Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for nine counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. The court held that the district court did not plainly err by finding that defendant's consent to search the vehicle was voluntary. In this case, the district court adopted the magistrate judge's finding that although defendant was being watched by deputies while on the property, did not have access to a phone, and was told that a warrant would be sought whether or not he consented to a search of his truck, his consent was not mere acquiescence to government authority. The court rejected defendant's contention that the government failed to prove venue was proper in the District of Minnesota where a reasonable jury could find that it was more likely than not that the emails at issue were sent from or received in Minnesota. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing defendant, and his sentence was not substantively unreasonable. The court also held that the $2.1 million personal money judgment forfeiture did not violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against excessive fines. Finally, the court rejected defendant's arguments in two pro se appeals as without merit. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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After defendant pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud, he claimed that the district court should have dismissed the indictment against him after alleged government misconduct came to light. Defendant was a college president involved in a bribery-and-kickback scheme with three main participants, including a state senator and a business consultant. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that defendant lacked standing to assert a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel and he failed to show the constitutional violation that the senator allegedly suffered specifically affected his right to a fair trial. In this case, the senator's attorney had previously represented a law enforcement agent, who was present at an interview between the senator and government agents, in a divorce proceeding. The court also held that a co-defendant's decision to record numerous conversations was made on his own and there was no government action involved that violated defendant's constitutional rights. Finally, the court held that the agent's decision to erase his laptop's hard drive did not entitle defendant to dismissal. View "United States v. Paris" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to passing counterfeit securities. The court held that the district court did not clearly err in determining the intended-loss calculation and in determining the amount of restitution. In this case, trying to rent a jet without intending to pay for it satisfied the definition of an intended loss, and the district court reasonably estimated the victims' ultimate losses. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Defendants Waits and Mills appealed their convictions and sentences for wire fraud related to their involvement with government feeding programs to children in low income areas. The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing defendants' proffered jury instructions; the district court did not err by admitting into evidence a recording of a conversation between Waits and a coconspirator; the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Waits' motion for a new trial; and the district court did not err in calculating Waits' criminal history score and in sentencing him. However, the court vacated and remanded the forfeiture order against Waits, because the order was based on the incorrect statute. View "United States v. Waits" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for corruptly endeavoring to obstruct and impede the due administration of the internal revenue laws, in violation of 26 U.S.C. 72121(a). After defendant's trial, the Supreme Court decided Marinello v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 1101 (2018), which held that, for a section 7212(a) offense, the government must show that there is a nexus between the defendant's conduct and a particular administrative proceeding. The government conceded that, post Marinello, the jury instruction in defendant's trial was erroneous. Nonetheless, the court held that the error was harmless because the evidence supporting the jury's verdict was so overwhelming that no rational jury could find otherwise. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting expert testimony; the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained during a civil audit; and the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion for mistrial. View "United States v. Beckham" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of mail and wire fraud and sentence of 87 months in prison. Defendant's conviction stemmed from his scheme to promote the creation of a Hmong homeland by accepting money from donors. The court held that the district court did not err in preventing defendant from raising a public authority defense at trial because he failed to show even apparent authority. Furthermore, the district court did not err by precluding him from presenting an entrapment by estoppel defense. The court also held that defendant's Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination was not violated; defendant's right to compulsory process under the Sixth Amendment was not violated; and the court declined to consider defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Finally, the court held that defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable where the district court did not abuse its discretion and explicitly considered sentencing disparities. View "United States v. Seng Xiong" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for seven counts of aggravated identity theft stemming from his involvement in preparing personal income tax returns for his clients that obtained inflated refunds by falsely claiming dependents. The court held that the district court did not err in interpreting the term "uses, without lawful authority" under 18 U.S.C. 1028A(a)(1) where defendant knowingly used the names and social security numbers of falsely claimed dependents, including his own children, in committing wire fraud, and whether the minors "consented" to the use was irrelevant. Therefore, the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion for acquittal. The district court also did not abuse its discretion by rejecting a jury instruction incorporating defendant's interpretation of the statute. View "United States v. Gatwas" on Justia Law

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A conspiracy to defraud financial institutions in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area involved cashing counterfeit checks. Participants, including 25 co-defendants, created the counterfeit checks using check-printing software and blank check stock. “Bank insiders” provided bank account information for use on counterfeit checks. "Runners" were enlisted to serve as payees and take the checks to the bank to cash or deposit. Conspiracy members acquired account information through various means. Using social media, participants searched the hashtag “#myfirstpaycheck” and found photographs of legitimate paychecks that unwitting victims had posted online. Bank insiders sometimes provided account information. Some conspirators used their own payroll or personal checks to be counterfeited. During the period between November 2007 and September 2013 alone, more than 500 runners negotiated over 1500 counterfeit or fraudulent checks. Gaye pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344 and 1349, 20 counts of aiding and abetting bank fraud, and two counts of aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft, 18 U.S.C. 1028A. Fillie pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft. Sumoso pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and four counts of aiding and abetting bank fraud. The Eighth Circuit affirmed sentences of (respectively) 144, 134, and 54 months’ imprisonment and restitution orders, rejecting arguments that the district court committed procedural error in applying the guidelines. View "United States v. Gaye" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction for misappropriating over $5000 in federal grant funds that were distributed to the organization that he managed to subsidize an after-school program for children, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(A). The Eighth Circuit held that section 666(a)(1)(A) is not a continuing offense and a defendant may not be charged for a section 666(a)(1)(A) offense committed outside the five-year statute of limitations. However, like the defendant in this case, when a defendant has committed the offense both within and outside the limitations period, he may be charged with violations committed within the limitations period. The court held that any error in admitting evidence related to expenditures outside the limitations period did not seriously affect the fairness, integrity or public reputation of the judicial proceedings. Furthermore, there was no error in admitting a purported grant application into evidence; any error regarding the admission of hearsay at a pre-trial release proceeding was moot; and the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction. View "United States v. Askia" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's calculation of the loss amount in defendant's sentence after he was convicted of five counts of wire fraud. The court held that the district court properly determined that defendant's employer was a victim of the fraud scheme and that the company suffered actual and intended pecuniary losses, and the district court did not commit clear error in finding that certain uncharged conduct was part of defendant's common scheme or plan and including that conduct in the calculation of loss. The court vacated, however, the restitution award. The court held that the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act applied to the wire fraud conviction and the court reversed and remanded in light of Lagos v. United States, 138 S.Ct. 1684 (May 29, 2018). View "United States v. Cornelsen" on Justia Law