Articles Posted in White Collar Crime

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Defendant Kenneth Hardin was the senior manager of the Civil Rights Division for the Regional Transportation District in Colorado (RTD). Lucilious Ward was the owner–operator of a busing company that had been certified as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise and Small Business Enterprise. Ward was also a manufacturing representative for a Chinese manufacturer of automobiles and rechargeable batteries. In 2008, Ward’s busing company contracted with RTD as a service provider for a program that provided local bus transportation in Denver for people with disabilities. From that point on, Ward paid Defendant monthly bribes in exchange for his help. When the "Access-a-Ride" contract expired in 2014 and Ward received his final check, Defendant called Ward to request an additional, final payment of $1,100. Unbeknownst to Defendant, Ward had pled guilty to tax evasion. Hoping to receive a reduced sentence in his tax case, Ward relayed Defendant’s request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which began using him as a confidential informant to investigate Defendant for bribery. Defendant was indicted on four counts relating to committing bribery involving a program that receives federal funds. The four counts correlated to four meetings he had with Ward about RTD’s request for proposal for a shuttle-bus contract. Count 1 charged Defendant with accepting a bribe of $1,100; he was acquitted on this count. However, the jury found Defendant guilty as to Counts 2–4, which were based on Ward’s bribes relating to the proposed shuttle-bus contract. After return of the guilty verdicts, Defendant moved for a judgment of acquittal, arguing that, because of his acquittal on Count 1, the government had not shown that the bribes he solicited met the $5,000 threshold set by statute. The district court denied Defendant’s motion, holding that the jury could reasonably have concluded that the bribes were intended to influence the selection of bids for the shuttle-bus contract and that the value of this contract exceeded $5,000. Defendant timely appealed. View "United States v. Hardin" on Justia Law

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Defendant Kathleen Stegman was convicted by a jury of two counts of evading her personal taxes for the tax years 2007 and 2008. Stegman was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 51 months, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release. The district court also ordered Stegman to pay a $100,000 fine, plus restitution in the amount of $68,733. Stegman established several limited liability corporations pertaining to a “medical aesthetics” business she owned, using these corporations to effectively launder client payments. As part of this process, Stegman would use the corporations to purchase money orders, typically in denominations of $500 or less, that she in turn used to purchase items for personal use. In 2007, Stegman purchased 162 money orders totaling $77,181.92. In 2008, she purchased 252 money orders totaling $121,869.99. And in 2009, she purchased 157 money orders totaling $73,697.31. Notably, Stegman reported zero cash income on her federal income tax returns during each of these years. At the conclusion of the evidence, the jury convicted Stegman of evading her personal taxes for the tax years 2007 and 2008 (Counts 4 and 5), as well as evading corporate taxes for the tax years 2008 and 2009 (Counts 1 and 2). The jury acquitted Stegman of evading corporate taxes for the tax year 2010 (Count 3). The jury also acquitted Stegman and Smith of the conspiracy charge (Count 6). Stegman moved for judgment of acquittal or, in the alternative, a new trial. The district court granted the motion as to the two counts that related to the evasion of corporate taxes (Counts 1 and 2), but denied the remainder of the motion. In doing so, the district court chose to acquit Stegman of the corporate tax evasion counts not due to a lack of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt that this corporation evaded taxes,” but rather because “the indictment itself was flawed in attributing the loss as due and owing by Ms. Stegman, when actually it was due and owing by the corporation.” Stegman raised five issues on appeal, four of which pertain to her convictions and one of which pertained to her sentence. Although several of these issues require extensive discussion due to their fact-intensive nature, the Tenth Circuit concluded that all of these issues lacked merit. View "United States v. Stegman" on Justia Law

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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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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed suit against American Pension Services ("APS"), a third-party administrator of self-directed individual retirement and 401(k) accounts (collectively "IRA Accounts"), and its President and CEO, Curtis DeYoung. The SEC alleged that DeYoung misappropriated $24 million in APS customer funds that APS had commingled in a Master Trust Account at First Utah Bank, custodian of the funds. The district court appointed a Receiver, who ultimately entered into a Settlement Agreement with First Utah. The settlement included a Claims Bar Order, which barred all other claims against First Utah relating to any IRA Accounts established with APS. Three of the approximately 5,500 APS clients who had a financial stake in the receivership entity intervened and contended that the court could not bar them from filing their own claims against First Utah. The district court disagreed and approved the settlement. The intervenors appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "SEC v. American Pension Services" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Bruce Wright of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and of eleven counts of bank fraud arising from his participation in a scheme to submit false draw requests and invoices to obtain bank loans. The district court sentenced Wright to thirty-three months’ imprisonment and ordered him to pay over $1 million in restitution. Wright raised several issues on appeal, concerning jury instructions, withheld impeachment evidence, and bank loss and restitution amounts. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Wright" on Justia Law

