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Feds and Georgia Announce Cyber Fraud Task Force Aimed at “BEC Fraud”

The DOJ has announced a state-federal “Cyber Fraud Task Force” targeting suspected “BEC” fraud (Business Email Compromise) in metro Atlanta. Statistics reflect a significant increase in BEC fraud over the years, and the DOJ reports that the metro Atlanta area is one of the top 5 clusters for BEC fraud cases in the country, suggesting there will be a significant increase in BEC fraud prosecutions there.

Criminal Charges Brought Against Former Governor and Others In Connection to Flint Water Crisis

Michigan’s Attorney General recently announced that eight former state officials, including former Governor Rick Snyder, have been charged with several crimes in connection with the Flint Water Crisis. While Snyder has only been charged with misdemeanors for willful neglect of duty, other officials have been charged with more serious crimes, including perjury, obstruction, extortion, and involuntary manslaughter.

Federal Prosecutors Now Explicitly Tying Trump’s Speech to Capitol Riots in Insurrection Cases

As reflected in documents filed by federal prosecutors in criminal cases against Capitol Hill rioters, the DOJ has begun to explicitly recognize and cite the connection between Trump’s speech and the violent actions by his supporters. Previously, federal prosecutors seemed to avoid drawing the connection, though defendants were quick to claim they were acting pursuant to the orders of the then-sitting U.S. president.

Recent Supreme Court Opinions

SCOTUS Declines to Determine Fourth Amendment Standard For Border Searches, Leaving Circuit Split Intact

The U.S. Supreme Court denied ceriorari to a petitioner seeking the Court’s determination as to what standard applies to Fourth Amendment searches at the U.S. border. The Court’s decision not to step in leaves in place a circuit split between courts that hold no probable cause or reasonable suspicion is required for law enforcement to conduct searches and those that hold there must at least be some degree of reasonable suspicion.

Andrus v. Texas (U.S. Supreme Court, June 2020)

In a per curiam opinion, a majority on the Supreme Court vacated a defendant’s death sentence and held that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective based on his failure to perform mitigation investigation, putting up mitigating evidence that backfired by bolstering the state’s case, failing to investigate the state’s aggravating evidence, and failing to present significant mitigating evidence that he could have discovered.

Ramos v. Louisiana (U.S. Supreme Court, April 2020)

In a patchwork opinion involving a lengthy discussion of stare decisis, a majority of the Court held that the Sixth Amendment right to a unanimous verdict in a criminal prosecution applies to the states through the Fourteenth amendment.

Recent Circuit Court Opinions

United States v. Gatto, et al (2d Cir. January 2021)

The Second Circuit affirmed the convictions of three men who had recruited college basketball players to certain universities by giving their families secret cash payments and then lying to the NCAA about it. The Court held that the elements of wire fraud were met because, through the defendants’ misrepresentations, they had deprived the universities of scholarship money paid to the college athletes that could have gone to eligible athletes that did not receive cash payments.

United States v. Melvyn Gear (9th Cir. January 2021)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed a defendant’s conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm by a nonimmigrant visa holder, but held that the Government must prove more than merely the fact that a defendant’s visa is labeled as a nonimmigrant visa. The Government must show that the defendant knew his visa’s classification or knew the offending characteristics of the visa that makes his firearm possession unlawful.

United States v. Fred McGee (7th Cir. January 2021)

The Seventh Circuit vacated a defendant’s sentence based on the district court improperly applying a role enhancement. While the defendant distributed drugs through his own local network in addition to the main network in his offense and paid others to act as lookouts or drivers, the Court held this was insufficient to apply the enhancement because, explaining that having a local network of buyers alone does not establish authority over others and that there was insufficient evidence that the defendant exercised authority over others simply by paying them to act in their roles as directed by the organization’s actual leader.

The Federal Docket

The Federal Docket is a monthly newsletter providing lawyers and the community a summary of recent important decisions in the area of federal criminal law from the United States Supreme Court and the Circuit Courts of Appeal. The opinions are compiled, summarized and analyzed by Tom Church, an attorney in our firm’s federal criminal defense practice.

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