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

Articles Posted in White Collar Crime
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This criminal case stemmed from Defendant Terry and Brenda Millender's involvement in the Victorious Life Church. The district court granted Brenda's motion for a judgment of acquittal based on insufficient evidence to support her convictions for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The district court also conditionally ordered a new trial. The government appealed.The Fourth Circuit dismissed Terry's cross-appeal after his death and remanded the judgment against Terry to the district court for further proceedings. The court reversed the judgment of acquittal as to Brenda's convictions and held that the district court erred in concluding that no reasonable juror could find that Brenda knew of the fraud perpetrated by Micro-Enterprise and Kingdom Commodities; the district court relied on this ground alone to override the jury's guilty verdict as to two counts of wire-fraud conspiracy and two counts of money-laundering conspiracy; a reasonable jury could find that the Millenders not only spent the money but also tried to conceal its nature; and no more is required to sustain the jury's verdict on the three substantive counts of money laundering. The court also vacated the grant of a new trial where, on the record, the court cannot see whether the district court appreciated the limits on its discretion in making the decision. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Millender" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the SEC initiated enforcement proceedings in the District of Arizona against appellant for illegitimate investment activities. In 2017, appellant entered into a consent agreement with the SEC, and the United States District Court for the District of Arizona ultimately held appellant liable for disgorgement in the amount of $4,494,900. Then the grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia returned an indictment charging appellant with, inter alia, securities fraud and unlawful sale of securities, based in part on the same conduct underlying the SEC proceeding. Appellant filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, which the district court denied.The Fourth Circuit joined with every other circuit to have decided the issue in holding that disgorgement in an SEC proceeding is not a criminal penalty pursuant to the Double Jeopardy Clause, such that an individual cannot be later prosecuted for the conduct underlying the disgorgement. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of appellant's motion to dismiss the indictment. View "United States v. Bank" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Serco in an action alleging numerous claims arising out of a failed business relationship. Plaintiffs alleged that Serco conspired with Jaxon Engineering to "rig" a bidding process related to work for the Air Force, and thus interfered with plaintiffs' reasonable business expectancy in that work.The Court of Appeal held that the district court properly awarded summary judgment to Serco on the claims of tortious interference with business expectancy, because those claims failed as a matter of law. However, the court held that the district court erred in awarding summary judgment to Serco with respect to plaintiffs' conspiracy claims, because they were not time-barred and, in the alternative, the evidence that plaintiffs were the sole providers of HEMP-related services to Serco for several years was sufficient to create a dispute of material fact regarding whether plaintiffs had a valid business expectancy in the task orders awarded to Jaxon. In regard to the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act (COCCA) claims, the court agreed with the district court that the two year statute of limitations applied to the claims but remanded for the district court to determine as a factual matter the particular limitations period for each of the COCCA claims. Therefore, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "L-3 Communications Corp. v. Serco, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for three counts of major fraud against the United States, three counts of wire fraud, and three counts of presentation of false or fraudulent claims. This case involved parallel False Claims Act (FCA) and criminal proceedings arising from defendant's failure to provide multinational forces in Iraq with contracted-for armored vehicles.The court held that defendant's criminal prosecution was not estopped by the prior FCA action where defendant failed to demonstrate that all five Fiel factors must be resolved in his favor. The court also held that the government was a party to the contract with Armet and that the government both sufficiently alleged such party status in the indictment and provided sufficient evidence at trial to establish this element of the charged crimes. Finally, the court held that the district court's denial of defendant's motion for a new trial was proper. View "United States v. Whyte" on Justia Law

