel contacted the government and confessed; in exchange for a reduced sentence, Patel provided detailed information about the scheme. Greco was convicted of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery involving programs receiving federal funds (18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(B) and 371), violation of and conspiracy to violate the Hobbs Act (18 U.S.C. 1951), making false tax returns (26 U.S.C. 7206(1)), and conspiracy to commit mail fraud (18 U.S.C. 1349) and was sentenced to 112 months’ imprisonment and required to pay $994,734.84 in restitution to MetroHealth. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the court improperly applied a 12-level enhancement based on an erroneous loss calculation; improperly applied a two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice; and imposed a substantively unreasonable sentence. View "United States v. Greco" on Justia Law
In re: Dayton Title Agency, Inc.
Dayton Title brokered real estate closings and had a trust account at PNC Bank for clients’ funds. In 1998-1999, Dayton facilitated bridge loans from defendants to Chari, from $1.9 million to $3.2 million, for commercial real estate purchases. Defendants would deposit funds into Dayton’s PNC account, which Dayton would transfer to Chari. Chari’s loan payments would pass through Dayton’s account. The first six bridge loans were paid, but not always on time. Defendants provided Chari another bridge loan, for $4.8 million. After the due date, Chari deposited a $4.885 million check into Dayton’s account. The PNC teller did not place a hold on the check. On the same day, Dayton “pursuant to Chari’s instructions” issued checks to defendants. PNC extended a provisional credit for the value of Chari’s check, as is standard for business accounts. After the checks were paid, PNC learned that Chari’s check was a forgery drawn on a non-existing account, exercised its right of “charge back” on the Dayton account, and regained about $740,000 of the provisional credit. Dayton was forced into bankruptcy. Chari declared bankruptcy and was convicted of racketeering, fraud, and forgery. Dayton’s bankruptcy estate and PNC sued, seeking to avoid the $4.885 million transfer to defendants as fraudulent under 11 U.S.C. 548 and Ohio Rev. Code 1336.04(A)(2). The bankruptcy court held that all but $722,101.49 of the transfer was fraudulent. The district court held that all but $20,747.13 of the transfer was not fraudulent. The Sixth Circuit reversed the district court, reinstating the bankruptcy court holding. Dayton did not hold the provisional credit funds in trust; the funds were not encumbered by a lien at the time of transfer. The funds were “assets” held by Dayton, so the transfer satisfied the statutory definition of “fraudulent.” View "In re: Dayton Title Agency, Inc." on Justia Law
West Hills Farms, LLC v. ClassicStar Farms, Inc.
In 1990 Plummer, a recognized expert in horse-breeding and the tax consequences of related investments, created the Mare Lease Program to enable investors to participate in his horse-breeding business and take advantage of tax code provision classification of horse-breeding investments as farming expenses, with a five-year net operating loss carryback period instead of the typical two years, 26 U.S.C. 172(b)(1)(G). Plummer’s investors would lease a mare, which would be paired with a stallion, and investors could sell resulting foals, deducting the amount of the initial investment while realizing the gain from owning a thoroughbred foal. If they kept foals for at least two years, the sale qualified for the long-term capital gains tax rate, 26 U.S.C. 1231(b)(3)(A). Between 2001 and 2005, the Program generated more than $600 million. Law and accounting firms hired by defendants purportedly vetted the Program. Plummer and other defendants began funneling Program funds into an oil-and-gas lease scheme. It was later discovered that the Program’s assets were substantially overvalued or nonexistent. Investors sued under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(c), also alleging fraud and breach of contract. The district court granted summary judgment and awarded $49.4 million with prejudgment interest of $15.6 million. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, stating that there was no genuine dispute over any material facts. View "West Hills Farms, LLC v. ClassicStar Farms, Inc." on Justia Law
United States v. Adams
Eight defendants who held positions with Clay County, Kentucky, were charged with conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(d), based on participation in a vote-buying scheme in three election cycles, 2002 to 2007. Candidates pooled money to pay “vote haulers” to deliver voters for a particular slate of candidates. To ensure that they voted for the correct slate, co-conspiring election officers and poll workers reviewed the ballots. When the proper slate was confirmed, the voter got a token or marking and was paid in a location away from the polls. Conspirators retained lists to avoid double payments and to keep track of whose votes could be bought in future elections and used absentee voting and voter-assistance forms to implement the scheme. When electronic voting machines were introduced, conspiring poll workers misinformed voters that they did not need to click “cast ballot” after selecting candidates; poll workers would enter the voting booth after the voter exited and change the electronic ballot to reflect the slate before casting the ballot. The Clay County Board of Elections was alleged to be the racketeering enterprise in the conspiracy. They were convicted after a seven week trial. The Sixth Circuit vacated, based on cumulative errors in evidentiary rulings. View "United States v. Adams" on Justia Law
United States v. Washington
Hill, Director of Risk Management for Detroit Public Schools invited Washington to submit a proposal for a wellness program for DPS employees. Washington and others joined Associates for Learning (A4L) and submitted a proposal quoting $150,000 for a pilot study. Contrary to DPS policy, Hill did not open competitive bidding or execute a written contract, and made payments by wire transfer, rather than by check. Hill, who later left DPS testified that he met with Washington to discuss larger amounts. Washington paid Hill five percent of the invoice amount for assistance in getting the invoices paid. Invoices totaling more than a million dollars for “future work” were paid. The partners met in public places to distribute cash. Washington was convicted of conspiracy to commit program fraud, 18 U.S.C. 371 and 666, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, 18 U.S.C. 1956. The district court enhanced Washington’s base offense level by 22 levels, finding that Washington was an “organizer or leader” and that the amount of loss to DPS was more than $2.5 million, and sentenced her to 84 months. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, finding that Washington was not prejudiced by errors made by counsel and that the evidence was sufficient. View "United States v. Washington" on Justia Law