Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

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Schumb was charged as a coconspirator in a felony indictment alleging a quid pro quo scheme in which members of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department issued hard-to-obtain concealed firearms permits in exchange for substantial monetary donations to the reelection campaign of Sheriff Smith. Schumb is an attorney with a history of fundraising for elected officials; he accepted the donations as a treasurer of an independent expenditure committee supporting Sheriff Smith’s reelection. Schumb is a friend of Rosen, the elected Santa Clara County District Attorney, and previously raised funds for Rosen’s campaigns.Schumb unsuccessfully moved to disqualify the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting him, arguing that his friendships with Rosen and Rosen’s chief assistant, Boyarsky, created a conflict of interest making it unlikely Schumb would receive a fair trial. Schumb asserted that he intends to call Rosen and Boyarsky as both fact and character witnesses at trial and. despite their personal connections to the case, neither Rosen nor Boyarsky made any effort to create an ethical wall between themselves and the attorneys prosecuting the case. The court of appeal vacated and directed the lower court to enter a new order disqualifying the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office in Schumb's prosecution. View "Schumb v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Bochenek was convicted of identity theft for the knowingly unauthorized use of another person’s credit card information to purchase cigarettes. Before trial, Bochenek argued that the venue provision pertaining to identity theft, 720 ILCS 5/1-6(t)(3), which allows for proper venue in the county in which the victim resides, was unconstitutional. Bochenek maintained that the acts constituting the offenses occurred at a gas station in Lake County and not where the victim resides, in Du Page County.The circuit and appellate courts and the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the provision. Based on the nature of the crime, the constitutional mandate that criminal trials occur in the county in which the offense is alleged to have been committed is satisfied. The offense of identity theft may be deemed to have been committed where the physical acts occurred as well as where the intangible identifying information is “located,” namely the victim’s residence. View "People v. Bochenek" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of one count of making a materially false statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(2), holding that Defendant's arguments on appeal lacked merit.Specifically, the First Circuit held (1) Defendant's argument that multiple circumstances may have caused the jury to convict him of a second statement that had not been charged, causing a mismatch or variance between the indictment and the proof, was unavailing; (2) there was no clear prosecutorial misconduct in either the opening or the closing arguments; (3) Defendant waived his claim regarding the indictment not going to the jury and the verdict form; and (4) the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a new trial. View "United States v. Chen" on Justia Law

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Elgin met Garbutt at an international convention. Garbutt, who holds dual citizenship, moved from Belize into Elgin’s Gary, Indiana home and worked on her successful campaign to become Trustee of Calumet Township. Elgin hired Garbutt to work at the Trustee’s Office as her “executive aide” at a salary of $60,000 per year. Garbutt’s unofficial duties included Elgin’s political campaign work. He understood that he should not perform political work at the Township Office but began to do so. Elgin also hired her friend Shelton, who also worked on Elgin’s campaign. Elgin and Garbutt had a falling out. Elgin demoted Garbutt, docked his salary barred him from attending meetings, and took away his government car. Garbutt eventually began a partnership with an FBI agent who directed him to conduct warrantless searches of his co‐workers’ offices.Elgin took a plea deal, Shelton was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, after learning, mid‐trial, about the warrantless searches. The district court denied Shelton's post‐trial motion for relief. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The district court erred in finding that Shelton lacked any reasonable expectation of privacy in her office. Garbutt’s document collection, undertaken at the direction of the FBI, violated her Fourth Amendment rights. No warrant would have issued without the information gathered as a result of the unlawful searches; the evidence obtained from the search authorized by that warrant should have been suppressed. View "United States v. Shelton" on Justia Law

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In 1989, Bilzerian was convicted on nine counts of securities fraud, making false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and conspiracy to commit certain offenses, and defraud the SEC and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The Southern District of New York sentenced Bilzerian to four years in prison, imposed a $1.5 million fine, and ordered him to disgorge $62,337,599.53.In 2012, Bilzerian’s wife, Steffen, filed a pro se complaint in the Claims Court seeking an $8,243,145 tax refund under 26 U.S.C. 1341. The dispute stems from transactions that Bilzerian made in 1985-1986 related to the purchase and sale of certain common stocks, for which he was convicted of securities fraud. Steffen and Bilzerian later filed a second amended complaint as joined parties.In 2018, the court dismissed that complaint with prejudice. The Federal Circuit affirmed. The plaintiffs cannot establish a reasonable belief of having an unrestricted right to the disputed funds when the money was first reported as income. A reasonable, unrestricted-right belief cannot exist where a taxpayer knowingly acquires the disputed funds via fraud. The “taxpayer’s illicit hope that his intentional wrongdoing will go undetected cannot create the appearance of an unrestricted right.” View "Steffen v. United States" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction of conspiracy to commit various financial crimes, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and converting government property, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief as to any of his assignments of error.This case arose from Defendant's participation, along with several coconspirators, in a scheme to defraud the federal government by falsifying tax returns. A jury convicted him of multiple counts, and the judge sentenced him to eighty-four months in jail. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) Defendant's claims of error in the trial judge's evidentiary rulings were unavailing; and (2) the judge properly applied two sentencing enhancements. View "United States v. Grullon" on Justia Law

