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A jury convicted Matthew Williams of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. He appealed, arguing the evidence against him was insufficient. Williams began a mortgage loan application at Pulaski Bank (the “bank”) using his father’s personal and financial information and his status as a Purple Heart veteran. After his father received the application packet in the mail, he called the bank to explain he had not applied for a loan. The bank referred the matter to law enforcement, but continued to work with Williams to process the loan and obtain additional documents to clarify the applicant’s identity. The bank sent Williams a notice of incompleteness because it lacked several required documents, signatures, and a photo identification. In response, Williams provided some of the required documents to the bank, including a fake earnings statement and a letter expressing his intent to proceed with the loan. The bank sent a final notice of incompleteness to Williams. Williams did not respond, and the bank closed his application file. Mr. Williams argues his misrepresentations on the incomplete application could not support a bank fraud conviction because they (1) were not material to the bank’s decision to issue him a loan; and (2) did not impose a risk of loss on the bank. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Ferriero was chairman of the Bergen County Democratic Organization (BCDO) from 1998 until he resigned in 2009. Ferriero took payments from a vendor (C3) that provided emergency notification systems for local governments in exchange for recommending to officials that their towns hire the firm. Ferriero’s corporation executed a contract, described as an “agreement . . . to provide governmental relations consulting services required in connection with marketing of a product known as C3 and any other related products or services.” The municipalities that bought the product were unaware that Ferriero stood to benefit financially. The Third Circuit affirmed Ferriero’s convictions, a forfeiture order, and sentence based on violations of the Travel Act, 18 U.S.C. 1952, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(c), and the federal wire fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. 1343. The evidence was sufficient to prove New Jersey bribery as a predicate act for his Travel Act and RICO convictions. There was sufficient evidence for a rational juror to conclude Ferriero participated in the conduct of the BCDO’s affairs by means of a pattern of bribery and to conclude that failure to disclose Ferriero’s C3 interest amounted to a materially false or fraudulent misrepresentation. View "United States v. Ferriero" on Justia Law

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Ferriero was chairman of the Bergen County Democratic Organization (BCDO) from 1998 until he resigned in 2009. Ferriero took payments from a vendor (C3) that provided emergency notification systems for local governments in exchange for recommending to officials that their towns hire the firm. Ferriero’s corporation executed a contract, described as an “agreement . . . to provide governmental relations consulting services required in connection with marketing of a product known as C3 and any other related products or services.” The municipalities that bought the product were unaware that Ferriero stood to benefit financially. The Third Circuit affirmed Ferriero’s convictions, a forfeiture order, and sentence based on violations of the Travel Act, 18 U.S.C. 1952, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(c), and the federal wire fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. 1343. The evidence was sufficient to prove New Jersey bribery as a predicate act for his Travel Act and RICO convictions. There was sufficient evidence for a rational juror to conclude Ferriero participated in the conduct of the BCDO’s affairs by means of a pattern of bribery and to conclude that failure to disclose Ferriero’s C3 interest amounted to a materially false or fraudulent misrepresentation. View "United States v. Ferriero" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's restitution calculation, determination of loss for purposes of sentencing, and denial of defendant's motion for recusal. In this case, defendant was convicted of orchestrating a scheme to defraud mortgage companies. The court held that the evidence supported the district court's restitution calculation; the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining the loss amount where it used the correct loss figure in sentencing defendant under the advisory Guidelines; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in its determination not to recuse where the district court's ownership of stock in some of the victim lenders did not require recusal. View "United States v. Stone" on Justia Law

