Florida Executive Sentenced in $10.5 Million Embezzlement Scheme

Although it may be considered small change when compared with the fraud of fellow Floridian Scott Rothstein, according to an FBI press release, Gary Ernest Williams, former Chief Financial Officer for Marian Gardens Tree Farm (MGTF) in Groveland, Florida, was sentenced to eight years imprisonment on Monday in the U.S. District Corut for the Middle District of Florida. Williams was charged with embezzling approximately 10.5 million from MGTF since 2000 through falsified checks, use of a credit card in the company's name and making large cash withdrawals which he told bank officials were to be used to pay “employee bonuses.” Willams spent the money on lavish homes, luxury cars, jewelry, drugs, and vacations by private jet. He also failed to failed to pay federal income taxes in the amount of $3,675,000 on the illegally obtained funds.

Williams entered a guilty plea in July. The District Court ordered Williams to pay more than 14 million in restitution to MGFT and to forfeit homes in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and the Bahamas.

Fort Lauderdale Attorney Scott Rothstein Pleads Not Guilty to Information Alleging $1.2 Billion Dollar Ponzi Scheme

 

In response to allegations uncomfortably similar to those against former New York celebrity lawyer and arch Ponzi-schemer Marc Dreier, Fort Lauderdale attorney Scott Rothstein, head of Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A., appeared in response to a criminal information in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida on Tuesday. The information charges Rothstein with one count of Racketeering Conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); one count of Money Laundering Conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h); one count of Mail and Wire Fraud Conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349; and two counts of Wire Fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, as well as criminal forfeiture, U.S. v. Rothstein, 0:09-cr-60331-JIC.

According to the criminal information, available here, from about 2005 through November 2009, Rothstein, and other “known and unknown” unnamed co-conspirators, allegedly unlawfully obtained approximately $1.2 billion from investors through a Ponzi scheme (outdoing even Dreier’s scheme). The Government alleges that Rothstein used false statements, documents and computer records to induce investors to loan money to alleged borrowers based upon fraudulent and fictitious promissory notes and bridge loans. Rothstein allegedly falsely informed investors that his law firm, Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A.’s, clients requested short-term financing for undisclosed business deals and that the clients were willing to pay high rates of return for loans negotiated by Rothstein.

Rothstein also allegedly told investors that they could purchase at a discount confidential settlement agreements in sexual harassment and whistleblower cases in amounts ranging from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars. Rothstein allegedly falsely represented that the settlement agreements would be repaid to the investors at face value over time. Rothstein allegedly represented to investors that the settlements were highly confidential in order to protect the reputations of the companies and executives involved; that the plaintiffs preferred to settle the claims rather than purse them in a public forum; that Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A., would disburse the investors’ funds to the plaintiffs; that the firm would make payments to the investors pursuant to the payment schedules in the alleged settlement agreements; that the funds were maintained in designated trust accounts for the investors in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Florida Bar and were verified by independent sources, as well as numerous other alleged false statements regarding the settlement agreements, investment funds and the firm.

To effect the fraud, Rothstein allegedly established numerous trust accounts in Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A.’s name; falsified statements from financial institutions and manufactured online banking information allegedly showing investors’ monies; created false and fictitious settlement agreements and other documents. Among the alleged false and fictitious documents was a court order in a case, purportedly signed by a Federal District Judge, which falsely alleged that Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A.’s clients had prevailed in a lawsuit and were owed $23 million, when in fact the firm had settled the case without the clients’ knowledge and had obligated them to pay $500,000 to the defendant.

The information also alleges that Rothstein allegedly falsely told clients that, in order to recover funds, they had to post bonds to be held in Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A.’s trust account. Over several years, clients wired approximately $57 million to a trust account controlled by Rothstein. Rothstein allegedly created another false Federal court order to conceal the scheme, providing that the funds were to be returned to the clients by a later date.

Rothstein used the funds acquired through the alleged scheme to fund the operations of Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A., and to expand the firm. The firm grew to employ approximately 70 attorneys. Rothstein is alleged to have laundered the funds from the scheme through corporations, contributions and large bonuses and gifts to employees. The information alleges that Rothstein used the funds to make contributions to Federal, State and local political candidates in a manner designed to conceal the source of the funds and to circumvent Federal and State limits on campaign contributions; for charitable donations; to purchase controlling interests in restaurants in South Florida; and to hire members of local law enforcement to provide security for Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A., and for Rothstein personally.

The enormous wealth amassed by Rothstein through the alleged scheme is apparent in the Governement’s forfeiture allegations, which seek forfeiture not only of a sum of $1.2 billion, but also of 24 properties in Fort Lauderdale, Lauderdale by the Sea, Boca Raton, Hollywood and Plantation, Florida; New York City and Narragansett, Rhode Island, including Rothstein’s 10% ownership in the Miami Beach mansion of late fashion mogul Gianni Versace, “Casa Casuarina.” Forfeiture is also sought of numerous business interests, bank accounts and jewelry, as well as 24 vessels and vehicles purchased by Rothstein, including a 55 foot yacht.

The Government also lists millions in political and charitable contributions by Rothstein which it seeks forfeiture of, including contributions to the Republican Party of Florida; Florida Governor Charlie Crist; Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who is running for governor; and two hospitals.

As reported in the Miami Herald here, and here, Rothstein started Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A., in 2002 as an obscure attorney practicing employment law. Over the next six years, his net worth grew from about $160,000 to tens of millions. Rothstein used flashy wealth and connections in the Broward County social and business communities to lure wealthy persons to invest in his schemes. He befriended the rich and famous, including NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino

George G. Levin, a wealthy Fort Lauderdale resident and hedge fund manager, gave $656 million to Rothstein to invest in settlements purportedly worth $1.1 billion. Levin helped Rothstein market investments in employment and sexual harassment lawsuits to investors, although he is not alleged to have been complicit in Rothstein’s crimes. Another of Rothstein’s clients, car-dealership mogul Ed Morse, claims that Rothstein defrauded him of $57 million, arising from the settlement of a contract dispute with an interior decorator.

Rothstein would allegedly give large bonuses to employees of Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A. on the condition that they make campaign contributions to political candidates who Rothstein would specify. The Government has stated that the recipients of the political contributions have returned the contributions. The Florida Democratic Party has returned $200,000 and the Florida Republican Party has given back $150,000. After Crist won the Governor’s race in 2006, he appointed Rothstein to a panel which nominates Broward County judicial candidates. The Florida Democratic Party has called for an investigation of Crist. Rothstein also allegedly paid gratuities to local law enforcement officers to avoid scrutiny.

Rothstein’s scheme began to unravel over Halloween weekend, when investors began calling the firm for overdue payments and discovered the fraud. Rothstein fled to Morocco in October, taking $400,000 to $500,000 in cash with him and wiring $16 million to Casablanca. Rothstein reportedly sent e-mails to members of his firm that he was contemplating suicide, but he returned to the U.S. on a private jet in early November. He met with Federal authorities and provided details regarding his Ponzi scheme. FBI and IRS agents raided Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A.’s law offices, and seized Rothstein’s real and personal property. Rothstein agreed to waive indictment, an indication that he is cooperating with the Government, although Rothstein’s counsel has denied that he has any deal with the Government.

The Government’s information does not name Rothstein’s alleged co-conspirators, however news reports suggest members of Rothstein's inner circle at the law firm, and officers at Toronto Dominion Bank, where the investor trust accounts were held.

Rothstein’s alleged Ponzi scheme has been called the largest in the history of South Florida by Federal officials. The Florida Bar has disbarred Rothstein for stealing from the firm’s trust account. Rothstein, Levin and TD Bank are also being sued by a group of investors for more than $100 million.

Rothstein appeared in court on Tuesday in casual attire with a confident demeanor and pled not guilty to the information. U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Rosenbaum ordered Rothstein jailed pending trial based on Rothstein’s flight to Morocco. Rothstein is represented by attorney Marc Nurik, oddly of Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler, P.A. He faces up to 100 imprisonment if convicted.

 

Government Drops Prosecution of Miami Attorney Ben Kuehne for Receipt of Legal Fees from Drug Kingpin

 

Last Wednesday, the Government, through Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco, filed a brief Motion to Dismiss Third Superseding Indictment with Prejudice seeking to dismiss its indictment against Miami, Florida, attorney Benedict P. Kuehne, and also Colombian attorney Oscar Saldarriaga Ochoa, in the criminal action of U.S. v. Velez, 1:05-cr-20770-MGC, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The Government’s motion stated that it was based upon the “totality of the circumstances,” including the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ affirmance of the District Court’s dismissal of the Government’s charge of conspiracy to launder money against Mr. Kuehne. The Government stated that it believe that dismissal was in the interest of justice. On the same day, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke entered an order dismissing the Third Superseding Indictment.

The dismissal marked the end of a long ordeal for Kuehne, who was indicted over two years ago for alleged money laundering conspiracy, money laundering concealment conspiracy, concealment money laundering and wire fraud conspiracy. According to the Government’s indictment, Fabio Ochoa Vasquez was one of the leaders of the Medellin Cartel, one of the largest cocaine trafficking and money laundering organizations in the world. In 2001, Ochoa was extradited from Colombia to the U.S. to face charges of conspiring to smuggle approximately 30 tons of powder cocaine into the U.S. per month between 1997 and 1999. Ochoa hired distinguished attorney Roy Black, of the Miami law firm of Black, Srebnick, Kornspan & Stumpf, P.A., and other attorneys to represent him, and the defense in turn retained Mr. Kuehne, of the Law Offices of Benedict P. Kuehne, P.A., to investigate the funds which Ochoa would use to pay his legal team. Kuehne drafted various opinion letters for the offense. The Government alleged that Kuehne was paid for his investigation and opinions by various wire transfers with monies which were the proceeds of specified unlawful activity—the distribution and sale of illegal drugs, including monies from the Colombian “Black Market Peso Exchange” and drug proceeds supplied by undercover U.S. agents.

Kuehne, through his attorney, Jane Moscowitz of Moscowitz & Moscowitz, P.A., filed a motion to dismiss the indictment in July, which may be viewed here, relying on the fact that one of the federal money laundering statutes, 18 U.S.C. § 1957, contains an express exemption for “any transaction necessary to preserve a person’s right to representation as guaranteed by the sixth amendment to the Constitution.” 18 U.S.C. § 1957(f)(1).The motion began with a quote from Banking Crimes: Fraud Money Laundering and Embezzlement, by John K. Villa: "There is an inestimable difference... between expecting a defendant to be able to find an attorney willing to risk his fee, and expecting him to find an attorney willing to risk his personal liberty." Kuehne argued that Congress enacted the exemption in § 1957(f)(1) out of a concern that the threat of prosecution of criminal defense attorneys for accepting fees would have a “chilling effect” on attorneys’ willingness to accept clients, and therefore impose an unacceptable burden on the exercise of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The defense argued that the monies paid fell squarely within § 1957(f)(1)’s exemption and that Count One of the indictment should be dismissed. The District Court agreed and dismissed Count One, and the Eleventh Circuit affirmed in United States v. Velez, No. 09-10199, 2009 WL 3416116 (11th Cir., October 26, 2009).

As reported by the Miami Herald, Kuehne addressed reporters on the steps of the courthouse, stating that he always believed “things would turn out well in the end.” Prior to the allegations against him, he had been a prominent member of the legal community, serving on the Florida Bar board of governors, as a past president of the Dade County Bar Association and as a member of Vice President Al Gore’s legal team in the 2000 Florida presidential election dispute. Kuehne expressed his appreciation to the Department of Justice for the dismissal of the matter. Cynthia Hujar Orr, President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which filed amicus briefs in Kuehne’s case, called the Government’s prosecution of Kuehne “disgraceful.”

 

Trial of Bear Stearns Hedge Fund Managers Cioffi and Tannin Gets Underway

The trial of Bear Stearns hedge fund managers Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin got underway last week. As reported by attorney Jacob Zamansky in Forbes and the New York Daily News, the parties gave opening statements on Thursday. Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Sinclair argued that Bear Stearns financial officer Matthew Tannin allegedly told investors on 11 occasions that he was putting more of his own money into Bear Stearns’ troubled High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Fund and High-Grade Structured Credit Enhanced Leveraged Fund. Tannin allegedly told investors that it would be “silly” to redeem their investments. Sinclair also told the jury that Cioffi failed to disclose to investors that he had transferred $2 million of his own money to another Bear Stearns fund. The prosecution cited alleged incriminating e-mails between Cioffi and Tannin in which the defendants allegedly acknowledged that the subprime mortgage market was “toast” and that they should “close the fund.” Sinclair argued that Cioffi’s and Tannin’s actions were allegedly to save their bonuses and reputations. He spoke to the jury for about 45 minutes.
 

In contrast, Cioffi’s attorney, Dane Butswinkas, delivered a two hour opening statement using charts and exhibits to show the complexity of Bear Stearns’ management structure, hedge funds and the operation of the collateralized debt obligation (CDO) market. Butswinkas argued that the defendants were the victims of market forces beyond their control and that the defendants did their best to predict the future performance of the market and the funds. Tannin’s counsel, Susan Brune, also spent approximately two hours explaining to the jury about hedge funds, CDOs and market risk. Brune attributed the failure of the funds on a “run on the bank” and argued that the funds’ investors were well aware of the risks. Brune characterized the prosecution’s theory as “I lost my money, therefore there has to be a fraud.” The defense argued that the e-mails were taken out of context, and that worrying about markets is not a crime.
 

Nearly 300 investors kept their investments in the hedge funds, which lost $1.4 billion in July of 2007. The two hedge funds had experienced positive growth until the preceding quarter, however an internal Bear Stearns report showed that securitized subprime mortgages were losing value fast.
 

Bear Stearns Hedge Fund Managers' Trial Begins Today

The trial of former Bear Stearns hedge fund managers Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin begins today in Brooklyn, as reported by Bloomberg. A jury will be selected today. 

Cioffi and Tannin are charged with allegedly causing losses of $1.4 billion to investors by misleading investors regarding the health of two Bear Stearns hedge funds, the Bear Stearns High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Enhanced Leverage Master Fund Ltd. ("Enhanced Fund"). and the Bear Stearns High- Grade Structured Credit Strategies Master Fund Ltd. ("Master Fund"). Cioffi was a hedge fund manager and Tannin was an attorney who served as chief operating officer. They are charged with alleged conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud. Cioffi is also charged with alleged insider trading.

Cioffi's and Tannin's attorneys have argued that the collapse of Bear Stearns was actually the result of the failure of two other Bear Stearns hedge funds a year prior to the failure of the Enhanced Fund and the Master Fund.

U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell, a former member of the Justice Department’s Enron Corp. Task Force, and Assistant U.S. Attorney James McGovern, are leading the prosecution of Cioffi and Tannin. The prosecution alleges that Cioffi and Tannin were promoting the funds to investors while knowing that the health of the funds was in serious risk. The government has listed 38 witnesses and 532 exhibits which it intends to present at trial, however, the centerpiece of the government's evidence is expected to be Cioffi's and Tannin's own words in e-mails.Cioffi allegedly sent one e-mail on March 15, 2007, with the subject-line "Fear," stating that he was fearful of what the markets were going to do. In another e-mail, Tannin allegedly stated that if AAA bonds were downgraded, there would be no way for the funds to make money. Google released additional private e-mails to the government last week. Prosecutors allege that e-mails show Cioffi and Tannin allegedly boasting of how they were luring investors to invest more money in the funds at the same time they knew that the funds were in trouble. Witnesses for the government are expected to include Bear Stearns employees and investors in the hedge funds.

