Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

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Picard was appointed as the trustee for the liquidation of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (BLMIS) pursuant to the Securities Investor Protection Act, 15 U.S.C. 78aaa, to recover funds for victims of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. SIPA empowers trustees to recover property transferred by the debtor where the transfers are void or voidable under the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. 548, 550, to the extent those provisions are consistent with SIPA. Under Sections 548 and 550, a transferee may retain transfers it took “for value” and “in good faith.” Picard sued to recover payments the defendants received either directly or indirectly from BLMIS. The district court held that a lack of good faith in a SIPA liquidation requires that the defendant-transferee has acted with “willful blindness” and that the trustee bears the burden of pleading the transferee’s lack of good faith. Relying on the district court’s legal conclusions, the bankruptcy court dismissed the actions, finding Picard did not plausibly allege the defendants were willfully blind to the fraud at BLMIS.The Second Circuit vacated. Nothing in SIPA compels departure from the well-established rule that the defendant bears the burden of pleading an affirmative defense. The district court erred by holding that the trustee bears the burden of pleading a lack of good faith under Sections 548(c) and 550(b)(1). View "In Re Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, LLC" on Justia Law

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Claud “Rick” Koerber was indicted by a grand jury for wire fraud, tax fraud, and mail fraud relating to a real estate investment scheme. A superseding indictment added to his wire fraud and tax evasion counts, charging him with additional counts for securities fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion. More than five years passed without a trial, resulting in the district court’s dismissing the case with prejudice under the Speedy Trial Act. On the government’s appeal of that decision, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s dismissal-with-prejudice order, identifying errors in its application of the Speedy Trial Act factors. On remand, after reapplying the factors, the district court decided to dismiss without prejudice. So in 2017 the government reindicted Koerber for the offenses earlier charged in the superseding indictment. Koerber’s first trial ended in a hung jury. His second trial ended in jury convictions on all but two counts. The court later imposed a 170-month prison sentence. On appeal, Koerber challenged his prosecution and conviction, claiming a range of errors: from evidentiary rulings, to trial-management issues, to asserted statutory and constitutional violations. After reviewing the briefing, the record, and the relevant law, the Tenth Circuit found no reversible error and affirmed. View "United States v. Koerber" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed in full the verdicts of the jury convicting the five defendants in this case on charges brought under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1962(d) but vacated the restitution and forfeiture orders, holding that the jury's special findings and verdicts as to all defendants were affirmed.Defendants in this case were a group of pharmaceutical executives involved with Insys Therapeutics, Inc., which marketed and sold Subsys, a fentanyl-laced medication approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for use in the treatment of breakthrough cancer pain. A jury found Defendants guilty of racketeering charges, and the court sentenced Defendants to prison terms of varying lengths. The First Circuit upheld the jury verdicts in full and affirmed the district court's denial of Defendants' various motions for judgments of acquittal and/or new trials but vacated the restitution and forfeiture orders, holding that the district court erred as to these orders. View "United States v. Simon" on Justia Law

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Dr. Narang and Moparty were convicted of Conspiracy to Commit Health Care Fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1349; Health Care Fraud, section 1347, and Engaging in Monetary Transactions in Property Derived from Specified Unlawful Activity, section 1957. Narang is an internist who practiced at his Texas self-owned clinic, North Cypress. Moparty co-owned Red Oak Hospital and served as an administrator for Trinity Health Network, which provided staffing and administrative services to health care entities. Narang ordered unnecessary medical tests for patients and then authorized Moparty to bill for these tests at the higher hospital rate even though these patients were seen and treated at Narang’s North Cypress office. The indictment alleged that this scheme resulted in fraudulent billing of over $20 million to Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, and Cigna. Those companies paid Moparty at least $3.2 million in reimbursement for those claims which he allegedly split with Narang through a series of financial transactions.The court sentenced Moparty to 108 months and Narang to 121 months of imprisonment, with joint and several liability for $2,621,999.04 in restitution. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence and finding that, although the government made repeated errors, those errors did not warrant reversal. View "United States v. Moparty" on Justia Law

