Monday, May 5, 2008

Seventh Circuit Affirms Several White Collar Convictions

Conspiracy to Defraud - Immigration Documents - The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the case of United States v. Wantuch, a case in which the accused had been charged with "a four count indictment: (1) conspiracy to defraud the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; (2) bribery of a public official in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 201(b)(1)(A) and (2); (3) fraudulent receipt of temporary alien registration stamps, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1546; and (4) making false statements to the INS, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 (a)(2) and (2)." 

"The government’s theory was that between March of 1999 and April of 2000, [the defendant] conspired with [another individual] and his other “clients” to defraud the government by obtaining temporary green card stamps through bribes to an INS officer and false statements on green card applications." 

This case arises from a joint investigation called "Operation Golden Schemes," "which focused on the criminal activities within Chicago’s Eastern European community, particularly the marketing of fraudulent immigration documents. The FBI opened an undercover travel agency called G.S. Golden Travel (“GSGT”), located in a small two-story building on Belmont Avenue in Chicago."

Bankruptcy Concealment - Advice of Counsel Instruction Precluded - The Seventh Circuit rejected a convicted defendant's arguments in United States v. Van Allen where the defendant was "convicted of a series of financial crimes involving the structuring of currency transactions and the concealment of assets in a bankruptcy proceeding, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 152(1) and (2) and 31 U.S.C. §§ 5324(a)(3) and (d)(2)."  The defendant unsuccessfully attempted to secure an advice of counsel instruction, but the instruction was not supported by the testimony of the bankruptcy counsel.

Mail Fraud (1346) Not Vague & What is Private Gain -  In United States v. Sorich the Seventh Circuit weighed in on the honest services statute, holding that it is not unconstitutionally vague here. The court spoke about whether private gain was necessary for mail fraud using the following scenarios:

"Imagine scenario (A) in which a mayor surreptitiously channels city contracts to his cronies in the business community; they get a windfall whereas he has merelyhelped his friends and takes no money. Or imagine scenario (B) in which an attorney bribes a court in order to obtain favorable results for his clients in their lawsuits. Or scenario (C) where a union boss sells union property to a senator even though the senator did not offer the highest price, and in exchange receives the senator’s vote on a matter that concerns the union. In all three scenarios the public has been defrauded of the honest services of its public servants: the mayor, the court, and the senator. Moreover, in all three scenarios the defendant—the mayor, the attorney, and the union boss—was not the one who stood to gain financially. Certainly the defendants all received something" :in (A), the mayor received the gratitude of his friends; in (B), the attorney could boast to future clients of a high success rate, which is good for business; and in (C) the union boss curried valuable favor with the senator. But the money went to another party. All three scenarios have played out in the federal courts and have resulted in convictions for mail fraud."

The court noted that "Robin Hood may be a noble criminal, but he is still a criminal."


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