Cioffi is defended by attorney Brendan Sullivan, who won reversal of the charges against Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, as well as Margaret Keeley and Dane Butswinkas, all of Williams & Connolly LLP. Tannin is being represented by Susan Brune and Nina Beattie of Brune & Richard LLP. Commentators have observed that the e-mails by Cioffi and Tannin can be read in "many" ways.

A year following the failure of the funds, Bear Stearns itself failed and was purchased by JP Morgan Chase & Co. The failure of Bear Stearns was accompanied by failures of Lehman Brothers Holdings, Inc., and AIG. Losses from U.S. banks and mortgage companies in the financial collapse total at least $396 billion.

 

Bear Stearns Hedge Fund Managers Gear Up for Trial; Google Releases Manager's Private E-mails

As reported by Chris Herring over at the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, the trial of former Bear Stearns hedge fund managers Matthew Tannin and Ralph Cioffi is scheduled to commence next Monday. And now the government has obtained Tannin's e-mails from his private Google account. Tannin had closed the Google account on the advice of his counsel. Prosecutors suspected that Tannin was hiding something. Google released the e-mails a few days ago. U.S. District Judge Frederic Block for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York has ruled that since the e-mails have been released, the government cannot explore whether Tannin was trying to hide anything from investors in his personal e-mails, stating that it would confuse the jury and citing the fact that the government already intends to present 38 witnesses and over 500 exhibits in its case against the defendants.

E-mails between Tannin and Cioffi allegedly expressing concern over the health of the hedge funds have already been released to the public. The newly-produced e-mails are expected to reflect similar alleged concerns by the defendants.

As reported by CNN, Cioffi and Tannin are the only two persons to face criminal charges resulting from the worst financial crisis in U.S. history since the Great Depression. The defendants are alleged to have misled investors in two of Bear Stearns' hedge funds to believe that the condition of the funds was better than it in fact was. The hedge funds collapsed in the Spring of 2008, resulting in over $1 billion in losses to investors.

Legal observers have characterized Cioffi's and Tannin's prosecution as a "test case" and have cited the government's need to make an example to discourage similar conduct in the financial sector. Although Cioffi and Tannin may have offered the government what it believed to be its most clear cut case, commentators have noted it may be difficult to prove that Cioffi and Tannin possessed an alleged intent to defraud investors rather than merely being misguided or stupid, given the fact that very few foresaw the subprime mortgage crisis and the collapse of the market.

SEC Eyes Sir Robert Allen Stanford's Upaid Gambling Debt

 

As we check back with Sir Robert Allen Standford, the most noteworthy development is perhaps that the Bellagio, a Las Vegas casino and luxury resort, filed suit against Stanford last week in a Clark County Nevada district court for an alleged $258,480 in unpaid gambling debts.The lawsuit alleges that Stanford signed for 14 markers between January 15 and 22 of this year.

Oddly enough, Stanford is allegedly a self-professed Southern Baptist who reportedly infused the boardroom culture in his companies with religion, surrounded himself with individuals he met through church and used church contacts to find customers. Furthermore, Stanford's adoptive home, Antigua and Barbuda, is one of the leading host nations for the multi-billion dollar international online gambling  industry. Stanford, however, reportedly refused to deal with persons involved in gambling in his business dealings. While Stanford's companies based in Antigua have ceased operations, its online gambling sector has continued to thrive.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, which has frozen Stanford's assets, is investigating the Bellagio markers.

 

Bear Stearns Execs Head for Trial on Wire and Securities Fraud Charges

As is well known, Bear Stearns, one of the largest investment banks in the world, was sold to JP Morgan Chase and effectively ceased to exist in March of 2008, after two Bear Stearns hedge funds invested in collateralized debt obligations—mainly subprime home loans—and once worth approximately $1.6 billion, lost nearly all of their value. The collapse of Bear Stearns was the harbinger for a succession of massive failures of financial institutions, including Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and AIG, triggering the current global recession.

As reported by New York Magazine, Reuters and the Daily Telegraph, two managers of the hedge funds, Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin were charged in June in the Eastern District of New York with several counts of wire and securities fraud for allegedly misleading investors regarding the status of the funds in the Spring of 2007. Cioffi, a hedge fund manager, and Tannin, the Chief Operating Officer of Bear Stearns Asset Management (BSAM), have pled not guilty. The collapse in value of the funds cost investors approximately $1.4 billion. When traders wanted to sell some of the funds’ subprime mortgages, no one wanted to buy them.

The trial of Cioffi and Tannin is set to begin in October. The evidence against Cioffi and Tannin consists largely of e-mails between them and investors describing the funds as “an awesome opportunity,” despite allegedly knowing that the funds had problems. Bear Stearns investors are expected to testify at the trial. Both men have consistently maintained their innocence. They face a potential 20 years in prison if convicted.

Cioffi is also charged with alleged insider trading for withdrawing $2 million of his own money from the funds. The government alleges that he engaged in hundreds of transactions involving the funds without the necessary approval by the fund’s directors and despite being warned about conflicts of interest. All trades between Bear Stearns, a securities firm, and BSAM, an asset management firm, were supposed to be vetted by an independent committee. In the Fall of 2006, Bear Stearns ordered a moratorium on such internal trades by Cioffi. Prosecutors sought to introduce evidence of Cioffi’s alleged insider trading in order to demonstrate how Cioffi allegedly operated.

British bank Barclays, a shareholder of one of the funds, also filed suit against Cioffi and Tannin for alleged fraud, however, the suit has been withdrawn.

The prosecution of Cioffi and Tannin makes conspicuously noticeable the fact that no senior executives from Bear, Lehman Brothers, AIG, etc., have been charged with any wrongdoing in the fallout from the financial crisis.

 

Pfizer Enters Largest Healthcare Fraud Settlement in U.S. History

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, inc., will pay $2.3 billion to the Federal government and 49 States to settle allegations that it violated federal regulations in promoting several drugs, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The settlement is the largest in U.S. history to date in a healthcare fraud case. 

Georgia will receive $21.7 million as part of the settlement. A spokesperson for the Georgia Attorney General's office told the media that Georgia's portion of the settlement funds would be earmarked for Georgia's Medicaid program.

The U.S. Department of Justice had accused the New York-based pharmaceutical company and its subsidiaries of conducting marketing campaigns to promote drugs including Geodon, Lyrica, Zyvox, and no longer marketed Bextra, for uses not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The government also alleged that Pfizer gave kickbacks such as cash, travel and entertainment to members of the healthcare industry in order to persuade them to prescribe these drugs and others, including Lipitor, Zyrtec and Viagra. The only State which did not join in the suit was South Carolina.

Pharmacia & Upjohn Co., a subsidiary of Pfizer, has pled guilty to a felony charge of violating the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and will pay a fine of $1.3 billion.

Half-Billion Dollar Medicaid False Claims Case--Largest in U.S. History--Settles; Result of Action by Lone Whistleblower Over Billing for Therapy Services by Schools

Late last month, New York State and New York City agreed to settle a Medicaid False Claims with the Federal Government for nearly $540 million, the largest Medicaid False Claims case in U.S. history.

The case was the result of the actions of a single whistleblower in upstate New York over school billing for speech therapy services. The allegations in the suit alleged that New York State and City improperly billed Medicaid nearly half a billion for speech, physical and occupational therapy, psychological counseling and transportation services for schoolchildren over a 7 year period.

As a result of the whistleblower's allegations, he U.S. Department of Health and Human Services conducted audits which revealed statewide Medicaid billing problems. An report by the former U.S. General Accounting Office in April of 2000 found that New York alone accounted for 44 percent of school-based Medicaid claims nationwide. The whistleblower was represented by attorney David A. Koenigsberg of Menz Bonner & Komar LLP.

The settlement, which was reached on July 20, is the seventh largest whistleblower settlement in U.S. history, and the largest involving false claims to Medicaid. New York State will also enter into a  "Program Compliance Agreement" with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services governing the manner in which the New York Department of Education offers future School and Preschool Supportive Health Services Programs, the first agreement of its kind between the federal government and a state government.

The New York case is a prime example of the effective role private citizens can have in exposing fraud and waste against government programs and of taxpayer dollars. The federal False Claims Act provides incentives to individuals to expose such fraud and waste by allowing individuals to share in a portion of any recovery by the government.


Sister Testifies on Behalf of Alleged Atlanta Terrorist Ehsanul Islam Sadequee; Closing Arguments and Deliberations Today

As reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Associated Press, closing arguments have started in the terrorism trial of Atlanta area native and former Georgia Tech student Ehsanul Islam Sadequee. Sadequee is representing himself and will present his own closing argument.

Sadequee called only two witnesses in his defense before resting his case, including his older sister, Sharanika Sonali Sadequee. Sadequee told the Court that he did not want to testify in his defense. His sister testified that he was quiet, inquisitive and nonviolent and had traveled to Bangladesh to marry his long-time love. The government contends that the trip was actually a cover for Sadequee's alleged plan to attend a terrorist training camp. Sharanika Sadequee testified that her brother has been prohibited from discussing certain subjects in the trial, including his arrest in Bangladesh, which she called a kidnapping, and an attack on Sadequee by another inmate while he has been in custody. Sadequee's mother prayed in the courtroom throughout the proceedings.

U.S. District Court Judge William S. Duffey, Jr., scolded Sadequee for attempting to introduce his wedding photographs into evidence at the last minute. The Judge denied Sadequee's motion for acquittal and ruled that there was sufficient evidence to take the case to the jury on all four counts. The jury will begin deliberations later today.

Representative William Jefferson Convicted on 11 of 16 Counts

We did not weigh in yesterday, but the biggest federal criminal defense news was clearly the conviction of U.S. Representative William Jefferson of Louisiana in his criminal trial in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, as reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The jury of eight women and four men returned a verdict of guilty against Jefferson on 11 of 16 counts, including 2 counts of conspiracy to solicit bribes to a public official in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), 2 counts of soliciting bribes, 3 counts of honest services fraud, 3 counts of money laundering, and one count of racketeer influenced and corrupt organization (RICO) violations. As a testament to Jefferson's defense, the jury did not find Jefferson guilty on three of the honest services charges as well as a charge for obstruction of justice and a count for violation of the FCPA.

Jefferson, who is 62, faced a maximum of 235 years in prison if convicted on all counts. He has been allowed to remain released pending his sentencing on October 30. A forfeiture hearing will be held regarding his assets.

Jefferson was the first African-American congressman from Louisiana since Reconstruction.

Alleged Terrorist Ehsanul Sadequee Delivers Prayer and Opening Statement; Alleged Co-Conspirator Testifies

Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, 23, nicknamed "Shifa," which means "Cure," is representing himself in his trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on four counts of allegedly conspiring to provide material support to terrorism. As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Associated Press, Sadequee began his 14 minute opening statement with a prayer. He told the jury that he had talked about jihadist "fantasies" but that it was empty talk and that there was no plan to carry out acts of terrorism. Sadequee denied conspiring with known terrorists. He told the jurors that he only discussed jihad in online chat rooms."If everything is a question mark, can there be a plan?" he asked the jurors.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McBurney argued to the jury that Sadequee only needed to orchestrate the crime, not carry out any terrorism. The government claimed that Sadequee began visiting online sites frequented by Islamic militants and leaving messages regarding his intent to join the Taliban shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when he was only 15.

The government presented testimony by Omer Kamal, an Atlanta accountant, former Georgia tech student and friend of Sadequee's. Kamal testified that he, Sadequee and Syed Haris Ahmed, who was convicted in June, watched training videos by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, and practiced jihad attack techniques with paintball guns in North Georgia. He stated that he backed out of the group when they started planning to visit the Middle East to link up with terrorist groups. Kamal cooperated with the FBI and agreed to testify against Sadequee after becoming concerned that he was under surveillance. He said that the group discussed attacking targets including the White House, the U.S. Capitol, Guantanamo Bay Prison and Abu Ghraib. Kamal said he had slipped a note under his friends' doors when he decided to leave the group. Sadequee then went with Ahmed to Toronto, Canada, to meet with terrorists there. Sadequee spent over an hour cross-examining Kamal yesterday.

Mr. McBurney argued that Sadequee sent videos of the alleged targets to a terrorist suspect in Britain disguising the videos with titles such as "jimmy's 13th birthday party" and "volleyball contest." He claimed that Sadequee subsequently traveled to Bangladesh in order to get married, but also to link up with terrorist groups. Sadequee was arrested in Bangladesh in 2006. Mr. McBurney said that Sadequee communicated with other terror suspects including Ahmed and Mirsad Bektasevic, a Balkan-born Swede who was convicted in 2007 of planning to blow up a target in Europe to force the pullout of foreign troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ahmed, who is awaiting sentencing, has agreed to testify against Sadequee, and will take the stand today.

Sadequee has worn a gray tunic with a beard and long hair during the proceedings. Sadequee's mother, Shirin, sat in the audience during the proceedings and wept and prayed for her son. If convicted Sadequee faces up to 60 years in prison.

 

Second Alleged Atlanta Terrorist Ehsanul Islam Sadequee Begins Trial; Representing Self

We closely followed the trial of Syed Haris Ahmed, who was convicted for providing material support to terrorism in early June--all of our posts may be found here. The trial of Ahmed's alleged co-conspirator, Ehsanul Islam Sadequee on terrorism charges began yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Sadequee has apparently taken a page from Ahmed, who delivered a highly unusual closing argument in his own case, and has opted to represent himself and will present his own opening statements, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Sadequee has opted for a jury trial unlike his alleged co-conspirator, who was tried by the same judge, the Honorable William S. Duffey. The parties completed jury selection yesterday.

Attorney Don Samuel is serving as stand-by counsel for Sadequee. Mr. Samuel told the Court that Sadequee did not understand what it meant to represent himself. Judge Duffey replied that he had informed Sadequee regarding what it meant to represent himself numerous times.

Sadequee, who is nicknamed “Shifa,” was born in Virginia in 1986, and is of Bangladeshi descent. He and Ahmed are most infamously accused of videotaping landmarks in Washington, D.C., in April of 2005, for purposes of terrorism, including the United States Capitol and the headquarters building of the World Bank. It is also alleged that Sadequee and Ahmed engaged in paramilitary training in North Georgia; met with a circle of terrorists in Toronto, Canada, in February of 2005; and sent the video of the alleged targets to Younis Tsouli, a terrorist in the United Kingdom.

Congress Considers Over-Criminalization and Over-Federalization of Criminal Law

As noted at White Collar Criminal Prof Blog and The Justice Fellowship, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security held a hearing last week on "Over-criminalization of Conduct and Over-federalization of Criminal Law." Organizations which addressed the Subcommittee on issues of over-criminalization and over-federalization included the American Bar Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.

