Articles Posted in White Collar Crime

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Starting in 2008, Sunmola carried out an online romance scheme from South Africa, targeting middle-aged women in Georgia and Illinois. Sunmola often used pictures of men in U.S. military uniforms in his online profile to gain the victims' trust; they made electronic fund transfers after his false claims of financial distress. Sunmola secretly recorded some victims in sexually suggestive positions, then sent extortion demands. Authorities also discovered evidence of credit card fraud affecting businesses. He was charged with conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and interstate extortion. Authorities arrested Sunmola in London and transferred him to U.S. custody. Three days into his trial, Sunmola openly pleaded guilty to all counts, admitting to the essential elements of each offense. The judge accepted the pleas without a plea agreement. Applying several enhancements and considering other section 3553(a) factors, the district court sentenced Sunmola to 324 months in jail with an adjusted restitution payment of $1,669,050.98. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to a four-level “substantial financial hardship” sentencing enhancement, a two-level “vulnerable victim” adjustment, a two-level enhancement for acting on behalf of a government agency, and a four-level adjustment for acting as the organizer or leader. The court upheld the restitution calculation and application of general deterrence in his final sentencing. View "United States v. Sunmola" on Justia Law

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Baek purchased property through his LLC and obtained financing from Labe Bank; Frank was the loan officer. Frank later moved to NCB and asked Baek to move his business, representing that NCB would provide a larger construction loan at a lower rate. In 2006, Baek entered a construction loan with NCB for $11,750,000. Baek executed a loan agreement, mortgage, promissory note, and commercial guaranty. Baek’s wife did not sign the guaranty at closing. NCB maintains that, 18 months after closing, she signed a guaranty. One loan modification agreement bears her signature but Baek‐Lee contends that it was forged and that she was out of the country on the signing date. NCB repeatedly demanded additional collateral and refused to disburse funds to contractors. The Baeks claim that NCB frustrated Baek’s efforts to comply with its demands. In 2010, NCB filed state suits for foreclosure and on the guaranty. The Baeks filed affirmative defenses and a counterclaim, then filed a breach of contract and fraud suit against NCB. The Baeks later filed a federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1964(c), suit alleging fraud. The state court granted NCB summary judgment. The federal district court dismissed, citing res judicata. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. There has been a final judgment on the merits with the same parties, in state court, on claims arising from a single group of operative facts. View "Baek v. Clausen" on Justia Law

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Henricks owned a towing business, an auto body shop, and a vehicle dealership, which he used to defraud insurance companies by filing fraudulent claims. Henricks’s wife, Catherine, worked at the companies sporadically and was an officer of two of them and a member of the other. She opened bank accounts and signed loan documents on behalf of the companies. Henricks pleaded guilty to mail fraud and immediately began to hide assets. He was sentenced to imprisonment and ordered to pay restitution of $1,306,608.72. Catherine filed for divorce and for bankruptcy. Catherine entered an appearance as an interested person in Henricks’s criminal case. The district court found that Henricks had defaulted on his restitution payments and that the divorce was a sham, then determined the parties’ interests in properties so that Henricks’s property could be directed toward restitution. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The court had jurisdiction under the Fair Debt Collection Procedures Act to decide the parties’ property interests in Henricks’s criminal case and did not violate Catherine’s due process rights. The court, however, improperly relied upon post‐judgment conduct instead of determining the parties’ property interests as of the date of the judgment lien. Whether the divorce was a sham was relevant to whether Henricks’s defaulted on restitution, but is irrelevant to the parties’ ownership interests on the judgment date. View "Henricks v. United States" on Justia Law

