Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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Defendant appealed her restitution order after pleading guilty to conspiracy to accept gratuities with the intent to be influenced or rewarded in connection with a bank transaction. The district court ordered her to pay $251,860.31 to her former employer, Wells Fargo, pursuant to the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act, 18 U.S.C. 3663A, finding that her conviction qualified as an "offense against property." The court affirmed the judgment, concluding that defendant facilitated bank transactions that proximately caused Wells Fargo's losses, and she intended to derive an unlawful benefit from the property that was the subject of these transactions. Therefore, the court concluded that defendant committed an "offense against property" as that phrase was understood in its ordinary and contemporary sense. View "United States v. Collins" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted under 18 U.S.C. 666 of embezzlement from an organization receiving federal funds. In this case, defendant, a professor in the College of Business, was embezzling from Florida State University (FSU). Defendant was also a director and officer of the Student Investment Fund (SIF), a non-profit corporation established by FSU for charitable and educational purposes, and had signatory authority over the SIF's bank account. On appeal, defendant argued, among other things, that any embezzlement was not from FSU and that the Government did not prove that the victimized organization under the statute was a recipient of federal benefits. The court concluded that its decision in United States v. McLean was dispositive. The court reasoned that the SIF received no federal funding, directly or indirectly. Therefore, there were no federal funds owned by, or under the care, custody, or control of the SIF. The court explained that defendant was a director and officer and thus an agent of the SIF, and his employment as a professor at FSU was irrelevant inasmuch as he did not embezzle any FSU funds. Therefore, because the Government failed to prove that the relevant local organization, the SIF, received any federal benefits, the court reversed the judgment and directed the district court to enter a judgment of acquittal. View "United States v. Doran" on Justia Law

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Defendant was found guilty of violating the Driver's Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. 2721(a), 2725(3), because she provided email addresses of residents in Mobile County from a License Commission database. Defendant, the former License Commissioner, provided the emails to a mayoral campaign. The court held that the term "personal information" in the Act, includes email addresses, and that the government presented sufficient evidence in this case for the jury to find that the License Commissioner was an "officer, employee, or contractor" of a "State department of motor vehicles." Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Hastie" on Justia Law

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Defendants Kenneth and Kimberly Horner, owners and operators of Topcat Towing, were convicted of assisting in the preparation of a fraudulent corporate tax return and filing a false individual income tax return. The court rejected defendants' claim of prosecutorial misconduct and concluded that no Giglio violation occurred in this case; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendants' two requested jury instructions regarding good faith reliance and due diligence obligations of tax preparers; and the court rejected defendants' evidentiary challenges, concluding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendants' motion in limine to exclude evidence of structuring cash deposits and false tax returns. Accordingly, the court affirmed the convictions. View "United States v. Horner" on Justia Law

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Defendant Bergman, a licensed physician's assistant employed by ATC, was convicted of conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud and conspiracy to make false statements relating to health care matters. Defendant Santaya, also employed by ATC, was convicted of conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud, conspiracy to pay and receive bribes and kickbacks in connection with a federal health care benefit program, and receipt of bribes and kickbacks in connection with a federal health care benefit program. The court concluded that the district court did not err by letting the jury decide whether Bergman withdrew from the conspiracy and in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal; the evidence was sufficient to convict Santaya of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and his motion for judgment of acquittal was properly denied; it was not an abuse of discretion for the district court or the magistrate judge to deny Santaya's request to strike the entire panel; the court rejected Bergman's evidentiary claims; the court rejected Santaya's claims of prosecutorial misconduct; Bergman's sentence of 180 months in prison and Santaya's sentence of 150 months in prison were reasonable; and the court rejected defendants' remaining claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Bergman" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Mexican nationals, filed suit against defendants, international air transportation companies that transport passengers to and from the United States and Mexico, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961-68, alleging that defendants defrauded them by collecting a Mexican tourism tax in which they were exempt. Mexico imposed a tax on certain travelers who arrive in Mexico on flights that originated outside of Mexico, but exempted Mexican nationals and children under the age of two. The district court dismissed the case with prejudice. The court concluded that, although defendants' conduct regarding the tax was very troubling, plaintiffs failed to allege the existence of an express agreement, let alone an "enterprise" under section 1962. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Almanza v. United Airlines" on Justia Law

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Defendant, an attorney, appealed his conviction and sentence after being convicted of mail, wire, and securities fraud. The convictions were based on evidence that he fabricated press releases and purchase orders to inflate the stock price of his client Signalife, a publicly-traded manufacturer of medical devices. The court rejected defendant's Brady v. Maryland claim, finding that defendant identified only one potential Brady document, which contained no information favorable to him and was accessible through reasonable diligence before trial. Furthermore, defendant failed to identify any suppressed material or any materially false testimony on which the government relied, purportedly in violation of Giglio v. United States. In regard to defendant's sentence, the court concluded that the district court erred in calculating an actual loss figure based on the losses of all investors under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996, 18 U.S.C. 3663A, and failed to determine whether intervening events caused the Signalife stock price to drop and, if so, whether these events were unforeseeable such that their effects should be subtracted from the actual loss figure. Accordingly, the court affirmed the conviction, vacated the sentence, and remanded with instructions. View "United States v. Stein" on Justia Law

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Defendant was found guilty of three counts of attempting to cause a financial institution to not file a required currency transaction report (a CTR), in violation of 31 U.S.C. 5324(a)(1). For the first time on appeal, defendant contends that the government and the district court constructively amended the indictment, allowing her to be tried and convicted of violating section 5324(a)(3), and not section 5324(a)(1). Defendant also argues for the first time that the evidence was insufficient to sustain her convictions. The court concluded that, although the instructions given by the district court were not perfect, they did not, under plain error analysis, amount to a constructive amendment of the indictment. The court also concluded, under a plain error analysis, that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Leon" on Justia Law

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After defendant pled guilty to embezzlement by a bank officer or employee, she challenged her sentence, arguing that it violated her constitutional rights and that it was both procedurally and substantively unreasonable. The court concluded that the district judge abused his discretion by giving significant (indeed, dispositive) weight to defendant's inability to pay restitution. Because the district judge confirmed and reiterated his consideration of defendant's inability to pay restitution as a factor in his order on remand---coupled with his stated belief that defendant's arguments on appeal were “frivolous,” even after having the benefit of reviewing those arguments---it appears the district court may be unable to disregard its improper consideration of that factor or, at least, that it may appear so. Therefore, the court exercised its supervisory powers and remanded for resentencing before a different district judge. View "United States v. Plate" on Justia Law

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Defendants Farha, Behrens, Kale, and Clay appeal their convictions for charges related to Medicaid fraud on multiple grounds. Defendants were all high-level executives of WellCare or one of its Florida subsidiaries, Staywell and HealthEase. At trial, the government proved that together defendants participated in a fraudulent scheme to file false Medicaid expense reports that misrepresented and overstated the amounts Staywell and HealthEase spent on medical services for Medicaid patients, specifically outpatient behavioral health care services. The court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to convict Farha, Behrens, and Kale for health care fraud; there was sufficient evidence to convict Behrens for making false representations to AHCA; and there was sufficient evidence to convict Clay for making false statements to federal agents. The court rejected Farha, Behrens, and Kale's challenge to the jury instructions with regard to their fraud convictions. Finally, the court rejected defendants' claims of evidentiary error. Accordingly, the court affirmed the convictions. View "United States v. Clay" on Justia Law