Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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Dr. Sheth, a cardiologist, admitted in a plea agreement that he engaged in a scheme to overbill government and private insurers by approximately $13 million, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1347. The scheme resulted in a loss to Medicare of about $9 million in payments for services Sheth did not render between 2002 and 2007, and a loss of about $4 million to private healthcare insurers for the same conduct. After the government detected the fraud, in June 2007, it initiated an administrative proceeding and seized funds from four Harris Bank accounts that the government believed were the proceeds of Sheth’s fraud. In his plea, Sheth agreed to forfeit $13 million in assets; the government would apply the proceeds of the forfeited property to any restitution judgment resulting from his conviction. Sheth disputed the valuation of some of the property applied to the restitution judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision as to the valuation of Seth’s real property but remanded for consideration of the application of $225,000 in interest that had accrued on the Harris accounts to the restitution judgment. View "United States v. Sheth" on Justia Law

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Freed was the president and CEO of JFA, a real estate development company, and created and managed several real estate ventures including UGV. In 2002, UGV secured Chicago tax increment financing (TIF) for an Uptown development. The city issued a redevelopment note for $4.3 million and project note for $2.4 million. UGV was required to annually it was not in default on any loans and had not entered into any transactions that would harm its ability to meet its financial obligations. Freed thereafter obtained loans and allowed them to become double-pledged and go into default. He made false statements to obtain loan modifications. In annual requisition forms Freed provided the city under the TIF agreement, Freed claimed none of his entities were in default. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Freed’s convictions for bank fraud (18 U.S.C. 1344); mail fraud (18 U.S.C. 1341); wire fraud (18 U.S.C. 1343); and making false statements to a financial institution (18 U.S.C. 1014), rejecting arguments that two jury instructions, concerning "aiding and abetting" and "wilfully causing" were incorrect and there was insufficient evidence for several of his convictions. View "United States v. Freed" on Justia Law

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Patel pleaded guilty to five counts of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, for his role in selling $179 million in fraudulent loans to an investment advisor. Patel delayed his sentencing date for a year while he purported to help recover funds for his victims. While on bond, just days before he was to be sentenced, Patel attempted to flee the U.S. and seek political asylum elsewhere. Agents arrested him just before he boarded a chartered flight to Ecuador. The government discovered that while on bond, instead of earning money for his victims through consulting fees and redevelopment projects, Patel and another used fictitious identities and entities to defraud an Iowa lender out of millions of dollars. Approximately $2.2 million of the money Patel had ostensibly earned for the fraud victims was newly‐stolen money. The court imposed a below-guidelines sentence of 25 years’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the sentence as procedurally and substantively reasonable. Patel made a disparity argument, the government had the opportunity to respond, and the court addressed it on the record; nothing more is required. The court’s comments regarding Patel’s psychological state and motivations relate to factors that a court must consider at sentencing, 18 U.S.C. 3553(a)(1), (2)(A). There is no indication that the court “did not like” him and sentenced him inappropriately as a result. View "United States v. Patel" on Justia Law

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Tantchev, a native of Bulgaria, owned a trucking business that operated out of a warehouse in Chicago. Chogsom, a Mongolian immigrant, worked for Tantchev. Large deposits into Tantchev’s bank account prompted an investigation. After a six-day trial involving 29 witnesses, a federal jury convicted Tantchev of exporting and attempting to export stolen cars, submitting false documents to customs officials, and structuring financial transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements. That same jury acquitted Tantchev’s co-defendant, Chogsom, of charges related to the stolen cars and false documents, but convicted Chogsom of making a false statement to an IRS agent. The district court sentenced Tantchev to 40 months’ imprisonment and Chogsom to three years’ probation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The court rejected Tantchev’s argument that the district court should not have given a deliberate avoidance or “ostrich” instruction. The jury was entitled to conclude Tantchev purposely did not subject the shipping containers to the scrutiny he exercised in the other part of his business and draw a negative inference from that change in behavior. The court upheld the use of a jury instruction, “If you find that the defendant was in possession of property that recently had been stolen, you may infer that he knew it was stolen.” View "United States v. Chogsom" on Justia Law

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From 2002-2008 Boliaux operated EMC, a used-car dealership. He borrowed money. Most loans were secured by the cars’ certificates of title. Because there should be only one title certificate per car, the dealer cannot transfer good title to a customer without paying the lender. In 2007 Boliaux persuaded state officials to issue duplicate certificates of title on the pretense that the originals had been lost. He obtained multiple loans against single vehicles, exceeding the cars’ market value and leaving the lenders under-secured. He sold cars without repaying the loans. After a lender detected this and impounded the collateral, Boliaux persuaded the custodian to release eight cars, which he sold for his own benefit. In 2008, Boliaux’s wife incorporated Joliet Motors, which Boliaux operated from the former EMC premises. Joliet Motors received installment payments from EMC customers but did not remit them to lenders. Boliaux began check kiting. He was convicted of four counts of wire fraud and six of bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, 1344, and sentenced to 48 months’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the evidence was insufficient on the wire fraud counts because he did not transmit anything by wire, and on the bank fraud counts because no one from the banks testified that the banks lost money. The district judge properly declined to instruct the jury that it had to agree, unanimously, how Boliaux carried out his scheme. View "United States v. Boliaux" on Justia Law