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Henricks owned a towing business, an auto body shop, and a vehicle dealership, which he used to defraud insurance companies by filing fraudulent claims. Henricks’s wife, Catherine, worked at the companies sporadically and was an officer of two of them and a member of the other. She opened bank accounts and signed loan documents on behalf of the companies. Henricks pleaded guilty to mail fraud and immediately began to hide assets. He was sentenced to imprisonment and ordered to pay restitution of $1,306,608.72. Catherine filed for divorce and for bankruptcy. Catherine entered an appearance as an interested person in Henricks’s criminal case. The district court found that Henricks had defaulted on his restitution payments and that the divorce was a sham, then determined the parties’ interests in properties so that Henricks’s property could be directed toward restitution. The Seventh Circuit vacated. The court had jurisdiction under the Fair Debt Collection Procedures Act to decide the parties’ property interests in Henricks’s criminal case and did not violate Catherine’s due process rights. The court, however, improperly relied upon post‐judgment conduct instead of determining the parties’ property interests as of the date of the judgment lien. Whether the divorce was a sham was relevant to whether Henricks’s defaulted on restitution, but is irrelevant to the parties’ ownership interests on the judgment date. View "Henricks v. United States" on Justia Law

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Ballard obtained a $280,000 loan from SBH to construct the Stone Fence residence, then requested another $90,000 to finish the property. There was insufficient equity to cover that amount; SBH lent him $20,000. Ballard obtained construction loans on properties in Bradley. Grant was the SBH loan officer for all three properties. Ballard submitted required Sworn Contractor’s Statements and Owner’s Payment Authorizations to the Kankakee County Title Company (KCTC), identifying the material and labor costs supposedly associated with his work on the Bradley properties. Ballard obtained $188,000 for the Bradley properties, where no work was performed. Ballard used the funds to complete Stone Fence. An SBH employee discovered Ballard’s scheme. Ballard was charged with three counts of bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344. At trial, Ballard admitted that he had misdirected funds; he argued a “good faith” defense that Grant and his supervisors knew and authorized Ballard’s acts and pressured him to complete Stone Fence. Ballard also claimed he did not read or sign the loan documents, implying that someone forged his signature. After Ballard was convicted, his attorney obtained a previously undisclosed audio recording of Grant, made during a prior, unrelated criminal investigation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court in granting a new trial, finding the recording material. View "United States v. Ballard" on Justia Law

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RTSI produces and maintains traffic safety systems. Rosenberg was RTSI’s Vice President of Sales. RTSI contracted to manage Chicago's automated red light enforcement program. In 2012, the Chicago Tribune published articles, disclosing an improper relationship between a city employee (Bills) and RTSI. The city removed RTSI’s bid for the new contract. The City Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigated the bribery scheme. RTSI conducted an independent investigation and provided OIG with information. OIG advised Rosenberg that he had a duty to cooperate and that his statements would not be used against him in a criminal proceeding. Rosenberg described the bribery scheme between RTSI and Bills. RTSI terminated Rosenberg’s employment.The Tribune reported that RTSI courted Bills with thousands of dollars in free trips. Rosenberg sued RTSI under the qui tam provision of the City’s False Claims Ordinance, alleging that RTSI engaged in bribery and other illegal activities to obtain a city contract. The city intervened, making additional claims. The court dismissed Rosenberg as relator. The remaining parties settled and moved for dismissal with prejudice. Rosenberg unsuccessfully sought an award of a relator’s share of the settlement and attorney’s fees for his lawyer’s contributions to the case. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that Rosenberg helped to perpetrate the fraud and referring to Rosenberg’s “audacity.” Rosenberg was neither the original source of the information nor was he a volunteer under the ordinance. View "Rosenberg v. Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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Adrian established Red Brick Properties, to purchase, rehabilitate, and resell homes. Adrian's wife, Daniela, the only employee with a real estate license, served as office manager. They sought buyers who did not have good enough credit or a down payment and assisted them in applying for mortgage loans. In 2007-2009, Red Brick sold 45 houses, providing the down payment for each sale; the loan applications falsely stated that the buyers were using their own money. After closing, Red Brick provided the buyers with additional money, to ensure that they could make at least two payments before defaulting. Bank of America which provided the loans for 32 sales, all processed by one loan officer, opened an investigation. A jury convicted Adrian and Daniela of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343 and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1349. Following a remand, the PSR recommended a total loss amount of $1,835,861; the court sentenced Adrian to 36 months’ imprisonment, Daniela to 21 months’ (both sentences were below the Guidelines range), and imposed a $30,000 fine on each. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting a challenge to the intended loss calculation under U.S.S.G. 2B1.1, and the decision to deny Daniela a minor-role reduction under U.S.S.G. 3B1.2. Bank of America’s losses qualified as an “intended loss” regardless of its level of complicity. View "United States v. Tartareanu" on Justia Law