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After a bench trial, defendant-appellant Eldon Boisseau was convicted of tax evasion The district court determined that Boisseau, a practicing attorney, willfully evaded paying his taxes by: (1) placing his law practice in the hands of a nominee owner to prevent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from seizing his assets; (2) causing his law firm to pay his personal expenses directly given an impending IRS levy, rather than receiving wages; and (3) telling a government revenue officer that he was receiving no compensation from his firm when in fact the firm was paying his personal expenses. On appeal, he challenged the sufficiency of the evidence and argued that the district court wrongly convicted him: (1) without evidence of an affirmative act designed to conceal or mislead; and (2) by concluding that proof satisfying the affirmative act element of tax evasion was sufficient to prove willfulness. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Boisseau" on Justia Law

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought an enforcement action against Defendant Charles Kokesh for misappropriating funds from four SEC-registered business development companies (BDCs) in violation of federal securities laws. After a jury returned a verdict in favor of the SEC, the district court entered a final judgment permanently enjoining Defendant from violating certain provisions of federal securities laws, ordering disgorgement of $34.9 million plus prejudgment interest of $18.1 million, and imposing a civil penalty of $2.4 million. Defendant appealed, arguing that the court’s imposition of the disgorgement and permanent injunction was barred by 28 U.S.C. 2462, which set a five-year limitations period for suits “for the enforcement of any civil fine, penalty, or forfeiture.” He also argued that the district court erred by precluding him from presenting evidence of attorney and accountant participation to show his lack of knowledge of the misconduct. After review, the Tenth Circuit held that both the permanent injunction and the disgorgement order were remedial and not subject to section 2462. The Court rejected the evidentiary claim. View "SEC v. Kokesh" on Justia Law

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Former FBI agent Robert Lustyik wanted to help his friend and business partner, Michael Taylor, in return for payment. Taylor owned American International Security Corporation (AISC), a company that offered security and defense contracting services. The Department of Defense awarded AISC a contract in 2007 to provide training and related services to Afghan Special Forces. In mid-2010, the United States began investigating AISC regarding fraud and money laundering in connection with the 2007 contract. In September 2011, the United States filed a civil forfeiture action against assets owned by Taylor and AISC, which resulted in the seizure of more than $5 million dollars from AISC’s bank account. Lustyik used his status as an FBI agent to impair the government’s investigation of Taylor, including attempting to establish Taylor as a confidential source. Lustyik was indicted on charges related to the obstruction of justice. Prior to trial, Lustyik pleaded guilty to all charges in the indictment without a plea agreement. After his plea, his lead counsel withdrew and Lustyik obtained new counsel. On the eve of sentencing, counsel sought an order allowing him to obtain security clearance to review classified material he believed might be relevant for sentencing. The district court, having previously reviewed the documents, deemed them irrelevant to the sentencing issues, denied the motion, and subsequently sentenced Lustyik to 120 months’ imprisonment. Lustyik argued on appeal that the district court’s order denying his counsel access to the classified materials violated his Sixth Amendment rights at sentencing. Finding that the district court’s decision was not presumptively prejudicial to Lustyik’s advocacy at sentencing, nor did the district court abuse its discretion in concluding the documents were not relevant for sentencing, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Lustyik" on Justia Law

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Jason Merida, the former executive director of construction for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (the Nation), was convicted after a fifteen-day jury trial on six counts of a seven-count indictment. The indictment alleged Merida conspired to receive cash and other remuneration from subcontractors performing work on construction projects for the Nation, embezzled in excess of $500,000 by submitting and approving false subcontractor invoices, and willfully failed to report income on his 2009 and 2010 federal tax returns. Merida testified in his own defense at trial and, on cross-examination, prosecutors impeached his testimony using the transcript of an interview the Nation’s attorneys had conducted with him as part of a separate civil lawsuit, before the initiation of these criminal proceedings. Merida objected to the use of the transcript and moved for mistrial, arguing the transcript was protected by the attorney-client privilege and its use prejudicially damaged his credibility with the jury. The district court denied his motion for a mistrial and the jury convicted Merida on all but one count. Merida timely appealed the trial judge’s denial of his motion for mistrial. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Merida" on Justia Law

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Defendant Roger Barnett served as Second Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in 2013 and 2014. He pleaded guilty in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma to embezzling funds from the Tribe by appropriating to his own use money withdrawn from ATM machines. The sole issue on this appeal was whether the district court properly determined the amount of money embezzled for purposes of calculating Defendant’s offense level and the amount he owed the Tribe in restitution. Defendant argued that the court’s reliance on the presentence report (PSR) and Addendum was improper because the government failed to present at sentencing any evidence of the amount of loss. The Tenth Circuit disagreed: the district court could properly rely on the PSR and Addendum because Defendant did not adequately challenge their recitations of the evidence concerning his defalcations. The only issue that he preserved for appeal was whether the recited evidence sufficed to support the court’s determination of the amount of loss, and the Tenth Circuit held that the evidence was sufficient. View "United States v. Barnett" on Justia Law