Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

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Terence Bruce and Stanley Nicholson were convicted by juries of common-law misconduct in office. Defendants were federal border patrol agents assigned to a Hometown Security Team (HST) task force that included Michigan State Police troopers, border patrol agents, and other officers operating in Jackson County, Michigan. Defendants had been assigned to ensure perimeter security around a home during the execution of a search warrant and to help search the home and remove confiscated evidence. The task force kept a tabulation of items seized, but defendants took additional property not included on the tabulation. Defendant Nicholson took an antique thermometer and barometer device, insisting that it was junk, and he accidentally ruined the device when he took it home to clean it. Defendant Bruce took a wheeled stool with a leather seat home with him, but he returned it to the police department when asked about it. Defendants were charged with common-law misconduct in office as well as larceny in a building. Defendants moved for directed verdicts, arguing that they were not public officers for purposes of the misconduct-in-office offense. The court denied the motions, and the jury convicted defendants of misconduct in office but acquitted them of larceny in a building. Defendants appealed. In an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals, held that defendants were not public officers and vacated the convictions. The State appealed. The Michigan Supreme Court held that whether defendants were public officers depended on the duties they exercised and the color of office under which they acted. In these cases, because defendants exercised duties of enforcement of Michigan law and acted under authority granted to them by Michigan statute, they acted as public officers. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded to that Court for consideration of defendants’ remaining issues. View "Michigan v. Bruce" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Curtis Ridlon was formerly employed as an investment adviser. In April 2017, the New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation (Bureau) brought an administrative enforcement action against Ridlon, alleging that he charged clients approximately $2.8 million in improper fees. The relief sought by the Bureau included civil penalties of up to $3,235,000, restitution in the amount of $1,343,427.20, and disgorgement of up to $1,513,711.09. By agreement of the parties, Ridlon filed a declaratory judgment petition in the trial court asserting that he was constitutionally entitled to a jury trial and seeking to enjoin the administrative proceedings from continuing. In response, the Bureau filed a motion to dismiss. The trial court denied the Bureau’s motion, ruling that Part I, Article 20 of the State Constitution afforded Ridlon the right to a jury trial, and enjoining any further administrative proceedings by the Bureau. The New Hampshire Supreme Court disagreed with the superior court’s judgment: “the cases cited by the trial court, and relied upon by Ridlon on appeal for the proposition that claims involving statutory penalties above the constitutional limit obligate a trial by jury, do not address the applicability of the jury trial right under the State Constitution to what we have described as “purely statutory” causes of action. When assessing the right to a jury trial in such circumstances, we have explained that we must “consider the comprehensive nature of the statutory framework to determine whether the jury trial right extends to the action. . . . the statutory procedures established by the legislature for the regulation of securities ‘militate[ ] against any implication of a trial by jury.’” The trial court’s judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Ridlon v. New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation" on Justia Law

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Posada, a licensed chiropractor, owned and operated Spine Clinics, a Medicare-enrolled provider. Posada was indicted for a scheme to defraud Medicare and other insurers by submitting fraudulent claims and falsely representing that certain health care services were provided. The prosecution presented evidence that Posada billed the insurers for deceased patients and services never performed, created fake files, and failed to document the actual services rendered. Witnesses from Medicare and an insurer testified regarding the thousands of claims submitted. Two physical therapists also testified about the services they performed for Spine Clinics, how they billed Posada, and that they never performed many of the services for which he charged. Convicted of 18 counts of health care fraud, Posada’s PSR indicated an offense level of 26, based on a $4,087,736 loss amount, and recommended a term of incarceration of 63-78 months. To calculate that amount the prosecution reviewed Spine Clinic's files and when no treatment documentation was present, the amount billed was treated as a loss. The prosecution credited Posada with treating 20 patients a day, three days a week every week during the period of the fraud. Posada argued for an estimate of 25-26 patients per day and a loss amount less than $3.5 million. The district court accepted the government’s calculation and found a loss amount of $4,087,736. The Seventh Circuit affirmed that amount and Posada’s 60-month sentence, noting that the calculation was supported by the evidence at trial. View "United States v. Posada" on Justia Law

