Articles Posted in White Collar Crime

by
Lunn was convicted of five counts of bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344, based on his operation of a Chicago investment advisory firm that advised mostly high-net-worth clients. The charges arose from Lunn’s conduct surrounding three extensions of credit by Leaders Bank, in which Lunn had invested: a line of credit he obtained for himself; a loan that Lunn arranged for former Chicago Bulls player Scottie Pippen; and a loan that Lunn arranged for Geras, a Lunn Partners client. Lunn provided false financial information with respect to his own loan; misled Pippen about the nature of the transaction and forged Pippen’s name; and forged Geras’s signature. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the convictions, rejecting Lunn’s claims that the court’s multiple intrusions into his testimony were so serious that he did not receive a fair trial and that the court erred in refusing to give a “good faith” instruction. The court instructed the jury that the government was required to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Lunn “knowingly executed” a scheme to defraud “with the intent to defraud.” A good faith instruction was unnecessary. View "United States v. Lunn" on Justia Law

by
Reed operated companies that he claimed would make loans of $50 million to $1 billion to entrepreneurs. Reed charged advance fees of $10,000 to $50,000 to apply for these loans. Reed’s companies actually had no funds to lend. Reed and his co‐defendants took in $200,000 from six clients, but never closed a loan. Reed was indicted for wire fraud. On the fourth day of trial, Reed’s lawyer told the court that Reed wanted to enter a “blind” guilty plea. The judge placed Reed under oath, explained his rights, and discussed his understanding of the consequences of pleading guilty, before accepting the plea. Four months later, before sentencing, Reed moved to substitute attorneys. His new attorney moved to withdraw the plea, arguing that Reed’s attorney’s ineffective representation had coerced Reed to plead guilty. The court denied the motion. Reed sought a below‐guidelines sentence of probation, emphasizing that his wife (who has a disabling illness) and three children (one of whom is also disabled) depend on him for financial and other support. The Guidelines range was 57-71 months incarceration. The district judge sentenced Reed to 64 months in prison. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding Reed’s allegations of ineffective assistance vague. The district judge adequately considered Reed’s claims of family hardship. View "United States v. Reed" on Justia Law

by
Between 2003 and 2011, Jackson operated three Cicero, Illinois daycares in succession, housed in a building next to the Ark of Safety Apostolic Faith Temple where he served as pastor. Subsidies from the State of Illinois’ Child Care Assistance Program largely funded the daycares. CCAP subsidies are paid directly to the childcare provider. Jackson and his wife, Faria, submitted or directed the submission of dozens of CCAP applications, employment verification letters, redetermination forms, and monthly childcare certificate reports that contained materially false information. The state paid over $2.28 million in subsidies to Jackson’s daycares. A jury convicted Jackson and Faria of mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341; wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, and making a false statement, 18 U.S.C. 1001 for his role in the scheme. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. Faria was not unduly prejudiced by the joint trial or by the jury seeing a redacted copy of the indictment. View "United States v. Jackson" on Justia Law

by
Unreliable corporate meeting minutes were properly excluded in tax fraud trial. Petrunak was the sole proprietor of Abyss, a fireworks business regulated by ATF. In 2001, ATF inspectors inspected Abyss and reported violations. An ALJ revoked Abyss’s explosives license. Abyss went out of business. Five years later, Petrunak mailed the inspectors IRS W-9 forms requesting identifying information and then sent them 1099s, alleging that Abyss had paid each of them $250,000. Because the inspector’s tax return did not include the fictional $250,000, the IRS audited her and informed her that she owed $101,114 in taxes; she spent significant time and energy unraveling the situation. Petrunak submitted those sham “payments” as business expenses; he reported a loss exceeding $500,000 in his personal taxes. Petrunak admitted to filing the forms and was charged with making and subscribing false and fraudulent IRS forms, 26 U.S.C. 7206(1). He sought to introduce corporate meeting minutes under the business records exception, claiming that the records would have demonstrated his state of mind in preparing the forms. The minutes included statements bemoaning that the IRS was not more helpful, and declarations that the ATF agents perjured themselves. The Seventh Circuit upheld exclusion of the records, noting that the records contained multiple instances of hearsay and had no indicia of reliability. View "United States v. Petrunak" on Justia Law

by
In the 1990s, Terzakis met Berenice Ventrella, the trustee for a family trust with extensive real‐estate holdings. Terzakis managed and developed real estate and eventually managed some of Berenice’s property. In 2007, they created an LLC to hold one of Berenice’s properties. Berenice appointed her son Nick, who had Asperger syndrome, as the Ventrella Trust’s successor trustee. After Berenice's 2008 death, Terzakis opened an account for the “Estate of Berenice Ventrella,” took Nick to banks and had him transfer funds from Berenice’s accounts into this new account, transferred $4.2 million from the estate account to the LLC account, which he controlled, then transferred $3.9 million from the LLC account to his personal accounts. Nick was the only witness with personal knowledge of Terzakis’s statements about the transfers. Prosecutors interviewed Nick. The government informed the grand jury that Nick had cognitive problems; Nick did not testify. Days before the limitations period expired, the grand jury returned a five‐count indictment for transmitting stolen money, 18 U.S.C. 2314. Before trial, the government learned that Nick had been diagnosed with brain cancer, with a prognosis of six months. The government informed Terzakis of the diagnosis. The parties resumed plea negotiations. Terzakis rejected the government’s plea offer. The government dismissed the case, citing Nick’s unavailability. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of Terzakis’s motion to recover attorney fees under 18 U.S.C. 3006A. View "United States v. Terzakis" on Justia Law

