Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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Individuals reprogrammed ATMs to dispense $20 bills for each $1 they were supposed to dispense. Requesting $40 at a compromised ATM would deliver 40 $20 bills instead of two. More than $600,000 was taken from ATMs owned by SafeCash Systems. SafeCash investigated and found evidence that a former employee who serviced the machines, Folad, and his friend, Fattah, engineered the scheme. They turned the information over to the government, resulting in several criminal convictions, one-year sentences for Folad and Fattah, and a restitution order. After the scheme ended and after SafeCash determined what had happened, SafeCash replaced 17 of the relevant 18 ATMs in response to a federal regulation requiring that they be accessible to individuals with sight impairments. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the convictions and sentences, rejecting an argument that destruction of the ATMs amounted to the destruction of potentially exculpatory evidence and violated the defendants’ due process rights. SafeCash, not the government, made the decision to replace the machines. Even if the government had been involved in the destruction of the machines, there was no indication that they contained potentially exculpatory evidence. View "United States v. Folad" on Justia Law

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Blue gem coal burns hotter and cleaner than thermal coal, making it useful for producing silicon, a critical ingredient of computer chips and solar panels. Environmental regulations make it difficult to mine. Demand for blue gem coal outstrips its supply; it commands premium prices. New Century advertised itself as one of the largest blue gem coal companies in the country, falsely claiming to own land with valuable deposits and to have mining permits. By the time law enforcement caught on, the company had swindled more than $14 million from more than 160 investors. Eleven people involved in the scheme, including the mastermind, Rose, pleaded guilty. Phillips, who worked for New Century scouting property, went to trial. Phillips helped Rose, a NASCAR driver with little experience in the coal industry, identify land with coal-mining potential. The evidence portrayed Phillips as a coal-industry expert who helped New Century convince investors that it was legitimate. Phillips claimed he had no idea that the company defrauded investors. The jury convicted Phillips of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud but acquitted him of two money-laundering charges. The judge sentenced him to 30 months in prison. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence and to evidentiary rulings. View "United States v. Phillips" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Arise, a Dayton community school (charter school), faced declining enrollment, financial troubles, and scandal after its treasurer was indicted for embezzlement. The school’s sponsor sought a radical change in administration, elevated Arise’s former principal, Floyd, to superintendent, removed all board members, and appointed Floyd’s recommended candidates to the new board. Floyd set up a kickback scheme, using former business partners to form Global Educational Consultants, which contracted with Arise. Global received $420,919 from Arise. While Global was being paid, Arise teachers’ salaries were cut and staff members were not consistently paid. Arise ran out of money and closed in 2010. The FBI investigated and signed a proffer agreement with Ward, the “silent partner” at Global, then indicted Floyd, Arise board members, and Global's owner. They were convicted of federal programs bribery, conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery, and making material false statements, 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(B), (a)(2); 18 U.S.C. 371; 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(2). Two African-American jurors reported that they were initially unconvinced; the jury foreperson, a white woman, reportedly told them that she believed they were reluctant to convict because they felt they “owed something” to their “black brothers.” This remark prompted a confrontation, requiring the marshal to intervene.The Sixth Circuit affirmed their convictions, rejecting arguments based on the Supreme Court’s 2017 decision, Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado. Although Pena-Rodriguez permitted, in very limited circumstances, an inquiry into a jury’s deliberations, this case did not fit into those limited circumstances. View "United States v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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The government sought forfeiture (21 U.S.C. 881(a)(4),(6), (7); 18 U.S.C. 981) of bank accounts, real properties, vehicles, and $91,500 in U.S. currency, related to its investigation into Salouha and Sbeih. Salouha allegedly illegally sold prescription drugs through his Ohio pharmacies, 21 U.S.C. 841. Salouha and Sbeih allegedly laundered the receipts through their accounts, 18 U.S.C. 1956. Sbeih and his wife filed verified claims to seven of the personal bank accounts. Sbeih was indicted but failed to appear. The court issued an arrest warrant, lifted the stay on the civil forfeiture case and scheduled a status conference. Sbeih’s counsel sought permission for Sbeih not to attend, as he was in Israel. Sbeih alleged that he was in danger of losing his Jerusalem permanent residency permit if he left Israel. The court granted the motion. The government moved to strike Sbeih’s claim under the fugitive disentitlement statute, 28 U.S.C. 2466. The court waited to see whether the Salouhas, Sbeih’s codefendants, were able to reenter the country, but ultimately granted the government’s motion to strike Sbeih’s claim and ordered forfeiture. While section 2466 requires the government to prove that the claimants had a specific intent of avoiding criminal prosecution in deciding to remain outside the U.S., it does not require that that intent be the sole or principal intent. In this case, however, government did not meet its burden of proving that Sbeih was not returning to the U.S. to avoid prosecution View "United States v. $525,695.24" on Justia Law

