Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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Dr. Narang and Moparty were convicted of Conspiracy to Commit Health Care Fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1349; Health Care Fraud, section 1347, and Engaging in Monetary Transactions in Property Derived from Specified Unlawful Activity, section 1957. Narang is an internist who practiced at his Texas self-owned clinic, North Cypress. Moparty co-owned Red Oak Hospital and served as an administrator for Trinity Health Network, which provided staffing and administrative services to health care entities. Narang ordered unnecessary medical tests for patients and then authorized Moparty to bill for these tests at the higher hospital rate even though these patients were seen and treated at Narang’s North Cypress office. The indictment alleged that this scheme resulted in fraudulent billing of over $20 million to Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, and Cigna. Those companies paid Moparty at least $3.2 million in reimbursement for those claims which he allegedly split with Narang through a series of financial transactions.The court sentenced Moparty to 108 months and Narang to 121 months of imprisonment, with joint and several liability for $2,621,999.04 in restitution. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence and finding that, although the government made repeated errors, those errors did not warrant reversal. View "United States v. Moparty" on Justia Law

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In a previous lawsuit, HCB won a $2 million judgment against Lee McPherson for a defaulted loan. After unsuccessful attempts to collect, HCB filed suit against McPherson, seeking treble damages under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). One month after HCB filed suit, McPherson registered the $2 million judgment plus interest with the first court. The district court dismissed the suit with prejudice, concluding that McPherson satisfied the underlying judgment and thus HCB suffered no injury.The Fifth Circuit joined its sister circuit and held that a plaintiff may not recover treble damages sustained in a RICO action after the underlying debt is satisfied. In this case, because HCB recovered its lost debt shortly after filing suit, the court concluded that the debt is no longer lost. The court explained that HCB points to a speculative investment return even though it received post-judgment interest, and thus it has no legal claim to lost investment opportunity. Therefore, HCB cannot plead an essential statutory element of a RICO offense. Because no amendment can cure that pleading defect, the district court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing the federal claims with prejudice or declining supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims. View "HCB Financial Corp. v. McPherson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Lexington Law and its vendor, Progrexion, for purportedly perpetrating a fraud in which the firm failed to disclose that it was sending letters to the companies in its clients' names and on their behalves. After a jury agreed that defendants violated Texas law in committing fraud and fraud by non-disclosure, the district court set aside the verdict and issued judgment in favor of defendants as a matter of law.The Fifth Circuit affirmed, concluding that plaintiffs have not shown that defendants committed fraud. In this case, the district court concluded that defendants did not make any false representations (material or otherwise) when signing and sending the dispute letters because Lexington Law had the legal right to sign its clients' names on the correspondence it sent on their behalf to data furnishers who reported inaccurate information about the clients' credit. Furthermore, Progrexion cannot be liable for fraud since it, like Lexington Law, did not make any material misrepresentations. The court also concluded that plaintiffs' fraud by non-disclosure claim must be dismissed because they did not justifiably rely on any failure of defendants to disclose material facts, and plaintiffs have not shown that defendants had a duty to disclose that they were the ones actually sending the dispute letters. Additionally, plaintiffs have not shown that Progrexion disclosed any facts—material or otherwise—and so cannot be liable for fraud by nondisclosure. The court explained that the fact that Lexington Law had the legal right to send dispute letters on their clients behalves and in their names suggests that the firm did not make any false representations, and thus the firm did not create any false impressions requiring disclosure. Finally, plaintiffs waived their conspiracy claim by failing to move for judgment as a matter of law on the claim before and after the case was submitted to the jury or for a new trial. View "The CBE Group, Inc. v. Lexington Law Firm" on Justia Law