The hearing considered the lack of distinction between federal criminal and civil offenses, as well as over-federalization of criminal law where federal criminal laws have been enacted to cover offenses already subject to state criminal laws, usually providing for harsher penalties. The Subcommittee noted the existence of approximately 4,500 federal criminal laws, with approximately 50 new criminal laws enacted by Congress each year.

The hearing should be welcome news to most federal criminal defense practitioners. Reform in these areas is badly needed. In some cases, certain prosecutions of alleged federal crimes would be more equitably, and less expensively, handled through the imposition of civil fines and penalties. Furthermore, in many cases, State prosecutorial entities are as capable as Federal entities to prosecute offenders in areas where State and Federal criminal law overlaps. The Blog looks forward to the proposals for reform which result from the hearing.

Jury Begins Deliberating Rep. William Jefferson's Fate Following Over 2 & 1/2 Hours of Jury Instructions

As reported by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Judge T.S. Ellis, III, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia read instructions to the jury yesterday which lasted over 2 & 1/2 hours, and the jury retired for its deliberations in the case against former U.S. Representative William Jefferson. The jury deliberated for about four hours and will re-convene to continue deliberations this morning.

The jury weighing the evidence in the six week long trial of Jefferson on 16 criminal counts, including racketeering, honest services fraud and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, consists of two white males, six white females, two black males and two black females. Jefferson's case is the first time the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has been applied to a public official. The Court sent three alternate jurors home yesterday, instructing them to remain "pristine" with regard to their exposure to information regarding the case.Jefferson's lead attorney, Robert Trout, told reporters that Jefferson intends to be present at Court each morning when the jury arrives.

Closing arguments were heard earlier in the week, with numerous media outlets and journalists from Louisiana in attendance.

Trial Ends in Case of Former Representative William Jefferson; Jury Deliberations to Begin Today

The trial of former Representative William Jefferson, which has gone on for six weeks in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, will come to an end today. As reported by Ashby Jones at the Wall Street Journal Law Blog and UPI, both sides gave their closing arguments yesterday. Judge T.S. Ellis will give jury instructions and likely send the case to the jury this morning.

The case is best known for the infamous discovery of $90,000 in cash stuffed in boxes for burgers and pie crusts in the freezer at Jefferson's home by federal agents. Jefferson was indicted in 2007 on 16 counts of bribery, racketeering, and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The government charged Jefferson with using his position to promote business ventures in West Africa in exchange for cash payments for his family.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca Bellows argued during the govenrment's closing that Jefferson allegedly schemed to give at least $100,000 in cash (the "freezer money") to the Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, as a bribe in exchange for granting rights to a telecommunications company with ties to Jefferson's family. The government also played video and audio tapes of meetings between Jefferson and Virginia businesswoman Lori Mody, who was working for the government as an informant. In one video, Jefferson supposedly informed Mody that the cash would be "doled out" to "make sure the hook is in there," and on another tape Jefferson allegedly referred to the bribe as "a goodwill present."

The defense maintained during trial that Jefferson's conduct was stupid or unethical, but not criminal. Defense attorney Robert Trout told the jury during his closing arguments that the government wanted to make Jefferson's actions a crime when it was really a "gray area." He told the jury that Jefferson only agreed to give the money to Abubaker in order to please Ms. Mody.

Prior to closing arguments, Judge Ellis refused to dismiss an obstruction of justice count against Jefferson. Jefferson faces a lengthy prison sentence if convicted.

 

DeKalb County Man Arrested in Multimillion Dollar Ponzi Scheme; Victims Included Parents

 

As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB Radio, Anthony Ray, a DeKalb County resident, solicited money from investors by promising them large returns from real estate investments by his company, Key Funding Group. He would frequent local churches to locate victims, making presentations to the congregations. Ray lulled his victims by giving them back portions of their investment and falsely referring to them as returns. Ray hosted his victims at several locations around the Atlanta area, including his condominium in Buckhead as well as a $680,000 home in Decatur, Georgia, which belonged to one of his victims and in which he ran his office. In all, Ray stole at least $5 million from over 30 investors.

Ray stole $160,000 from his own parents. He started Key Funding Group with his father, Calvin Ray, 70, and took out large loans using his father’s identity and his parents’ home as collateral. His parents subsequently turned him in. Ray’s twin brother, Antonio, told reporters that Ray took everything his parents had, and that their father, decided that they had to prosecute.

Ray previously served five years in prison for stealing his brother's identity.

 

 

Sir Robert Allen Stanford's Continuing Pretrial Detention Blues

Sir Robert Stanford has filed a Motion for Relief from Oppressive Jail Conditions. Stanford is currently being held at the Joe Corley Detention Facility in Conroe, Texas. The Motion alleges that temperatures have reached 100 degrees and that the cell in which Stanford is being housed in a cell with 8 to 10 other men and with no windows or air conditioning. Stanford requests transfer to the Federal Detention Center in downtown Houston. The Motion also asserts, as a ground for transfer, the fact that the government has provided discovery in electronic form and the Joe Corley Facility does not permit the use of electronic devices. Stanford's counsel, Dick DeGuerin, claims that he has tried to work these issues out with the U.S. Marshals Service and the staff of the Joe Corley Detention Facility, but to no avail.

A status conference has been set in Stanford's case for September 10, which the defendants moved to continue from August 17. Meanwhile, Stanford's appeal of the District Court's denial of pretrial release is listed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, U.S. v. Stanford, Case No. 09-20444.

While in no way meaning to detract from the charges against Stanford and his codenfendants, which are extremely serious in magnitude, this Blog notes that arch-Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff and celebrity attorney-turned-crook Marc Dreier were both granted pretrial release and were confined to their residences with electronic monitoring devices. Given that the government has frozen all of Stanford's assets effectively starving his defense of funding, and that the defense has alleged deliberate misrepresentations by the prosecution in arguing for pretrial detention, pretrial release appears to be appropriate in Stanford's case. We will await the hopefully speedy resolution of the bail issue by the Fifth Circuit.

FBI Operation "Bid Rig" Nabs 44 Suspects in New Jersey Public Corruption, Illegal Organ Transplant and Designer Merchandise Schemes

 

The 44 public officials and other persons arrested in the massive sweep on Thursday by the FBI, the result of efforts by the convicted son of a rabbi, include:

Daniel Van Pelt, State Assemblyman;

Peter Cammarano III, Mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey;

Dennis Elwell, Mayor of Secaucus, New Jersey;

Anthony Suarez, Mayor of Ridgefield, New Jersey;

Leona Beldini, Deputy Mayor of Jersey City;

Mariano Vega, President of the Jersey City Council, Commissioner with the Jersey City Housing Authority and Director of Parks, Engineering and Planning for Hudson County, New Jersey;

L. Harvey Smith, President of the Jersey City Council and former State Assemblyman;

Lou Manzo former State Assemblyman;

Edward Cheatam, Jersey City Housing Authority Commissioner and Hudson County Affirmative Action officer;

Michael Schaffer an employee of the North Hudson Sewerage Authority and former Hoboken Councilman;

John Guarini, city taxi inspector and former 13th District Congressional candidate

Denis Jaslow, former 32nd District State Senate candidate;

Guy Catrillo, Michael J. Manzo and LaVern Webb Washington, former Jersey City City Council candidates;

Richard Greene, former aide to L. Harvey Smith;

Joseph Cardwell, Jack Shaw, political operatives;

Also Moshe Altman, Charles Amon, Joseph Castagna, Schmulik Cohen, Levi Deutsch, Yeshayahu Ehrental, Mordchai Fish, Yolie Gertner, David S. Goldhirsh, Shimon Haber, Eliahu Ben Haim, Itzak Friedlander, Saul Kassin, Maher A. Khalil, Ron Manzo, Edmond Nahum, Abraham Pollack, Levi Izhak Rosenbaum, Lori Serrano, Jack Shaw, Vincent Tabbachino, Jeffrey Williamson, Lavel Schwartz, Binyomin Spira, Naftoly Weber and Arye Weiss.

As reported by various sources here, here and here, the arrests were part of a 10-year, two-track investigation by the FBI, code named “Bid Rig” which uncovered three criminal schemes: bribery of public officials; an international money laundering ring operating between Deal, New Jersey, and Israel; and trafficking in illegal kidneys and Gucci bags. The schemes were uncovered by a confidential informant had been charged with bank fraud in 2006 and agreed to work with the FBI. Five rabbis from New Jersey and New York were among those arrested. Hundreds of federal agents raided the suspects’ homes in New Jersey and New York. There were so many arrestees that they had to be brought to FBI headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, by bus. One religious leader arrived in a Mercedes-Benz. Bail was set as high as $3 million for some of the suspects.

FBI Special Agent Ed Kahrer stated to reporters that New Jersey has one of the worst, if not the worst, public corruption problems in the nation, and that corruption has become “engrained” in New Jersey’s “political cult.” Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph J. Marra, Jr., announced that the conspiracy, which was headed by rabbis cloaked their criminal activity in a “facade of rectitute.”

Investigators stated that they have hundreds of hundreds of hours of video and audio recordings containing evidence of money laundering and bribery.

The Public Corruption and Bribery Cases

A criminal complaint filed against Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano, 32, alleges that Cammarano accepted a bribe in exchange for giving priority to an FBI informant posing as a real estate developer wanting to develop property in Hoboken. Hoboken’s waterfront contains prime real estate across from Manhattan. The informant is believed to have been Solomon Dwek, who was arrested in 2007 and charged with bank fraud for bouncing a $25 million check. Dwek is the son of Rabbi Isaac Dwek of the Deal Synagogue in Deal, New Jersey, which was raided by the FBI on Thursday. Dwek told the conspirators that he was in bankruptcy and was interested in hiding his assets.

The informant met Cammarano while he was running for Mayor and told Cammarano that he would give him $10,000. The complaint alleges that Cammarano promised the informant that he would sponsor the plans and treat the informant like a “friend.” Michael Schaffer, a North Hudson Utilities Authority commissioner and former Hoboken Councilman, allegedly acted as a middle man for the bribe.

Cammarano has only been in office for three weeks. He allegedly told the informant that those who oppose him get “ground into powder.” When the discussion turned to a possible runoff election with Cammarano’s challenger Dawn Zimmer, who lost the election by only 161 votes, Cammarano allegedly told the informant “I could be indicted and still get 85 to 95 percent of the vote.” Cammarano’s attorney, Joseph Hayden, has made a statement that Cammarano intends to fight the charges.

Cammarano is charged with allegedly accepting a total of $25,000 in cash bribes. Dennis Elwell, 64, Mayor of Secaucus is charged with allegedly accepting a $10,000 cash bribe and Anthony Suarez, 42, Mayor of Ridgefield, is also charged with allegedly accepting a $10,000 cash payment—for his legal defense fund.

L. Harvey Smith, Jersey City Council President, and several other current and former Jersey City public officials also are accused of allegedly accepting money to help the fake developer gain permits and approvals. Deputy Mayor of Jersey City Leona Beldini is charged with conspiracy to commit extortion for allegedly accepting $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions.

FBI agents raided the home and office of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner and former State Senator Joe Doria as part of the investigation. Doria resigned on Thursday afternoon. Officials have not stated whether he will face charges.

The Money Laundering and Black Market Organ and Designer Goods Cases

Five rabbis from Deal and Brooklyn were charged with alleged money laundering and sale of fake designer bags. The rabbis were approached by Dwek and dealt with him, despite the fact that it was well known that he had been charged by the government. Dwek’s dealings with the rabbis eventually uncovered the public corruption case when a Jersey City building inspector accepted a $20,000 bribe. Rabbi Saul Kassin of Deal is charged with allegedly laundering more than $200,000. Mordchai Fish, a rabbi at Congregation Sheves Achim, and his brother, Lavel Schwartz, laundered nearly $600,000 for Dwek, giving him cash and taking a 15% cut.

Agents raided “cash houses” run by associates of the rabbis, including a charity called Bnoth Jerusalem and a beeper store.

Levy Rosenbaum, a Brooklyn resident, was charged in a criminal complaint with allegedly conspiring to broker a sale of a human kidney for transplant for $160,000. The complaint further alleged that Rosenbaum had been selling kidneys from vulnerable persons in Israel for 10 years, which he would purchase for $10,000 and sell in the U.S. for $160,000.

The public corruption scandals will undoubtedly figure into the current U.S. Senate contest between Senator Jon Corzine and former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, who claims to have obtained 130 convictions of elected and appointed officials on corruption charges.

 

Attorney General Holder's Remarks on the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Program

On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder addressed the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces and Asset Forfeiture Program's National Leadership Conference. Mr. Holder spoke regarding the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Program, an inter-agency program established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. OCDETF combines the resources and expertise of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Coast Guard in cooperation with the Department of Justice Criminal Division, Tax Division and its U.S. Attorney’s Offices, as well as state and local law enforcement. Its mission is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.

Mr. Holder praised the track record of OCDETF and the Asset Forfeiture Program. He mentioned that, since the inception of the Attorney General's Consolidated Priority Organization Target (CPOT) List in 2002, OCDETF has dismantled or disrupted over 1,2000 CPOT and CPOT-linked organizations.

The Attorney General discussed the innovation of OCDETF in establishing the OCDETF Fusion Center to gather intelligence on drug trafficking and money laundering organizations from human and electronic sources in its "Compass" database. Mr. Holder also stated that the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center -- or "IOC-2"--has recently entered into a partnership with the OCDETF Fusion Center to add data to the Compass database in order to "broaden our capability to attack organized crime in all its forms."

Mr. Holder also remarked on the success of permanent OCDETF Strike Forces in Boston, New York, Atlanta, Tampa, San Juan, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego, with an additional Strike Force planned for El Paso. He mentioned that OCDETF has begun placing Document and Media Exploitation (DOMEX) Teams in the Atlanta and Houston Strike Forces, which permit agents to rapidly capture and exploit evidence and permit prosecutors to quickly develop trial exhibits.

The Attorney General cited the national security threat of the Mexican drug cartels. Mr. Holder furthermore discussed the success of the Asset Forfeiture Program and noted that, since 1984, more than $13 billion in net federal forfeiture proceeds have been deposited into the Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund and more than $4.5 billion has been equitably shared with more than 8,000 state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide, thereby supplementing their constrained resources without further taxing the public. The Attorney General stated that, in fiscal year 2008 alone, approximately $500 million was paid to more 39,000 victims.

Mr. Holder also praised Operation Honor Student, which involved a task force led by the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Criminal Division, and the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, and resulted in the forfeiture of $2.7 million from the accounts of GeneScience, one of the largest biopharmaceutical companies in China which had been involved in the illegal distribution of Human Growth Hormone into the United States. He noted that the task force employed a new statutory vehicle-- 18 U.S.C. § 981(k) --enacted as part of the Patriot Act and used for the first time, which permitted the Government to seize the funds, physically located in China, from the corresponding accounts of Chinese banks in New York. Task force agents estimate that at the time of the investigation, GeneScience manufactured approximately 90% of the hGH being illegally sold and distributed in the United States.

