Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
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The Eleventh Circuit vacated defendant's conviction for honest-services fraud through bribery for undertaking an "official act" in his capacity as a police officer. The court remanded for a new trial and held that it could not be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury convicted defendant of the offenses that Congress criminalized when it enacted the honest-services fraud and bribery statutes. In this case, the jury was not instructed with the crucial analogy limiting the definition of "question" or "matter" in this context as comparable in scope to a lawsuit, hearing, or administrative determination, and the government itself did not otherwise do so. The court also affirmed defendant's conviction of computer fraud. View "United States v. Van Buren" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed the district court's restitution order after she pleaded guilty to numerous criminal charges related to her involvement in a fraudulent tax credit scheme. The Eleventh Circuit set aside the restitution order and held that the refunds issued by the IRS due to the fraudulent tax credit scheme were all for the same exact amount — $1,000 — and the evidence the government submitted in support of its restitution request was admittedly and demonstrably inaccurate. In this case, where the appropriate restitution amount is definite and easy to calculate, the government cannot satisfy its burden of proof by relying on the oft-stated (but not always applicable) principle that restitution can be based on a reasonable estimate of loss. View "United States v. Sheffield" on Justia Law

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Defendants, Mr. Feldman and Mrs. Feldman, appealed their convictions stemming from their operation of a pain management clinic. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the convictions, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Mrs. Feldman's motion for severance; the district court did not plainly err by admitting the testimony of the government's witness; because Mrs. Feldman implicitly consented to the order declaring a mistrial, she was not entitled to relief on her double jeopardy claim; and the court rejected Mrs. Feldman's remaining claims of prosecutorial misconduct and claims of error regarding the jury instructions. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to support each of defendant's conspiracy convictions, and convictions based on dispensation of controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose that resulted in death (Counts 2 through 4). However, the court reversed the district court's application of 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(C)'s 20-year mandatory minimum sentence on Counts 2–4 and remanded the case for the district court to resentence Dr. Feldman to a term of imprisonment of not more than 20 years as to each of these counts. View "United States v. Feldman" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint in a civil forfeiture action involving criminal proceeds from the faja retail business. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it allowed the government to dismiss its complaint without prejudice, because claimants have not established that they suffered clear legal prejudice by the government's voluntary dismissal. The court also held that claimants were not entitled to attorney's fees under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, because they did not substantially prevail in the action. View "United States v. Kurvas Secret By W" on Justia Law

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In this fraudulent transfer case, plaintiffs filed suit in the Georgia district court to recover a judgment obtained in a Kentucky district court against a defendant who had colluded with his former wife to fraudulently transfer his assets to her as part of a divorce settlement. A jury returned a favor for plaintiffs. After ruling on justiciability issues, the Eleventh Circuit held that the district court did not err by awarding plaintiffs in an amount of $1,478,489; the district court did not err by instructing the jury on the burden of proof under the Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act (UFTA), because the correct burden was a preponderance of the evidence, rather than the heightened standard of clear and convincing evidence; and the absence of compensatory damages did not preclude the award of punitive damages. However, because plaintiffs' claim did not include the punitive damages awarded against defendant, the Georgia judgment was reversed to the extent it allowed plaintiffs to recover those damages from the ex-wife. Finally, the court held that plaintiffs were not entitled to any prejudgment interest under Georgia law because its claim was not previously liquidated to the ex-wife. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Alliant Tax Credit 31, Inc. v. Murphy" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed Defendant Bechir and Kenny's convictions and sentences for seven crimes arising out of their identity theft and tax fraud operations. The court affirmed the district court's denial of Bechir's motion to suppress and held that the automobile exception to the warrant requirement applied to the warrantless search of his car and, in the alternative, the inevitable discovery doctrine applied to the search. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to show that Kenny knowingly took part in the criminal activities of identity theft and tax fraud; the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing a detective to testify as an expert witness as to the meanings of the terminology used in stolen identity refund fraud generally or by the individuals recorded on the undercover video specifically; and defendants' cumulative error claim lacked merit. The court also held that the district court did not err by applying a two-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2B1.1(b)(15)(B) for possession of a firearm in connection with defendants' offenses. Finally, Kenny's 84 month sentence was substantively reasonable and the district court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing him. View "United States v. Delva" on Justia Law

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Amodeo pleaded guilty to involvement in a criminal scheme to divert his clients’ payroll taxes. He agreed to forfeit many assets, including the ownership of two shell corporations. The district court entered a preliminary forfeiture order that divested Amodeo of those assets. After no third parties asserted an interest in the corporations, the court entered a final forfeiture order that transferred ownership of them to the government. Years later, the corporations were named as defendants in a lawsuit brought by victims of Amodeo’s scheme. The government then successfully moved to vacate the final forfeiture order as to the corporations. Amodeo appealed the partial vacatur on the ground that the district court lacked the authority to enter it. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed his appeal. The partial vacatur caused him no injury, so Amodeo lacks standing to complain about it regardless of whether or not the district court possessed authority. View "United States v. Amodeo" on Justia Law

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Creditors filed suit alleging that a husband and wife worked together to commit multiple acts of mail and wire fraud over several years for the purpose of hiding the husband's assets—acts which, in the creditors' telling, violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The district court found in favor of the wife, finding that no reasonable juror could conclude that they formed an organization with some sort of framework, formal or informal, for the purpose of engaging in racketeering activity. The Eleventh Circuit reversed and held that there was a genuine factual dispute as to whether the couple formed an association-in-fact enterprise separate and apart from their marital relationship. In this case, the district court erred by applying a heightened standard for association-in-fact enterprises consisting of married couples, rather than applying the sames rules to married couples as to everyone else. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings and vacated the district court's order awarding the wife costs. View "Al-Rayes v. Willingham" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for violating 18 U.S.C. 1028A(a)(1), which makes it a crime for any person to use, without authority, a means of identification of another person. The court held that, considering all the evidence, the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the bank was insured by the FDIC both before and after defendant's offenses and that it did not need to renew its insurance in the interim. Therefore, coupled with the universal presumption that all banks were federally insured, and viewing the proof in the light most favorable to the government, a reasonable juror could find that the bank was insured by the FDIC on the dates of defendant's offenses. Furthermore, the court held that the plain meaning, statutory context, and existing precedent all showed that defendant "used" his victim's means of identification when he employed that person's signature to obtain the loan and thereby converted the signature to his own service. View "United States v. Munksgard" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions and sentence for crimes related to a multi-state tax fraud scheme using Indigent Inmate, a prisoner "charity" defendant founded and financed. The court held that the district court did not err when it admitted evidence seized from defendant's clothing as well as his post-arrest statements; the district court did not abuse its discretion when it admitted evidence of uncharged conduct and photographs of defendant and another individual with large sums of money; the district court did not violate defendant's right not to wear jail clothes; the district court did not err when it gave the jury a Pinkerton jury instruction; sufficient evidence supported defendant's convictions; and the district court did not err when it calculated defendant's sentencing guidelines range, nor did it impose a substantively unreasonable sentence. View "United States v. Shabazz" on Justia Law