Articles Posted in U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals

by
Defendant was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit tax fraud. On appeal, the government challenged defendant's sentence as substantively unreasonable and defendant cross-appealed, challenging her convictions. The court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to prove that defendant knowingly and intentionally joined in an agreement to defraud Best Buy; the evidence was sufficient to prove that defendant willfully committed affirmative acts constituting tax evasion and that a tax deficiency resulted; the evidence was sufficient to sustain defendant's tax fraud conspiracy since the evidence showed that she knowingly and intentionally entered an agreement with her husband to evade taxes and that she took an overt act in furtherance of the agreement; the evidence at trial was not "materially different" from the facts in the indictment and, therefore, no variance occurred and the district court did not err in denying her motion for acquittal on that basis; the district court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting defendant's claim that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant a new trial based on admission of Government Exhibit 17. Accordingly, the court affirmed defendants convictions. In regards to defendant's sentence, the court remanded for the district court to provide a fuller explanation of the sentence. View "United States v. Cole" on Justia Law

by
Defendants appealed their convictions for 44 counts of fraudulent behavior relating to theft of government funds, filing of their personal taxes, and actions they took as paid tax preparers. The court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions; the district court did not plainly err by joining defendants for trial; the district court did not err in excluding expert witnesses for the defense; taken as a whole, the district court's instructions "fairly and adequately" submitted the issue of good faith to the jury and it was not error to reject defendants' proffered good faith instruction; and the district court did not err in calculating restitution. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. Morris" on Justia Law

by
Defendant Calhoun appealed her conviction of two counts of conspiracy to commit access device fraud and aggravated identity theft and making false statements to investigators. Calhoun's convictions stemmed from her purchase of several "black market" airline tickets from Defendant Ross. Ross appealed his sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit access device fraud and aggravated identity theft, access device fraud, and aggravated identity fraud. The court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to convict Calhoun; the district court committed no prejudicial abuse of discretion in not sua sponte excluding an inspector's testimony; and the court rejected Calhoun's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The court also concluded that the district court's finding that the fraud loss exceeded $1,000,000 was not clearly erroneous; the district court did not err in imposing a 6-level enhancement for a fraud offense involving more than 250 or more victims under U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(2)(C); and the district court did not err in imposing a 2-level enhancement for a fraud offense involving sophisticated means under U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(10)(C). Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. Calhoun" on Justia Law

by
Defendant pled guilty to one count of securities fraud in violation of 15 U.S.C. 78j(b), 78ff and 17 C.F.R. 240.10b-5 (Rule 10b-5). On appeal, defendant challenged his sentence of five years' imprisonment, arguing that because he had no knowledge that his conduct violated Rule 10b-5, imprisonment was not a permissible sentencing option. However, defendant had admitted to knowing the substance of Rule 10b-5, and this removed him from the protection of the no-knowledge provision. Because defendant failed to carry his burden of showing that he had no knowledge of Rule 10b-5, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Behren" on Justia Law

by
Defendant appealed his sentence after pleading guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. The court rejected defendant's contention that the district court impermissibly considered factors unrelated to his assistance to law enforcement and that the district court improperly refused to consider some of his assistance to law enforcement. Therefore, the court affirmed the sentence, holding that the district court did not commit plain error when it determined the extent of the downward departure under U.S.S.G. 5K1.1. View "United States v. Troyer" on Justia Law

by
Defendant pleaded guilty to money laundering and conspiring to commit honest-services mail fraud. Defendant's conviction stemmed from his participation in defrauding his employer, Best Buy, by assisting one of Best Buy's vendors. On appeal, defendant challenged his sentence, contending that the district court erred by denying him an acceptance of responsibility reduction under U.S.S.G. 3E1.1 and by sentencing him above the 60-month maximum for the conspiracy offense. The district court found that defendant's repeated false statements at a crucial point in the case were "all direct repudiations of his own guilt." Therefore, the court held that the perjured testimony went to the heart of the acceptance of responsibility, and the district court did not clearly err in finding that defendant did not "clearly demonstrate" his willingness to take responsibility for his criminal conduct. The court agreed that the 90-month sentence for conspiracy exceeded the statutory maximum but concluded that the error did not affect defendant's substantial rights. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Bossany, Jr." on Justia Law

by
Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of price fixing and one count of bid rigging in violation of 15 U.S.C. 1. Defendant subsequently appealed his sentence, contending that the district court abused its discretion by not accepting the binding plea agreement. Defendant also contended that the sentence of 48 months, as well as the amount of the fine, was substantively unreasonable. The court found no basis for concluding the final sentence was substantively unreasonable. The district court considered appropriate factors in varying from the guidelines and adequately explained its sentence. Similarly, the district court considered appropriate factors in selecting the fine amount, and adequately explained its chosen amount. Therefore, the court found no basis for concluding the amount of the fine was substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Vandebrake" on Justia Law

by
Defendant pled guilty to one count of structuring financial transactions and was sentenced to thirty months in prison. On appeal, defendant challenged the procedural and substantive reasonableness of his sentence. The court held that the district court did not commit any procedural error in sentencing defendant and that court adequately explained the sentence it imposed and its reasons for denying both a downward departure and a variance. The court also held that defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable where the district court sentenced him at the bottom of the Guidelines range, after taking into account various factors such as his military service, health, age, and role in the crime. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Bordeaux, Jr." on Justia Law

by
Defendant was convicted of bank fraud, his sentence was subsequently reduced, he was placed on supervised release, and his supervised release was revoked twice. Defendant appealed the second revocation of his supervised release and appealed the district court's post revocation sentence, which included a special condition of supervised release requiring him to reside in a residential reentry center for a third time upon his release. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in revoking defendant's supervised release where he admitted to violating ten conditions of supervised release. The court also held that the district court did not plainly err when it ordered defendant to reside in a residential reentry center where that court followed the procedures set forth in 18 U.S.C. 3583. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed. View "United States v. Melton" on Justia Law

by
Defendant pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting a scheme to defraud Wal-Mart of more than $675,00 by the use of fictitious money transfers. Defendant was ordered to pay restitution to Wal-Mart, but just before her sentencing, defendant transferred a substantial portion of her cash assets to her boyfriend. Defendant subsequently violated a condition of supervised released by failing to make two scheduled restitution payments. Defendant's supervised release was revoked and she was sentenced to one year and one day in prison. The court affirmed and held that defendant willfully failed to make sufficient bona fide efforts legally to acquire the resources to pay her restitution obligation. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed. View "United States v. Holt" on Justia Law