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In 2014, after a jury found Michael Destry Williams guilty of ten counts of tax-evasion and fraud offenses, the district judge sentenced him to seventy-one months’ imprisonment and five years’ supervised release. Williams began the five-years’ supervision on August 22, 2018, and was set to end it on August 21, 2023. On August 27, 2019, a probation officer filed a Petition for Summons on Person Under Supervision, alleging three violations of Williams’s supervision. All three violations allegedly stemmed from Williams’s asserted belief that he was an American National and was not subject to the same legal system as United States citizens. The court ordered a sentence of 24 months’ imprisonment, with credit for time served. On appeal, Williams challenged this sentence as substantively unreasonable. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed Williams' sentence. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

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In 2017, Kirschner earned $30,105 by importing counterfeit coins and bullion and then, posing as a federal law enforcement agent, selling them as genuine articles to unsuspecting customers. Searching his home and interdicting packages, agents seized thousands of counterfeit coins and bullion that, according to the government’s expert, would have been worth approximately $46.5 million if genuine. Kirschner pleaded guilty to impersonating an officer acting under the authority of the United States, 18 U.S.C. 912, and importing counterfeit coins and bars with intent to defraud, 18 U.S.C. 485. The court applied a two-level sentencing enhancement because Kirschner’s fraud used sophisticated means; another two-level enhancement because Kirschner abused a position of public trust to facilitate his crimes; and a 22-level enhancement because the “loss” attributable to his scheme was greater than $25 million but less than $65 million.The Third Circuit vacated Kirschner’s 126-month sentence. While the district court was within its discretion to apply the abuse-of-trust and use-of-sophisticated-means enhancements, it clearly erred in applying the 22-level enhancement for loss, and the error was not harmless. While the court focused on what Kirschner intended to do with the high-value counterfeits, it never found that the government proved, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Kirschner intended to sell the coins as counterfeits (not replicas) for the prices the government claimed. View "United States v. Kirschner" on Justia Law

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Shulick, an attorney, owned and operated DVHS, a for-profit business that provided alternative education to at-risk students. The School District of Philadelphia contracted with DVHS to operate Southwest School for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years. DVHS was to provide six teachers at a cost of $45,000 each; benefits for the staff at a total cost of $170,000 annually; four security workers totaling $130,000 annually; and a trained counselor and two psychology externs totaling $110,000 annually. The agreement was not flexible as to budgeted items. Shulick failed to employ the required dedicated security personnel, hired fewer teachers, provided fewer benefits, and paid his educators far less than required. Shulick had represented to the District that he would spend $850,000 on salary and benefits annually but spent about $396,000 in 2010-11 and $356,000 in 2011-12. Shulick directed the unspent funds to co-conspirator Fattah, the son of a former U.S. Representative, to pay off liabilities incurred across Shulick’s business ventures, keeping a cut for himself.Shulick was convicted of conspiring with Fattah to embezzle from a program receiving federal funds (18 U.S.C. 371), embezzling funds from a federally funded program (18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(A)), bank fraud (18 U.S.C. 1344), making a false statement to a bank (18 U.S.C. 1014), and three counts of filing false tax returns (26 U.S.C. 7206(1)). The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments ranging from speedy trial violations to errors in evidentiary rulings, faulty jury instructions, and sentencing miscalculations. View "United States v. Shulick" on Justia Law

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The IRS began a criminal investigation of Gaetano, who owns Michigan cannabis dispensaries. Portal 42, a software company that provides the cannabis industry with point-of-sale systems, confirmed that Gaetano was a client. Agents served a summons, ordering Portal 42 to produce records “and other data relating to the tax liability or the collection of the tax liability or for the purpose of inquiring into any offense connected with the administration or enforcement of the internal revenue laws concerning [Gaetano] for the periods shown.” The IRS did not notify Gaetano about the summons. Portal 42 sent the IRS an email with a hyperlink to the requested records. An IRS computer specialist copied the documents. None of the personnel in the IRS’s Criminal Investigation Division have viewed the records.Gaetano filed a petition under 26 U.S.C. 7609, seeking to quash the summons, arguing that the IRS should have notified Gaetano about the summons and that it was issued in bad faith. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction because Gaetano lacked standing. Section 7609 waives the government’s sovereign immunity to allow taxpayers to bring an action to quash certain third-party IRS summonses. An exception applies because the summons here was issued by an IRS criminal investigator “in connection” with an IRS criminal investigation and the summoned party is not a third-party recordkeeper. Without a statutory waiver of sovereign immunity, subject-matter jurisdiction cannot obtain. View "Gaetano v. United States" on Justia Law