Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
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Ludwikowski went to the police station to report extortionate threats. He was there for about seven hours and was questioned extensively about why he was vulnerable to extortion. He was given water and offered pizza. He went to the restroom, unaccompanied, at least three times. He was interviewed for about four hours, in three phases, punctuated by breaks. He had his phone and used it to make a call. It came to light that Ludwikowski, a pharmacist, had been filling fraudulent oxycodone prescriptions. He was later tried for distribution of a controlled substance. He moved to suppress the statements he made at the police station, arguing that they were inadmissible because no one read him his Miranda rights. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion. Ludwikowski was not in custody, so no Miranda warnings were needed. Much of the interview was devoted to trying to identify the extorter and the motivation; the interview would have been shorter if Ludwikowski had been more responsive. His statements at the police station were not involuntary. A reasonable person would have understood he could leave; Ludwikowski’s calm demeanor and calculated answers belie his argument that he subjectively felt his freedom was constrained. There was no plain error in the admission of expert testimony on the practice of pharmacy. . View "United States v. Ludwikowski" on Justia Law

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Charte (relator) filed a False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729–3733, "qui tam" suit alleging that defendants, including Wegeler, submitted false reimbursement claims to the Department of Education. Relators are entitled to part of the amount recovered. As required to allow the government to make an informed decision as to whether to intervene, Charte cooperated with the government. Her information led to Wegeler’s prosecution. Wegeler entered into a plea agreement and paid $1.5 million in restitution. The government declined to intervene in the FCA action. If the government elects to pursue an “alternate remedy,” the statute provides that the relator retains the same rights she would have had in the FCA action. Charte tried to intervene in the criminal proceeding to secure a share of the restitution. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion. A criminal proceeding does not constitute an “alternate remedy” to a civil qui tam action, entitling a relator to intervene and recover a share of the proceeds. Allowing intervention would be tantamount to an interest in participating as a co-prosecutor in a criminal case. Even considering only her alleged interest in some of the restitution, nothing in the FCA suggests that a relator may intervene in the government’s alternative-remedy proceeding to assert that interest. The text and legislative history regarding the provision indicate that the court overseeing the FCA suit determines whether and to what extent a relator is entitled to an award. View "United States v. Wegeler" on Justia Law

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Orie, a former state senator, used her government-funded legislative staff to do fundraising and campaigning for her reelection. When the Commonwealth investigated, she tried to hide and destroy documents. Orie's sisters, including a Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice, were also charged. At trial, Orie introduced exhibits with directives to her chief of staff, not to do political work on legislative time. The prosecution determined that these exhibits had forged signatures. The court found that the forged documents were “a fraud on the Court,” and declared a mistrial. The Secret Service subsequently found that many of the exhibits were forged. During Orie’s second trial, the prosecution's expert testified that Orie’s office lease barred her staff from using that office for anything besides legislative work. Orie unsuccessfully sought to call an expert to testify that the senate rules let staff do political work from legislative offices on comp time. Orie was convicted of theft of services, conspiracy, evidence tampering, forgery, and of using her political position for personal gain, in violation of the Pennsylvania Ethics Act. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of her federal habeas petition, first finding that it lacked jurisdiction to consider her Ethics Act challenge because she is not in custody for those convictions. The court rejected a double jeopardy argument. The state court reasonably found that a mistrial was manifestly necessary because the forged documents could have tainted the jury’s verdict. Orie did not show that her senate-rules expert’s testimony would have been material, so she had no constitutional right to call that witness. View "Orie v. Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Corrections" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Cordaro and his co-defendant were elected as two of three Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania county commissioners. About 30 percent of Ackers’ business was municipal engineering, mostly for Lackawanna County. McLaine, Acker’s principal, expressed concerns to Cordaro's friend, Hughes. Hughes arranged a meeting, telling McLaine to bring a list of Acker's existing work for the county. McLaine’s list included the Lackawanna Watershed 2000 Program, a multi-year project based on a $30 million congressional grant; work on the Main Street and Gilmartin Street Bridges; work for several municipal authorities; and surveying, paving, and mapping. Cordaro stated, “I think I can let you keep that, . . . if we’re having fundraisers you’re going to have to participate and support us.” McLaine agreed. After becoming aware that Acker might lose two large contracts, McLaine called Hughes, who called Cordaro. Hughes asked, “how much money ... to give for the work.” Cordaro said, “maybe $15,000.” Hughes told McLaine that if he gave him $10,000 a month for Cordaro, Hughes could guarantee that Acker would keep its contracts and that he would lose his work if he did not pay. Payments began. In 2011, Cordaro was convicted of bribery, 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(B); Hobbs Act extortion, section 1951(a); and racketeering, sections 1962(c) and (d). The court instructed the jury that those crimes required an “official act.” In 2016, the Supreme Court (McDonnell) clarified what constitutes an “official act.” The Third Circuit affirmed the rejection of Cordaro’s habeas corpus (28 U.S.C. 2241) because Cordaro cannot show that it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror properly charged under McDonnell would have convicted him. View "Cordaro v. United States" on Justia Law