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The government sought forfeiture (21 U.S.C. 881(a)(4),(6), (7); 18 U.S.C. 981) of bank accounts, real properties, vehicles, and $91,500 in U.S. currency, related to its investigation into Salouha and Sbeih. Salouha allegedly illegally sold prescription drugs through his Ohio pharmacies; Salouha and Sbeih allegedly laundered the receipts. Salouha and his wife claimed several assets. Salouha was indicted but failed to appear. The court issued an arrest warrant. Permission for Salouha to attend a status conference regarding the forfeiture via telephone was denied. Salouha, his pregnant wife and four children, had moved to Gaza after the asset seizure; travel restrictions made their return difficult. Salouha did not attend. The government moved to strike his claims under the fugitive disentitlement statute, 28 U.S.C. 2466. The court waited to see whether Salouha could return with the help of the State Department. Salouha did not to respond. The court struck the claims but did not order forfeiture. Seven months later, the court approved a Stipulated Settlement Agreement and Decree of Forfeiture, under which Salouha’s wife withdrew her claims to all but a house and car. The remaining properties, claimed by the Sbeihs, were ordered forfeited the following month. Weeks later the Salouhas unsuccessfully moved to vacate the judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The district court properly credited the government's uncontested statements, and relied on the knowledge of Mrs. Salouha’s return, to conclude that Salouha was deliberately staying outside U.S. jurisdiction to avoid prosecution. View "United States v. $525,695.24" on Justia Law

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In 1990, Stan and Bara Jurcevic opened an account at the St. Paul Croatian Federal Credit Union (SPCFU). The National Credit Union Administration Board (NCUAB) charters and insures credit unions, 12 U.S.C. 1766, and can place a credit union into conservatorship or liquidation. From 1996-2010, Stan obtained $1.5 million in share-secured loans from SPCFU. Federal auditors discovered that SPCFU’s COO had been accepting bribes in exchange for issuing loans and disguising unpaid balances. SPCFU had $200 million in unpaid debts. NCUAB placed SPCFU into conservatorship and eventually liquidated its assets. NCUAB alleged that Jurcevic failed to disclose a $2,500,000 loan from PNC and an impending decrease in his income; and that he planned to use the loan funds to save his company, Stack. PNC obtained a $2,000,000 judgment against Jurcevic and Stack. NCUAB sued the Jurcevics and Stack and obtained an injunction, freezing the Jurcevics’ and Stack’s assets, except for living expenses. The district court dismissed claims of fraud, conspiracy, and conversion as time-barred and dismissed claims against Bara and Stack as a matter of law. Jurcevic appealed and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The Board cross-appealed and intervened in the Chapter 7 proceedings. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the asset freeze; the court properly employed the preliminary injunction factors. The court reversed the dismissals because the court did not consider the date of the NCUAB’s appointment and the date of discovery as possible accrual dates for the limitations statute. View "National Credit Union Administration Board v. Jurcevic" on Justia Law