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Armenta worked at Passages as a certified nursing assistant and later as a regional director of certified nursing assistants. Passages billed its services to Medicare. Medicare paid $180 per patient per day for routine services but up to $700 for general inpatient services (GIP). Passages began paying directors based on the number of patients on GIP. The number of patients on GIP significantly increased because directors instructed nurses and nursing assistants to place patients who did not need that level of care on GIP. Passages received an audit request from a Medicare contractor. In response, Armenta and other Passages employees entered false information consistent with GIP care and billing into patient files, then submitted the altered files. Passages employees, including Armenta, were trained on the requirements for placing a patient on GIP. Armenta told the nurses to disregard the training. Armenta and others were charged with health care fraud. Only Armenta proceeded to trial. With a two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice based on lying on the stand and altering records, her Guidelines imprisonment range was 63-78 months.The Seventh Circuit affirmed her conviction and sentence of 20 months’ imprisonment plus $1.67 million in restitution. Although no government witness identified Armenta in court, the defense did not argue that the Armenta in the courtroom was not the same Armenta involved in the fraud. View "United States v. Armenta" on Justia Law

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Miller obtained identifying information for several individuals without their knowledge or consent, which he used to open credit card accounts; he opened UPS mailboxes under the victims’ names to receive the cards, which he used to withdraw cash from ATMs. Miller also used personal identifying information to submit 600 fraudulent claims and obtain unemployment insurance benefits from the Texas Workforce Commission. Miller was charged with both schemes. After releasing him on bond, the court discovered Miller stole $13,750 from the correctional facility where he was detained. Miller fled to and was later found, in the Dominican Republic. Miller eventually pleaded guilty to mail fraud affecting a financial institution, 18 U.S.C. 1341, and aggravated identity theft, 18 U.S.C. 1028A(a)(1). The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part, rejecting arguments that the indictment failed to specify proper means of identification of the victims and that the court improperly applied two points to his criminal history calculation for committing the charged crimes while under a criminal justice sentence. Miller possessed over 200 means of identification in a single notebook, used to carry out a common scheme and can only be convicted of one violation each of sections 1028(a)(7) and 1028A(a)(1), which criminalize the knowing possession of “a means of identification of another person” View "United States v. Miller" on Justia Law

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Brown, the manager of a company that provided home physician visits, and Talaga, who handled the company’s billing, were convicted of conspiracy to commit health-care fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1349; six counts of health-care fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1347; and three counts of falsifying a matter or providing false statements, 18 U.S.C. 1035(a). The district court sentenced Mr. Brown to 87 months’ imprisonment, 34 months below the Guidelines’ range, stating that a significant sentence was warranted because of the duration of the scheme, the amount of the fraud, the need for general deterrence, and Brown’s failure to accept responsibility. Ms. Talaga was sentenced to 45 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting Brown’s argument that the court’s assumptions about the need for general deterrence were unfounded and constituted procedural error and Talaga’s arguments that the court calculated the amount of loss for which she was responsible by impermissibly including losses that occurred before she joined the conspiracy. The district court was under no obligation to accept or to comment further on Brown’s deterrence argument. Talaga, as a trained Medicare biller, knew that that the high-volume billings were fraudulent. View "United States v. Talaga" on Justia Law