Archive | conscious avoidance

Monday, August 22nd, 2022

No GAAP violation, no expert, no problem

Are accounting standards and securities laws as complex as the tax code? Not according to the Second Circuit. In United States v. Petit, Taylor, Nos. 21-543-cr, 21-559-cr (2d Cir. Aug. 22, 2022) (summary order), the Second Circuit upheld the securities fraud convictions of two former public company executives charged with using “accounting tricks to artificially inflate” their company’s reported revenue in quarterly reports.

The defendants, who were convicted after trial, argued that the government failed to prove their so-called “tricks” violated any Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). They also argued that the district court gave erroneous jury instructions on the scienter element (“knowingly and willfully”) and conscious avoidance.

The Circuit was unmoved. According to the Circuit, the “government was not required to prove” the defendants “violated GAAP,” so long as the defendants “intentionally misled investors.” Similarly, to prove the charged fraud, the government “did not need to offer expert …

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Categories: conscious avoidance, securities law

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Tuesday, July 20th, 2021

But is it one conspiracy? And is it securities fraud?

The answer to those questions is pretty much always “yes.” In United States v. Khalupsky, Nos. 19-197-cr, 19-780-cr (2d Cir. July 19, 2021), the Second Circuit affirmed the trial convictions of two defendants, rejecting various legal challenges. According to the circuit, the evidence at trial established that the defendants participated in a multi-year scheme to use stolen pre-publication press releases to make securities trades. Specifically, “hackers in Ukraine” “hacked into three newswires” that disseminated press releases for publicly traded companies, and passed those press releases to an intermediary (Dubovoy) before they were published. This intermediary then equipped and funded each defendant for trading, and gave them access to the releases. The defendants traded, kept a percentage of trading profits for themselves, and passed the rest back to Dubovoy.

On appeal, the defendants argued that there was not sufficient evidence to establish the existence of the single charged conspiracy, since …

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Categories: conscious avoidance, conspiracy, constructive amendment, securities law

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Monday, May 16th, 2016

Second Circuit Vacates Sentence Due to Inadequate Factual Determination Regarding Application of the “Otherwise Extensive” Nature of Conduct Enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(a); Affirms Three Convictions in Summary Orders

In United States v. Kent, 14-2082, the Second Circuit vacated a sentence and remanded for resentencing after concluding that the District Court’s application of a 4-level enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(a) was not supported by adequate factual findings.  The district court determined that Mr. Kent was a leader or organizer of criminal activity that was “otherwise extensive” within the meaning of U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(a)  and applied the 4-level enhancement.  Many of the facts relied upon by the district court in making this determination – including the amount of money Mr. Kent made and the number of victims of the scheme – already were taken into account by enhancements under U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1(b)(1)(H) (the loss amount enhancement) and U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1(b)(2)(B) (the number of victims enhancement).  The Second Circuit explained that relying on loss amount and the number of victims to find that criminal activity was “otherwise extensive” for …

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Categories: conscious avoidance, double counting, sentencing findings

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Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Second Circuit affirms above-guideline sentence; declines to consider one IAC claim on direct review, but rejects another where record below was sufficiently developed on the point

In United States v. Pendergrass, 15-1965, the Second Circuit affirmed the conviction of Terrence Pendergrass, a former captain at Rikers Island, on one count of willfully violating the constitutional rights of an inmate, who died following the ingestion of cleaning supplies, by refusing to get him medical attention and prohibiting other guards from getting him medical attention.  Pendergrass raised three issues:  that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial, that the District Court improperly instructed the jury regarding willfulness and conscious avoidance, and that his above-guideline sentence was unreasonable.

With respect to the ineffective assistance of counsel claims, the Court declined to consider Pendergrass’s first claim (that Pendergrass’s attorney was ineffective because he failed to call witnesses that would have been material to the defense) because the record with respect to the witnesses’ potential testimony was insufficiently developed to be considered on direct review.  The Court did reach …

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Categories: conscious avoidance, ineffective assistance of counsel, jury charge, substantive reasonableness, willful causation

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Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

Pill Pains

United States v. Quinones, No. 09-4361-cr (2d Cir. March 29, 2011) (Walker, Straub, Katzmann, CJJ)

Antonio Quinones and his son, Herman, were convicted of conspiring to distribute controlled substances. Antonio was also convicted of a money laundering conspiracy. In this opinion, the Court tries to make sense of a confusing Supreme Court money laundering case and displays a rare difference of opinion over a conscious avoidance jury instruction.


Antonio Quinones entered the internet pharmacy business in 2002 and, for several years, ran websites where customers could purchase prescription drugs with virtually no medical oversight. The purchaser would select the drug he wanted and fill out a brief medical questionnaire. This was then submitted to a doctor who reviewed it and approved the order. The doctors were paid per questionnaire reviewed, and often reviewed more than one hundred per day. Once approved, the prescription was transmitted to an actual pharmacy …

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Categories: conscious avoidance, money laundering, Uncategorized

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Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Kaiser on a Roll

United States v. Kaiser, No. 07-2365-cr (2d Cir. July 1, 2010) (Jacobs, Calabresi, Pooler, CJJ)

Mark Kaiser was convicted after a jury trial of securities fraud-related offenses in connection with an accounting fraud scheme at USF, a large food product distributor. The circuit, finding error in the conscious avoidance instruction and in an evidentiary ruling, vacated the judgment and remanded the case for a new trial.


From 1994 until 2001, Kaiser helped run USF’s Purchasing Department, and negotiated rebates from its vendors called promotional allowances (“PA”s”). Kaiser was charged with developing a scheme to fraudulently inflate the PA income for certain years and with committing other fraudulent acts, including making false statements, to hide the inflated numbers from USF’s outside auditors. The government’s case was built largely around the testimony of three cooperating witnesses, who testified that Kaiser was the mastermind. Kaiser’s defense was that the cooperators had cooked …

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Categories: conscious avoidance, hearsay, Uncategorized

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