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Brooks, Debtor's CEO, was charged with financial crimes. In class action and derivative lawsuits, Debtor proposed a global settlement that indemnified Brooks for liability under the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX), 15 U.S.C. 7243. Cohen, Debtor’s former General Counsel and a shareholder, claimed that the indemnification was unlawful. The district court approved the settlement, Cohen, represented by CLM, appealed. The Second Circuit vacated, noting that the EDNY would determine CLM’s attorneys’ fees award. Debtor initiated Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The Bankruptcy Court confirmed Debtor’s liquidation plan, with a trustee to pursue Debtor’s interest in recouping its losses from the ongoing actions. Brooks died in prison. Because his appeal had not concluded, some of his convictions and restitution obligations were abated. Stakeholders negotiated a second global settlement agreement, under which $142 million of Brooks’ restrained assets were to be distributed to his victims; $70 million has been remitted to Debtor. The Bankruptcy Court awarded CLM fees for the SOX 304 claim; the amount would be determined if Debtor received any funds on account of the claim. CLM’s Fee Appeal remains pending at the district court. CLM requested a $25 million reserve for payment of its fees. The Bankruptcy Court ordered Debtor to set aside $5 million. CLM’s Fee Reserve Appeal remains pending. CLM then moved, unsuccessfully, for a stay of Second Settlement Agreement distributions. In its Stay Denial Appeal, CLM’s motion requesting a stay of distributions was denied. The Third Circuit affirmed. The $5 million reserve is sufficient. A $5 million attorneys’ fees award for 1,502.2 hours of legal work totaling $549,472.61 of documented fees would yield an hourly rate of $3,328.45 and a lodestar multiplier of over nine. In common fund cases where attorneys’ fees are calculated using the lodestar method, multiples from one to four are the norm. View "SS Body Armor I, Inc. v. Carter Ledyard & Milburn, LLP" on Justia Law

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Over seven years, Dr. Greenspan referred more than 100,000 blood tests to Biodiagnostic Laboratory, which made more than $3 million off these tests. In exchange, the Lab gave Greenspan and his associates more than $200,000 in cash, gifts, and other benefits. A jury convicted Greenspan of accepting kickbacks, 42 U.S.C. 1320a-7(b)(1)(A); using interstate facilities with the intent to commit commercial bribery, 18 U.S.C. 1952(a)(1), (3); honest-services wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, 1346; and conspiracy to do all of those things. The Third Circuit affirmed, characterizing the evidence of his guilt as overwhelming. The district court erred in instructing the jury that Greenspan had to “demonstrate” the prerequisites for an advice-of-counsel defense; in excluding as hearsay some of his testimony about that legal advice; in asking only Greenspan’s counsel, not Greenspan personally, whether he wished to speak at sentencing; and in limiting the scope of the defense to five particular agreements rather than all eight, but all of those errors were harmless. The court properly excluded evidence that the blood tests were medically necessary. That evidence was only marginally relevant and risked misleading the jury. View "United States v. Greenspan" on Justia Law

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Nita and her husband, Kirtish, pled guilty to defrauding Medicare (18 U.S.C. 1347), based on having forged physicians’ signatures on diagnostic reports and having conducted diagnostic testing without the required physician supervision. The government then brought this civil action for the same fraudulent schemes against Nita, Nita’s healthcare company (Heart Solution), Kirtish, and Kirtish’s healthcare company (Biosound). The district court granted the government summary judgment, relying on the convictions and plea colloquies in the criminal case, essentially concluding that Nita had admitted to all elements and issues relevant to her civil liability. Nita and Heart Solution appealed. The Third Circuit affirmed Nita’s liability under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1)(A) and for common law fraud but vacated findings that Heart Solution is estopped from contesting liability and damages for all claims and Nita is estopped from contesting liability and damages for the remaining common law claims. The district court failed to dissect the issues that were determined in the criminal case from those that were not, lumping together Nita and Heart Solution, even though Heart Solution was not involved in the criminal case. It also failed to disaggregate claims Medicare paid to Nita and Heart Solution from those paid to Kirtish and Biosound. The plea colloquy did not clarify ownership interests in the companies; who, specifically, made certain misrepresentations; nor whether one company was paid the entire amount or whether the payments were divided between the companies. View "Doe v. Heart Solution PC" on Justia Law

