Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

by
The case involves Keenan Seymour, a member of the street gang, Latin Dragon Nation, who pled guilty to a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) conspiracy charge. Seymour was sentenced to 180 months' imprisonment, which was below the Sentencing Guidelines' recommendation. He appealed for re-sentencing on three grounds: (1) questioning certain factual findings, (2) challenging his accountability for a murder, and (3) pointing out the court's failure to discuss unwarranted sentencing disparities.The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court emphasized that Seymour was an active participant in the gang and knew about the gang's rules. It found Seymour's arguments against the court's factual findings unpersuasive, stating that the record offered ample support for the findings. The court also rejected Seymour's argument that the district court erred in calculating his offense level by attributing a murder to him, explaining that the murder was foreseeable given Seymour’s gang activities. Lastly, it dismissed Seymour's argument about unwarranted sentencing disparities, stating that the district court had adequately addressed this concern during sentencing.The court held that Seymour's 180-month sentence, which was below the Guidelines, was substantively reasonable and thus affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "USA v. Seymour" on Justia Law

by
This case revolves around the dismissal of a case due to the plaintiff's counsel's unexcused absence from the final pretrial conference. The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit raised the question of whether a district court may dismiss a case for such a reason, especially when it's the first and only instance of non-compliance and the court did not consider a lesser sanction. In this case, the plaintiff had filed a complaint alleging RICO violations and related state-law claims. However, the plaintiff's counsel failed to appear at the final pretrial conference, leading to the dismissal of the case by the district court.Upon review, the Court of Appeals held that while a district court has inherent power to manage its docket and may dismiss a case sua sponte for reasons prescribed in Rule 41(b), such dismissal should only occur when a plaintiff's misconduct has been extreme or contumacious. The dismissal should not be viewed as a sanction of first resort or an automatic penalty for every failure to abide by a court order. Thus, the Court of Appeals found that the district court had erred in dismissing the case without first considering a lesser sanction or warning the disruptive party. The court vacated the district court's dismissal order and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Vivaldi Servicios de Seguridad, Inc. v. Maiso Group, Corp." on Justia Law

by
In this case, defendant Charles Yeager-Reiman, a veteran, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor grand theft in connection with fraudulent activities related to veterans' benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Yeager-Reiman appealed his conviction, arguing that his prosecution was preempted by federal law, as his offenses concerned the theft of benefits from the VA.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Five disagreed with Yeager-Reiman's contention, and affirmed the lower court's judgement. The court ruled that federal preemption did not apply in this case. While federal law establishes the guidelines and regulations for VA benefits, it does not prohibit state-level criminal prosecutions for fraudulent activities related to these benefits.In terms of field preemption, the court determined that the provisions of the federal law did not indicate an intent by Congress to occupy the field of criminal prosecution of veterans in connection with the theft of VA benefits. As for obstacle preemption, the court found that allowing state-level prosecutions for theft of VA benefits actually promotes Congress's purpose of aiding veterans by preserving funds for veterans' benefits through deterrence.Therefore, the court concluded that neither field preemption nor obstacle preemption deprived the trial court of jurisdiction to hear Yeager-Reiman's case. View "People v. Yeager-Reiman" on Justia Law

by
The court case involves defendants Juan Alberto Ortiz-Orellana and Minor Perez-Chach, who were convicted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and the Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering statute (VICAR). Ortiz and Perez were part of a gang known as MS-13 and were separately charged with murders related to their involvement in the gang in Maryland. Ortiz was also convicted of VICAR conspiracy to commit murder, discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and murder resulting from the same crime. Perez, on the other hand, was also convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, and an alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Both defendants appealed their convictions and sentences.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that the government seizure of historical cell site location information (CSLI) without a warrant did not violate the defendants' Fourth Amendment rights due to the good faith exception. The court also upheld the use of summary exhibits and denied the defendants' claim that their sentences were substantially unreasonable. The court agreed with Ortiz that his firearm convictions must be vacated because the underlying offenses for each VICAR count could not qualify as a "crime of violence" after a recent ruling. The court also rejected Ortiz's claim that his RICO and VICAR convictions violated the Double Jeopardy Clause. As a result, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded the case for resentencing on certain counts. View "US v. Ortiz-Orellana" on Justia Law

by
In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit involving four defendants—Dricko Dashon Huskey, Renaire Roshique Lewis, Jr., Alandus Montrell Smith, and Jonathan Wray—all were members of the United Blood Nations (UBN) gang and were charged with conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act and related crimes. They were all found guilty following a trial. The defendants appealed their convictions and sentences, alleging various procedural and substantive errors. The Court of Appeals, after considering each of the defendants' arguments, affirmed the district court's judgments. The Court found that there was sufficient evidence to support the convictions, and that the defendants' challenges to certain evidentiary rulings, closing arguments, jury instructions, and sentencing decisions lacked merit. View "US v. Huskey" on Justia Law

