Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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The Second Circuit followed the logical course charted by longstanding precedent to reach two conclusions with respect to 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(2): first, the "agent" of a federally funded organization need not have control over the federal funds, and the agent need not work in a specific program within the organization that uses those federal dollars; and second, the "business" of a federally funded organization need not be commercial in nature.The court affirmed Defendants Dawkins and Code's conviction for conspiracy to commit bribery in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371 and 666(a)(2), as well as Dawkins's conviction of substantive bribery in violation of section 666(a)(2). Defendants' convictions stemmed from their involvement in a scheme to bribe basketball coaches at NCAA Division I universities in exchange for the coaches' agreement to steer their student-athletes toward Dawkins's sports management company after leaving college and becoming professional basketball players.In this case, the court concluded that the superseding indictment properly alleged a violation of section 666(a)(2); the Government proved a violation of section 666(a)(2) where section 666(a)(2) does not require a nexus between the "agent" of a federally funded organization and the federal funds the organization receives, and the bribes paid by defendants to the university basketball coaches in exchange for influence exerted over student-athletes were "in connection" with a university's "business;" the statute is constitutional as applied to defendants; the district court did not abuse its discretion when making the challenged evidentiary rulings; and the district court made no reversible errors in providing the challenged jury instructions. View "United States v. Dawkins" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's amended judgment following defendant's conviction for one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371, one count of securities fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1348 and 2, and six counts of insider trading in violation of 15 U.S.C. 78j(b) and 78ff, 17 C.F.R. 240.10b-5 and 10b5-2, and 18 U.S.C. 2.In viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, the court concluded that defendant's execution of confidentiality agreements with a company whose acquisition he was exploring was sufficient to subject him to prohibitions against insider trading. In this case, there is no dispute that defendant signed two nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) with the company; that in both NDAs, each party agreed not to disclose any confidential or proprietary information of the other; and that the fact that the parties' exploration and evaluation of the potential acquisition of the company was explicitly classified as "Proprietary Information" that was to remain "Confidential." Therefore, the evidence was sufficient to support inferences that defendant knowingly and intentionally breached his duty of confidentiality by disclosing material nonpublic information as to the prospects for a merger agreement between the company and his fund, intending for the third party to make trades based on that information. Furthermore, defendant's challenges to his convictions for securities fraud and conspiracy to commit such fraud also fail. Finally, venue was proper in the Southern District of New York. View "United States v. Chow" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed Defendants Dean and Adam Skelos' convictions on multiple public corruption charges. Dean was a Republican senator from Nassau County, and was the Majority Leader of the New York State Senate. Defendants, father and son, were convicted in 2015 of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right; extortion under color of official right; conspiracy to commit honest services fraud; and solicitation and acceptance of bribes and gratuities. Defendants' convictions stemmed from their involvement in the Glenwood, AbTech, and PRI schemes.In 2016, while defendants' appeal was pending, the Supreme Court decided McDonnell v. United States, which narrowed the definition of the "official act" that a public official must exchange for benefits in order to be convicted of Hobbs Act extortion or honest services fraud, where those crimes have been defined by reference to the term "official act" in the federal bribery statute, 18 U.S.C. 201. In 2018, a second jury convicted defendants on all counts.The court concluded that any error in the jury instructions in the wake of McDonnell were harmless; the language in the indictment was sufficient where the language in an indictment is not required to be as precise as the attendant jury charge, nor is it required to delineate how the government will prove the elements set forth in the indictment; the district court empaneled a fair and impartial jury, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to transfer venue; there is no basis to vacate defendants' conviction under 18 U.S.C. 666 where a special verdict form specified that the jury found each defendant guilty under section 666 on both the gratuity theory and the unchallenged bribery theory; the district court did not abuse its discretion in deciding to quash certain subpoenas and there was no infringement of defendants' Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights in the district court's denial of requests for documents that were irrelevant, inadmissible, obtainable by other means, or part of discovery fishing expeditions; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying an evidentiary hearing. Finally, the court rejected Adam's evidentiary challenges and his challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence. View "United States v. Skelos" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for charges related to his operation of an illegal payday-loan scheme. The jury found that defendant violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), and federal wire fraud and identity theft statutes from 2004 through 2014.As to the RICO counts, the court rejected defendant's contention that the district court erred as a matter of law by instructing the jury that, as to his business's loans to New York borrowers, New York usury laws governed the transaction rather than the laws of the jurisdictions specified in the loan agreements, which set no interest rate caps. Rather, the court ruled that New York law applies and that the district court was correct when it so instructed