Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

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Appellee alleged that six U.S. Postal Inspectors wrongly caused him to be criminally prosecuted in retaliation for his public criticism of the United States Postal Service (USPS) and its personnel. The Postal Inspectors appealed the district court's qualified immunity, on appellee's claim of retaliatory inducement to prosecution in violation of his right to free speech under the First Amendment. Insofar as the appeal challenged the district court's determination that there were genuine issues of material fact, the court dismissed it for lack of jurisdiction. Insofar as the district court declined to find the Postal Inspectors protected by qualified immunity based on "arguable probable cause," the court affirmed. Accordingly, the court remanded to the district court for trial on the merits.

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Appellant, a primary care physician who served Medicaid patients in the District of Columbia, appealed his convictions for health care fraud and for making false statements relating to health care matters, as well as his 53 month prison sentence. At issue was whether the district court committed evidentiary errors and improperly refused to give the good faith instruction appellant requested. Also at issue was whether appellant's sentence was procedurally unreasonable. The court found no merit in appellant's assertions of trial errors and affirmed the judgment of conviction. The court held, however, that because the district gave an inadequate explanation for its above-Guidelines sentence and because this procedural defect amounted to plain error, the court vacated the sentence and remanded for further proceedings.

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A jury found David Safavian, Chief of Staff of the General Services Administration ("GSA"), guilty on four counts of a five-count indictment where his convictions were related to a golf trip he took with Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist, who had asked Safavian for information about two properties the GSA owned. At issue was whether Counts Three and Five should be vacated on the grounds of prosecutorial vindictiveness; whether Counts Two and Five should be vacated on the grounds that the government failed to prove Safavian's false statements to the ethics officer and to the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") were materially within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(1); and whether a new trial should be granted on Count One and Count Three where the district court improperly admitted evidence regarding the cost of the private plane. The court held that so long as Safavian's false statements were capable of influencing the course of the FBI's investigation, those statements were material within the meaning of section 1001(a)(1). The court also held that the district court did not clearly err in presuming vindictiveness on the part of the prosecution or in holding that the government overcame that presumption when it offered two reasons why the addition of Count Five was not vindictive. The court further held that its reasons for rejecting Safavian's arguments pertaining to Counts One, Two, and Three were the same as those of the district court and did not need to repeat them.

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AdSurfDaily, Inc., an internet marketing company incorporated and controlled by appellant, appealed a default judgment and final order of forfeiture after they withdrew their claims in this civil forfeiture action where federal agents seized $80 million of the company's bank account funds as part of an investigation of the company for wire fraud and money laundering. The government filed a complaint for forfeiture in rem against the funds and two pieces of real property that had been purchased with AdSurfDaily money. At issue was whether the district court violated appellants' due process rights when it failed to stay the forfeiture action pending the outcome of a parallel criminal proceeding and when the district court denied them an opportunity to challenge the forfeiture on the merits when it refused to reinstate their withdrawn claims. The court held that the district court did not violate appellants' due process rights when they never asked for a stay and where due process did not require the government to provide a person with the opportunity to challenge the seizure of property he had voluntarily forfeited. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying a motion to reinstate withdrawn claims when the withdrawal was the product of a free, deliberate choice.