by
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the drug-trafficking and money-laundering convictions of Benjamin Galecki and Charles Burton Ritchie for their distribution of "spice," a synthetic cannabinoid product. The defendants were found guilty of manufacturing and distributing spice through their company, Zencense Incenseworks, LLC. The drug-trafficking charges were based on the premise that the cannabinoid used, XLR-11, was treated as a controlled substance because it was an "analogue" of a listed substance. The court rejected the defendants' arguments that their convictions should be set aside due to Fourth Amendment violations, insufficient evidence, and vagueness of the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986. However, the court reversed their mail and wire fraud convictions due to insufficient evidence. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "USA V. GALECKI" on Justia Law

by
In this case, Pamela Kathryn Conley appealed her sentence for bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. She argued that the district court incorrectly calculated her loss amount for the bank fraud offense, and that the court erred in accepting her guilty plea for aggravated identity theft.Conley had applied for loans at seven financial institutions using false employment and salary information, and in some cases, she forged the signatures of financial institution employees to create false lien releases for vehicles she used as collateral. She pled guilty to 24 counts of bank fraud and 4 counts of aggravated identity theft.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit found that the district court had erred in calculating the loss amount for the bank fraud offense. The court vacated Conley's sentence for bank fraud and remanded for resentencing on those counts. The court determined that the district court had relied on disputed facts in the presentence report to calculate Conley's U.S. Sentencing Guidelines range for bank fraud, which was procedurally unreasonable.However, the court affirmed Conley's convictions for aggravated identity theft. Conley had argued that the court erred in accepting her guilty plea for this offense in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Dubin v. United States. But the appeals court found that any potential error in accepting the guilty plea was not plain or obvious under current, well-settled law. View "United States v. Conley" on Justia Law

by
Danial Curtis was convicted of the unauthorized use of personal identifying information. At trial, a bank teller testified Curtis entered the bank where she worked producing a check for cashing. The teller noticed several "red flags" on the check; her manager testified to noticing the same red flags. The manager contacted the account holder to inquire if the check was authorized; the account holder testified she had thrown out any checks she had remaining once she closed the account. Representing himself, Curtis called a friend who testified Curtis was not attempting to cash the check, but was only attempting to see if the check was valid. Based on the evidence presented, the district court found beyond a reasonable doubt Curtis willfully presented the check to cash, and found Curtis guilty of the unauthorized use of personal identifying information "to obtain money without the authorization of consent of the holder of the account, and the value of the money exceeded $1,000." On appeal, Curtis argued there was insufficient information presented to support his conviction. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed Curtis' conviction. View "North Dakota v. Curtis" on Justia Law

by
Carolyn Nelson appealed her conviction from a bench trial for the crime of accomplice to theft. Nelson was the president of the Oberon School Board. Laura Schnieber-Bruns and her business, Victim Survivor the Voice, LLC, were engaged to perform services for the school. The exact nature of the services was disputed, but an agreement signed by Nelson and Schnieber-Bruns described the work as “investigate, research, compile and deliver ongoing actions request of the Oberon School Board.” The agreement specified a “set-up fee” of $7,500, an “on-going management” fee of $7,500, and a $200 hourly rate for “services outside the scope of this Agreement.” Schnieber-Bruns was later charged with class A felony theft for taking more than $150,000 from the Oberon School “through a deceptive scheme pursuant to” the agreement. She pleaded guilty by an Alford plea. Nelson challenged her conviction as an accomplice. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the evidence was sufficient to sustain the conviction. The Court declined to address issues Nelson did not raise at the district court or brief on appeal under the obvious error standard of review. View "North Dakota v. Nelson" on Justia Law

by
In 2011, the automaker FCA transferred the work that plaintiffs (engineers) had previously performed at FCA’s company headquarters to a new location. The plaintiffs filed a grievance with their union, UAW, in 2016. UAW failed to pursue it. In 2017, plaintiffs filed essentially the same grievance, but UAW again did not pursue it. By this time, plaintiffs had learned of a massive bribery scheme involving FCA and UAW; they believed that those bribes had affected the 2011 job-relocation process and UAW’s treatment of their grievances. In 2018, plaintiffs filed the same grievance again. Nearly two years later, UAW found the grievance meritorious.Plaintiffs sued FCA, UAW, and individual defendants in 2020, raising claims under the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. 185(a), and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the claims as untimely under the LMRA’s six-month limitations period. Plaintiffs pursuing a hybrid LMRA claim must sue once they “reasonably should know that the union has abandoned” their claim. Plaintiffs learned of their RICO injuries as early as 2011 and learned of the bribery allegations in 2017 but waited until 2020 to file their complaint, with no explanation for the delay. View "Baltrusaitis v. United Auto Workers" on Justia Law