Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in White Collar Crime

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Defendant appeals her conviction for one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and mail fraud and ten counts of bank fraud for her role in originating and submitting fraudulent mortgage loan applications. Defendant raised several issues on appeal. The court concluded that defendant failed to establish any Sixth Amendment error where the district court allowed the government's pretrial seizure of defendant's assets where the seizure did not prevent defendant from being represented by her counsel of choice; the evidence was sufficient to support the conspiracy conviction; the court rejected defendant's evidentiary challenges; the evidence was sufficient to support the bank fraud convictions; the court rejected defendant's argument that the government constructively amended the indictment; the district court had jurisdiction to enter the preliminary and final forfeiture orders after the October 3 hearing; and the court rejected defendant's challenge to the district court’s substitute property order. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Chittenden" on Justia Law

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Defendant, the former chairman and CEO of Massey, appealed his conviction for violating federal mine safety laws and regulations. Defendant's conviction stemmed from his involvement in a tragic mine accident that caused the death of 29 miners. The court concluded that the district court did not err in refusing to dismiss the superseding indictment; the district court did not reversibly err in denying defendant an opportunity to engage in recross-examination of a Massey employee; the district court properly instructed the jury that it could conclude that defendant “willfully” violated federal mine safety laws if it found that defendant acted or failed to act with reckless disregard as to whether the action or omission would lead to a violation of mine safety laws; the first, second, and third jury instructions reflect the “bad purpose” mens rea discussed in Bryan v. United States because they required that the jury conclude that defendant took actions that he knew would lead to violations of safety laws or failed to take actions that he knew were necessary to comply with federal mine safety laws; and the district court did not reversibly err in providing the two-inference instruction. The court noted that, although it disapproved of the two-inference instruction, the district court's use of that instruction in this case does not amount to reversible error. The court directed the district courts not to use the two-inference instruction going forward. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Blankenship" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a CPA, appealed his sentence and conviction for conspiracy and obstruction of justice following his involvement in earnings mismanagement and improper accounting transactions while acting as chief accounting officer of Beazer Homes. The court concluded that the district court did not err in excluding evidence surrounding the false email accusations. In any event, any error was harmless where defendant was not ultimately prejudiced. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in quashing defendant's Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 17(c) subpoena to Beazer; in prohibiting defendant's accounting expert from testifying about work papers prepared by Beazer's independent auditors; and in allowing the government to have Beazer employees testify as lay witnesses about the propriety of complex accounting transactions without calling an accounting expert to testify. Finally, the court rejected all three of defendant's potential misconduct claims and concluded that any error was harmless. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Rand" on Justia Law

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Defendant, the former Governor of Virginia, appealed his convictions for eleven counts of corruption. Defendant raised numerous errors on appeal. The court concluded that the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion for severance and his request for ex parte consideration of this motion; the district court did not abuse its discretion by failing to adequately question prospective jurors on the subject of pretrial publicity; the court rejected defendant's claims of evidentiary errors; the district court's jury instructions did not misstate fundamental principles of federal bribery law; and the evidence was sufficient to support his convictions pursuant to the honest-services wire fraud statute and the Hobbs Act. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. McDonnell" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his sentence after pleading guilty to wire fraud; money laundering; making a false statement on a loan application to a financial institution, the accounts of which are insured by the FDIC; and corrupt interference with the internal revenue laws of the United States. The court concluded that the district court did not err by increasing defendant's offense level under the Guidelines by 2 levels under U.S.S.G. 3B1.3 for abuse of a position of trust; by increasing his offense level under the Guidelines by 20 levels under U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(1)(K); and by failing sua sponte to appoint various experts to assist in his defense at sentencing. Accordingly, the court affirmed defendant's sentence.View "United States v. Weiss" on Justia Law

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Defendant pled guilty to three counts arising from his fraudulent activity in connection with a client's initial public offering. Defendant sought habeas relief, contending that, in light of the Supreme Court's intervening decision in Janus Capital Group, Inc. v. First Derivative Traders, the conduct for which he was convicted is no longer criminal. The court found Janus inapplicable outside the context of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b), implied private right of action. Therefore, Janus does not affect defendant's criminal convictions. Because defendant's convictions are proper under current law, the court concluded that his section 2241 petition necessarily failed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the dismissal of his petition.View "Prousalis, Jr. v. Moore" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his convictions stemming from multiple offenses arising from a health care fraud scheme. The court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant of the health care offenses and of the perjury offense; the district court did not err in denying defendant's post-trial request for acquittal or a new trial on inconsistent verdicts where defendant's argument was baseless; defendant's sentence, which was less than half the low end of his Guidelines range, was reasonable; and there was no basis for concluding that the district court erred with respect to the forfeiture proceedings. View "United States v. Louthian, Sr." on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence for crimes related to his involvement in an investment scheme which resulted in nearly $100 million dollars in losses for investors. The court held that defendant's Fifth Amendment rights were not violated where the government limited its case to events occurring while defendant was an owner of A&O to simply prove a more narrow conspiracy than was charged in the superseding indictment. Because the conspiracy proven was within the scope of those alleged in the unredacted indictment, the narrowing at most created a non-fatal variance. Finally, the court rejected defendant's claims that his sentence was procedurally and substantively unreasonable. Accordingly, the court affirmed the convictions and sentence. View "United States v. Allmendinger" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of crimes related to his involvement in an elaborate fraudulent sweepstakes scheme out of Costa Rica that primarily targeted elderly United States citizens. On appeal, defendant challenged the restitution order that the district court entered after the court remanded his case for resentencing. The court held that the district court lacked the authority to reconsider the restitution on remand and vacated the order, remanding with instructions to the district court to reinstate the previous restitution order. View "United States v. Pileggi" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed from two counts of theft of public money and one count of committing acts affecting a personal financial interest. The court held that the district court did not err in denying defendant's motion to dismiss where it properly exercised extraterritorial jurisdiction over him. The court also held that the district court properly denied defendant's motion to suppress his post-arrest statements to FBI and DOS agents. The court further held that there was sufficient evidence to sustain his convictions on the two counts of theft of public money. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "United States v. Ayesh" on Justia Law