Cap and Trade/H.R. 2454 New Criminal Provision: "Fraud and false statements in connection with regulated allowances" (Proposed Amendment to 18 U.S.C. ยง 1041)

New legislation typically means new criminal laws, and the White House's and Congress' recent ‘‘American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009,’’ H.R. 2454, better known as the "Waxman-Markey Bill" or "Cap and Trade Bill," is certainly no exception. The bill is over 1,000 pages long and, for those with copious amounts of time, may be viewed in its entirety here. H.R. 2454 was introduced on May 15, 2009, and narrowly passed in the House of Representatives on June 26, 2009, by a vote of 219 to 212. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill sometime this Fall.

FCDB seeks to keep readers and practitioners alike abreast of changes in criminal law posed by such new legislation. Somewhat surprisingly, a search of H.R. 2454 reveals just one criminal provision, Section 1041, page 1045, in Part IV of the bill entitled "Carbon Market Assurance," which provides:

§ 1041. Fraud and false statements in connection with regulated allowances
        Whoever in connection with a transaction involving a regulated allowance (as defined in section 401(a) of the Federal Power Act, as added by section 341 of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009), knowingly—
        (1) makes or uses a materially false or misleading statement, writing, representation, scheme,
or device; or
        (2) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device any material fact, shall be fined not more than $5,000,000 (or $25,000,000 in the case of an organization) or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.
        (2) The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 47 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new item:
‘‘1041. Fraud and false statements in connection with regulated allowances.’’

A "regulated allowance" is defined in Section 401 of H.R. 2454 as "any emission allowance, compensatory allowance, offset credit, or Federal renewable electricity credit established or issued under the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009." The proposed changes would be to 18 U.S.C. § 1041, which currently prohibits fraud in connection with a major disaster or emergency benefits.

The Waxman-Markey/Cap and Trade legislation amends the Federal Power Act to require corporations which emit pollutants such as carbon to hold the allowances, which represent the right to emit a certain amount of pollutant. It also would create “regulated allowance derivatives,” which are financial instruments derived from the allowances. The derivative instruments would be purchased and traded by corporations, financial institutions and funds. The proposed change to 18 U.S.C. § 1041 represents a typical fraud/false statement criminal provision for new legislation, albeit with stiff penalties.

Sir Allen Stanford Remains in Custody Pending Appeal

As we have noted, the prosecution of wealthy, international financier Sir Robert Allen Stanford has been characterized from the outset by vigorous disputes over bond for Stanford. The prosecution has argued that Stanford poses a risk of flight given his international connections and the potential that he possesses resources hidden overseas. The defense, led by attorney Dick DeGuerin, has hit back, arguing that Stanford possesses considerable ties to the U.S. and voluntarily surrendered himself, and further charging that the prosecution has made numerous knowing misrepresentations in arguing against bond for Stanford.

The U.S. magistrate judge had ordered Stanford to be released on $500,000 bond, however the District Court Judge reversed the order and ordered Stanford to remain in custody. Last Friday, Stanford's attorneys appealed the Court's bond determination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The government is certainly pulling out all the stops in putting pressure on Stanford, who is charged in an alleged Ponzi scheme which allegedly lost investors $7 billion. Not only has it managed to deny him bond, but it has frozen his assets and those of his companies. Yesterday, the defense was granted permission by the Court to file a motion regarding attorney's fees ex parte and under seal.

 

"Nuwaubian" Leader and Mass Child Molestor Dwight York Seeks to Vacate 135 Year Sentence Based on Alleged Prosecutorial Misconduct

As reported in the Macon Telegraph, Dwight "Malachi" York, former leader of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors who was indicted and convicted on over 100 counts of child molestation in April 2004 and setenced to 135 years, has filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia to vacate his sentence. York, who has been a minister and a musician, is best know as the founder of "Nuwaubianism," an unorthodox religious sect established in the 1970s. In 1993, York moved the Nuwaubians from upstate New York to a compound in Putnam County, Georgia, near Eatonton. York was arrested for sexually molesting dozens of children in 2002. The charges against York were truly astounding and hideous in their magnitude--author Bill Osinsky, in the fact sheet for his book Ungodly, reveals that state prosecutors literally had to cut back the number of counts listed in the indictment from well over 1,000 to slightly more than 200 because "they feared that a jury simply would not believe the magnitude of York's evil."

York has now filed a motion alleging that Federal Bureau of Investigation agents threatened witnesses to give perjured testimony against him, as well as alleging that the prosecution used unauthenticated tapes of York having sex with minors to taint the jury. The motion attached affidavits from witnesses in York's trial, including one by a witness who alleges that FBI agents took him from his family and transported him to a home in Milledgeville and pointed guns at him until he agreed to give information against York. York is currently incarcerated at the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

 

Indictment in the Sir Robert Allen Stanford Case/Stanford to Be Arraigned in Houston Today

Sir Robert Allen Stanford is scheduled to be arraigned today on conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, money laundering and obstruction charges in Houston in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Stanford is represented by attorneys Dick DeGuerin and Sean Ryan Buckley, of the Houston firm of DeGuerin and Dickson.

According to the docket for the case, the Government obtained its 21-count indictment, which can be viewed here, last Thursday and promptly moved to seal (i.e. prevent public access to) it, and then unsealed it on Friday shortly before Stanford’s arrest.

The Court will likely revisit the issue of whether Stanford is entitled to release before trial. On Friday, the Court ordered co-defendants Mark Kuhrt and Gilberto Lopez released on a $100,000 unsecured bond. However, given Stanford’s considerable wealth and ties abroad, any amount of bond imposed in his case will undoubtedly be far higher, if Stanford is granted pre-trial release at all, that is. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia determined that Stanford posed a high risk of flight, and denied bond.

The case will be tried before U.S. District Judge David Hitter, a brief description of whom can be found here.

Sir Robert Allen Stanford Indicted in Alleged Second Largest Ponzi Scheme in U.S. History

The writers of Federal Criminal Defense Blog have been busy writing on other matter and apologize for the brief hiatus. Much has happened in the sphere of white collar crime even during our short absence, most notably developments in the two largest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history, and we have some catching up to do.

We’ll start with the second largest—an indictment indictment against billionaire Texas financier Sir Robert Allen Stanford, 59, was unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Friday according to the Associated Press  and the BBC. The 50-page indictment alleges that Stanford and six other defendants with allegedly perpetrated a $7 billion Ponzi-style fraud. It charges Stanford and the other defendants with 21 counts, including 7 counts of wire fraud, 10 counts of mail fraud, conspiracy to obstruct an investigation for the Securities and Exchange Commission, obstruction of an investigation by the SEC and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Defendants Laura Pendergest-Holt, Gilberto Lopez and Mark Kuhrt are executives of Stanford Financial Group. Defendant Leroy King, a former bank regulator for the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, allegedly accepted more than $100,000 in bribes from the other defendants in order to allow the alleged scheme to continue.

The indictment alleges that the defendants sold certificates of deposit issued by Stanford International Bank, based in Antigua, to investors, promising large returns. The defendants allegedly made false claims to investors regarding the growth of Stanford Financial Group’s assets.

The scheme had approximately 30,000 investors. Stanford is alleged to have diverted more than $1.6 billion in investment funds in personal loans to himself. More than $1 billion in investment money is allegedly unaccounted for. Stanford is also charged in the indictment with allegedly conspiring to obstruct an SEC proceeding. Stanford Financial Group’s finance chief, James M. Davis, is cooperating with investigators. Davis has been charged with fraud and obstruction in a separate indictment.

Stanford was the owner of a newspaper, two restaurants, and a development company in Antigua, and was a cricket enthusiast and owner of the Stanford cricket grounds in Antigua. In 2008, Stanford staged a $20 million, winner-takes-all, match between a West Indian XI and England at the grounds. In 2006, Stanford became the first American to be knighted by Antigua and Barbuda.

Stanford is represented by attorney Dick DeGuerin, who has issued a statement to the press that Stanford is innocent of the charges. Stanford has made repeated statements as to his innocence and has alleged that no money was lost.

Stanford surrendered to the FBI on Thursday and had his initial appearance on Friday. U.S. Magistrate Judge Hannah Lauck determined that Stanford posed a flight risk and ordered him to remain in custody pending a future detention hearing in Houston. Several governments have frozen his assets. Stanford faces as much as 250 years in prison if convicted.

Syed Haris Ahmed Trial: Allegations

 

By way of background, the Government originally charged Syed Haris Ahmed in a sealed indictment filed on March 23, 2006. The Government obtained a Superseding Indictment on July 19, 2006. It has charged Ahmed and his co-defendant, Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, in violation of Title 18 United States Code Sections 956 and 2332b; one count of providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists, in violation of Title 18, Sections 956, 2332b and 2339A; one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, in violation of Title 18, Section 2339B; and one count of attempting to provide material support to a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, in violation of Title 18, Section 2339B.

The Government’s Superseding Indictment contains the following facts and allegations:

Ahmed was born in Pakistan in 1984 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen. Sadequee, who is allegedly nicknamed “Shifa,” was born in Virginia in 1986, and is of Bangladeshi descent.

In or around late 2004, Ahmed and Sadequee and another person engaged in alleged paramilitary training, including with paintball guns, in Northwest Georgia.

On or about February 26, 2005, Ahmed and Sadequee traveled to Toronto, Canada, by bus. While in Toronto, Ahmed and Sadequee allegedly met in person with “supporters of violent jihad” and “discussed strategic locations in the United States that were suitable for terrorist attack, including military bases and oil storage facilities and refineries.” Ahmed, Sadequee and the others allegedly also “explored how they might disrupt the world-wide Global Positioning System (GPS)” and “a plan for members of the group to travel to Pakistan to seek and receive paramilitary training that they would then use to engage in violent jihad.”

After returning to Atlanta, in or about March or April 2005, Ahmed and Sadequee further discussed these plans, and also the possibility of attacking Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia.

At or around this time, Sadequee was allegedly in communication with Younis Tsouli, an unindicted co-conspirator in the United Kingdom.

On or about April 10 and 11, 2005, Ahmed and Sadequee traveled to Washington, D.C., in Ahmed’s pickup truck. On April 11, Ahmed and Sadequee allegedly “made short digital video recordings… of symbolic and infrastructure targets of potential terrorist attacks in the Washington, D.C., area, including the United States Capitol; the headquarters building of the World Bank…; the Masonic Temple in Alexandria, Virginia; and a group of large fuel storage tanks near I-95 in northern Virginia.”

On returning to Atlanta, Ahmed allegedly gave the video clips to Sadequee so that he could send the clips to supporters of violent jihad abroad. Sadequee allegedly sent the video clips to Tsouli in the United Kingdom and Tsouli stored the clips on his computer along with other materials relating to violent jihad.

Between March and July 2005, Sadequee allegedly provided Ahmed with the contact information for Abu Umar, an unindicted co-conspirator, and told Ahmed that Abu Umar could assist Ahmed with obtaining paramilitary training in Pakistan. On or about July 17, 2005, Ahmed traveled from Atlanta to Pakistan for the alleged purpose of studying in a madrassa and then obtaining paramilitary training to engage in violent jihad in Kashmir or other locations, including the U.S. Ahmed is alleged to have intended to join Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (“Army of the Righteous”). Ahmed was allegedly unsuccessful in his attempts to enter a madrassa or to obtain paramilitary training, and returned to Atlanta.

On or about August 18, 2005, Sadequee traveled from Atlanta to Bangladesh to allegedly get married and to pursue violent jihad. Sadequee was stopped as he traveled through John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and was discovered to allegedly have two compact discs concealed in the lining of his suitcase which contained a Fairfax County, Virginia, Visitor’s Center map of the Washington area, including the sites of four potential terrorist targets which Sadequee and Ahmed had videotaped in April 2005. Sadequee was interviewed by federal agents and allegedly falsely stated that he had traveled to Toronto alone.

On or about August 19, 2005, Ahmed returned to Atlanta from Pakistan and was interviewed by federal agents at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta. Ahmed allegedly made false and misleading statements about his travel to Canada and Pakistan, allegedly stating that he had made the trips to visit friends and family and to attend a religious school.

In the Fall of 2005, Ahmed allegedly researched shaped explosive charges and methods to defeat surveillance by government authorities. He also allegedly cautioned an individual to avoid discussing certain topics over the telephone.

On or about November 27, 2005, Ahmed allegedly told a supporter of violent jihad of his intent to go abroad again to train for, and engage in, violent jihad, and told the individual to read the indictment against Jose Padilla. At or around this time, Ahmed allegedly reviewed a periodical for gun enthusiasts.

In early 2006, Ahmed allegedly engaged in efforts to detect and evade suspected government surveillance. In March of 2006, agents from the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force engaged in a series of interviews with Ahmed, in which Ahmed allegedly attempted to conceal the true nature of his, Sadequee’s and their alleged co-conspirators’ discussions, activities and plans. After the interviews began, Ahmed communicated with Sadequee in Bangladesh and warned him about the FBI’s interest in their activities.

 

Syed Haris Ahmed Trial: Day 1

 

The trial of Syed Haris Ahmed is Georgia’s most significant terrorism case and we will collect for readers daily information on the trial and additional information. Today’s information on the Ahmed/Sadequee Trial comes from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WSBTV and CNN.

Ahmed is 24, an Atlanta area native and a former student at Georgia Tech. Ahmed waived his right to jury trial, and his case is being tried before District Court Judge William S. Duffey in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia without a jury. Jack Martin, of Martin Brothers, P.C., is representing Ahmed. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McBurney is representing the United States. Ahmed’s co-defendant, Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, will be tried in August. Stephanie Kearns of the Federal Defender Program is representing Sadequee.

On Monday, Mr. Martin gave his opening statements to the Court, describing Ahmed as a confused, frustrated and immature young man who “fell prey” to websites espousing extremist views. Mr. Martin characterized the alleged plans for terrorist acts as “passing random thoughts, momentary ideas, childish fantasies, unformed, inchoate notions.” Mr. Martin argued that Ahmed had the ability to commit the alleged acts but said “No.” He stated that Ahmed’s idea of paramilitary training was shooting paintball guns with a friend in the North Georgia woods.

Mr. McBurney argued that Ahmed “one step removed from the bomb throwers” and intended to wage violent jihad. Mr. McBurney argued that Ahmed was a would-be terrorist who went to Pakistan to join the Taliban. He said that the videos made by Ahmed while allegedly “casing” locations in Washington, D.C., including the Capitol and the Pentagon, were intended to prove to terrorists overseas that Ahmed had access to Washington’s “backyard” and could get in close to targets. McBurney said the government’s case is about supporting terrorism and not actually “pulling the trigger or dropping the bomb.”

FBI Special Agent Mark Richards testified for the government. During Agent Richard’s testimony, the government showed some of the videos. In one video of the World Bank Building, Ahmed bobbed up and down so much that Mr. Martin asked Special Agent Richards “If a terrorist was attacking on a pogo stick, this might be useful, right?” However, another video shows Ahmed and Sadequee driving past the Pentagon with Sadequee stating “This is where our brothers attacked.”

