Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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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

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed defendant's three convictions for wire fraud, but vacated his 36 month sentence. Applying the four factor test in Barker, the court held that defendant was not denied the right to a speedy trial. In this case, the district court did not err by concluding that the government made good-faith, diligent efforts to locate and arrest defendant. Furthermore, defendant failed to demonstrate actual prejudice. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to prove that he possessed culpable knowledge and intent necessary for his wire fraud convictions; the court rejected defendant's evidentiary challenges; but the district court's failure to address defendant personally about his right to allocution constituted plain error. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Cristiano Machado" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed Defendant Skillern and Nelson's convictions for mail fraud, wire fraud, and associated conspiracies. Defendants' convictions stemmed from their efforts to peddle non-existent gold to the public through their company, Own Gold LLC. In this case, Skillern alleged that the district court deprived him of his Sixth Amendment right to the assistance of counsel when, just before an overnight recess that occurred while Skillern was on the stand, the district court granted his lawyer's request to speak to him "about matters other than his testimony." The court held that the district court did not commit constitutional error in light of the court's en banc decision in Crutchfield v. Wainwright, 803 F.2d 1103 (11th Cir. 1986), because the record did not reflect that Skillern (or his lawyer) actually wanted or planned to discuss his testimony during the recess. The court rejected defendants' remaining contentions. View "United States v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed Defendant Presendieu's convictions, and vacated Defendant Jean's sentence in a case involving an illegal check-cashing scheme. The court held that Presendieu did not show that the district court plainly erred, either as a matter of constitutional due process or under Rule 11, in accepting defendant's guilty plea. The court held, however, that the district court clearly erred in holding Jean responsible for the approximately $84,000 of loss incurred as a result of a codefendant's independent check-cashing activity. The court also held that the district court did not err in applying to Jean's sentence a two-level sentence enhancement under USSG 2B1.1(b)(11)(B)(i) and a two-level enhancement under USSG 2B1.1(b)(10)(C) for the use of sophisticated means. Finally, the district court did not err by denying Jean's request for a minor role reduction under USSG 3B1.2(b). The court remanded for the district court to resentence Jean. View "United States v. Presendieu" on Justia Law

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Defendants Larry and Dixie Masino were indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, operating an illegal gambling business, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and money laundering. A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment that added predicate offenses to Count Two, operating an illegal gambling business. The Eleventh Circuit declined to exercise pendant jurisdiction over Larry's cross-appeal of a denial of a motion to dismiss the indictment; Count Two of the indictment was legally sufficient to state an offense; because a violation of the Florida bingo statute could satisfy the essential element about state law required to prove Count Two, the court need not address Florida gambling house statutes as a basis for upholding the indictment; and thus the indictment stated the essential element about state law because the bingo statute provides at least some violations that would make a gambling business illegal. Accordingly, the court dismissed the cross-appeal for lack of jurisdiction, reversed the order dismissing part of Count Two of the indictment, and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Masino" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part defendant's 84-month sentence for identity theft and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The court held that the loss amount of $165,500 from 331 debit and credit cards ($500 times 331) was properly attributed to defendant; a social security number qualifies as an "access device" under the definition in 18 U.S.C. 1029(e)(1) and for purposes of the Special Rules in the Sentencing Guidelines; and there was no error in including the loss amount of $500 for each of the "numerous" social security numbers shown on defendant's computer. The court remanded to the district court to address, and make fact findings about, the loss amount. On remand, both sides may submit additional evidence as to what types of personal information were found in the apartment. The evidence supported the district court's finding that defendant did not meet her burden of proving her minor role and the district court did not err when it denied defendant the benefit of an acceptance of responsibility reduction. However, the court remanded for additional factfinding as to the criminal history category points. View "United States v. Wright" on Justia Law