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Alan Williams pleaded guilty to a single count of bank fraud and stipulated to restitution tied to that count and two others that were later dismissed. The government got its conviction, and Williams limited his sentencing exposure and possible future charges. In this appeal, Williams attempted to step back from his bargain, seeking to keep the favorable plea deal, but to contest the restitution he stipulated was owed. Furthermore, he contested the district court’s apportionment of that total restitution between WebBank and Wells Fargo Bank, as recommended by the Presentence Report (PSR). The Tenth Circuit surmised Williams' first hurdle was to overcome the appeal waiver included in his Plea Agreement. To this, the Court concluded the appeal waiver did not bar his total-restitution challenge: the Plea Agreement allowed Williams to appeal the apportionment of the total restitution and the substantive reasonableness of his prison sentence as well. However, addressing the merits of Williams’s challenges, the Court no reason to disturb the order and sentence, and affirmed. View "United States v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Married since 1967, John and Frances Rogers filed joint federal income tax returns for many years. They underreported their tax obligations many times; the misreporting was the product of a fraudulent tax scheme designed by John, a Harvard‐trained tax attorney. The Seventh Circuit has affirmed the Tax Court’s rulings in favor of the IRS every time.Frances challenged two Tax Court decisions denying her “innocent spouse relief,” 26 U.S.C. 6015. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, having previously affirmed the denial of Frances’s request for innocent spouse relief for the 2004 tax year. The Tax Court took considerable care assessing Frances’s claims, denying them largely on the basis that she was aware of too many facts and too many warning signs during the relevant tax years to escape financial responsibility for the clear fraud perpetrated on the U.S. Treasury. The Tax Court applied the correct standard, with the possible exception of one factual error in its 2018 opinion regarding the couple’s lavish lifestyle but any error was harmless. Frances holds a master’s degree in biochemistry, a law degree, an M.B.A., and a doctorate in education. She assisted in managing her husband’s law firm while he sought treatment for alcoholism; she fired the office manager, maintained accounting records, endorsed and deposited checks, and paid expenses. View "Rogers v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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Defendant Bennie Anderson was employed by Jersey City in the Tax Assessor’s office. His position gave him the opportunity to alter property tax descriptions without the property owner filing a formal application with the Zoning Board. In December 2012, defendant accepted a $300 bribe in exchange for altering the tax description of a property from a two-unit dwelling to a three-unit dwelling. Defendant retired from his position in March 2017 and was granted an early service retirement pension. In November 2017, defendant pled guilty in federal court to violating 18 U.S.C. 1951(a), interference with commerce by extortion under color of official right. Defendant was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay a fine. Based on defendant’s conviction, the Employees’ Retirement System of Jersey City reduced his pension. The State filed an action in state court to compel the total forfeiture of defendant’s pension pursuant to N.J.S.A. 43:1-3.1. The trial court entered summary judgment for the State, finding that the forfeiture of defendant’s pension did not implicate the constitutional prohibitions against excessive fines because the forfeiture of pension benefits did not constitute a fine. The Appellate Division affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the State, but on different grounds, concluding the forfeiture of defendant’s pension was a fine, but that requiring defendant to forfeit his pension was not excessive. The New Jersey Supreme Court concluded forfeiture of defendant’s pension under N.J.S.A. 43:1-3.1 did not constitute a fine for purposes of an excessive-fine analysis under the Federal or New Jersey State Constitutions. Because the forfeiture was not a fine, the Court did not reach the constitutional analysis for excessiveness. View "New Jersey v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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Mark Yazdani was the president and sole owner of Meridian Financial Services, Inc. (Meridian). Over the span of a year, Yazdani made a series of investments totaling $5,079,000 in an international gold-trading scheme run by a loan broker, Lananh Phan, who promised him “guaranteed” returns of 5 or 6 percent per month. It turned out to be a Ponzi scheme and when it collapsed, Yazdani lost most of his money. In exchange for some of his investments, Yazdani demanded “collateral” from Phan, in the form of "loans" or promissory notes secured by deeds of trust in favor of Meridian on Phan's residence, and the residences of unwitting third parties ensared in Phan's scheme. The loans were facilitated through escrow at Chicago Title Company. The purported borrowers never knew of these transactions; their signatures on the Meridian deeds of trusts were forged or obtained by Phan under false pretenses. After the Ponzi scheme collapsed and unable to recover his investment, Yazdani moved to foreclose on the purported borrowers. In one of two lawsuits, two of the purported borrowers sued Yazdani and Meridian (collectively, Appellants) to prevent foreclosure of and quiet title to their home. A judge cancelled the Meridian deeds of trust, finding that they were “forged” and that Appellants had acted with unclean hands in procuring them (the Orange County decision). In this, the second lawsuit, Appellants sued Chicago Title, among others, alleging they were induced to invest with Phan because Chicago Title’s involvement in the transactions reassured them that Phan’s investment scheme was legitimate. Appellants also sued more than 50 individuals who allegedly received payments from Phan, asserting they were Phan’s creditors, and the transfers of money to the individuals should have been set aside. Summary judgment was entered in favor of Chicago Title and the individuals. Appellants appealed both judgments, contending the trial court erred in giving preclusive effect to the Orange County decision. They also argued the award of attorney fees was grossly excessive and an abuse of discretion. Finding no merit to these contentions, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgments and the fee award. View "Meridian Financial etc. v. Phan" on Justia Law