 

Constructive Amendments to the Indictment in the Eleventh Circuit

 

The government’s case in many instances will evolve or shift to some extent over the course of a criminal prosecution. It may be a long time between indictment and trial, and the prosecution may come into possession of new evidence before trial, or may not have thoroughly reviewed the evidence which it does possess until after the return of the indictment. In addition, the prosecution may adjust its arguments or evidence in reaction to the defense. Whatever the reason, the prosecution in many criminal cases may determine to argue or present evidence at trial regarding a theory of criminality which differs to some degree from the crimes alleged in its original indictment. A thorough prosecutor will sometimes seek to provide for such a shifting theory by obtaining a superseding indictment from the grand jury, but in other cases the prosecution may not notice any need to do so or may simply neglect to do so. In any event, attorneys should carefully evaluate the prosecution’s arguments and proof at trial, as well as the trial court’s instructions to the jury, in order to determine whether a variance or amendment of the indictment has occurred. Following is a brief survey of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ current position on amendments to or variances with the indictment.

“A constructive amendment occurs when the essential elements of the offense as alleged in the indictment are altered to broaden the potential bases for conviction beyond what the indictment contains.” United States v. Tampas, 493 F.3d 1291 (11th Cir. 2007) (citing United States v. Narog, 372 F.3d 1243, 1247 (11th Cir. 2004); United States v. Keller, 916 F.2d 628, 634 (11th Cir. 1990)); see also United States v. Ward, 486 F.3d 1212, 1227 (11th Cir. 2007). A constructive amendment of the indictment constitutes per se reversible error because it violates a defendant’s Fifth Amendment right to be tried on charges presented to the grand jury. See United States v. Tampas, 493 F.3d 1291 (11th Cir. 2007) (citing United States v. Weissman, 899 F.2d 1111, 1114 (11th Cir. 1990)). Under the Fifth Amendment, “a defendant can only be convicted for a crime charged in the indictment. It would be fundamentally unfair to convict a defendant on charges of which he had no notice.” Ward, at 1227 (citing Keller, at 632-33). The mere presentation of evidence not referenced in the indictment, such as pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b), does not constitute an amendment or variance. See United States v. Lavigne, 282 Fed.Appx. 790, 793 (11th Cir. 2008) (unpublished).

In contrast, “a variance occurs when the facts proved at trial deviate from the facts contained in the indictment but the essential elements of the offense are the same.” Ward, 486 F.3d at 1227 (citing Keller, at 634; United States v. Flynt, 15 F.3d 1002, 1005-06 (11th Cir. 1994)). A variance only requires reversal where the defendant can establish that his or her rights were substantially prejudiced. Id. (citing Keller, at 633).

The Court has found no constructive amendment where an indictment charged the defendant with distributing crack cocaine and the trial court instructed the jury that it could find the defendant guilty if he had distributed either cocaine or crack cocaine, based upon the fact that the type of drug is not an element under the controlled substance statute, 21 U.S.C. § 841, United States v. Porter, 293 Fed.Appx. 700, 703, 04 (11th Cir. 2008) (unpublished); where the government argued in its closing arguments that it need not prove that all of the defendants named in the indictment were members of the scheme, but the indictment charged the defendant with conspiring with two named co-defendants as well as “other persons” United States v. Nunnally, 249 Fed.Appx. 776, 778 (11th Cir. 2007) (unpublished); where the trial court failed to instruct the jury that it had to find that the defendant embezzled a specific amount, but the indictment alleged that the defendant embezzled property having a value in excess of $5,000, Tampas, at 1291; where the trial court instructed the jury that it could still convict the defendant on the substantive mail and wire fraud counts of the indictment if it was unable to reach agreement on the conspiracy charge did, despite the fact that the government had referenced the conspiracy in the substantive counts of the indictment, Ward, at 1227, 28; where, despite the fact that the indictment alleged that the defendant possessed “more than 20 kilograms of cocaine,” the trial court instructed the jury that it could find the defendant guilty if it found that he possessed “a measurable amount” of a controlled substance, United States v. Knight, 213 Fed.Appx. 835, 838, 39 (11th Cir. 2007) (unpublished); where the government alleged in its indictment that the defendant committed an act “on or about” a particular date, but the proof at trial showed that the act was committed on a different date, United States v. Strevell, 185 Fed.Appx. 841 (11th Cir. 2006) (unpublished); where the indictment charged the defendant with an offense involving cocaine, but the proof at trial and the trial court’s jury instructions referred to crack cocaine, United States v. Rutherford, 175 F.3d 899, 906 (11th Cir. 1999); where the government’s indictment alleged that a certain person was the victim of the defendant’s extortion, but the proof at trial demonstrated that the person had no connection with the money obtained, United States v. Flynt, 15 F.3d 1002, 1006 (11th Cir. 1994); where the district court deviated in its instructions to the jury from the allegations in the indictment concerning a non-essential element of the crime, United States v. Lignarolo, 770 F.2d 971, 981 (11th Cir. 1985); where the government proved events of a conspiracy at trial which were not listed in the overt acts section of the indictment, United States v. Gold, No. 83-3231, 83-3230, 83-3267, 83-3239, 1984 WL 48339 (11th Cir. 1984); and where the government dropped two alleged co-conspirators from its conspiracy allegations at trial, United States v. Davis, 679 F.2d 845, (11th Cir. 1982).

However the Eleventh Circuit has found constructive amendments of indictments and improper broadening of the potential bases for conviction where the indictment charged the defendants with knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that pseudoephedrine would be used to manufacture methamphetamine, but the trial court instructed the jury that it could convict the defendants if it found that they knew or had reasonable cause to believe that the pseudoephedrine would be used to make “any controlled substance,” Narog, at 1249; where the government charged that the defendant knowingly and “willfully” committed money laundering, but the court redacted the term “willful” from its charge on the definition of “intentional,” United States v. Cancelliere, 69 F.3d 1116, 1121 (11th Cir. 1995); where the indictment alleged that the defendant conspired with a particular person and the trial court instructed the jury that it could convict the defendant if it found he conspired with “any” person, Keller, at 636; where the RICO charges in the indictment charged that the “enterprise” was a particular organized crime family but the court instructed the jury that it could convict the defendants if it found a different enterprise, United States v. Weissman, 899 F.2d 1111, 1115 (11th Cir. 1990); and where the trial court instructed the jury that it could convict the defendant if it found the elements of an offense which had not been charged in the indictment, United States v. Peel, 837 F.2d 975, 979 (11th Cir. 1988).

 

Supreme Court Overrules Michigan v. Jackson and Presumption that Waivers of Right to Counsel After the Right to Counsel Has Been Invoked Are Invalid

In an opinion issued on Tuesday, Montejo v. Louisiana, --- S.Ct. ----, 2009 WL 1443049 (2009), the Supreme Court removed a layer of protection of criminal defendants against coercive and badgering police interrogations by overruling, Michigan v. Jackson, 475 U.S. 625, 106 S.Ct. 1404 (1986), in which the Court had held that “if police initiate interrogation after a defendant's assertion, at an arraignment or similar proceeding, of his right to counsel, any waiver of the defendant's right to counsel for that police-initiated interrogation is invalid.”

The petitioner in Montejo was arrested in connection with a robbery and murder and waived his rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602 (1966), while being interrogated by police detectives. A preliminary hearing was then held in which the court ordered an indigent defender to represent the petitioner. After the hearing, two detectives visited the petitioner and requested that the petitioner lead them to the murder weapon. The detectives read the petitioner his Miranda rights, and the petitioner proceeded to go along with the detectives, writing an inculpatory letter of apology to the widow of the victim in the process. Only following this excursion did the petitioner meet his court-appointed attorney and consult with him. The State admitted the petitioner's letter of apology against him at trial, and the petitioner was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death.

The petitioner appealed, arguing that the State's admission of the letter was error pursuant to Jackson. The Louisiana Supreme Court held that Jackson is not triggered unless and until a defendant has actually requested a lawyer or has otherwise asserted his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. It held that because the court had appointed the petitioner counsel while the petitioner stood mute, the petitioner had not sufficiently asserted his right to counsel. The Courtaffirmed his conviction and the Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, observed that some States require an indigent defendant to affirmatively request counsel before an appointment is made, while other States automatically appoint counsel upon a finding of indigency. Justice Scalia recognized the problem that "Defendants in States that automatically appoint counsel would have no opportunity to invoke their rights and trigger Jackson, while those in other States, effectively instructed by the court to request counsel, would be lucky winners." The majority rejected the petitioner's position that, once a defendant is represented by counsel, police may not initiate any further interrogation.

The majority proceeded to overrule Jackson and its holding that waivers of a defendant's right to counsel after the right to counsel is asserted are presumed invalid. The Court noted that it had created the presumption in Jackson by making an analogy to a similar prophylactic rule which the Court had established in Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U.S. 477, 101 S.Ct. 1880 (1981), for the Fifth Amendment right to have counsel present at any custodial interrogation under Miranda. The majority held that where a defendant does not invoke his right to counsel, such as where a court appoints counsel in the absence of any request by the defendant,there is no initial election "that must be preserved through a prophylactic rule against later waivers." It noted that the benefits of the prophylactic rule of Jackson were outweighed by its costs in "hindering “society's compelling interest in finding, convicting, and punishing those who violate the law." The majority observed that, even without the rule of Jackson, defendants are still entitled to the protections of Miranda, Edwards and Minnick v. Mississippi, 498 U.S. 146, 151, 111 S.Ct. 486 (1990). It held that "Jackson not only 'operates to invalidate a confession given by the free choice of suspects who have received proper advice of their Miranda rights but waived them nonetheless,' ... but also deters law enforcement officers from even trying to obtain voluntary confessions."

Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer all dissented.

 

The Rise and Fall of Marc Dreier: A Guide

 

We have tried to sum up for readers the labyrinthine facts and developments in the shocking and fascinating case of Marc Dreier, drawing upon excellent and thorough articles on the subject by Roger Parloff in Fortune Magazine and by Robert Kolker in New York Magazine.

I. The Rise

Marc Stuart Dreier grew up on the South Shore of Long Island, the son of a Polish refugee who built a chain of movie theaters. He graduated from Lawrence High School in the Five Towns.

Dreier attended Yale and then Harvard Law School. On graduation, he became an associate with Rosenman & Colin in New York, and later became a partner.

In 1987, Dreier married Elisa Peters, an associate at Rosenman & Colin. The couple had a son, Spencer, in 1989, and a daughter, Jackie, in 1992. He moved to Houston-based Fulbright & Jaworski’s New York litigation office in 1989. In 1995, Dreier left Fulbright & Jaworski and briefly worked at Duker & Barrett.

In 1996, Dreier started his own firm, Dreier & Baritz, with securities lawyer Neil Baritz. He developed a business practice whereby he entered into agreements with other lawyers and law firms, promising to handle the collection of their gross revenue and payment of their office expenses in exchange for paying guaranteed salaries and incentive bonuses.

II. Sheldon Solow and Kosta Kovachev

It is rumored that Dreier received money to start the firm from New York real estate developer Sheldon Solow, owner of Solow Realty, a billionaire son of a bricklayer turned developer.

               Dreier represented Solow in several matters. One such matter was a dispute over a mansion in East Hampton with Peter Morton, founder of the Hard Rock Cafe, with each man staking a claim to the same multimillion-dollar East Hampton beach house. Another case involved a dispute between Solow and Peter Kalikow, another real estate developer and former owner of the New York Post, over $7 million loaned by Solow to Kalikow while Kalikow’s company was in bankruptcy. Dreier, at the request of Solow, took out full page ads in the Post and the New York Times which looked like legal notices, inviting creditors of Kalikow to call a company called Evergence Capital Advisors.

Evergence Capital Advisors was actually the name of a dissolved Florida corporation formerly owned by a friend of Dreier’s, Kosta Kovachev. Kovachev was a Serbian who attended Columbia University and Harvard Business School and became a banker and securities broker. He was sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission for his involvement in a Ponzi scheme selling time-shares in Florida which defrauded approximately 600 investors in 30 states out of $28 million. Dreier represented Kovachev in the proceeding.

The telephone numbers in the newspaper ads led to Dreier’s offices. More than 50 creditors called the numbers, but never received a response. The U.S. bankruptcy judge sanctioned Solow and Dreier $335,000 over the ads. Solow and Dreier are still appealing the sanctions.

Acquaintances describe Dreier as incredibly charming, but a ruthless litigator. In 2002, Dreier’s wife sued him for divorce. That same year, Baritz severed his ties with Dreier, and in 2003 the firm became Dreier LLP, with about 60 attorneys.

III. The Scheme

Beginning in November 2004, Dreier began to sell promissory notes to hedge funds. Dreier claimed that the notes were issued by Solow Realty, and represented to the funds that he was marketing agent for Solow. In reality, Solow and Solow Realty had no knowledge of the notes, and the notes were forged by Dreier along with fraudulent audit reports on the letterhead of one of Solow Realty’s accounting and firms, Berdon LLP. Dreier would tell fund representatives that Solow was trying to raise $500 million to purchase properties, and that Solow did not want to borrow money from banks for reasons of secrecy and because Solow did not want to be accountable to anyone. He claimed that the notes would return 11% interest a year.

Dreier and his co-conspirators, including Kovachev and a man named Armando Ruiz, would host meetings and conference calls with fund representatives. They would give fund representatives telephone numbers purportedly for Solow Realty’s CEO or Controller, but which actually went to Dreier and his accomplices. Dreier created fake e-mail addresses and obtained no-contract cell phones for the scheme.

The phony notes were purchased by nearly 40 investment funds, including Fortress Investment Group, GSO Capital Partners LP, Elliott Associates, Eton Park, Westford Global Asset Management, Perella Weinberg Partners, Verition and Blackstone Group.

In order to come up with the funds to make quarterly interest payments on the phony notes, Dreier expanded Dreier LLP. The firm eventually employed approximately 260 attorneys and approximately 300 staff and had offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Santa Monica, Stamford and Albany, New York. The firm’s New York City office leased 11 floors in a building designed by architect I.M. Pei at 499 Park Avenue.

Dreier lured new attorneys to the firm by guaranteeing them $1 million in salary before bonuses. He financed the expansion by factoring receivables. Although the firm had “partners,” Dreier remained the sole equity partner, which limited oversight.

Dreier amassed a large quantity of luxury property, including a $10 million condominium in Manhattan; two mansions in the Hamptons; properties in the Caribbean; an art collection worth $40 million, including works by Henri Matisse, AndyWarhol and David Hockney; and a 120-foot yacht. Dreier threw lavish parties with private performances by Diana Ross, Bon Jovi or Alicia Keys, and hosted a celebrity golf tournament.

 

IV. The Fall

By 2008, however, Dreier had a total of $180 million in debt to hedge funds, as well as annual interest payments of $20 million. He began selling a new form of phony note, allegedly issued by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (OTPP) and backed by BCE, the parent company of Bell Canada.

