Justia Banking Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in White Collar Crime
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Markert, President of Pinehurst Bank, approved nominee loans to friends and family of bank customer Wintz. The loan proceeds were used to cover Wintz’s $1.9 million overdraft at the Bank. A jury convicted Markert of willful misapplication of bank funds by a bank officer, 18 U.S.C. 656. At sentencing, applying U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(1), the district court found that Markert’s offense caused an actual loss equal to the amount of the loans, resulting in a 16-level enhancement and a guidelines range of 87 to 108 months in prison. The court sentenced Markert to 42 months. The Eighth Circuit remanded for resentencing. After considering arguments, but without an evidentiary hearing, the court reduced its prior finding by $60,000, to reflect repayments prior to detection and re-imposed the same 42-month term. The Eighth Circuit again remanded, holding that the government failed to sustain its burden to prove actual loss. While “the loss here cannot be zero,” the court declined to give the government a third chance to present evidence and ordered that, on remand, actual loss for sentencing purposes is zero, reducing the guidelines range to 12-18 months. Markert has already served more than 18 months; the court directed that he be immediately released. View "United States v. Markert" on Justia Law

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Thomas and Chapman were part of a scheme to fleece real estate lenders by concocting multiple false sales of the same homes and using the loan proceeds from the later transactions to pay off the earlier lenders. They were convicted of multiple counts of wire fraud. Thomas was also convicted of aggravated identity theft for using an investor’s identity without permission to craft a phony sale of a home that the victim never owned. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting: challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence; a claim by Thomas that there was no proof that he created or used the falsified documents at issue; Chapman’s claim that there was no evidence that he was the Lamar Chapman identified by the evidence, because no courtroom witness testified to that effect; Chapman’s claim that his due process rights were violated when the government dropped a co-defendant from the indictment; and a claim that the government failed to turn over unspecified exculpatory evidence. The court noted testimony from several victims, an FBI investigator, an auditor, and an indicted co-defendant who had already pleaded guilty. View "United States v. Chapman" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Musgrave, a CPA, became involved in a tire recycling venture with Goldberg. Musgrave obtained a loan, guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA), through Mutual Federal Savings Bank. The venture ultimately lost the $1.7 million loan and Musgrave lost his $300,000 investment. In 2011, the two were indicted. Goldberg pled guilty to one count of misprision of felony, and the recommended a sentence of three years of probation, restitution, and a special assessment. Musgrave was convicted of: conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud and to make false statements to a financial institution, 18 U.S.C. 1349; wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343; bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344. The district court sentenced him to one day of imprisonment with credit for the day of processing, a variance from his Guidelines range of 57 to 71 months and below the government’s recommendation of 30 months. The Sixth Circuit vacated, noting that economic and fraud-based crimes are more rational, cool, and calculated than sudden crimes of passion or opportunity and are prime candidates for general deterrence. The district court relied on impermissible considerations and failed to address adequately how what amounted to a non-custodial sentence afforded adequate general deterrence in this context. . View "United States v. Musgrave" on Justia Law

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In 2000, Marr’s father founded Equipment Source, which sold used forklifts. Marr managed sales and daily operations, advertising online and selling online or by phone. In 2002, his father opened a merchant account at Palos Bank, to process credit card transactions, with Marr as a signatory. Marr sold forklifts that he never owned or possessed. Customers would contact Marr to complain that they received an invoice and notice of shipment, and that Equipment Source charged the credit card, but that the forklift never arrived. While Marr gave varying explanations, he rarely refunded money or delivered the forklifts. Customers had to contact their credit card companies to dispute the charges. The credit card company would send notice of the dispute to Palos Bank, which noticed a high incidence of chargebacks on Equipment Source’s merchant account and eventually froze the company’s accounts. Its loss on Equipment Source’s merchant account was $328,881.89. In 2003, the FBI executed a search warrant at Equipment Source’s offices and Equipment Source ceased doing business. Eight years later, the government charged Marr with six counts of wire fraud. At trial, the government presented testimony from 14 customers who paid for forklifts but never received them; two bank employees who dealt with chargebacks, and a financial expert witness, who confirmed the $328,881.89 loss. The Seventh Circuit affirmed Marr’s conviction, rejecting arguments that the government relied upon improper propensity evidence, that jury instructions incorrectly explained the law, and that the district court lacked the authority to order restitution.View "United States v. Marr" on Justia Law

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In 2008-2009 Scalzo was a bank officer at two institutions. He originated and approved loans for unqualified borrowers without adequate financial information or collateral. He forged borrowers’ signatures, redirected funds from the loans to his own personal use without the knowledge of the borrowers, and took funds from some fraudulent loans to pay off balances on previous fraudulent loans, to conceal the original fraud. Scalzo pled guilty to one count of bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344, and one count of money laundering, 18 U.S.C. 1956. The Information listed as part of the scheme six bank loans and three Credit Union loans. Scalzo objected to inclusion of two Credit Union loans in the restitution order. The sentencing range was the same with or without these loans, so the court deferred ruling on restitution and sentenced Scalzo to 35 months of imprisonment. The government filed its additional brief a week later. Having received no additional briefing from Scalzo for 82 days, the court relied on the PSR, the plea agreement and the government’s additional submissions; found that Scalzo arranged the Credit Union loans to conceal the bank fraud; noted that the Credit Union loans were listed as part of the fraudulent scheme detailed in the Information to which Scalzo pled guilty and that the Credit Union lost a substantial amount of money; and ordered him to pay restitution of $679,737.23. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Scalzo" on Justia Law

