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

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Defendant appealed the district court's order of restitution that was imposed after defendant was convicted of making a false statement in a matter within the jurisdiction of the executive branch of the federal government in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(2). The Fourth Circuit affirmed and held that it was evident in this case that the district court ordered restitution pursuant to the Mandatory Victims Rights Act (MVRA), 18 U.S.C. 3663; the categorical approach has no role to play in determining whether a Title 18 offense is "an offense against property" that triggers mandatory restitution under the MVRA; given the specific circumstances of defendant's section 1001 conviction, the court had little trouble finding that his false statement on the HUD-1 form was an "offense against property" under the MVRA; and the district court did not err when it determined that defendant's false statement directly and proximately caused harm to Bank of America and thus the Bank was the "victim" within the meaning of the MVRA. The court also held that the district court did not err in awarding restitution to the Bank in the amount of $1,385,444.83. View "United States v. Ritchie" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of numerous charges stemming from her submission of fraudulent immigration and tax filings, concluding that the district court correctly admitted evidence obtained following a search of defendant's home pursuant to a validly issued warrant. In this case, the seizure of over $41,000 in cash did not exceed the scope of the warrant where the warrant and supporting affidavit made clear that investigators were authorized to seize evidence of perjury and marriage or immigration fraud during their search, and the seizure of the cash did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Defendant's contention that the government failed to meet its burden of proving the tax and wire fraud charges against defendant beyond a reasonable doubt lacked merit because defendant's argument misunderstands the nature of the government's charges and the evidence presented against her at trial. View "United States v. Kimble" on Justia Law

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Social security survivors' benefits are a thing of value of the United States that can support a conviction under 18 U.S.C. 641. Viewed in the light most favorable to the government, the Fourth Circuit concluded that substantial evidence supported defendant's conviction for theft of government property beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, the jury could reasonably infer from two denied benefits applications that defendant had a motive to file under a different benefits program to again attempt to obtain benefits to which he was not entitled. Finally, the district court's trial management was reasonable and far from an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Kiza" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his convictions for conspiring to commit immigration fraud, and aiding and abetting fraud and misuse of immigration documents. The court concluded that there was no error in excluding the testimony of a witness that defendant argued was material and favorable to the defense; the court need not address the issue of whether bad faith was an element of a compulsory process claim because defendant failed to establish prejudice; and, to the extent that defendant styled his argument as a due process claim, the court likewise rejected it. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting an email listing the names of customers who still wanted to obtain a green card over defendants Federal Rule of Evidence 901 objection; on the record, the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the April 24th email as a witness's statement, rather than hearsay from the translator; and the court rejected defendant's argument that the district court improperly interfered with his presentation of a defense by repeatedly interrupting counsel's questions to witnesses and interfering with counsel's closing argument to the jury, essentially taking on the role of a prosecutor. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Kaixiang Zhu" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence from various offenses arising from his leadership of schemes wherein fraud was systematically utilized to keep his real estate empire afloat. The court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to convict defendant of the thirteen charges stated in the indictment; the trial court acted well within its discretion by instructing the jury on willful blindness; and defendant's below-Guidelines sentence of 216 months in prison was substantively reasonable. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Vinson" on Justia Law

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Defendant appeals her conviction for one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and mail fraud and ten counts of bank fraud for her role in originating and submitting fraudulent mortgage loan applications. Defendant raised several issues on appeal. The court concluded that defendant failed to establish any Sixth Amendment error where the district court allowed the government's pretrial seizure of defendant's assets where the seizure did not prevent defendant from being represented by her counsel of choice; the evidence was sufficient to support the conspiracy conviction; the court rejected defendant's evidentiary challenges; the evidence was sufficient to support the bank fraud convictions; the court rejected defendant's argument that the government constructively amended the indictment; the district court had jurisdiction to enter the preliminary and final forfeiture orders after the October 3 hearing; and the court rejected defendant's challenge to the district court’s substitute property order. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Chittenden" on Justia Law

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Defendant, the former chairman and CEO of Massey, appealed his conviction for violating federal mine safety laws and regulations. Defendant's conviction stemmed from his involvement in a tragic mine accident that caused the death of 29 miners. The court concluded that the district court did not err in refusing to dismiss the superseding indictment; the district court did not reversibly err in denying defendant an opportunity to engage in recross-examination of a Massey employee; the district court properly instructed the jury that it could conclude that defendant “willfully” violated federal mine safety laws if it found that defendant acted or failed to act with reckless disregard as to whether the action or omission would lead to a violation of mine safety laws; the first, second, and third jury instructions reflect the “bad purpose” mens rea discussed in Bryan v. United States because they required that the jury conclude that defendant took actions that he knew would lead to violations of safety laws or failed to take actions that he knew were necessary to comply with federal mine safety laws; and the district court did not reversibly err in providing the two-inference instruction. The court noted that, although it disapproved of the two-inference instruction, the district court's use of that instruction in this case does not amount to reversible error. The court directed the district courts not to use the two-inference instruction going forward. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Blankenship" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a CPA, appealed his sentence and conviction for conspiracy and obstruction of justice following his involvement in earnings mismanagement and improper accounting transactions while acting as chief accounting officer of Beazer Homes. The court concluded that the district court did not err in excluding evidence surrounding the false email accusations. In any event, any error was harmless where defendant was not ultimately prejudiced. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in quashing defendant's Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 17(c) subpoena to Beazer; in prohibiting defendant's accounting expert from testifying about work papers prepared by Beazer's independent auditors; and in allowing the government to have Beazer employees testify as lay witnesses about the propriety of complex accounting transactions without calling an accounting expert to testify. Finally, the court rejected all three of defendant's potential misconduct claims and concluded that any error was harmless. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Rand" on Justia Law