Articles Posted in White Collar Crime

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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

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A jury convicted Robert Holloway of four counts of wire fraud and one count of tax fraud. The charges against Holloway were the result of a scheme he created through his company, US Ventures, that defrauded over 250 investors and caused losses in excess of $15 million. Holloway began soliciting investors in 2005 by guaranteeing incredible returns in futures markets due to a mathematical algorithm he had created. When Holloway failed to realize the gains he promised, he started defrauding his investors by stating that his trading was profitable even though he lost substantial amounts of money, using money from new investors to pay other investors, and fabricating reports to investors stating that his daily returns were between 0 to 1.15% and that his trading never resulted in a loss. He also diverted investor funds for his own personal use. The district court sentenced Holloway to 225 months of imprisonment on all five counts. On appeal, Holloway argued: (1) he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of his choice; (2) the district court allowed impermissible victim impact testimony; (3) denied him his constitutional right to confront witnesses; and (4) improperly enhanced his sentence. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Holloway" on Justia Law

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Jamis Johnson was convicted of seven counts of mail fraud, nine counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, and ten counts of money laundering. He appealed the denial of a motion for a new trial, challenged the sufficiency of the evidence, and alleged several instances of prosecutorial misconduct. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "United States v. Johnson" on Justia Law