In September of 2008, Dreier failed to meet his obligations to one of the funds, likely GSO Capital Partners LP, and the fund demanded to meet with representatives of Solow Realty at Solow Realty’s offices. On October 15, 2008, Dreier, Kovachev and the fund representatives arrived at Solow Realty’s offices, and Dreier, without Solow’s knowledge, proceeded to hold a meeting in Solow Realty’s conference room in which Kovachev pretended to be Solow Realty’s Controller.

 

Finally, in late October 2008, a prospective buyer of the phony notes finally contacted the Solow Realty’s audit firm, Berdon LLP, whose name had been forged on the notes, and discovered the scheme. Berdon notified Solow, and Tom Manisero, a lawyer for Berdon, telephoned Dreier.

 

Dreier lied to Manisero, stating that he had only attempted to sell the notes once. He had several other telephone calls with Manisero, which were recorded by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. During the calls, Dreier admitted that the audit reports were fake, and that he was ashamed. On the final call, Dreier attempted to offer Manisero a “settlement.” Meanwhile, the Verition hedge fund discovered the irregularities with the phony notes.

 

On December 1, a bankruptcy attorney with the firm Norman Kinel sent Dreier an e-mail asking for $38.5 million out of the firm’s escrow account for one of the firm’s clients to pay its creditors. However, less than half of the money remained in the escrow account.

 

While Dreier was under investigation, he offered Fortress Investment Group $33 million of the phony OTPP notes. A Fortress representative, Howard Steinberg, asked to meet with the OTPP representative in person, and Dreier arranged for a meeting with OTPP’s general counsel in Toronto. On December 2, Dreier flew to Toronto met with the general counsel, Michael Padfield, himself to discuss alleged business opportunities and got his business card. He then proceeded to meet with Steinberg at OTTP’s offices, posing as the general counsel. Steinberg became suspicious and asked the receptionist if Dreier was actually the general counsel, and was told he was not. The police were contacted, and Dreier was arrested for criminal impersonation.

 

            Prosecutors allege that, after the initial call from Manisero, Dreier attempted to move funds to a personal account Dreier used for his Caribbean properties. On December 3, Dreier’s 19-year-old son, Spencer, attempted to deliver a message from Dreier to about 40 partners of Dreier LLP, but was shouted out of the conference room. Furthermore, at around this time, Dreier succeeded in having the firm’s bank transfer $10 million in escrow monies to one of his personal accounts. At this time also, Kovachev also went to the firm’s offices and took two paintings.

 

            Dreier posted bail in Canada, and arrived back on New York on December 7, where he was arrested upon arrival. Kovachev was also arrested. Authorities have also subpoenaed all documents from Dreier LLP relating to Armando Ruiz.

On January 29, Dreier was charged with seven counts wire fraud, securities fraud, and money-laundering. He initially pled not guilty, but filed affidavits admitting large portions of the allegations against him. Drier was placed under house arrest in his condominium in Manhattan. He is represented by attorney Gerald Shargel, who has formerly represented members of the Mafia. Dreier’s friend, Erinch Ozada, a Turkish hedge fund manager, is reported to be cooperating with the government.

In the meantime, Dreier LLP has ceased to exist. Attorneys and employees of Dreier LLP have unpaid salaries and unreimbursed expenses.

In all, Dreier is alleged to have committed $700 million in fraud against 13 hedge funds and three individuals, resulting in $400 million in losses, and to have taken $40 million from his clients’ escrow accounts. On Monday, May 11, 2009, Dreier pled guilty to all charges before U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He faces a potential 20 years on some counts.

Over 200 creditors have already filed more than $450 million in claims against Dreier LLP. Investigators report that any monies are mostly gone. The government has seized Dreier’s luxury property in order to forfeit the property or distribute it among creditors. There has been some interest in the movie or book rights to Dreier’s saga, however New York’s Son of Sam laws prevent such exploitation.

 

Justice Souter on Criminal Law, Part II

 

Our summary retrospective of Justice Souter’s contributions to the Supreme Court’s criminal law jurisprudence continues. In addition to writing for the majority in many important criminal decisions, Justice Souter has authored concurring decisions in many cases, including criminal cases. While the Justice’s concurrences in criminal cases have typically been brief, Justice Souter has frequently raised important alternative views on issues on which he disagrees with the majority, or raises issues which the majority has overlooked.

Most recently, in Gall v. U.S., 128 S.Ct. 586 (2007) Justice Souter authored a concurring opinion in which he expressed his view that the best resolution of the tension between the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury and consistency in sentencing was for Congress to enact a new statutory system of mandatory sentencing guidelines which provide for jury findings on all facts necessary to set the upper range of sentencing discretion. Justice Souter also concurred with the majority in U.S. v. Knights, 534 U.S. 112 (2001), in which the majority held that no more than reasonable suspicion was required to support a warrantless search of a probationer’s apartment, reserving the question of whether the Court’s holding in Whren v. U.S., 517 U.S. 806 (1996) that the subjective intentions of investigating officers play no role in searches based upon probable cause should also extend to searches based upon reasonable suspicion. In Illinois v. McArthur, 531 U.S. 326 (2001), the majority of the Court held that police officers preventing the petitioner from entering his home unaccompanied by an officer for about two hours while the officers obtained a warrant to search the home constituted a reasonable seizure of the premises pursuant to the Fourth Amendment. Justice Souter joined the majority in a concurring opinion in which the Justice observed that the exigent circumstances created by the risk that the defendant would have destroyed the illegal drugs stashed on the property would have justified a warrantless search of the premises by the police. In his concurrence in Florida v. White, 526 U.S. 559 (1999), which involved the warrantless seizure of an automobile from a public place by police as contraband under Florida’s contraband forfeiture law, Justice Souter took issue with the majority’s holdings to the extent that they endorsed the warrantless seizure of anything alleged to be “contraband,” holding that “[t]he Fourth Amendment does not concede any talismanic significance to use of the term ‘contraband’ whenever a legislature may resort to a novel forfeiture sanction in the interest of law enforcement, as legislatures are evincing increasing ingenuity in doing…” (citing Bennis v. Michigan, 516 U.S. 442, 443-446, 458 (1996); U.S. v. James Daniel Good Real Property, 510 U.S. 43, 81-82 & n. 1 (1993) (Thomas, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part)). And in Carlisle v. U.S., 517 U.S. 416 (1996), Justice Souter disagreed with the majority opinion that a district court possesses inherent authority to grant a motion for a judgment of acquittal, observing that Congress might possess the power to abrogate courts’ inherent authority legislatively, citing Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29(c).

 

Justice Souter on Criminal Law

 

            Supreme Court Justice David Hackett Souter has announced his intention to retire at the end of the Court’s term in June. In his 19 years on the Court, Justice Souter has been a key vote in many cases and has written over 150 majority, plurality, concurring and dissenting opinions, including in many criminal cases. In the area of criminal law, Justice Souter has issued numerous opinions fairly consistently advancing the rights of defendants at all stages of criminal proceedings. Federal Criminal Defense Blog salutes Justice Souter and his highly distinguished tenure on the Court by listing some of his significant opinions in the criminal arena, beginning today with majority and plurality opinions.

            Criminal defense attorneys everywhere will be familiar with Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419 (1995) in which the Court, in an opinion delivered by Justice Souter, reversed the defendant’s conviction and held that a state prosecutor has a duty to learn of any favorable evidence known to the others acting on the government's behalf in the case, including the police, and has a duty to turn over all exculpatory evidence to the defense, pursuant to  Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). And in Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004), Justice Souter authored a majority opinion holding that warnings pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966) given to a defendant in the middle of an interrogation are ineffective and any statements given during the interrogation are inadmissible. And in Corley v. U.S., 129 S.Ct. 1558 (2009) discussed on this Blog, Justice Souter delivered the majority’s opinion that 18 U.S.C. § 3501 does not alter the rule that confessions made during periods of detention which violate the prompt presentment requirements of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 5(a) are inadmissible pursuant to the rule of McNabb v. United States, 318 U.S. 332 (1943) and Mallory v. United States, 354 U.S. 449 (1957).

            Justice Souter had Georgia on his mind early in his career on the Court when he delivered the unanimous opinion for the Court in Ford v. Georgia, 498 U.S. 411 (1991), in which the majority held that the Georgia Supreme Court erred in concluding that the petitioner’s claim pursuant to Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), which prohibits racially-based exercise of peremptory challenges by the prosecution, was untimely pursuant to State v. Sparks, 257 Ga. 97, 98, 355 S.E.2d 658, 659 (1987), in which the Georgia Supreme Court held that a Batson objection must be made within the period of the jurors’ selection and the administration of their oaths, because the Sparks rule was not “firmly established and regularly followed” at the time of the petitioner’s trial. In Wade v. U.S., 504 U.S. 181 (1992), Justice Souter, again writing for a unanimous Court, held that federal district courts have the authority to review the government’s refusal to file a substantial-assistance motion and to grant a remedy if they find that the refusal was based on an unconstitutional motive. Justice Souter authored the majority opinion in Old Chief v. U.S., 519 U.S. 172 (1997), in which the Court reversed the petitioner’s conviction for  possession of a firearm by anyone with a prior felony conviction in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), holding that a district court abuses its discretion where it refuses a defendant’s offer to concede a prior judgment under Federal Rule of Evidence 403 and admits the full judgment over the defendant’s objection. In Shepard v. U.S., 544 U.S. 13 (2005) he wrote a majority opinion holding that in applying the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C.A. § 924(e), a sentencing courtcannot look to police reports or complaint applications to determine whether an earlier guilty plea necessarily admits, and supports a conviction for, generic burglary. Justice Souter wrote the majority’s holding in Watson v. U.S., 128 S.Ct. 579 (2007) that a person who trades drugs for a gun does not receive the gun in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A), which provides for a mandatory minimum sentence where a defendant uses a firearm during a drug trafficking crime.

            Less pro-defense, Justice Souter authored the majority opinion in U.S. v. Wells, 519 U.S. 482 (1997) which held that material of falsehood was not an element of making false statements to a federally insured bank under 18 U.S.C. § 1014. And he rejected the petitioner’s arguments that 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(2), which proscribes bribery of State and local officials of entities, was unconstitutional because of a lack of any jurisdictional requirement of a connection to federal money in Sabri v. U.S., 541 U.S. 600 (2004), holding that the statute was an instance of necessary and proper legislation.

 

This Week's Homegrown Ponzi Scheme

Yet another Ponzi scheme has surfaced in Georgia. As reported by the Macon telegraph his past Tuesday, U.S. marshals in Denver arrested Gary Hutcheson and Saundra McKinney Pyles of Macon. Hutcheson and Pyles had been indicted on April 22 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia on five counts of mail fraud and five counts of money laundering for running a fraudulent investment operation. The Indictment alleges that, beginning in 2006, Hutcheson operated a business named Georgia Ionics Fund LLC, which used two securities brokers, CyberTrade Inc. and Cobra Trading, to handle investments. Hutcheson is alleged to have advertised a hedge fund and claimed to have investment expertise and successes, which was false. Hutcheson attracted more than $2.1 million from investors, and invested only $780,000 of the money, the majority of which was lost. He kept approximately $1.3 million. Hutcheson further falsely represented to investors that the fund was completely successful. He and Pyles paid $457,000 of the funds to certain investors, falsely claiming that the funds constituted investment profits. Hutcheson and Pyles are awaiting extradition back to Georgia.

 

Spam-a-Lot! Brothers Indicted for Spamming Conspiracy Affecting 2,000 Colleges and Universities

Spam e-mail is nearly universally despised. However, recipients of spam may not fully appreciate the inventiveness and intricateness of some spammers' methods, however dubious or illegal, before considering the charges against Missouri residents Amir Ahmad Shah, age 28, and Osmaan Ahmad Shah, age 25, who operated a company I2O. As reported by IDG News Service, the brothers, along with Paul Zucker of New Jersey and Liu Guang Ming, a citizen of China, were indicted today by a federal grand jury for an e-mail spamming scheme which targeted more than 2,000 U.S. colleges and universities and sold more than $4.1 million worth of products to students. The scheme involved e-mail extracting programs which illegally harvested more than 8 million student e-mail addresses. The defendants then sent targeted spam e-mails to students in at least 31 campaign selling a variety of products and services, including digital cameras, MP3 players, teeth whiteners, pepper spray, magazine subscriptions and spring break travel offers. They developed programs to falsify header information and rotate URLs, subject lines, content, reply addresses and other information to avoid spam filters. The defendants would include false and misleading information in the e-mails suggesting an association with the college or university, using fictitious names, claiming to be "campus representatives," and that the businesses selling the products were "alumni owned." They also created dozens of identical websites for each e-mail campaign to conceal the source of the e-mails and to keep the e-mails from being blocked by spam filters, and initially set up the hosting for the websites in China. The defendants made money through referral fees for sending spam for products and services sold by others, and by buying products in bulk and reselling them. They also offered "offshore hosting" services for other spammers.

Federal investigators began investigating the Shah brothers in 2005, after University of Missouri officials identified them as the source of the spamming. The brothers proceeded to remove all Missouri students' e-mails from their lists, but continued to spam other colleges and universities. The defendants are charged in the indictment with 26 counts of aiding and abetting each other to access a protected computer without authorization and transmit commercial e-mails with the intent to deceive or mislead the recipients about the origin of the messages, and the indictment seeks $4.1 million in forfeiture and other property. Colleges and universities have spent large amounts repairing the damage from the hacking and spamming and in implementing protective measures.

Spamming is regulated by the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, codified at 15 U.S.C. s 7704, which prohibits false, misleading or deceptive information in spam, as well as for sexually explicit spam without sufficient warnings, and carries a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment. Some sources estimate that spam now comprises 95% of the e-mails in the world.

Commentary on the Fifth Circuit Questions In Minor

In follow up to the post earlier today on the Fifth Circuit's letter to counsel in the Minor case, it seems that the Fifth Circuit is obviously troubled by the proof, if any, between the agency receiving federal funds, the Administrative Office of the Mississippi Courts, and the allegedly corrupt activity of Minor and the judges (Whitfield and Teel) that he sought to influence. First, the limiting cases on 666 violations have generally interpreted that statute very broadly, but a reasonable reading of the Court’s questions indicates a concern for the level of proof of the “nexus” between the Administrative Office of the Mississippi Courts and any agent, or activity of a particular matter before the judges.

Secondly, if such a nexus is required, it seems the Court is concerned whether the issue has been properly preserved both at trial and on appeal.

Thirdly, and most surprisingly, the Fifth Circuit, obviously knows what effect a reversal of those counts would have on the other counts of conviction, “even if the convictions on those other counts were not to be reversed?” The posing of that question by the Fifth Circuit seems almost gratuitous. Counts of conviction are routinely reversed that either don’t effect the sentence imposed, or that require re-sentencing consistent with the Court’s opinion. One has to look no further that Governor Siegelman’s recent case in front of the Eleventh Circuit. Quite frankly, re-sentencings happen all of the time after the reversal of some counts of conviction. Just odd that the Fifth Circuit would pose that question publicly.

As for Paul Minor’s quest for vindication before the Fifth Circuit, sadly, the court's letter indicates that they are going to affirm the other counts of conviction.

