Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying Petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2241 challenging his money-laundering convictions, holding that Petitioner did not face the kind of "fundamental miscarriage of justice" that must exist to justify relief under section 2241.After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of violations of the Mann Act, 18 U.S.C. 2421-24, the money-laundering statute, 18 U.S.C. 1956, and associated conspiracies and sentenced to a 432-month term of imprisonment. Petitioner later filed his habeas petition arguing that he was convicted on the money-laundering counts for conduct that was not a crime. The district court denied relief. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that Petitioner failed to establish that he faced a "fundamental miscarriage of justice" necessary to justify relief under section 2241. View "Roberts v. LeJeune" on Justia Law

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Capital held tens of millions of dollars for a sole investor, with Stevanovich as its sole director. Capital invested in the multi-billion-dollar Petters Ponzi scheme, getting out before the scheme collapsed in 2008. Some investors lost everything[ Capital earned tens of millions. The Petters bankruptcy court entered a $578,366,822 default judgment against Capital in 2015, but it had dissolved. In 2018, the Trustee filed a post-judgment supplementary proceeding in the Northern District of Illinois against Stevanovich, an Illinois resident. Under Illinois law, a judgment creditor may recover assets from a third party if the judgment debtor has an Illinois state law claim of embezzlement against the third party. In his turnover motion, the Trustee argued that Stevanovich embezzled Capital’s funds to purchase high-end wine for his personal use and transferred the goods to Stevanovich’s personal wine cellar in Switzerland. The Trustee submitted ample evidence to support his claim for $1,948,670.79. The district court granted the turnover order without conducting an evidentiary hearing and found that Stevanovich embezzled the funds. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Stevanovich’s claims that the wine purchases were an investment strategy for Capital and that the five-year statute of limitations for embezzlement applied, accruing from the dates of the wine purchases. The court applied the seven-year statute of limitations for supplementary proceedings accruing from the date of the bankruptcy court judgment. Stevanovich failed to present any evidence creating an issue of fact that necessitated a hearing. View "Kelley v. Stevanovich" on Justia Law

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Miller and Krasilnikova are married. Miller pled guilty to wire fraud. His sentence included an order to pay approximately $1.1 million in restitution. Days after Miller received his sentence, Krasilnikova agreed to sell their family home to a third party for $855,000. The United States then gave notice of a lien on the property, 18 U.S.C. 3613(c), asserting that Miller had a one-half interest in the proceeds and that his share should be used to pay restitution. Krasilnikova argued that she was the sole owner; the title to the property was only in Krasilnikova’s name.The Seventh Circuit upheld an order dividing the sale proceeds equally so that Miller’s share will be applied to the restitution order. The district court properly considered additional evidence. Under Illinois law, courts evaluating ownership can look past title and instead ask who actually exercised control over the property at issue. A series of property transfers and mortgages casts significant doubt on the legitimacy of Krasilnikova’s paper title. Ample evidence suggests that Miller and Krasilnikova manipulated property and financial records and even forged signatures to conceal the true ownership of the property. View "Krasilnikova v. United States" on Justia Law

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Goulding, an accountant and lawyer, has a history of mail fraud and tax fraud. Goulding formed 15 funds that hired Nutmeg’s advisory services, which he managed. The funds invested in illiquid securities, many of which were close to insolvent. Gould wrote all of the disclosure documents, which overvalued the funds. Goulding made baseless statements about increases in value. Goulding did not use outside advisors and engaged in commingling, holding some securities in his own name.The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Goulding under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, 15 U.S.C. 80b, with running Nutmeg through a pattern of fraud, including touting his supposed financial expertise while failing to disclose his crimes, in addition to violating the Act’s technical rules. The district court issued an injunction removing Goulding from the business and appointing a receiver. A magistrate judge enjoined Goulding from violating the securities laws, required him to disgorge $642,422 (plus interest), and imposed a $642,422 civil penalty. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the finding of liability and the financial awards. The extent of Goulding’s wrongdoing makes it hard to determine his net unjustified withdrawals; as the wrongdoer, he bears the consequence of uncertainty. The restitution reflects a conservative estimate of Goulding’s ill-got gains. Nor did the judge err by declining to trace funds from their source to Goulding’s pocket. View "Securities and Exchange Commission v. Goulding" on Justia Law

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Weller was convicted of insider trading, Securities Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b). Fleming, a vice president of Life Time Fitness, had learned that his company was likely to be acquired by a private equity firm at an above-market price. Fleming told a friend, Beshey, who told Clark and Kourtis (who knew that the information had been misappropriated), who told others, including Weller. Most of them profited by trading on the information and showed their appreciation by “kickbacks.”Weller unsuccessfully argued that he did not know that Fleming violated a duty to his employer by passing the information to Beshey and that the government did not prove a financial benefit to Fleming. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his convictions. Although Weller did not interact with all of the others, he did conspire with at least Kourtis to misuse material non-public information for their own benefit. The court upheld Weller’s 366-day below-Guidelines sentence, noting that Weller profited more than the others. View "United States v. Weller" on Justia Law

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Deutsche Bank employed Chanu and Vorley as precious metals traders. They received training that “market manipulation” was prohibited. The two engaged in “spoofing,” placing orders for precious metals futures contracts on one side of the market that, at the time the orders were placed, they intended to cancel prior to execution. At times they placed opposite orders. The government alleged that they placed such orders with the intent “to create and communicate false and misleading information regarding supply or demand in order to deceive other traders” and entice them to react to the false and misleading increase in supply or demand. After the court rejected Speedy Trial Act motions, the two were acquitted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution. 18 U.S.C. 1343. Vorley was convicted of three counts of wire fraud; Chanu was found guilty of seven counts of wire fraud.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Manual spoofing violated the wire fraud statute; the defendants’ s actions amounted to a scheme to defraud by means of false representations or omissions and the implied misrepresentations were material. The court upheld the denial of the defendants’ request to modify jury instructions explaining the term “scheme to defraud” and to issue a good‐faith instruction. The court found no legal error in the district court's ends‐of‐justice rationale for excluding time in considering Speedy Trial issues. View "United States v. Chanu" on Justia Law