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In operating his companies, Rankin failed to remit to the IRS employees’ withholding taxes and inaccurately reported his own earnings as royalties (26 U.S.C. 7202, 7206, 7212). Rankin interfered with and delayed IRS investigations, filing amended returns containing false information and falsely claiming that fire had destroyed his records. Rankin bragged about his efforts to beat the IRS at its own game. He was convicted of 17 tax-related counts, sentenced to 60 months in prison, and required to pay restitution. The Sixth Circuit affirmed his conviction and sentence, modifying his judgment to reflect that he need not pay restitution until his term of supervised release commences. The court rejected a challenge to Count 17, which alleged that during the relevant time, Rankin had “willfully misl[ed] agents of the IRS by making false and misleading statements to those agents and by concealing information sought by those agents who he well knew were attempting to ascertain income, expenses and taxes for [Rankin] and his various business entities and interests.” The indictment contains the elements of the charged offense and does more than merely track the language of the statute. It alleges a nexus between Rankin’s misleading conduct and the agents’ attempts “to ascertain [his] income, expenses and taxes,” an investigation that went beyond the “routine, day-to-day work carried out in the ordinary course by the IRS.” The indictment reflects that the investigation was pending and that Rankin was aware of it. View "United States v. Rankin" on Justia Law

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Allstate filed suit under Insurance Code section 1871.7 on behalf of the People against defendant, her mother, and others for insurance fraud in violation of Penal Code section 550, which makes it unlawful to submit false or fraudulent claims to an insurance company. The jury found in favor of Allstate. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant's ex parte application for a stay. The court also held that unlawful conduct under section 550 does not require a misstatement of fact in the insurance claim. In this case, defendant and her mother committed insurance fraud in violation of section 550 where they perpetrated a deceitful insurance scheme designed to acquire insurance proceeds illegally for personal gain. View "People ex rel. Allstate Insurance Co. v. Suh" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint in a civil forfeiture action involving criminal proceeds from the faja retail business. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it allowed the government to dismiss its complaint without prejudice, because claimants have not established that they suffered clear legal prejudice by the government's voluntary dismissal. The court also held that claimants were not entitled to attorney's fees under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, because they did not substantially prevail in the action. View "United States v. Kurvas Secret By W" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of securities fraud and wire fraud, finding no errors in the district court's jury instructions, admission of lay testimony, and calculation of loss. The court also held that, as a matter of law, forfeiture is not limited to the amount of funds acquired through illegal transactions in an insider‐trading scheme; rather, forfeiture may extend to appreciation of those funds. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's forfeiture calculation and order. Finally, Lagos v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 1684 (2018), was decided after defendant's sentence and addressed the categories of fees recoverable under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act. Therefore, the court held that a limited remand to recalculate the restitution was appropriate. View "United States v. Afriyie" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence after he pleaded guilty to passing counterfeit securities. The court held that the district court did not clearly err in determining the intended-loss calculation and in determining the amount of restitution. In this case, trying to rent a jet without intending to pay for it satisfied the definition of an intended loss, and the district court reasonably estimated the victims' ultimate losses. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions stemming from their involvement in a fraudulent scheme to collect disaster assistance. Defendant Walter was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eleven counts of wire fraud, two counts of theft from a program receiving federal funds, and three counts of money laundering; Defendant Rosie was convicted of the conspiracy count, ten counts of wire fraud, and a money laundering count; and Defendant Anita was convicted of the conspiracy count. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to convict defendants. The court also held that the district court did not misapply a two-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2B1.1(b)(9)(A) to Rosie's sentence where the offense involved a misrepresentation that the defendant was acting on behalf of a charitable, educational, religious, or political organization, or a government agency. The court vacated the no-new-credit special condition and remanded for the district court to reform the written no-new-credit condition to match the one implied by the oral sentence of restitution. The court also vacated the no-gambling special condition, because it was not so clearly consistent with an oral pronouncement of restitution as to be reasonably encompassed within that pronouncement. The court affirmed the remaining two challenged conditions. View "United States v. Diggles" 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