by
After defendant was dismissed from an investment firm, he launched a finance company in Wilmette, Illinois, then used investors’ money for personal purposes, including paying his gambling debts. Defendant pleaded guilty to wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343. The presentence investigation report stated that his guideline prison-sentence range was 70-87 months, based on an estimation that the loss to the victims slightly exceeded $1.8 million. The district judge sentenced the defendant to 75 months in prison and to pay restitution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the financial loss he caused was closer to $1 million, which would have put him in a lower guidelines range, and that a shorter term would give him more time to earn money to make restitution. The testimony of the elderly victim-witnesses was “harrowing and uncontradicted.” Gold provided no evidence to support his challenge to the government’s estimate of the victims’ losses. Even if Gold were given no prison sentence, he would be unable to provide substantial restitution to the victims of his fraud, given that he was 60 years old, had never graduated from college, lacked full-time employment, and had a negative net worth. View "United States v. Gold" on Justia Law

by
Minhas defrauded customers of his Chicago travel agencies and airlines through a scheme in which he collected payment for airline reservations that he canceled without his customers’ knowledge, by manipulating the two-tiered online ticket-reservation system. Minhas was convicted of wire and mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341 and 1343 in two separate cases: one that proceeded to a bench trial and one in which Minhas pleaded guilty in 2015. At a consolidated sentencing hearing, the district court imposed two partially concurrent prison terms totaling 114 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting a challenge the district court’s application of the Sentencing Guidelines’ enhancement for causing “substantial financial hardship” to the two sets of victims (U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(2)). The court acknowledged that it had “seen stronger evidence,” but was not convinced that the district court committed clear error in its assessment of the record. View "United States v. Minhas" on Justia Law

by
The defendants were indicted for committing and conspiring to commit wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343 & 1349, by extracting money from lenders (including Bank of America) that had financed the sale of defendants' Gary, Indiana properties. The defendants had represented that buyers of the properties were the source of the down payments; the defendants had actually given the buyers the money to enable them to make the down payments. They had also helped the buyers provide, in loan applications, false claims of creditworthiness. The judge ordered restitution of $893,015 to Bank of America. The Seventh Circuit remanded, directing the court to consider an alternative remedy. Restitution is questionable because Bank of America, though not a coconspirator, did not have clean hands. It ignored clear signs that the loans were “phony.” The court referred to a history of “shady” practices and characterized the Bank as “reckless.” The court acknowledged that the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act requires “mandatory restitution to victims,” 18 U.S.C. 3663A, for “an offense resulting in damage to or loss or destruction of property of a victim of the offense,” but stated that Bank of America was deliberately indifferent to the risk of losing its own money, because it intended to sell the mortgages and transfer the risk of loss to Fannie Mae for a profit. View "United States v. Tartareanu" on Justia Law

by
Dr. Kohli, a board-certified neurologist with extensive training in the treatment of chronic pain, operated the Kohli Neurology and Sleep Center in Effingham, Illinois. Irregularities in the practice eventually caught the attention of federal officials; he was indicted on three counts of healthcare fraud, two counts of money laundering, and 10 counts of illegal dispensation of a controlled substance (Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)). During a 15-day trial, the jury learned about Dr. Kohli’s prescribing practices from law enforcement and healthcare professionals, expert witnesses, and his patients and their family members. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, upholding various evidentiary rulings and jury instructions and finding the verdict supported by substantial evidence. The court rejected an argument that the district court somehow conflated the standards for civil and criminal liability, or that it otherwise misled the jury into believing that it could find Dr. Kohli criminally liable for engaging in mere civil malpractice. View "United States v. Kohli" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs alleged that, beginning in 1997, Swiech Group looted Krakow Business Park’s assets, diluting the value of the firm and of their shares. All of the claimed actions, including sham contracts, took place in Poland. Some of Swiech’s proceeds were allegedly funneled to Chicago‐area businesses and properties. Adam Swiech was arrested by the Polish authorities and charged with money laundering, forgery, tax evasion, and leading an organized crime ring, in connection with his conduct at the Business Park. He has been convicted on some of the charges. In a second round of litigation, plaintiffs alleged violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(d) (RICO), naming multiple defendants related to Swiech, including attorneys. The district court concluded that plaintiffs were estopped from asserting certain aspects of their claim and that nothing in the complaint plausibly asserted that the lawyer-defendants stepped over the line between representation of their clients and participation in a RICO conspiracy. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, citing the scope of its appellate jurisdiction, and reasoning that any wrongdoings in the course of lawyers' representation were outside the scope of the asserted RICO conspiracy. “Although the supplemental complaints paint a dismal picture of these attorneys’ behavior, assuming the truth of the allegations of disregard for the alleged neutrality principle, misleading billing statements, and the like, these problems must be addressed in a different forum.” View "Domanus v. Locke Lord LLP" on Justia Law