Fifth Circuit Requests Additional Briefing in Minor

Yesterday, the Fifth Circuit in a letter to counsel, requested additional briefing regarding Counts 11, 12, 13, and 14, which allege a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666 (what I've always referred to as the devil statute). In Minor the government charged that the agency receiving government funds was the administrative office of the courts of Mississippi. Generally you see a Section 666 violation when someone has stolen monies from say, a local transit authority, which receives in excess of $5,000 in a given year (thereby conferring federal jurisdiction). And, we all know that almost any program receives that amount from the federal government now.

The Fifth Circuit requested additional briefing on the following questions:

1) What evidence shows that the Mississippi judges were influenced or rewarded in connection with matters related to the Administrative Office of the Courts of Mississippi?

2) Describe the nexus that the “in connection with” clause of 666 requires between the Administrative Office of the Courts of Mississippi and the particular matters in front of the judges supposedly influenced by Minor’s actions.

3) What was the proof of that nexus?

4) Did the appellants adequately preserve the issue in the district court and did they adequately raise the issue on appeal?

5) If the Fifth Circuit reverses any of the Counts 11-14, what effect would that have on any of the other counts of conviction, “even if the convictions on those other counts were not to be reversed?”

The Court gave the parties until May 15 to file briefs of less than 15 pages.

More commentary on this later.
 

Swiss Seek End to Disclosure of UBS Client Names

As previously reported here, the Department of Justice and UBS entered into a deferred prosecution agreement wherein UBS is to pay a fine and disclose to DOJ the names of its some 52,000 clients that have used UBS to park income in violation of U.S. tax laws. The New York Times reports today that the President of Switzerland has asked Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, to drop what the Times inexactly reports to be a lawsuit to disclose the names of the UBS clients. In fact, under the deferred prosecution agreement, UBS has to cooperate with DOJ by providing the client’s names. My guess, Mr. Geithner, who had his own tax issues, isn’t going to touch this one. DOJ has already prosecuted two folks whose names UBS disclosed and, inevitably, many more such prosecutions will follow.

Reasonable Suspicion Justifies Search of Probationer's Home

Today the Eleventh Circuit held in United States v. Carter, No. 08-14460, that a search of the home of a probationer is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, if supported by reasonable suspicion. Carter was on probation in 2007, however, his probation did not contain a Fourth Amendment waiver provision. His probation officer though, was suspicious that his lifestyle could not be supported by the unskilled labor he performed and he, along with other probation officers, searched Carter’s town home, which lead to him being charged with possession with intent to distribute crack and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Carter moved to suppress the evidence discovered during the warrantless search. Relying on the balancing test set forth in United States v. Knights, 534 U.S. 112 (2001), Judge Carnes writing for the Court, noted that the Knights case first addressed the probationer’s individual privacy interests - in short - not much. Then Judge Carnes addresses the “governmental interests at stake” - in short - for a guy like Carter - prior violent crime and drug conviction - “the government’s interest in monitoring the probationer is particularly high.” This may be a common sense conclusion, but Judge Carnes draws this conclusion virtually out of thin air, citing only U.S.S.G. 4B1.1(a)(providing enhanced penalties for criminals with a history of drug felonies or crimes of violence). However, U.S.S.G. 4B1.1 says nothing about probationers, or the government’s interest in monitoring them more closely. 

Judge Carnes ultimately holds that “the search in this case need only be supported by reasonable suspicion to be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment” and that the search of Carter’s home was permissible.

Guilty Plea in Bank Fraud Case

In a case of remarkable chutzpah, Mark Anthony McBride, plead guilty in Atlanta on Friday to a two count information charging him with one count of conspiring to obtain million of dollars in fraudulent mortgages and other loans and one count of bankruptcy fraud.

McBride plead to a scheme he started in 2001 after being released from prison and continued until he reported back to prison in 2002. As soon as he was released from prison in 2006 he was back at making a living in the only, apparent. fashion he knew, being a con artist by completing fraudulent mortgage loans, car loans, lines of credit and continued his scheme until his arrest in September of 2008 for violating his federal probation.

Showing exceptional criminal ingenuity, McBride was able to retain the proceeds of his fraud by filing 8 bankruptcies in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.

Methinks McBride's schemes have come to an end. He faces up to 35 years in prison at his sentencing, which is scheduled for July 9, 2009.

More Charges in Fulton County Jail Case

U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said on Thursday that more charges are expected in the continuing investigation of inmate abuse at the Fulton County Jail. On Thursday, two lieutenants, Lt. Earl Glenn and Lt. Robert Hill, pleaded innocent to federal charges of using excessive force and lying to FBI agents investigating the case.

Nahmias has taken an unusual interest in this case, announcing last month the initial arrest of Curtis Jerome Brown, on civil rights, obstruction and false statement charges.

Last week Nahmias said that more charges were expected in the investigation of inmate abuse.

Judge Shoob has monitored conditions at the jail following a lawsuit filed on behalf of inmates accusing the jail of overcrowding and dangerous conditions.

Happy Birthday to the Bard

A character in William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part II, famously exclaims ''The first thing we do, let’s kill allthe lawyers.'' Act 4, sc. 2. Well, April 26 is the anniversary of Shakespeare birth. And apparently judges and lawyers down the ages have had a far higher opinion of Shakespeare than he may have had of them, for Shakespeare, the most quoted source in the English language after the Bible, has had his works quoted in thousands of reported decisions. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has been no exception to this admiration, taking seeming great pleasure in working the occasional Shakespearean quotation into a decision. Some gems: “More important, when we do construe the various ADEA sections together, abrogation never becomes ‘as clear as is the summer’s sun.’” Kimel v. State Bd. of Regents, 139 F.3d 1426, 1431 (11th Cir. 1998) (quoting Henry V, act 1, sc. 2). “[W]here th’ offense is, let the great axe fall.” Floyd v. Waiters, 133 F.3d 786, 790 n.6 (11 Cir. 1998) (quoting Hamlet, act 4, sc. 5). “Indeed, this entire case turns on the issue of ripeness: ‘Ripeness is all.’ William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act V, Scene II, Line 9. We need not decide whether King Lear was referring to plantains or bananas.” Banana Services, Inc. v. M/V Fleetwave, 911 F.2d 519, 520 n.2 (11th Cir. 1990). “We have come, or gone, a long way from Shakespeare's ancient caution, ‘Neither a borrower, nor a lender be.’” Williams v. Public Finance Corp., 598 F.2d 349 (5th Cir. 1979).

A happy birthday from Federal Criminal Defense Blog to the Bard, who will undoubtedly continue to be quoted in legal opinions long, long after we here have shuffled off our mortal coils.

Corporate Defense: Laughter as a "Defense" Mechanism

               A lighthearted article in Legal Times by Michael D. Jones of Kirkland & Ellis, “When Faced With an Angry Jury, Laughter May Be the Best Defense,” acknowledges that this era of anger over Wall Street bailouts and rampant corporate greed or fraud is an especially bad one for counsel who defend corporations. The author offers a potential answer to juries’ outrage—laughter. The article notes the an anti-business coverage in the news media and a backlash by juries, citing a February verdict against Novartis in Alabama—a notorious pro-corporate state—for $78.4 million, including $50 million in punitive damages, for overcharging Medicare for prescription drugs. 

              The article cites a 2004 study which found that angry or irate jurors were the “least influenced” by the defense’s case, because such jurors tend to jump to conclusions and act on them. Such angry jurors are less likely to favor the less sympathetic party or the party with more nuanced arguments—which is frequently the corporate defendant. It continues to note that traditional assumptions regarding jurors may not apply in today’s anti-corporate climate, and that white-collar workers may be just as angry as blue-collar workers. In view of this reality, counsel with corporate clients must seek to diffuse or redirect this anger.

                The author concludes that attorneys defending corporations should consider using trial tactics which include humor and emotional redirection. The American Psychological Association says that humor is a mechanism to control anger. The author notes that it is difficult for people to be angry and to laugh at the same time. Also, self-deprecating references by counsel force jurors to acknowledge counsel as a human being and in turn can generate more goodwill for one’s client

                However, counsel considering injecting humor into a trial have to be careful that it does not backfire. Humor at the expense of a litigant or witness may cause the jury to sympathize with the opposing party. Timing is also critical, and joking during serious moments can have serious consequences.

                The article also advocates emotional redirection techniques, such as persuading a jury which is determined to help a victim that there is more than one victim in the case. It concludes that in this time of anti-corporate anger, attorneys need to develop trial strategies for dealing with anger—advice not to be taken lightly.

 

Bankruptcy, Corporate Criminal Investigations and Waiver of the Attorney-Client Privilege

An excellent article from Legal Times, “Dead Companies Can Tell Tales,” examines how the attorney-client privilege in a corporate context survives the bankruptcy or receivership of the corporation. The article concludes that prosecutors possess considerable freedom to seek privileged information.

The article references the “Filip Memorandum,” which was a revision by Deputy AG Mark Filip to the “McNulty Memorandum” of 2006, which provides guidance to DOJ prosecutors in investigating and charging corporations (which dates back to 1999, when it was originally authored by then-Deputy AG Eric Holder and was known as the “Holder Memorandum”). The Filip Memorandum was the result of concerns over prosecutors’ extracting attorney-client privilege waivers from corporations and preventing corporations from paying officers’ and employees’ legal fees under threat of indictment. The Filip Memorandum sets forth DOJ policy in determining whether to indict a business entity, and the memorandum’s policies and factors to be considered are set forth in the United States Attorney’s Manual (USAM). In regard to the attorney-client privilege, USAM 9-28.710 asserts that “waiving the attorney-client and work product protections has never been a prerequisite under the Department's prosecution guidelines for a corporation to be viewed as cooperative.” The policy nevertheless states that “Everyone agrees that a corporation may freely waive its own privileges if it chooses to do so; indeed, such waivers occur routinely when corporations are victimized by their employees or others, conduct an internal investigation, and then disclose the details of the investigation to law enforcement officials in an effort to seek prosecution of the offenders.”

Therefore, while it is no longer DOJ policy to request waivers of the attorney-client privilege, a corporation may still voluntarily do so. The risk of such a “voluntary” waiver of the privilege may be increased when a corporation is in bankruptcy, and an independent trustee or receiver, or the successor management, are dealing with a criminal investigation and requests by the government, as well as their own investigation of potential criminal activity by the debtor corporation. The article cites the Supreme Court’s decision in CFTC v. Weintraub, 471 U.S. 343 (1985), in which the Court held that the trustee of a corporation in bankruptcy has the power to waive the corporation's attorney-client privilege with respect to pre-bankruptcy communications, id. at 354.

Consequently, the article advises attorneys representing officers or employees of corporations in bankruptcy to advise their clients of the risk that any privilege of their pre-bankruptcy communications to corporate counsel could be waived by the trustee or receiver and the communications disclosed to the government. There is also some question as to whether a bankrupt corporation implicates the Filip Memorandum or USAM 9-28.710 at all, since they do not mention bankrupt or dissolved corporation. The policies would also be inapplicable where the government intends to prosecute individuals instead of the corporation. Beyond the constraints of the Filip Memorandum, prosecutors are free to seek waivers of the privilege. Furthermore, trustees or receivers possess a duty to maximize recovery for corporate shareholders, and not to former officers or employees, and may be readily persuaded to give such waivers.

The authors note that Weintraub waivers have been used by receivers to waive the attorney-client privilege to order outside counsel for a corporation to produce its pre-litigation file, CFTC v. Standard Forex (E.D.N.Y. 1995), and to waive attorney-client and work product protection over the objection of a former corporation officer facing criminal charges, United States v. Shapiro (S.D.N.Y. 2007). The issue has also arisen in at least one proceeding in this Circuit, In re Pearlman, 381 B.R. 903 (Bkrtcy.M.D.Fla. 2007). The debtor in Pearlman and various corporations controlled by him filed for bankruptcy, and the trustee obtained a discovery order from the bankruptcy court and served subpoenas on several outside attorneys and law firms to produce documents. Id. at 905. Pearlman was also indicted by a grand jury in the Southern District of Florida. Id. at 906. Counsel produced some documents in response to the subpoenas, but asserted that other documents were protected by the attorney-client privilege. Id. at 907. The court held that documents relating to some of the entities were not subject to production unless the privilege was waived by the trustee. Id. The court continued to hold “[t]he privilege passed to, is controlled by, and may be waived by the Trustee to the extent an attorney-client privilege exists with respect to any of the Pearlman Entities.” Id. at 909 (citing Weintraub, at 358). It concluded that the documents and information were subject to turnover provided that the trustee waived the entities’ privilege. Id.

However, in regard to documents and information relating to counsel’s representation of Pearlman, the court stated that:

The issue of whether a bankruptcy trustee controls the attorney-client privilege as to an individual debtor has been addressed by various federal courts. The majority of courts employ a balancing test whereby the specific facts of a case are evaluated and the benefits of granting access to the privilege are balanced against the risk of harm to the debtor. The Court adopts the balancing test.

Id. at 907. It continued to observe that:

The Supreme Court did not address in Weintraub whether a bankruptcy trustee controls the attorney-privilege as to an individual debtor. Weintraub, 471 U.S. at 356, 105 S.Ct. 1986 (“But our holding today has no bearing on the problem of individual bankruptcy, which we have no reason to address in this case.”)

Id. at 910. It concluded that:

The majority of courts employ a balancing test whereby the specific facts of a case are evaluated and balanced, including the risk of harm to the debtor versus the benefit to the estate. Foster v. Hill (In re Foster), 188 F.3d 1259, 1268-69 (10th Cir.1999); In re Courtney, 372 B.R. 519, 521 (Bankr.M.D.Fla.2007); In re Bame, 251 B.R. 367, 377 (Bankr.D.Minn. 2000); In re Bazemore, 216 B.R. 1020, 1024 (Bankr.S.D.Ga.1998). The Court, based upon the weight of the case law and the facts and circumstances of this case, adopts the balancing test.

Id. This balancing test balances the harm to the individual debtor and to the attorney-client privilege with the trustee's need for information in light of the particular circumstances. Foster, at 1268.

Pearlman’s balancing test only appears to apply to former officers or employees who are also debtors in a bankruptcy proceeding. Non-debtor former officers or employees must beware of the risk that Weintraub waivers may be sought by the government and granted by the trustee or receiver, and that privileged information may be disclosed. The authors advise practitioners to gain an understanding of the substance of prior privileged communications which may be disclosed. Second, they caution counsel to be alert to any potential Weintraub waiver sought by the prosecution or trustee so that the defense can attempt to intervene and oppose the waiver, likely arguing that their client’s interest in the privilege outweighs any need of the trustee or the government for the waiver, as indicated by Pearlman. Given that a trustee or receiver is typically held to have a great need for any documents or information in carrying out his or her duties, this will likely be a losing proposition, but one worth trying nevertheless.

