Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Convictions affirmed, Circuit split joined

US v. Halstead: Halstead was convicted of healthcare fraud and conspiring to launder money, and he received a sentence of 151 months. After his direct appeals failed, Halstead filed a petition for the collateral review of his convictions, attempting to vacate the money laundering conviction. Halstead wanted the Fourth Circuit to find a "merger problem" resolved by the Supreme Court in United States v. Santos, so that his money laundering conviction would be vacated, and dramatically reduce the jail time he could expect.

The Fourth Circuit decides here that Santos does not apply, because the charging documents for Halstead's convictions adequately defined his crimes as separate transactions not subject to merger. Indeed, affirming Halstead's convictions was a sideshow in comparison to the main event in this case, in which the Fourth Circuit joins a circuit split on the correct reading of the Santos holding.

The Fourth Circuit joins the 1st and 8th Circuits, finding that Santos requires the solution that when a merger problem arises in the context of money laundering coupled with illegal gambling, the proceeds of the illegal gambling business are its net profits. When the merger problem rears its ugly head outside of this context, e.g. when a case involves money laundering with some predicate crime other than illegal gamblng, the solution depends on a case-by-case analysis, with a consideration of the legislative history of the predicate offense.

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