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

Articles Posted in White Collar Crime
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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions on twenty-three felony counts related to his role in schemes to defraud philanthropists, using their money to finance his personal life and political career. Defendant served two nonconsecutive terms in the United States House of Representatives. The court held that the district court's jury instructions were not erroneous; it was not plain error for the district court to define 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations in the charge, and defendant was not entitled to an instruction on good faith; the district court did not err by denying defendant's motions for judgment of acquittal under Rule 29; the government provided ample evidence that defendant fraudulently devised, and implemented, a scheme to deprive two donors of their money and property, thus allowing the jury to rationally find him guilty of mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering; and the Federal Election Campaign Act's contribution limits apply to coordinated spending on political communications, irrespective of whether those communications contain magic words of express advocacy. View "United States v. Stockman" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for charges related to his role in a massive conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. The court held that defendant's claim that the district court violated Federal Rule of Evidence 1006 when it admitted into evidence certain summary charts was meritless under any standard of review; there was no error in admitting evidence of the criminal convictions of two of his co-conspirators for legitimate purposes, and any error in admitting evidence of the criminal convictions of three other co-conspirators was harmless; and the district court did not abuse its discretion by issuing the deliberate ignorance instruction. The court also rejected defendant's challenges to the district court's calculation of his recommended sentence under the sentencing guidelines, and upheld the district court's finding of the loss amount, that his fraud involved ten or more victims, and that his case involved a large number of vulnerable victims. Finally, the court upheld the district court's calculations of restitution and held that the district court did not clearly err in its forfeiture calculation. View "United States v. Mazkouri" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's sentence imposed after she was convicted of mail fraud, wire fraud, theft of public money, aggravated identity theft, and unlawful monetary transactions. The court held that the district court did not clearly err by applying a two level sentencing enhancement under USSG 3C1.1 for obstruction of justice. In light of the factual findings of this case, the district court concluded that defendant obstructed a governmental investigation that was in progress or would be coming about. View "United States v. Stubblefield" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and two counts of securities fraud. Defendant's conviction stemmed from her purchase of company stock through her boyfriend and others. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's convictions, and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in failing to grant a severance and try her separately from her co-conspirators. View "United States v. Tinghui Xie" on Justia Law

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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