Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
by
In 2006-2009,, Ghuman and Khan “flipped” 44 gas stations. Ghuman would recruit a buyer before they purchased the station. The buyers lacked the financial wherewithal to qualify loans. Ghuman and Khan's co-defendant, AEB loan officer Brahmbhatt, arranged loans based on fraudulent documentation. They also created false financial statements for the gas stations. Co-defendant Mehta, an accountant, prepared fictitious tax returns. The loans, which were guaranteed by the Small Business Administration, went into arrears. In 2008-2009 the SBA began auditing the AEB loans; the FBI began looking into suspected bank fraud. AEB ultimately incurred a loss in excess of $14 million. Khan cooperated and pled guilty to one count of bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344, in connection with a $331,000 loan. Ghuman pleaded guilty to another count of bank fraud in connection with a $744,000 loan and to one count of filing a false tax return, 26 U.S.C. 7206. The district court denied Ghuman credit for acceptance of responsibility and imposed a below-Guidelines prison term of 66 months. The court ordered Khan to serve a 36-month prison term and ordered Ghuman to pay $11.8 million and Khan to pay $10.8 million in restitution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the sentences with an adjustment to Ghuman’s term of supervised release. View "United States v. Khan" on Justia Law

by
Blake, who has an MBA, engaged in a fraudulent tax scheme but claims unnamed users in internet chat rooms persuaded him to pursue his hidden federal “legacy trusts.” Blake filed eight different individual tax returns using fraudulent information, at one point faking his own death. He was convicted of presenting a false or fictitious claim to a U.S. agency, 18 U.S.C. 287, and theft of government money, 18 U.S.C. 641. Blake’s base offense level was six; 16 levels were added for an intended loss in excess of $1.5 million (U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(1)(I)). Two more levels were added for obstruction of justice (3C1.1). Blake’s guidelines range was 51–63 months' imprisonment. Blake objected to including in the loss calculation $900,000 in claimed refunds in the 2008–2010 filings, arguing he was not responsible for those filings. He also claimed $300,000 should be the intended loss amount because he intended to obtain only his “legacy trust” funds which he believed were about that amount. Under Blake’s calculations, his guidelines range was 33–41 months. The district court rejected his arguments. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his sentence of 36 months in prison plus restitution. The district court did not commit reversible error. Blake's ineffective assistance of counsel claim was dismissed without prejudice as “better raised on collateral review.” View "United States v. Blake" on Justia Law

by
Kennedy-Robey was charged with fraud for operating a scheme to defraud the IRS and an unemployment insurance scheme. While awaiting trial, Kennedy-Robey was released on bond. She resumed her fraudulent activities. The government obtained an arrest warrant. Instead of appearing at the bond revocation hearing, Kennedy-Robey remained a fugitive for a few months. When they arrested Kennedy-Robey, officers found her to-do list, which read like a “how-to” guide for fugitives. Kennedy-Robey eventually pleaded guilty. Although the guidelines range was 210-262 months, the court sentenced her to 72 months’ imprisonment and ordered her to pay over $4.8 million in restitution. In 2017, Kennedy-Robey was released to a halfway house. Within weeks, Kenney-Robey filed a fraudulent automobile loan application and obtained a loan exceeding $30,000, which she used to purchase a Mercedes-Benz, and filed a fraudulent credit card application. Months later, she and another defendant purchased another car with funds obtained from another fraudulent loan application. Kennedy-Robey pleaded guilty to mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341. The government sought an 18-month sentence, based on a guidelines range of 12-18 months. After considering Kennedy-Robey’s long history of unrepentant criminal conduct, the court imposed a 36-month sentence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the district court failed to consider either her mental health condition or the more lenient sentences received by defendants convicted of similar crimes and that the sentence was substantively unreasonable. View "United States v. Kennedy-Robey" on Justia Law