the jury. As to the TILA conviction, the court rejected defendant's contention that his loan agreements disclosed the "total of payments" borrowers would make, as TILA requires, and that the evidence was insufficient to show that these disclosures were inaccurate. The court held that the evidence supported the jury's guilty verdict under TILA. The court rejected defendant's remaining contentions, finding them unpersuasive. View "United States v. Moseley" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's grant of defendant's motion for a new trial under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33, following defendant's conviction for conspiracy to commit securities fraud and securities fraud. The court clarified that the preponderates heavily standard requires that the district court determine whether all the evidence at trial, taken as a whole, preponderated heavily against the verdict. It does not, however, permit the district court to elect its own theory of the case and view the evidence through that lens. The court held that the weight of the evidence at trial did not preponderate heavily against the jury's verdict, and thus the district court abused its discretion in vacating the judgment and granting a new trial. The court reinstated the conviction and remanded to the district court for sentencing. View "United States v. Archer" on Justia Law

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After the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme collapsed, Picard was appointed under the Securities Investor Protection Act, 15 U.S.C. 78aaa (SIPA), as the liquidation trustee for Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (BLMIS). The Act established a priority system to make customers of failed brokerages whole before other general creditors. Where customer property is insufficient to satisfy customers' claims, the trustee may recover property transferred by the debtor that would have been customer property but for the transfer if and to the extent that the transfer is void or voidable under the Bankruptcy Code. 15 U.S.C. 78fff–2(c)(3). The provisions of the Bankruptcy Code apply only to the extent that they are consistent with SIPA.Picard attempted to recover transfers of money that the defendants had received from BLMIS in excess of their principal investments. The defendants are BLMIS customers who were unaware of the fraud but profited from it by receiving what they thought were legitimate profits; the funds were actually other customers' money. The Second Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Picard. The Bankruptcy Code affirmative defense that permits a transferee who takes an interest of the debtor in property "for value and in good faith" to retain the transfer to the extent of the value given does not apply in this SIPA liquidation. The transfers were not "for value" and recovery would not violate the two-year limitation. View "In re: Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of two counts of insider trading in violation of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Rule 10b–5. The court held that defendant had a duty to refrain from trading on nonpublic inside information and that the evidence was sufficient to convict him. In this case, defendant served as a principal investigator for a clinical trial of a cardiac drug developed by Regado Biosciences, a publicly traded biopharmaceutical company, that was designed to prevent blood clotting. After defendant learned that patients suffered adverse effects during the trial, he traded on that nonpublic inside information to avoid a loss and earn a profit in the shares of the company. The court concluded that, taken together, the evidence of defendant's deceptive activity was sufficient for the jury to find that he was a sophisticated investor that knew his actions were unlawful under the charge given by the district court. Finally, there was no abuse of discretion in the district court's evidentiary rulings. View "United States v. Kosinski" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant on remand of the Government's petition to enforce two Internal Revenue Service summonses, one sent to defendant in his personal capacity and one sent to him in his capacity as a trustee, based on the foregone conclusion and collective entity exceptions to the Fifth Amendment's self-incrimination clause. Defendant's appeal stemmed from the IRS's efforts to investigate his use of offshore bank accounts to improperly conceal federally taxable income.The court agreed with the district court that the Government has shown with reasonable particularity the documents' existence, defendant's control of the documents, and an independent means of authenticating the documents such that the foregone conclusion doctrine applies. The court also agreed with the district court that, as a matter of first impression in this Circuit, a traditional trust is a collective entity subject to the collective entity doctrine. View "United States v. Fridman" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated defendant's sentence and restitution imposed after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The court held that the district court erred at sentencing by applying the commercial bribery sentencing guideline based on an uncharged bribery scheme that the government dropped in exchange for defendant pleading guilty to the wire fraud. The court explained that vacatur is warranted because the court could not be confident, despite the district court's statement to the contrary, that it would have imposed the same sentence had it instead used the correct guideline. The court also held that the district court erred by ordering $19 million in restitution to be paid to the Corrections Officers Benevolent Association, an entity that was not a victim of the convicted conduct under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act. The court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Huberfeld" on Justia Law

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The term "false or fictitious" as used in 18 U.S.C. 514 refers to both wholly contrived types of documents or instruments and fake versions of existing documents or instruments. The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction under section 514, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support his conviction. In this case, defendant used fake government transportation requests and purchase orders to various companies while posing as a "Commissioner and Head of Delegation" of a nongovernmental organization he created. View "United States v. Jones" on Justia Law