Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in White Collar Crime

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After the United States seized millions of dollars from a Texas vocational school, the school intervened as a claimant, denied the government’s allegations, and counterclaimed for constitutional tort damages against the government for ruining its business. The Fifth Circuit declined to address the correctness of the categorical rule barring all counterclaims in civil forfeiture proceedings, and held that the school's specific counterclaims were barred by sovereign immunity. Accordingly, the court held that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and vacated the district court's dismissal, remanding with instructions to dismiss the counterclaims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction instead. View "United States v. $4,480,466.16 in Funds Seized from Bank of America account ending in 2653" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for wire fraud and money laundering, as well as his restitution order. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant of the crimes, and the district court did not abuse its discretion by ordering defendant to pay $5,402,661 under the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act. However, the court vacated defendant's sentence, holding that the district court's Guidelines calculation was off by a single point. In this case, the district court sentenced defendant under the money laundering guideline, USSG 2S1.1(a), and imposed two adjustments under Chapter Three—the abuse-of-trust enhancement (2 points) and the leadership enhancement (4 points); but it based both on defendant's wire fraud conduct, not his money laundering conduct. Therefore, under current Supreme Court precedent and the facts of this case, the court remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Del Carpio Frescas" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions stemming from their involvement in a fraudulent scheme to collect disaster assistance. Defendant Walter was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eleven counts of wire fraud, two counts of theft from a program receiving federal funds, and three counts of money laundering; Defendant Rosie was convicted of the conspiracy count, ten counts of wire fraud, and a money laundering count; and Defendant Anita was convicted of the conspiracy count. The court held that there was sufficient evidence to convict defendants. The court also held that the district court did not misapply a two-level sentencing enhancement under USSG 2B1.1(b)(9)(A) to Rosie's sentence where the offense involved a misrepresentation that the defendant was acting on behalf of a charitable, educational, religious, or political organization, or a government agency. The court vacated the no-new-credit special condition and remanded for the district court to reform the written no-new-credit condition to match the one implied by the oral sentence of restitution. The court also vacated the no-gambling special condition, because it was not so clearly consistent with an oral pronouncement of restitution as to be reasonably encompassed within that pronouncement. The court affirmed the remaining two challenged conditions. View "United States v. Diggles" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for one count of conspiracy to pay and receive kickbacks for referring Medicare patients to a particular health care provider, three counts of receiving such kickbacks for such referrals, three counts of identity theft, and one count of making false statements to a federal agent. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's convictions, rejected defendant's evidentiary challenge, and rejected defendant's challenge to the inclusion of a deliberate ignorance jury instruction. However, the court vacated defendant's sentence, holding that the district court erred by not deducting Progressive's direct costs—the value of the treatment Progressive provided—in calculating the improper benefit conferred under USSG 2B4.1. The court also held that the district court erred by ordering defendant to pay restitution in any amount where the district court failed to offset the amount Medicare would have reimbursed Progressive for the services rendered had there been no illegal kickback scheme. Accordingly, the court remanded for resentencing and dismissal of the restitution order. View "United States v. Ricard" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions for conspiracy to commit health care fraud and several substantive counts of health care fraud. Defendants' charges stemmed from their involvement in a scheme to defraud Medicare. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant Bagoumian's conviction for conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute; the evidence was sufficient to support defendants' conviction for conspiracy to commit health care fraud and health care fraud; and the evidence was sufficient to support the counts against the doctor defendants for engaging in monetary transactions of property derived from specified unlawful activity. The court also held that any error in the jury instructions was harmless; the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendants' request for a good faith instruction; and defendants' evidentiary challenges were rejected. Finally, the court affirmed Bagoumian's sentence, holding that the district court did not prejudicially rely on her national origin, did not err in refusing to grant a downward adjustment, and did not impose a substantively unreasonable sentence. View "United States v. Martinez" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's order granting partial summary judgment in favor of River Birch in a civil action under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, alleging that River Birch bribed former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to shut down a landfill opened in the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The court held that there were genuine issues of material fact as to both whether defendants' campaign contribution to Nagin was a bribe and whether the payment was the but for and proximate cause of Nagin's decision to close the Chef Menteur landfill. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Waste Management of Louisiana v. River Birch, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: White Collar Crime

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's imposition of a 60 month term of probation and assessment of a fine to defendant, who was convicted of several counts of tax evasion and filing false income tax returns. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by departing downward from the recommended sentencing guidelines by considering defendant's lack of prior criminal history, that he acted alone, his age, physical condition, family responsibilities, charitable activity, work as a law enforcement officer, and voluntary service during the Vietnam era. View "United States v. Taffaro" on Justia Law

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Mathew worked at Parkland Health and Hospital System as a registration specialist and also owned Dallas Home Health Care (DHH). Mathew stole confidential patient information from Parkland and gave it to DHH employees to call the individuals and solicit them as patients. Based on information from a former DHH employee, authorities obtained a search warrant for DHH’s office and determined DHH to be in the possession of approximately 1,300 Parkland patients’ identifying information, including their health insurance claim numbers (HICNs). Mathew pleaded guilty to “knowingly possess[ing] with intent to use unlawfully or transfer unlawfully five or more authentication features, to wit, [HICNs], and the authentication features were or appeared to have been issued by or under the authority of the United States,” 18 U.S.C. 1028(a)(3), (b)(2)(B), (c)(1). The Fifth Circuit vacated his sentence of 30 months’ imprisonment plus $277,957.89 in restitution. The restitution order under the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act, 18 U.S.C. 3663A, was unlawful because it included amounts for Medicare payments that preceded the temporal scope of the offense of conviction. Mathew’s statements at rearraignment cannot serve as the justification for broadening restitution to include conduct not contained in the indictment or factual resume. The court rejected other challenges to the restitution award. View "United States v. Mathew" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction on charges of wire fraud, securities fraud, making false statements to the SEC, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and securities fraud. Defendant was the CEO of ArthroCare, a publicly traded medical device company and he, along with the company's other senior executives, had engaged in a channel-stuffing scheme. The court held that, to the extent that an FBI case agent's testimony was improper, any error was harmless; the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding testimony of ArthroCare's former controller; the jury instructions were not erroneous under the wire fraud statute; and jury instructions on accomplice liability comported with the general aiding and abetting knowledge and intention requirements reiterated in Rosemond v. United States, 134 S. Ct. 1240 (2014). The court rejected defendant's remaining contentions. View "United States v. Baker" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the SEC's motion for summary judgment, holding that defendant offered securities and committed securities fraud in violation of the Securities and Exchange Act. The court held that interests in defendant's drilling projects qualified as securities. In this case, the district court correctly concluded that defendant's drilling projects distributed power as if they were limited partnerships where the SEC provided unrebutted evidence showing that investors could not use their legal powers. The court also held that the district court correctly found that defendant made material misstatements to investors when he knowingly misrepresented his relationships with major oil companies. View "SEC v. Sethi" on Justia Law