Archive | restitution

Monday, September 13th, 2021

Second Circuit reverses and remands an order of restitution, imposed under the Mandatory Victim’s Restitution Act of 1996 (“MVRA”) — 18 U.S.C. § 3663A(a)(2), (c) — because the Government failed to prove, by a preponderance, the proximate cause element: i.e., that the losses to the victims were foreseeable to the defendant in the course of committing the “offense of conviction.” United States v. Goodrich, No. 19-208, __F.4th__ , 2021 WL 3889801 (2d Cir. Sept. 1, 2021) (C.J.J. Calabresi, Pooler, Carney).

The Circuit reversed, in part, an Amended Judgment that imposed restitution under the MVRA, because, although the defendant was responsible for the $479,000 losses to purchasers of stocks traded on the public market, the government didn’t establish that the $1.85 million of losses from the “private placement” trades were foreseeable to Goodrich.

Defendant Goodrich, a broker-dealer in the over-the-counter securities market,  pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to commit securities fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. Goodrich executed fraudulent trades with co-defendants to artificially inflate the share price of a sham company named, Cubed, Inc.  Op at 3-4 (They allegedly engaged in a “pump and dump” market manipulation scheme, through “wash” and “matched” trades); see Op at 4, 6, footnotes 1 & 4 defining a pump & dump scheme and wash and matched trades).

Goodrich executed trades in the public market, while “his co-defendants, who are not appellants here, …

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Friday, January 8th, 2021

Second Circuit rejects application of the categorical approach for determining an “offense against property” under the MVRA.

In United States v. Razzouk, No. 18-1395 (2d Cir. Jan. 4, 2021), the Second Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Carney, joined by Judge Walker and District Judge Koeltl, held that in determining whether a conviction is for an “offense against property,” such that restitution is required under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (“MVRA”), 18 U.S.C. § 3663A(c)(1)(A)(ii), a court may consider the facts and circumstances of the specific crime committed—not just the generic elements of the offense. The appellant had argued that his bribery conviction, which was based on a statute that does not refer to “property” or necessarily implicate its involvement, should not be subject to mandatory restitution. The Circuit rejected this, finding that an analysis based on the categorical approach was unwarranted and concluding that the facts of his case supported that it was an “offense against property.”

Defendant-appellant Sassine Razzouk pleaded guilty to one count …


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Categories: bribery, categorical approach, MVRA, restitution

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Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

District court erred in relying on uncharged conduct to select the applicable Guideline provision, and the error is not harmless despite the court’s claim that it would have imposed the same sentence under the correct Guideline.

In United States v. Huberfeld, 2d Cir. No. 19-436 (L), the Court (opinion by Judge Pooler, joined by Judges Lynch and Menashi) vacated both a 30-month sentence and a $19 million order of restitution for basically the same reason – the district court erred in relying on uncharged criminal conduct, beyond and broader than what the defendant actually pleaded guilty to via a negotiated information and plea agreement, in selecting the applicable Guideline provision and awarding restitution. The Court also found that the Guideline-selection error is not harmless, despite the district court’s claim that it would’ve imposed the same 30-month sentence under the correct Guideline, because under the circumstances here, the Court was not “confident” that the incorrect range did not “clearly” affect the court’s selection of the ultimate sentence.

Here’s the factual gist. Huberfeld solicited investments for Platinum Partners, a hedge fund. He spoke to co-conspirator Jona Rechnitz, …


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Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

Who is “indigent”? $5,000 special assessment issue to watch out for

The Second Circuit today issued a Jacobson remand for the district court to explain how it decided that a person represented by the Federal Defenders office was still “non-indigent” under Section 2014(a). (See the summary order in United States v. Rosario). For those who haven’t encountered this issue yet, section 2014(a) is the “Justice for Victims Trafficking Act,” which mandates a $5,000 – rather than $100 – special assessment for any “non-indigent” person convicted of certain sex offenses. “Indigent” isn’t defined. Although there do seem to be some good proxies the court could use – qualification for appointed counsel or a determination that a fine is inappropriate – so far, the Circuit has offered little guidance. Maybe they will when Rosario comes back before the panel.

In the meantime, object to the $5,000 special assessment if you have any argument your client is indigent. It may seem like a …


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Friday, February 16th, 2018

Second Circuit Holds that A Criminally Culpable Corporation Is Not Entitled to Restitution for Its Employees’ Criminal Conduct

The Second Circuit issued two opinions this week on third parties’ claims for restitution and shares of criminally forfeited property from defendants. See Federal Insurance Co. v. United States & United States v. Mazer (related cases), Nos. 16-2967 & 16-3402 (2d Cir. 2017) (Parker, Lynch, Carney) (appeal from Daniels, J., SDNY), opinion available here; United States v. Ohle, No. 16-601 (2d Cir. 2017) (Leval, Calabresi, Cabranes) (appeal from Rakoff, J., SDNY), opinion available here.