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Neilitz purchased $125,000 worth of ECS stock; Rawah Partners invested $350,000. In 2008, Corrigan, ECS’s President and CEO, negotiated a sale of ECS. Because of the worldwide financial downturn, the sale fell through. Shortly thereafter, ECS's board authorized Corrigan to manage ECS as he saw fit. Corrigan was negotiating another sale when ECS began to suffer cash flow problems. ECS had difficulty paying expenses and officers’ compensation. It closed its Chase Bank account and opened a new LaSalle Bank account that excluded the Vice President from its signatories. ECS's employee healthcare policy was canceled in January 2009, for nonpayment. Corrigan began soliciting Neilitz and Rawah for additional investments announcing that ECS was close to closing a sale but needed funds for healthcare insurance premiums. Per Corrigan’s instructions Neilitz and Rawah each wired $50,000 to an account which, unbeknownst to them, was Corrigan’s personal account. Corrigan spent the funds for personal expenses. Corrigan was terminated from ECS in 2011. Corrigan contacted Neilitz and Rawah, attempting to buy back the fraudulently sold stock but reaffirmed his original lie. Corrigan was convicted on four counts of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his conviction and an order of restitution in the full amount of the investments. The indictment adequately alleged a scheme to defraud; the evidence supported the conviction. View "United States v. Corrigan" on Justia Law

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After pleading guilty to preparing false tax returns for her clients, 26 U.S.C. 7206(2), Johnson was sentenced to 18 months in prison plus $79,325 in restitution—the amount that Johnson’s clients unlawfully avoided paying (with respect to the counts of conviction) that had not been collected from the taxpayers before sentencing. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Johnson’s argument that the prosecution should have told the judge how much more it might collect from her clients, which she characterized as exculpatory material that should have been revealed under "Brady." The collections were not concealed. The presentence report showed that the government already had collected substantial sums (the original loss exceeded $150,000) and was trying to obtain the balance from taxpayers. Johnson was free to ask how much more had been collected by the date of sentencing but did not. Brady does not apply when information is available for the asking. The restitution statute, not the Constitution, determines the prosecution’s duty—one of credit against the judgment, not of disclosure during the sentencing hearing. Johnson will receive credit against the restitution award for whatever the government collects from the taxpayers; it was unnecessary to disclose the details of collection activities before the judge determined the base restitution award. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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After Kuczora lost his finance job in 2007, he styled himself as the managing director of KCS Financial, a phony finance firm he ran from his Elgin, Illinois basement. Kuczora falsely represented to unwary investors that he could help them secure millions of dollars in financing; they paid him large sums of money to cover fees, which Kuczora pocketed for personal use before disappearing. He ultimately pleaded guilty to wire fraud. His Guidelines range was 33-41 months in prison. The district judge, citing the seriousness and sophistication of the offense, the devastation to the victims, and the need to deter similar crime, imposed a sentence of 70 months. Kuczora argued that the judge did not adequately explain the upward variance and failed to give him advance notice of the grounds supporting it. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The district judge thoroughly explained his reasoning. The Seventh Circuit has never held that a judge must give advance warning of an upward variance. Every defendant is on notice that the court has the discretion to impose a sentence above, below, or within the Guidelines range based on the 18 U.S.C. 3553 factors. The 70-month sentence is not substantively unreasonable and the judge did not exceed his broad discretion in concluding that a heavier penalty was justified here. View "United States v. Kuczora" on Justia Law

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In 2000 Balsiger took the helm of IOS, a large coupon processing companies. IOS contracted with large retail chains and small, independently owned stores to collect and sort coupons redeemed at their stores and to submit invoices for reimbursement either directly to the manufacturer or indirectly to the manufacturer’s agent. For his role in designing and implementing a scheme to defraud those manufacturers, Balsiger was charged with 25 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy both to commit wire fraud and obstruct justice. After a decade of litigation, Balsiger represented himself at a bench trial with the assistance of stand-by counsel. The district court convicted Balsiger on 12 counts and sentenced him to 120 months’ imprisonment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Balsiger’s argument that the court deprived him of his Sixth Amendment right to retain the counsel of his choice by failing to grant an 18-month continuance and by refusing to order the government to remove a lis pendens on his home—a notice to potential buyers that title to the property might be impaired by the outcome of his criminal prosecution. The court upheld the district court’s conclusion, following the death of Balsiger’s attorney, that Balsiger waived his right to counsel and its decision to require him, over his objection, to proceed pro se. View "United States v. Balsiger" on Justia Law

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An Indiana judge appointed Stochel as receiver for Tip Top Supermarkets, while its proprietors were embroiled in protracted litigation. Over several years Stochel stole more than $330,000 from the receivership. Stochel evaded detection by diverting funds from other sources to pay bills. As the litigation and receivership were winding down, the principals had suspicions and asked the court to appoint an independent auditor. The judge ordered Stochel to turn over the receivership’s files. To delay discovery, Stochel moved to vacate the order, falsely stating that the receivership had sufficient funds to pay the auditor and claiming that he needed more time to assemble the records. The judge removed Stochel as the receiver; the auditor uncovered the fraud. Stochel was charged with mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341, based on Stochel’s motion, which he had mailed to the court; the indictment alleged that the motion perpetuated the fraudulent scheme by delaying the detection of Stochel’s embezzlement. The district judge imposed a sentence of 24 months in prison. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence’ the denial of credit for acceptance of responsibility, U.S.S.G. 3E1.1(a); the loss-amount calculation, U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(1)(G); and the application of a two-level enhancement for violating a judicial order, U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(9)(C). View "United States v. Stochel" on Justia Law