Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Supreme Court

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Lagos was convicted of using a company he controlled to defraud a lender of millions of dollars. After Lagos’ company went bankrupt, the lender conducted a private investigation and participated as a party in the company’s bankruptcy proceedings, spending nearly $5 million in legal, accounting, and consulting fees. When Lagos pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud charges, the court ordered him to pay the lender restitution for those fees. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, citing the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996, which requires defendants convicted of certain federal offenses, including wire fraud, to “reimburse the victim for lost income and necessary child care, transportation, and other expenses incurred during participation in the investigation or prosecution of the offense or attendance at proceedings related to the offense,” 18 U.S.C. 3663A(b)(4). The Supreme Court, acting unanimously, reversed. The words “investigation” and “proceedings” are limited to government investigations and criminal proceedings and do not include private investigations and civil or bankruptcy proceedings. A broader reading would require courts to resolve difficult, fact-intensive disputes about whether particular expenses “incurred during” participation in a private investigation were actually “necessary,” and about whether proceedings such as a licensing proceeding or a Consumer Products Safety Commission hearing were sufficiently “related to the offense.” The Court acknowledged that its interpretation means that some victims will not receive restitution for all of their losses, but reasoned that is consistent with the Act’s enumeration of limited categories. View "Lagos v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 2004-2009, the IRS investigated Marinello’s tax activities. In 2012, Marinello was indicted for violating 26 U.S.C. 7212(a) (the Omnibus Clause), which forbids “corruptly or by force or threats of force . . . obstruct[ing] or imped[ing], or endeavor[ing] to obstruct or impede, the due administration” of the Internal Revenue Code. The judge instructed the jury that it must find that Marinello “corruptly” engaged in at least one specified activity, but was not told that it needed to find that Marinello knew he was under investigation and intended corruptly to interfere with that investigation. The Second Circuit affirmed his conviction. The Supreme Court reversed. To convict a defendant under the Omnibus Clause, the government must prove the defendant was aware of a pending tax-related proceeding, such as a particular investigation or audit, or could reasonably foresee that such a proceeding would commence. The verbs “obstruct” and “impede” require an object. The object in 7212(a) is the “due administration of [the Tax Code],” referring to discrete targeted administrative acts rather than every conceivable task involved in the Tax Code’s administration. In context, the Omnibus Clause serves as a “catchall” for the obstructive conduct the subsection sets forth, not for every violation that interferes with routine administrative procedures. A broader reading could result in a lack of fair warning. Just because a taxpayer knows that the IRS will review her tax return annually does not transform every Tax Code violation into an obstruction charge. View "Marinello v. United States" on Justia Law