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Coexist was formed by Hubman, an admitted con man, after a court found that his previous enterprise, Hubman Foundation was not a charity but a sham designed to insulate Hubman from his debts and obligations. Hubman was introduced to Fehrenbacher, the president of a wholesale banking institution that packaged and sold mortgage notes to investment banks, and of a retail loan broker. In 2009, Fehrenbacher offered Hubman a deal via email that promised returns of 25-30% per week and that any invested funds would not be at risk and would be held in escrow. Coexist ultimately wired $2 million from Coexist, plus $2.8 million of Hubman's money to Assured Capital, following Fehrenbacher’s instructions. It was a Ponzi scheme. Hubman complained to the FBI and filed a civil suit. Assured ultimately paid him $4.3 million. Fehrenbacher then returned $1,494,250 to Coexist. The $2 million that Coexist “invested” was actually the money of Stewart, a retired professional baseball player. The Stewarts obtained a judgment for $2 million against Hubman and Coexist. Hubman did not pay. Coexist filed suit against Fehrenbacher and his companies. The Seventh Circuit affirmed a finding that the defendants violated a Florida law prohibiting the sale of unregistered securities and an order of rescission. View "Coexist Foundation, Inc. v. Fehrenbacher" on Justia Law

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Defendant and her son appealed from their convictions for conspiracy to commit tax fraud and related offenses. The DC Circuit held that the prosecutor's blatant misstatements of key evidence during closing arguments, in the absence of any steps to mitigate the resulting prejudice, required reversal of the son's convictions; because the evidence against the son was insufficient, he was not subject to retrial; defendant was not prejudice from the closing arguments; and defendant's evidentiary challenges were unpersuasive. The court affirmed defendant's convictions but remanded her case for resentencing and for reconsideration of her claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. View "United States v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Amendment's prohibition on the use of compelled testimony in American criminal proceedings applies even when a foreign sovereign has compelled the testimony.  When the government makes use of a witness who had substantial exposure to a defendant's compelled testimony, it is required under Kastigar v. United States, 406 U.S. 441 (1972), to prove, at a minimum, that the witness's review of the compelled testimony did not shape, alter, or affect the evidence used by the government.  A bare, generalized denial of taint from a witness who has materially altered his or her testimony after being substantially exposed to a defendant’s compelled testimony is insufficient as a matter of law to sustain the prosecution’s burden of proof. In this case involving the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), defendants were convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. The Second Circuit held that defendants' compelled testimony was "used" against them, and this impermissible use before the petit and grand juries was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.  Accordingly, the court reversed the judgments of conviction and dismissed the indictment. View "United States v. Allen" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part defendant's 84-month sentence for identity theft and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The court held that the loss amount of $165,500 from 331 debit and credit cards ($500 times 331) was properly attributed to defendant; a social security number qualifies as an "access device" under the definition in 18 U.S.C. 1029(e)(1) and for purposes of the Special Rules in the Sentencing Guidelines; and there was no error in including the loss amount of $500 for each of the "numerous" social security numbers shown on defendant's computer. The court remanded to the district court to address, and make fact findings about, the loss amount. On remand, both sides may submit additional evidence as to what types of personal information were found in the apartment. The evidence supported the district court's finding that defendant did not meet her burden of proving her minor role and the district court did not err when it denied defendant the benefit of an acceptance of responsibility reduction. However, the court remanded for additional factfinding as to the criminal history category points. View "United States v. Wright" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit vacated and remanded defendant's conviction for all counts related to the abuse of his public position by engaging in two quid pro quo schemes in which he performed official acts in exchange for bribes and kickbacks. Defendant, the former Speaker of the New York State Assembly, then laundered the proceeds of his schemes into private investment vehicles. Although the court rejected defendant's sufficiency challenges, the court held that the district court's instructions on honest services fraud and extortion did not comport with McDonnell v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2355 (2016), and were therefore in error. McDonnell clarified the definition of an "official act" in honest services fraud and extortion charges. The court further held that this error was not harmless because it was not clear beyond a reasonable doubt that a rational jury would have reached the same conclusion if properly instructed, as was required by law for the verdict to stand. View "United States v. Silver" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for tax evasion, mail fraud, and wire fraud for conduct relating to the operation of three companies that he owned. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by limiting defendant's cross-examination of a prosecution witness; the district court did not clearly err in determining that defendant's base offense level was 22 based on a tax loss of greater than $1,000,000; and the district court did not clearly err by applying and two-level adjustment under USSG 3C1.1 for obstruction of justice. Because the government concedes that it did not establish sufficient evidence to support the application of the USSG 2T1.1(b)(1) enhancement for failing to report income exceeding $10,000 from criminal activity, the court vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Montanari" on Justia Law