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Defendant was indicted in a second superseding indictment on eight charges of false use of a passport in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1543, and eight charges of misuse of a passport in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1544. The Government now agrees that the convictions under section 1544 must be vacated based on insufficient evidence.The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for false use of a passport and held that there was ample evidence, both direct and circumstantial, to conclude that defendant used fraudulent passports to open accounts at various banks in the Houston area. Because the court has determined that there is insufficient evidence to support defendant's section 1544 convictions for misuse of a passport, the court need not address defendant's argument that the district court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the indictment as to those charges. Finally, the court also held that defendant failed to show that the district court plainly erred in allowing certain lay opinion testimony and failed to demonstrate that the district court clearly erred in its loss calculation. Accordingly, the court vacated the section 1544 convictions and affirmed the section 1543 convictions. View "United States v. Masha" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's 120 month sentence imposed after she was convicted of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.The court held that defendant failed to show that the district court imposed an unconstitutional trial penalty on her at sentencing and rejected her claim that she was treated more harshly than her co-conspirators because she chose to go to trial rather than to plead guilty. In this case, her only direct co-conspirator was charged with different crimes that carried different statutory maximum sentences. The court also held that defendant's sentence was not procedurally unreasonable where the district court did not abuse its discretion by improperly presuming the Guidelines range to be reasonable; the district court considered the need to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities; and defendant failed to show a reasonable probability that an explanation by the district court for running the sentences consecutively would have changed her total punishment. Finally, the court held that defendant's sentence was not substantively unreasonable and upheld the district court's restitution order, rejecting procedural and constitutional challenges. View "United States v. Gozes-Wagner" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and six counts of aiding and abetting wire fraud. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to provide a rational jury with more than sufficient grounds to conclude that defendant did not sincerely believe he had a legitimate, unwritten agreement with the City.The court also held that the district court did not err in declining defendant's requested jury instructions where the jury instructions substantially covered defendant's good-faith defense because they accurately described the intent requirements for the charges against him; defendant was allowed to argue at trial that he acted in good faith according to an unwritten agreement that abandoned hourly billing, and thus his ability to present his defense was not seriously impaired; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to give defendant's fill-in-the-blank instruction. Finally, the court rejected defendant's challenges to the district court's loss calculation, holding that the district court did not err in its application of USSG 2B1.1(b)(1) and that defendant must pay restitution under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act. View "United States v. Comstock" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for making false statements to obtain federal workers' compensation benefits under 18 U.S.C. 1920 and for theft of public money under 18 U.S.C. 641. The court assumed without deciding that it was clear error to admit the testimony about the general honesty of workers' compensation patients, and held that the error was harmless because it did not affect plaintiff's substantial rights. The court also held that the district court's jury instruction was not erroneous where the alternative verbs in the first paragraph of Section 641 are means of committing the offense, not elements. View "United States v. Coffman" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of four counts of structuring financial transactions for the purpose of evading reporting requirements, a violation of 31 U.S.C. 5324(a)(3) and (d).The Fifth Circuit held that the Count 4 indictment fails to state an offense but, given the evidence introduced at trial, the defect is harmless. The court also held that the $52,042 forfeiture judgment is not excessive under the Eighth Amendment. In this case, defendant's offenses were intentional efforts to evade a reporting requirement, related to other criminal activity, conducted over a 27-month period, and the $52,042 forfeiture is a fraction of the statutory maximum and less than double the Guidelines maximum. View "United States v. Suarez" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for eleven federal tax offenses. Defendant's conviction stemmed from his involvement in a conspiracy to commit tax fraud by filing false tax returns. The court held even if there was error in admitting summary testimony and charts, the error was harmless; the evidence was sufficient to sustain a conviction of every count; and there are no cumulative errors requiring reversal. View "United States v. Nicholson" on Justia Law

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Defendants were convicted of conspiracy to engage in Medicare and Medicaid fraud in their operation of a home healthcare business, continuing over a period of three years and causing over $3.5 million in losses.The Fifth Circuit affirmed Defendants Emordi and Isidaehomen's conviction, holding that the evidence was sufficient for the jury to find that defendants knew of and voluntarily joined the conspiracy. The court also affirmed the district court's imposition of a two-level enhancement to Defendant Okwilagwe's sentence for an offense involving 10 or more victims; affirmed an enhancement under USSG 2B1.1(b)(1)(J) for an intended loss between $3.5 million and $9.5 million; and affirmed the restitution amount. Finally, the court affirmed Defendant Etti's sentence, holding that the district court did not plainly err by imposing the below-Guidelines sentence that was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Emordi" on Justia Law