by
O’Brien was convicted of mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341, and bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344, based on a 2004-to-2007 scheme in which O’Brien misrepresented her income and liabilities to cause lenders to issue and refinance loans related to two Chicago investment properties O’Brien owned., O’Brien was a licensed attorney with a background and experience in the real estate industry, including as a registered loan originator, mortgage consultant, and licensed real estate broker. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting O’Brien’s arguments that the charges against her were duplicitous and that under a properly pled indictment the statute of limitations would have barred three of the four alleged offenses. She also argued that the district court should not have admitted evidence offered to prove those time-barred offenses and that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s guilty verdict. The government appropriately acted within its discretion to allege an overarching scheme to commit both bank fraud and mail fraud affecting a financial institution. Each count included an execution of the fraudulent scheme within the applicable 10-year statute of limitations, and the jury’s guilty verdict rested upon properly admitted and sufficient evidence. View "United States v. O'Brien" on Justia Law

by
Before acquiring cars for resale, Elite obtained financing; its lenders held the title of each car until it received payment for the car. Lenders dispatched auditors to ensure the dealership was not selling cars without repaying the loan after each sale. From 2012-2015 Elite’s employees obtained copies of car titles from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles online portal. If a copy could not be acquired, employees could avoid asking lenders to release car titles by continually issuing the customer temporary license plates. Employees would call customers and request that their cars be returned to the lot for a free oil change before an auditor’s inspection or would lie to the auditor, saying that the car was out for a test drive or repairs. Elite’s employees also defrauded consumer lenders by helping customers submit fraudulent applications and defrauded insurance companies by using a chop shop behind the dealership to disassemble their own vehicles before reporting the vehicles as stolen. Elite employee Dridi was convicted of conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(d), and interstate transportation of stolen property, 18 U.S.C. 2314, sentenced to 72 months in prison, and ordered $1,811,679.25 in restitution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Dridi’s prison sentence but vacated the restitution order, The district court should have made specific factual findings about Dridi’s participation in the conspiracy. View "United States v. Dridi" on Justia Law

by
Bowling worked for the City of Gary, Indiana for 25 years, eventually becoming a network administrator, with access to the email system. Her responsibilities included ordering the city's computer equipment. Bowling ordered 1,517 Apple products, totaling $1,337,114.06. She sold iPads and MacBooks for cash. To conceal her scheme, Bowling submitted duplicate invoices from legitimate purchases. Eventually, the fraudulent purchases outstripped the duplicate invoices she could process and one vendor, CDW, turned the city’s account over to a senior recovery analyst, Krug. Krug contacted Green, the city’s controller and sent Green invoices via FedEx. Bowling intercepted the package, accessed Green’s email account, and sent a fabricated message to Krug to reassure CDW but her scheme unraveled. The Seventh Circuit affirmed her conviction for theft from a local government that received federal funds, 18 U.S.C. 666, and her 63-month sentence. The federal funds element was satisfied; the parties stipulated that Gary as a whole received more than $10,000 in federal benefits in a one-year period. Krug’s testimony about the email was direct evidence of Bowling’s attempt to stall the city’s ultimate discovery of her fraud; there was no error in admitting the testimony under Rule 404(b). A two-level obstruction of justice sentencing enhancement was justified because Bowling faked mutism, causing a one-year delay in the proceedings. View "United States v. Bowling" on Justia Law

by
Hernandez co-founded the Trust and marketed it as a company designed to assist homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages. She and her codefendants promised prospective “members” that, in exchange for fees of $3,500-$10,000, the Trust would negotiate with their lenders to take over their mortgages and stop or prevent foreclosure proceedings. The Trust promised to refund the fees if it could not purchase the mortgages. More than 50 homeowners became members and paid fees. In 2013, Illinois authorities discovered that the Trust was not licensed and did not have enough funds to purchase a single mortgage. Hernandez and her codefendants had spent the fees (more than $220,000) on meals, travel, and vehicles. The Trust did not help any homeowners; at least three homeowners who paid the Trust had their homes foreclosed on. A jury found Hernandez guilty of mail fraud. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the government did not prove that she used the mails in furtherance of the scheme to defraud and that the district court improperly delegated its authority to the Bureau of Prisons by not entering a specific restitution payment schedule for her while serving her prison sentence. There was sufficient evidence to support the verdict and the court permissibly deferred Hernandez’s restitution payments until after her release. View "United States v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