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Defendant challenged the validity of his guilty plea for aggravated identity theft, and various aspects of sentencing for possession of at least fifteen access devices with intent to defraud and possession of device-making equipment with intent to defraud. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that defendant never objected to purported errors in the Rule 11 proceeding, and his challenges on appeal were insubstantial and did not come close to meeting a plain error standard. The court also held that the district court did not err in calculating the amount of loss; even if there was error in calculating the amount of loss, it was harmless; the district court did not err in concluding that the eighteen persons identified were victims; and the district court did not clearly err by denying defendant an acceptance of responsibility reduction under USSG 3E1.1(a). View "United States v. Carver" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction of wire fraud, extortion under color of official right, conspiracy to commit such offenses, and two counts of perjury. The court held that the district court did not err by denying defendant's motion for acquittal where there was sufficient evidence to support the four convictions arising from his bribery schemes and the honest-services wire fraud convictions; the substantive Hobbs Act extortion conviction was not duplicitous and there was no constructive amendment; and there was sufficient evidence to support the perjury convictions. Finally, the district court did not err in denying defendant's motions for a new trial based on inadmissible testimony, newly discovered evidence, and the jury's failure to fully deliberate. View "United States v. Burfoot" on Justia Law

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Cohen, as the president and chairman of companies that sold insurance to those in the entertainment industry, was obliged to submit regular financial statements to insurance regulators. Beginning in 2008, Cohen engaged in a scheme to defraud policyholders and the public. Cohen created fraudulent financial documents and sent fraudulent representations to auditing firms and others, securing favorable opinions on the financial standing of his companies, which received more than $100,000,000 in premiums. Prosecutors secured a 31-count indictment, alleging that Cohen’s arrest upended his intentions to harm public officials. Cohen had purchased a long-range tactical rifle, plus ammunition and a night vision device and had researched homemade bombs, purchased ammonium nitrate and made recordings about plans to attack public officials. As his scheme unraveled, Cohen threatened witnesses. Cohen, who represented himself during most proceedings, eventually pleaded guilty to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, making false statements to insurance regulators, and obstruction of justice. Cohen was sentenced to 444 months in prison. The Fourth Circuit upheld Cohen’s appeal waiver and dismissed certain claims. The court rejected, on the merits, claims that the district court erred in failing to conduct a Farmer hearing on his asset seizure allegations and that Cohen’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel was contravened by the magistrate’s denial of his request to revoke his pro se status and have a lawyer appointed for his final sentencing hearing. View "United States v. Cohen" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for one count of bank fraud conspiracy and two counts of aggravated identity theft. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant of bank fraud conspiracy; the district court did not err in failing to conduct an in camera review to determine whether material required disclosure under the Jencks Act, 18 U.S.C. 3500(b), or pursuant to Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); the district court did not err by declining to provide defendant's requested jury instruction on accomplice testimony, and by providing the jury with a written copy of the jury instruction on aiding and abetting liability; the district court did not erroneously apply a two-level sentencing enhancement for obstruction of justice, a ten-level sentencing enhancement based on the amount of loss, a two-level sentencing enhancement based on use of sophisticated means, a three-level sentencing enhancement based on his role in the offense as a manager or supervisor; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by requiring part of defendant's sentences to run consecutively. View "United States v. Savage" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for one count of bank fraud conspiracy and two counts of aggravated identity theft. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant of bank fraud conspiracy; the district court did not err in failing to conduct an in camera review to determine whether material required disclosure under the Jencks Act, 18 U.S.C. 3500(b), or pursuant to Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); the district court did not err by declining to provide defendant's requested jury instruction on accomplice testimony, and by providing the jury with a written copy of the jury instruction on aiding and abetting liability; the district court did not erroneously apply a two-level sentencing enhancement for obstruction of justice, a ten-level sentencing enhancement based on the amount of loss, a two-level sentencing enhancement based on use of sophisticated means, a three-level sentencing enhancement based on his role in the offense as a manager or supervisor; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by requiring part of defendant's sentences to run consecutively. View "United States v. Savage" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendants' conviction of health care fraud and conspiracy to engage in health care fraud. Assuming that the district court did err in failing to consider materiality expressly when assessing guilt, the court held that such error was harmless because the record conclusively established that insurers would not have paid for the second, more sophisticated tests had they known those tests were not medically necessary and no rational fact finder could conclude otherwise. Furthermore, Universal Health Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, — U.S. —, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016), did not compel a different conclusion. The court rejected defendants' remaining arguments, concluding that each lacked merit. View "United States v. Palin" on Justia Law