Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
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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

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and three substantive counts of wire fraud, relating to the operation of his company, Gourmet Express.The court held that the IRS agents' search of defendant's home office did not violate the Fourth Amendment and therefore the district court did not err by admitting the seized evidence. In this case, the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied. The court rejected defendant's argument that the government violated due process by filing the second superseding indictment and held that the district court did not err in refusing to strike it. The court weighed the four Barker factors and held that plaintiff's Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial was not violated. Finally, the court held that there was sufficient evidence to support defendant's convictions for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and defendant's sentence was substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Scully" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions for conspiracy and fraud for participating in a plot to defraud the federal workers’ compensation fund. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to convict Defendants Rose and Sanders of conspiracy to commit health care and wire fraud, as well as health care fraud and aiding and abetting. Furthermore, the evidence was sufficient to convict Rose of conspiracy to launder money, and of money laundering and aiding and abetting. The court also held that the district court did not plainly err by denying a motion for a mistrial, and there was no error in the district court's handling of a recalcitrant witness. Finally, the court upheld the criminal forfeiture order. View "United States v. Sanders" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions on twenty-three felony counts related to his role in schemes to defraud philanthropists, using their money to finance his personal life and political career. Defendant served two nonconsecutive terms in the United States House of Representatives.The court held that the district court's jury instructions were not erroneous; it was not plain error for the district court to define 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations in the charge, and defendant was not entitled to an instruction on good faith; the district court did not err by denying defendant's motions for judgment of acquittal under Rule 29; the government provided ample evidence that defendant fraudulently devised, and implemented, a scheme to deprive two donors of their money and property, thus allowing the jury to rationally find him guilty of mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering; and the Federal Election Campaign Act's contribution limits apply to coordinated spending on political communications, irrespective of whether those communications contain magic words of express advocacy. View "United States v. Stockman" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for charges related to his role in a massive conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. The court held that defendant's claim that the district court violated Federal Rule of Evidence 1006 when it admitted into evidence certain summary charts was meritless under any standard of review; there was no error in admitting evidence of the criminal convictions of two of his co-conspirators for legitimate purposes, and any error in admitting evidence of the criminal convictions of three other co-conspirators was harmless; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by issuing the deliberate ignorance instruction.The court also rejected defendant's challenges to the district court's calculation of his recommended sentence under the sentencing guidelines, and upheld the district court's finding of the loss amount, that his fraud involved ten or more victims, and that his case involved a large number of vulnerable victims. Finally, the court upheld the district court's calculations of restitution and held that the district court did not clearly err in its forfeiture calculation. View "United States v. Mazkouri" on Justia Law