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When purchasing a house, the defendants submitted loan documents containing false incomes and bank statements, and failed to disclose that husband’s company was selling and his wife was buying. The company received $750,000 and rebated money paid above that amount to husband. The $1 million in loans they received resulted in $250,000 extra that was not disclosed as going to the couple. They were able to sell the house four months later for the same inflated amount, without raising any concerns. They failed to disclose on the HUD-1 forms in the second transaction that they would be giving the buyer kickbacks. The buyer received $1,090,573.06 in loans, but defaulted without making a payment. The lender eventually sold the house for $487,500. Defendants were convicted of three counts of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343 and aiding and abetting wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 2. The Presentence Investigation Report determined that the lender’s loss was $603,073.06 and recommended a 14-point enhancement under USSG 2B1.1(b)(1)(H). The Seventh Circuit affirmed the convictions but remanded for explanation of why the loss was “reasonably foreseeable” and why the sentencing enhancement was proper. Involvement in a fraudulent scheme does not necessarily mean it was reasonably foreseeable that all the subsequent economic damages would occur; there was no evidence that defendants knew they were selling to what turned out to be a fictional buyer. View "United States v. Domnenko" on Justia Law

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The bank fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. 1344(2), makes it a crime to “knowingly execut[e] a scheme ... to obtain” property owned by, or under the custody of, a bank “by means of false or fraudulent pretenses.” Loughrin was charged with bank fraud after he was caught forging stolen checks, using them to buy goods at a Target store, and then returning the goods for cash. The district court declined to give Loughrin’s proposed jury instruction that section 1344(2) required proof of “intent to defraud a financial institution.” A jury convicted Loughrin. The Tenth Circuit and Supreme Court affirmed. Section 1344(2) does not require proof that a defendant intended to defraud a financial institution, but requires only that a defendant intended to obtain bank property and that this was accomplished “by means of” a false statement. Imposing Loughrin’s proposed requirement would prevent the law from applying to cases falling within the statute’s clear terms, such as frauds directed against a third-party custodian of bank-owned property. The Court rejected Loughrin’s argument that without an element of intent to defraud a bank, section 1344(2) would apply to every minor fraud in which the victim happens to pay by check, stating that the statutory language limits application to cases in which the misrepresentation has some real connection to a federally insured bank, and thus to the pertinent federal interest. View "Loughrin v. United States" on Justia Law

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Robers, convicted of submitting fraudulent mortgage loan applications to two banks, argued that the district court miscalculated his restitution obligation under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996, 18 U.S.C. 3663A–3664, which requires property crime offenders to pay “an amount equal to ... the value of the property” less “the value (as of the date the property is returned) of any part of the property that is returned.” The court ordered Robers to pay the difference between the amount lent to him and the amount the banks received in selling houses that had served as collateral. Robers argued that the court should have reduced the restitution amount by the value of the houses on the date on which the banks took title to them since that was when “part of the property” was “returned.” The Seventh Circuit and a unanimous Supreme Court affirmed. “Any part of the property ... returned” refers to the property the banks lost: the money lent to Robers, not to the collateral the banks received. Because valuing money is easier than valuing other property, this “natural reading” facilitates the statute’s administration. For purposes of the statute’s proximate-cause requirement, normal market fluctuations do not break the causal chain between the fraud and losses incurred by the victim. Even assuming that the return of collateral compensates lenders for their losses under state mortgage law, the issue here is whether the statutory provision, which does not purport to track state mortgage law, requires that collateral received be valued at the time the victim received it. The rule of lenity does not apply here. View "Robers v. United States" on Justia Law

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The bank fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. 1344(2), makes it a crime to “knowingly execut[e] a scheme ... to obtain” property owned by, or under the custody of, a bank “by means of false or fraudulent pretenses.” Loughrin was charged with bank fraud after he was caught forging stolen checks, using them to buy goods at a Target store, and then returning the goods for cash. The district court declined to give Loughrin’s proposed jury instruction that section 1344(2) required proof of “intent to defraud a financial institution.” A jury convicted Loughrin. The Tenth Circuit and Supreme Court affirmed. Section 1344(2) does not require proof that a defendant intended to defraud a financial institution, but requires only that a defendant intended to obtain bank property and that this was accomplished “by means of” a false statement. Imposing Loughrin’s proposed requirement would prevent the law from applying to cases falling within the statute’s clear terms, such as frauds directed against a third-party custodian of bank-owned property. The Court rejected Loughrin’s argument that without an element of intent to defraud a bank, section 1344(2) would apply to every minor fraud in which the victim happens to pay by check, stating that the statutory language limits application to cases in which the misrepresentation has some real connection to a federally insured bank, and thus to the pertinent federal interest. View "Loughrin v. United States" on Justia Law

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Robers, convicted of submitting fraudulent mortgage loan applications to two banks, argued that the district court miscalculated his restitution obligation under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996, 18 U.S.C. 3663A–3664, which requires property crime offenders to pay “an amount equal to ... the value of the property” less “the value (as of the date the property is returned) of any part of the property that is returned.” The court ordered Robers to pay the difference between the amount lent to him and the amount the banks received in selling houses that had served as collateral. Robers argued that the court should have reduced the restitution amount by the value of the houses on the date on which the banks took title to them since that was when “part of the property” was “returned.” The Seventh Circuit and a unanimous Supreme Court affirmed. “Any part of the property ... returned” refers to the property the banks lost: the money lent to Robers, not to the collateral the banks received. Because valuing money is easier than valuing other property, this “natural reading” facilitates the statute’s administration. For purposes of the statute’s proximate-cause requirement, normal market fluctuations do not break the causal chain between the fraud and losses incurred by the victim. Even assuming that the return of collateral compensates lenders for their losses under state mortgage law, the issue here is whether the statutory provision, which does not purport to track state mortgage law, requires that collateral received be valued at the time the victim received it. The rule of lenity does not apply here. View "Robers v. United States" on Justia Law