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Eaden defrauded his employer, SIT, of more than $200,000 by falsely inflating the profits at his store (to obtain unearned performance‐based bonuses) by billing SIT’s largest customer (Gibson) for products it did not purchase and by submitting false claims to a rewards program sponsored by a tire manufacturer. After receiving a tip, police investigated, and SIT hired a forensic accounting firm, which concluded that Eaden received more than $47,000 in unearned bonuses. At sentencing, the district court imposed 46 months’ imprisonment, three years of supervised release, and ordered restitution of $244,673.00, and the forfeiture of Eaden’s bonuses from 2014-2016, $88,106.78.The Seventh Circuit affirmed his convictions, rejecting arguments that the court deprived him of a fair trial by informing prospective jurors that a grand jury had issued Eaden’s indictment based on probable cause, meaning “it’s probably true that [Eaden] had some connection with criminal activity” and wrongly admitted a lay witness’s opinion testimony regarding a subset of his fraud charges. The witness used the word "fraudulent" in discussing Eaden's submissions to the rewards program. Based on miscalculation, the court reduced Eaden’s restitution and forfeiture obligations by $189,709 and $40,817.81, respectively. View "United States v. Eaden" on Justia Law

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Tinimbang invested $811,400, founding Donnarich Home Health in 2005 with his then-wife Josephine and their children. In 2006-2007, the others forced him out of management; Tinimbang maintained his equity position. Josephine and their son, Richard, later incorporated two healthcare businesses: Josdan and Patient Home; some of the funding came from Donnarich’s assets. Tinimbang later asserted that he was not compensated for those asset transfers or for his removal as Donnarich’s president.Josephine and others were charged with conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud (18 U.S.C. 1349) and conspiracy to launder the proceeds of healthcare fraud and unlawful payments for patient referrals (18 U.S.C. 1956(h)) by using Donnarich and Josdan to fraudulently bill Medicare and creating shell companies to deposit checks. The government sought the forfeiture of assets involved in or traceable to the conspiracies. Josephine fled. Guerrero, an employee, pled guilty and agreed to forfeit assets. The district court entered a preliminary order of forfeiture.Tinimbang asserted a claim to the assets by instituting ancillary proceedings, citing his investment in Donnarich, his removal without compensation, and the allegedly improper transfers from Donnarich to Josdan and Patient. Tinimbang did not provide any financial tracing. The government “reviewed the movement of funds” and did not trace any of Tinimbang’s investment to the forfeiture assets. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the government. Tinimbang had not carried his burden to show a vested or superior interest in the forfeited assets at the time of the criminal acts. View "United States v. Tinimbang" on Justia Law

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Jennings, who was not a medical professional, ran Results Weight Loss Clinic in Lombard, Illinois. Jennings paid Mikaitis, who was working full‐time for a hospital in Lockport, Illinois cash to secure a Drug Enforcement Agency registration number for the clinic and to review patient charts. Over the next two years, Jennings ordered over 530,000 diet pills (controlled substances) for over $84,000 using Mikaitis’s credit card and DEA number. Mikaitis appeared at Results weekly to get $1,750 cash and review four to eight charts. Results also gave drugs—in person and by mail— to many patients whose charts he never reviewed. A nurse practitioner who worked at the clinic later testified she noticed almost immediately that Jennings was unlawfully distributing drugs. Jennings paid Mikaitis about $98,000 cash, in addition to reimbursement for drug costs.Mikaitis was tried on 17 counts. He denied knowing about illegal activity. The district judge issued a deliberate avoidance (ostrich) instruction. Convicted, Mikaitis was sentenced to 30 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Ample evidence demonstrated that Mikaitis subjectively believed that there was a high probability he was participating in criminal activity and that he took specific, deliberate actions to avoid learning that fact. Mikaitis was a medical professional with corresponding duties. The jury was free to conclude the red flags were obvious to him. View "United States v. Mikaitis" on Justia Law

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In 2015-2019, Wood defrauded homeowners facing foreclosure, convincing them to "refinance" and make their mortgage payments to him. Wood convinced some clients to stall foreclosures by manipulating the bankruptcy process. A Wisconsin bankruptcy judge enjoined Wood from continuing his scheme. Wood disregarded that order, defrauding 73 victims of almost $400,000. Many were evicted from their homes. Wood was charged with six counts of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343; one count of mail fraud, section 1341; one count of bankruptcy fraud, section 157; and criminal contempt of court, section 401(3). Wood violated his pretrial supervision by contacting his victims and soliciting money for mortgage services. Wood pled guilty to wire fraud and bankruptcy fraud; his PSR recommended a sentence of 72 months, based on a Guidelines range of 70-87 months. The court expressed skepticism about Wood’s allocution, citing Wood’s previous fraudulent crimes, his “heartlessness,” and the profound, non-monetary harm to his victims and legitimate creditors. Concluding that the Guidelines inadequately accounted for Wood’s behavior, the court observed Wood’s “crime stands apart" and that the closest comparator was a fraudulent scheme in another case (Iriri). The court observed that Iriri was induced to commit fraud, whereas Wood committed his crime completely unprompted.The Seventh Circuit affirmed Woods' 144-month sentence. Wood’s sentence turned on the unique characteristics and qualities of his crime. That is not an abuse of discretion. The court’s reference to Iriri “is so limited as to flirt with irrelevance.” View "United States v. Wood" on Justia Law