 

As Economy Slumps, Fraud Is on the Rise, Including in Georgia

An article on Easter Sunday in the Atlanta Journal Constitution states what most readers will probably guess—that the gloom of the economy and financial desperation are fueling an increase in cases of fraud. The article notes that Ponzi schemes, mortgage fraud and other frauds have increased nationwide as well as in Georgia. It relates some recent noteworthy frauds in the State:

  • Georgia’s “Bernie Madoff,” Wendell Ray Spell, who bilked investors out of $60 million in a Ponzi scheme involving financing of construction equipment;
  • CRE Capital, an Alpharetta firm which purported to pay investors 10 percent a month from trading U.S. and Japanese currencies, but which turned out to be a Ponzi scheme which defrauded at least 120 investors of more than $28 million. CRE’s President James G. Ossie was indicted in January in the Northern District of Georgia on 10 counts of wire fraud;
  • Woodstock, Georgia, real estate agent Joseph S. Jetton was sentenced last year to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay $11.2 million in restitution for mortgage fraud; and
  • Georgianne Carlisle, a former insurance company executive from Taylorsville, Georgia, pled guilty last week to embezzling $1.2 million in insurance premiums.

The article references FBI statistics, which relates that pending federal prosecutions for fraud more than doubled from 279 in 2003 to 529 in 2007, and that embezzlement arrests jumped by more than a third over the same period to more than 22,000. It quotes sources claiming that Atlanta is a hot spot for mortgage fraud. Katherine Addleman, Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Atlanta regional office, is quoted as stating that the worsening economy actually serves to expose frauds, since the fraudulent schemes run out of money. The FBI’s most recent Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report for January to June 2008 showed the rate of larceny-theft down 1.2 percent nationwide, but with an increase of .5 percent in the Southeast. These numbers likely have increased and will undoubtedly increase further if financial desperation from the declining state of the economy grows.

Eleventh Circuit Hands Down Latest--and Maybe Last--Chapter in the Noriega Saga

Panamanian strongman and dictator General Manuel Noriega was trained in the 1960s at the School of the Americas, while the School was at Fort Gulick in the Panama Canal Zone, as well as at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Noriega is believed to have worked with the CIA from the late 1950s, being paid by the agency at times, and to have entered into a contractual relationship with the agency in 1967. Noriega joined the Panamanian National Guard and supported dictator General Omar Torrijos (father of the current, democratically-elected President of Panama, Martin Torrijos), under whom Noriega was alleged to have been involved in “disappearances” of political opponents. When Colonel Florencio Flores Aguilar, who became dictator of Panama at Torrijos’ death in a plane accident (which was later alleged to have been orchestrated by Noriega), was ousted in a coup by Colonel Ruben Dario Paredes in 1982, Noriega became Commander of the National Guard, renamed the Panamanian Defense Forces.

Noriega proceeded to consolidate almost absolute power in Panama, promoting himself to general in 1983, and became involved with the Medellin Drug Cartel based in Colombia. Noriega has claimed that in 1988, U.S. State Department officials met with him and offered him $2 million to go into exile in Spain. The U.S. government has maintained that Noriega was a double-agent, giving information not only to the U.S. but also to communist Cuba, as well as selling weapons to Sandinista-controlled Nicaragua in the 1970s, thus leading to his State Department nickname of “the Rent-a-Colonel.” Noriega permitted U.S. aid to Contra rebels in Nicaragua to pass through Panama. However, he refused demands by U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North for Noriega to provide military assistance to the Contras.

In 1989, Noriega was indicted on drug charges in the Southern District of Florida, and Panamanian President Arturo Delvalle issued a decree relieving Noriega of his duties. Noriega ignored the decree, and instead forced Delvalle to flee the country. The National Assembly declared Noriega “Chief Executive Officer” of Panama, although he had been de facto leader of the country for several years. Noriega is suspected to have been complicit in the murder of political opponent Hugo Spadfora by death squads. Noriega brutally suppressed protests against his rule through the use of army and paramilitary forces called “Dignity Battalions,” and rounded up, imprisoned and killed political opponents.

Noriega attempted to rig the May 1989 election for president in favor of his candidate Carlos Duque of the Partido Revolucionario Democrático by having fake tally sheets distributed to election precincts, however his opponents managed to release results showing Guillermo Endara of the Authentic Panameñista Party beating Duque by 3 to 1. Noriega proceeded to void the election claiming “foreign interference,” and was denounced by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who monitored the election as an observer. Noriega’s Dignity Battalions stopped Endara the day following the election and severely beat him.

The U.S. recognized Endara as President and imposed economic sanctions on Panama, while U.S. armed forces had freedom of movement throughout the country under the Panama Canal Treaty of 1980. On December 15, 1989, the National Assembly stated that a “state of war” existed between the U.S. and Panama, and on December 20, 1989, the U.S. military at the direction of President George H.W. Bush invaded Panama in Operation Just Cause. Navy SEALs destroyed Noriega’s plane in Operation Nifty Package, and Noriega hid himself in the Vatican’s embassy in Panama where, after being bombarded by hard rock music by U.S. forces for several days, Noriega surrendered on January 3, 1990.

Noriega was convicted on RICO, drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering counts in the Southern District of Florida in April of 1992, and was sentenced to 40 years imprisonment. Commentators criticized the prosecution’s frequent reworking of its case, and its use of deals and payments to drug dealers in order to testify against Noriega. Noriega has been an inmate at in the Federal Correctional Institute in Miami, Florida. His sentence was reduced to 30 years in 1999, and was further reduced to 17 years for good behavior. Noriega’s sentence technically ended on September 9, 2007, although he remains incarcerate. Noriega has reportedly become a born-again Christian.

Yesterday, the Eleventh Circuit handed down the latest, and perhaps final, chapter in the Noriega saga, Noriega v. Pastrana, NO.08-11021 D.C. DOC, 2009 WL 929960, (11th Cir., Apr. 08, 2009). After his capture, Noriega had been designated as a prisoner of war under the Third Geneva Convention.  At the request of the French government, the United States filed a complaint on July 17, 2007, to extradite Noriega to France, and Noriega filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, alleging that extradition would violate his rights under the Third Geneva Convention. The district court held that Section 2255 only applied to challenges to a sentence, and also that the government had satisfied its obligations under the Third Geneva Convention, and denied the petition. Noriega filed two more habeas petitions, which were also denied by the court. An extradition hearing was held on August 28, 2007, and a Certificate of Extraditability was issued on August 29, 2007.

 

On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit noted that it was not deprived of jurisdiction by the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), which removed the right for “enemy combatants” to petition for habeas corpus. Then, in regard to the Certificate of Extradition, the Court observed that:

There is no right to appeal extradition certification determinations, [cit.], and collateral review of an extradition determination by means of a petition for writ of habeas corpus is generally limited “to determining ‘whether the magistrate had jurisdiction, whether the offense charged is within the treaty and, ... whether there was any evidence warranting the finding that there was reasonable ground to believe the accused guilty.’”

(Internal citation omitted; citing Kastnerova v. U.S., 365 F.3d 980, 984 (11th Cir.2004); quoting Martin v. Warden, Atlanta Pen, 993 F.2d 824, 828 (11th Cir.1993); quoting Fernandez v. Phillips, 268 U.S. 311, 312 (1925)). The Court found that Noriega has failed to assert any applicable law which would prevent his extradition to France.

                The Court next considered the issue of whether an individual could invoke the rights of the Geneva Conventions in a civil action against the United States in light of Section 5 of the MCA, which provides that:

No person may invoke the Geneva Conventions or any protocols thereto in any habeas corpus or other civil action or proceeding to which the United States, or ... agent of the United States is a party as a source of rights in any court of the United States or its States or territories.

MCA, § 5(a). Noriega argued that while the Conventions could not be applied against the U.S. under Section 5, they could be applied against the Secretary of State, the Bureau of Prisons, or the Department of Justice, and that Article 118 of the Third Geneva Convention, which provides that “[p]risoners of war shall be released and repatriated without delay after the cessation of active hostilities,” required his repatriation to Panama. However, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that “§ 5 prohibits exactly this type of action,” and that Noriega’s Geneva Convention claims were precluded.

                The Court continued to hold that, even if the Geneva Convention applied and was “self-executing,” it did not prevent Noriega’s extradition to France, citing Article 119 of the Third Geneva Convention which provides that “[p]risoners of war against whom criminal proceedings for an indictable offence are pending may be detained until the end of such proceedings, and, if necessary, until the completion of the punishment. The same shall apply to prisoners of war already convicted for an indictable offence.” It also noted that repatriation under the convention is not automatic, citing Article 12: “[p]risoners of war may only be transferred by the Detaining Power to a Power which is a party to the Convention and after the Detaining Power has satisfied itself of the willingness and ability of such transferee Power to apply the Convention.” The Court affirmed the judgment of the district court, holding that the U.S. had complied with its obligations under the Third Geneva Convention and that extradition would not violate Noriega's rights under the Third Geneva Convention. After 20 years in custody, Panama's “Rent-a-Colonel” will apparently be headed to France for further proceedings.

Potential Large Rewards for Tax Whistleblowers

False claims actions, or “qui tam” actions, are well known actions by a “whistleblower,” or relator, who has discovered fraud against the Government, pursuant to the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. § 3729. If the Government decides to intervene in their case, the whistleblower can share in any recovery by the Government.

In addition to the FCA, other government agencies have their own incentives for whistleblowers. The most notable example is the Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service, which have long had a whistleblower program in place. However, on December 20, 2006, President George W. Bush signed the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 into law, which dramatically increased incentives under the IRS’s whistleblower program. Section 406 of the Act, codified at Section 7623 of Title 26 of the United States Code/ Section 7623 of the Internal Revenue Code, entitled “Expenses of detection of underpayments and fraud, etc.” provides in part that:

1.  The Secretary of Treasury is authorized, in cases where such expenses are not otherwise provided for by law, to make awards for (1) the detection of underpayments of taxes, or (2) the detection and bringing to trial and punishment persons guilty of violating, or conspiring to violate, the internal revenue laws. 26 U.S.C. § 7623(a).

2.  If the Secretary proceeds with any administrative or judicial action based upon information brought to the Secretary’s attention by an individual, the individual shall receive as an award at least 15 percent but not more than 30 percent of the collected proceeds (including penalties, interest, additions to tax, and additional amounts resulting from the action), or from any settlement in response to such action, subject to the exception in 26 U.S.C. § 7623(b)(2)(A), discussed below. The amount of the award shall be determined by the Whistleblower Office and shall depend on “upon the extent to which the individual substantially contributed to such action.” 26 U.S.C. § 7623(b). NOTE: All of Section 7623’s award provisions apply only if there is an action against a taxpayer (1) whose gross income exceeds $200,000 for any taxable year subject to the action, and (2) the tax, penalties, interest, additions to tax, and additional amounts in dispute exceed $2,000,000. 26 U.S.C. § 7623(b)(5). NOTE: No awards can be made under Section 7623 unless the information submitted to the Secretary is submitted under penalty of perjury. 26 U.S.C. § 7623(c).

Gillen Withers & Lake LLC, is headed by civil and criminal defense attorneys who are among the most distinguished in the Southeast, with a national reputation and excellent track record, who vigorously represent and make every effort on behalf of their clients. Contact us today by calling or e-mailing Craig Gillen in Atlanta at (404) 842-9700 or cgillen@gwllawfirm.com or Thomas Withers in Savannah at (912) 447-8400 or twithers@gwllawfirm.com.

3.  If the Whistleblower Office determines that the administrative or judicial action was “principally” based on disclosures other than those provided by the individual, including from a judicial or administrative hearing, from a governmental report, hearing, audit, or investigation or from the news media, the Whistleblower Office may still award the informant an award of not more than 10 percent of the collected proceeds from such action or any settlement resulting from such action, “taking into account the significance of the informant's information and the role of such individual and any legal representative of such individual in contributing to such action.” 26 U.S.C. § 7623(b)(2)(A). However, this provision does not apply where the information resulting in the initiation of the action was originally provided by the informant. 26 U.S.C. § 7623(b)(2)(B).

4. Naturally, if the Whistleblower Office determines that the informant was responsible for actions which led to the underpayment of tax, or if the informant is convicted for crimes relating to the underpayment of tax, the Whistleblower Office may reduce or deny any award. 26 U.S.C. § 7623(b)(3).

5.  An informant may appeal any determination relating to an award to the U.S. Tax Court within 30 days of the determination. 26 U.S.C. § 7623(b)(4).

 

The IRS has also issued Section 301.7623-1 of Title 26 of the Code of Federal Regulations, entitled “Rewards for information relating to violations of internal revenue laws,” expands upon Section 7623 and provides that an award includes amounts collected prior to the time that the informant provided the information if the information leads to the denial of a claim for refund that otherwise would have been paid. 26 C.F.R. § 301.7623-1(a). Individuals who are federal employees at the time they provide information are not eligible to file a claim for a reward. 26 C.F.R. § 301.7623-1(b). However, claims for reward may be filed on behalf of deceased persons by an executor, administrator, or other legal representative, along with certified copies of documents showing authority of the representative to file the claim. 26 C.F.R. § 301.7623-1(b)(3). Payment of a reward will only be made after all taxes, penalties or fines have been collected, unless the informant waives any claim for reward with respect to an uncollected portion of the taxes, penalties, or fines involved. 26 C.F.R. § 301.7623-1(c).

 

      Most importantly, Section 301.7623-1 provides additional restrictions for making an award and the amount of the award:

 

All relevant factors, including the value of the information furnished in relation to the facts developed by the investigation of the violation, will be taken into account by a district or service center director in determining whether a reward will be paid, and, if so, the amount of the reward. The amount of a reward will represent what the district or service center director deems to be adequate compensation in the particular case, generally not to exceed fifteen percent of the amounts (other than interest) collected by reason of the information.

26 C.F.R. § 301.7623-1(c). Information under Section 7623 may be submitted in person to the office of a district director, preferably to a representative of the Criminal Investigation Division, or may be submitted in writing to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Attention: Assistant Commissioner (Criminal Investigation), 1111 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20224, to any district director, Attention: Chief, Criminal Investigation Division, or to any service center director. 26 C.F.R. § 301.7623-1(d). An informant intending to file a claim for reward under Section 7623, as soon as practicable after the submission of the information, should notify the individual to whom he or she submitted his or her information, and the informant must file a formal claim on Form 211, Application for Reward for Original Information, signed by the informant in the informant's true name.

            Persons who are not current federal employees and who possess information concerning nonpayment or underpayment of large amounts of taxes or violations of internal revenue laws by other taxpayers should submit this information to the Department of Treasury and IRS according to the procedure set out in Section 301.7623-1 and should consider submitting a claim under these procedures. The submission of information and filing and enforcement of a claim under Section 7623 may be a detailed and complex process, and persons are advised to consult with an attorney.

Gillen Withers & Lake LLC, is headed by civil and criminal defense attorneys who are among the most distinguished in the Southeast, with a national reputation and excellent track record, who vigorously represent and make every effort on behalf of their clients. Contact us today by calling or e-mailing Craig Gillen in Atlanta at (404) 842-9700 or cgillen@gwllawfirm.com or Thomas Withers in Savannah at (912) 447-8400 or twithers@gwllawfirm.com.