by
Simon, a CPA, was convicted of filing false tax returns, mail fraud related to financial aid, and federal financial aid fraud. The court imposed a prison term, and restitution of $886,901.69 to the IRS, $48,070.35 to the Department of Education, $17,000 to Canterbury School, and $101,600 to Culver Academies. Simon made no objections to the restitution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Simon’s convictions. Simon had not challenged his restitution obligations. Simon later unsuccessfully moved to vacate his conviction, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, but not with respect to restitution. At the government's request, the court removed Canterbury as a payee, directing Simon’s restitution payments to Culver (private victims receive restitution ahead of the government, 18 U.S.C. 3664(i)) and approved an updated balance of $48,376, without a hearing. Days later, Simon received notice of the order. Seven months later, Simon moved for reconsideration, arguing that he had a due process right to be heard on the government’s motion and that the amended balance constituted a new obligation. The schools had disclaimed any interest in restitution. Simon urged the court to eliminate his restitution and requested that the court strike all restitution to the Department of Education, claiming that his daughter had paid off her student loans so the Department was no longer at risk. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Most of Simon’s challenges could and should have been raised at sentencing and on direct appeal and were waived; the remainder were untimely. View "United States v. Simon" on Justia Law

by
Grayson does business under the name Gire Roofing. Grayson and Edwin Gire were indicted for visa fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1546 and harboring and employing unauthorized aliens, 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii). On paper, Gire had no relationship to Grayson as a corporate entity. He was not a stockholder, officer, or an employee. He managed the roofing (Grayson’s sole business), as he had under the Gire Roofing name for more than 20 years. The corporate papers identified Grayson’s president and sole stockholder as Young, Gire’s girlfriend. Gire, his attorney, and the government all represented to the district court that Gire was Grayson’s president. The court permitted Gire to plead guilty on his and Grayson’s behalf. Joint counsel represented both defendants during a trial that resulted in their convictions and a finding that Grayson’s headquarters was forfeitable. Despite obtaining separate counsel before sentencing, neither Grayson nor Young ever complained about Gire’s or prior counsel’s representations. Neither did Grayson object to the indictment, the plea colloquy, or the finding that Grayson had used its headquarters for harboring unauthorized aliens. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Although Grayson identified numerous potential errors in the proceedings none are cause for reversal. Grayson has not shown that it was deprived of any right to effective assistance of counsel that it may have had and has not demonstrated that the court plainly erred in accepting the guilty plea. The evidence is sufficient to hold Grayson vicariously liable for Gire’s crimes. View "United States v. Grayson Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In 2011-2016, Collins was the executive director of the Kankakee Valley Park District. The Park District, which is not tax-exempt, works with the Kankakee Valley Park Foundation, which does have tax-exempt status and raises funds for Park District programs. Collins served as treasurer for the Foundation. It came to light that he had been lining his own pockets with the Park District and Foundation’s money. He pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341 and 1343, and was sentenced to concurrent terms of 42 months’ imprisonment, two-year terms of supervised release, and overall restitution of $194,383.51. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, concluding that the district court did not err in calculating his sentencing range and that Collins forfeited the right to complain about the restitution because he failed to file a timely notice of appeal from the district court’s amended judgment. The actual loss amount easily exceeded $150,000, which is the amount associated with a 10-level boost in the base guideline level for U.S.S.G. 2B1.1. More than a guilty plea is necessary before a district court ought to award a discount for acceptance of responsibility. The court fully supported its factual finding that Collins had not fully acknowledged his crimes. View "United States v. Collins" on Justia Law