The lengthier of these opinions, in Federal Insurance, brings welcome news (or at least a sigh of relief) to the sort of low-level employees to whom corporate defendants are incentivized to shift blame in white collar prosecutions. Federal Insurance concerns a corporation’s entitlement to restitution and forfeiture payments from employees who were convicted for participating in a fraud for which the corporation is criminally culpable. In part, the opinion affirms …


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Categories: CVRA, forfeiture, fraud, MVRA, restitution, victims

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Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

Burdens of Proof & Restitution Under The MVRA

Yesterday the Second Circuit issued a short opinion concerning the burdens of proof for modifying restitution orders under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA), 18 U.S.C. §§ 3663A & 3664. Specifically, the panel held that the district court acted within its discretion in requiring the defendant to prove that a victim recovered money in civil litigation “for the same loss” caused by the defendant. Id. § 3664(j)(2) (requiring that a restitution order be reduced by the amount of such recoveries). The opinion in United States v. Smathers, No. 16-2394 (Kearse, Cabranes, Wesley) (per curiam) (appeal from Hellerstein, J., SDNY), is available here.

Mr. Smathers, a former AOL employee, was ordered to pay $84,000 in restitution to AOL in connection with his conviction for selling the company’s customer list to be used for spam. Through his attorney, Mr. Smathers requested that the district court determine whether this restitution order …


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Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Circuit affirms restitution order based on co-conspirator interview

In United States v. Pinto, the Second Circuit affirmed an order of restitution that was based, in part, on a government memorandum recounting an interview with a co-conspirator.  The District Court had refused to order the government to produce the QuickBooks records that were a partial basis for its restitution calculations.

The District Court has the discretion to decide the procedure it will employ in determining a restitution award “so long as the defendant is given an adequate opportunity to present his position.”  Order at 3. The court “is only required to ascertain by a preponderance of the evidence ‘a reasonable approximation of losses by a sound methodology.'” Id. (citing  United States v. Gushlak, 728 F. 3d 184, 196, and Paroline v. United States, 134 S. Ct. 1710, 1727-28 (2014)).…

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Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

Restitution Isn’t A Windfall

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In today’s United States v. Stevens, the Second Circuit (Winter, Chin, Droney) remanded a case for further proceedings because it was unclear whether the district court made the findings needed to support its restitution order.

Stevens fraudulently obtained a loan, ultimately acquired by Capital One Bank, for his business partnership.  The partnership later repaid Capital One in full and Stevens pleaded guilty to fraud in federal court.  The judge, in addition to ordering Stevens’s imprisonment, ordered him to pay restitution to the partnership.  The Second Circuit remanded, however, because “the district court did not make sufficient factual findings, which are necessary to our review of the restitution award.”

“Because restitution is intended to make the victim whole, it must be based only on the actual loss caused by the scheme.  Restitution is not intended to provide a victim with a windfall.”  And where a victim is reimbursed by a …

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Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Radio Smack

United States v. Lacey, No. 11-2404-cr (2d Cir. November 7, 2012) (Winter, Straub, Lynch, CJJ)

Defendants Lacey and Henry were convicted after a jury trial of various offenses resulting from their involvement in a mortgage fraud scheme. In the scheme a real estate company, MTC,  would purchase “short-sale” properties from distressed homeowners, then resell them to straw buyers, who would obtain mortgages on the properties, without intending to live in them or make payments. MTC helped the straw buyers complete fraudulent mortgage applications to ensure that they would be approved, and sometimes made a few payments on the loans to further deceive the banks, but eventually the loans defaulted and the lending banks took title to the properties through foreclosure.

One component of the fraud involved radio ads, through which MTC recruited straw buyers. Those ads told buyers that they could earn a fee by buying a house through …


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Categories: mass-marketing, mortgage fraud, restitution, Uncategorized, victim enhancement

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Saturday, October 20th, 2012

You Don’t Stay

United States v. Colasuonno, No. 11-1188-cr (2d Cir. October 12, 2012)(Kearse, Walker, Raggi, CJJ)

Answering a question of first impression, here the circuit holds that the automatic stay provisions of the bankruptcy code does not apply to either a restitution order or a probation violation proceeding based on a failure to comply with a restitution order.

The facts are fairly straightforward. A jury convicted Colasuonno of bank fraud offenses; he then pled guilty to an unrelated tax fraud. At a consolidated proceeding the district court imposed a noncustodial sentence, which included about $781,000 in restitution to the IRS on the tax case.  Colasuonno seemed to show little enthusiasm for making restitution payments. After two years, even with district court intervention, he had paid only about $6,600, even though his monthly income during that period was more than $7,000.

In July of 2009, Colasuonno and his wife filed a Chapter …


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Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Gain? Wait!

United States v. Zangari, No. 10-4546-cr (2d Cir. April 18, 2012) (Cabranes, Pooler, Wesley, CJJ)
In this decision, the court found that the district court’s restitution order, which was based on the defendant’s gain instead of the victims’ loss, was error, but not plain error. It accordingly affirmed.
Defendant Zangari was a securities broker in the securities-lending departments of two major banks.  He engaged in unauthorized stock-loan transactions with financial institutions that had a relationship with one of his co-workers, and received a portion of the kickbacks, approximately $65,000.  His employers  suffered “losses in the form of unrealized profit.”
Zangari pled guilty to a Travel Act conspiracy, and was sentenced under USSG § 2B4.1, the commercial bribery guideline. The PSR used the $65,000 figure as the loss calculation, recommending an enhancement for a loss between $30,000 and $70,000. Although neither bank had submitted a loss affidavit, the PSR

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