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Mark Yazdani was the president and sole owner of Meridian Financial Services, Inc. (Meridian). Over the span of a year, Yazdani made a series of investments in an international gold-trading scheme run by a loan broker, Lananh Phan, who promised him “guaranteed” returns of 5 or 6 percent per month. It turned out to be a Ponzi scheme and when it collapsed, Yazdani lost most of his money. In exchange for some of his investments, Yazdani demanded “collateral” from Phan, in the form of "loans" or promissory notes secured by deeds of trust in favor of Meridian on Phan's residence, and the residences of unwitting third parties ensared in Phan's scheme. The loans were facilitated through escrow at Chicago Title Company. The purported borrowers never knew of these transactions; their signatures on the Meridian deeds of trusts were forged or obtained by Phan under false pretenses. Yazdani had been made aware of “irregularities” with the execution and notarization of the Meridian deeds of trust. Yazdani moved to foreclose on the purported borrowers. In one of two lawsuits, two of the purported borrowers sued Yazdani and Meridian (collectively, Appellants) to prevent foreclosure of and quiet title to their home. A judge cancelled the Meridian deeds of trust, finding that they were “forged” and that Appellants had acted with unclean hands in procuring them (the Orange County decision). However, the parties later settled and, as a condition of settlement, obtained a stipulated order from a different judge vacating most of the trial judge’s decision. In this, the second lawsuit, Appellants sued Chicago Title, among others, alleging they were induced to invest with Phan because Chicago Title’s involvement in the transactions reassured them that Phan’s investment scheme was legitimate. Appellants also sued more than 50 individuals who allegedly received payments from Phan, asserting they were Phan’s creditors and the transfers of money to the individuals should be set aside. Summary judgment was entered in favor of Chicago Title and the individuals. Appellants appealed both judgments, contending the trial court erred in giving preclusive effect to the Orange County decision. They also argued the award of attorney fees was an abuse of discretion. Finding no merit to these contentions, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgments and the fee award. View "Meridian Financial etc. v. Phan" on Justia Law

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Frank embezzled $19 million from his former employer, NCI, and pleaded guilty to wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343. The district court sentenced Frank to 78-months’ imprisonment and ordered Frank to pay restitution of $19,440,331. The government has recovered over $7 million and attempted to garnish Frank’s 401(k) retirement account under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA), filing an Application for Writ of Continuing Garnishment, 18 U.S.C. 3664(m)(1)(A)(i), naming Schwab as the garnishee. Schwab currently holds approximately $479,504 in Frank's 401(k) account, which is covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1001. Frank argued that ERISA’s anti-alienation provision protects retirement plans against claims by third parties. The Fourth Circuit affirmed that the MVRA permits the seizure of Frank’s 401(k) retirement account, notwithstanding ERISA’s protections. When the government enforces a restitution order under the MVRA, it stands in the shoes of the defendant, acquiring whatever rights to 401(k) retirement funds he possesses; the government’s access to the funds in Frank’s 401(k) account may be limited by terms set out in Frank’s plan documents or by early withdrawal penalties to which Frank would be subject. The court remanded so that the district court may decide what present property right Frank has in his account. The court rejected an argument that the Consumer Credit Protection Act, 15 U.S.C. 1673(a), limits the government to taking 25 percent of the funds. View "United States v. Frank" on Justia Law