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McClure-Potts contacted police about Samarin, who entered the U.S. without inspection from Ukraine. McClure-Potts claimed she was trying to adopt Samarin, who was 19 years old and that Samarin had been “speaking of Hitler against the Jews” and might have stolen a rifle. McClure-Potts provided a birth certificate indicating that Samarin was born in 1992. Police discovered that McClure-Potts had previously filed runaway reports regarding a minor son (Asher) apparently born in 1997; Samarin was posing as Asher and attending high school. The school provided a sworn statement from McClure-Potts that Samarin was born in 1997, with applications for free/reduced lunch and health benefits. Samarin claimed that he had moved in with McClure-Potts, then was told to cut ties with his family and surrender his money and his identification documents. He was forced to do household work. McClure-Potts obtained a Social Security card for "Asher," and used it to procure $7,336 in income tax credits and $13,653.28 in nutritional and health benefits. McClure-Potts was charged with Social Security Fraud, 42 U.S.C. 408(a)(6); Harboring an Illegal Alien, 8 U.S.C. 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii), (a)(2); and Unlawful Conduct Respecting Documents in Furtherance of Forced Labor, 18 U.S.C. 1589, 1590. McClure-Potts pled guilty to the Social Security Fraud and Harboring counts. Based on the amount of loss ($20,989.28) and the court’s refusal to grant an offense level reduction due to the claim that her fraud was committed “other than for profit," she was sentenced to five months. The Third Circuit affirmed. The benefits that McClure-Potts sought and received were “payment” for her harboring Samarin. View "United States v. McClure-Potts" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs founded ChinaWhys, which assists foreign companies doing business in China with American anti-bribery regulations compliance. Plaintiffs allege that the GSK Defendants engaged in bribery in China, with the approval of Reilly, the CEO of GSK China. In 2011, a whistleblower sent Chinese regulators correspondence accusing GSK of bribery. Defendants tried to uncover the whistleblower’s identity. Plaintiffs met with Reilly. According to Plaintiffs, GSK China representatives stated they believed Shi, a GSK China employee who had been fired, was orchestrating a “smear campaign.” ChinaWhys agreed to investigate Shi under an agreement to be governed by Chinese law, with all disputes subject to arbitration in China. Plaintiffs were arrested, convicted, imprisoned, and deported from China. Reilly was convicted of bribing physicians and was also imprisoned and deported. The Chinese government fined GSK $492 million for its bribery practices; GSK entered a settlement agreement with the U.S. SEC. Plaintiffs sued under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961–1968, contending that their business was “destroyed and their prospective business ventures eviscerated” as a result of Defendants’ misconduct. RICO creates a private right of action for a plaintiff injured in his business or property as a result of prohibited conduct; for racketeering activity committed abroad, section 1964(c)’s private right of action requires that the plaintiff “allege and prove a domestic injury to its business or property.” The Third Circuit held that Plaintiffs did not plead sufficient facts to establish that they suffered a domestic injury under section 1964(c). View "Humphrey v. GlaxoSmithKline PLC" on Justia Law

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Before trial on a 77-count indictment that charged Appellants with operating a ticket-fixing scheme in the Philadelphia Traffic Court, the district court denied a motion to dismiss charges of conspiracy (18 U.S.C. 1349), mail fraud (18 U.S.C. 1341), and wire fraud (18 U.S.C. 1343). A private citizen and the Traffic Court administrator subsequently pleaded guilty to all counts, then appealed whether the indictment properly alleged mail fraud and wire fraud. Three Traffic Court Judges proceeded to a joint trial and were acquitted of fraud and conspiracy but convicted of perjury for statements they made before the Grand Jury. They disputed the sufficiency of the evidence, arguing that the prosecutor’s questions were vague and that their answers were literally true; claimed that the jury was prejudiced by evidence on the fraud and conspiracy counts; and argued that the court erred by ruling that certain evidence was inadmissible. The Third Circuit affirmed the convictions. The Indictment sufficiently alleged that the defendants engaged in a scheme to defraud the Commonwealth and the city of money in costs and fees; it explicitly states that the scheme deprived the city and the Commonwealth of money, and describes the object of the scheme as obviating judgments of guilt that imposed the fines and costs. View "United States v. Hird" on Justia Law