Monday, July 02, 2012

Fraud Convictions for Manufactured Regulatory Approval Upheld

US v. Wynn: Wynn was an engineer with a firm responsible for a project extending the runway of a regional airport in South Carolina.  In order to embark on the project, the airport needed the plans drawn up by Wynn to be approved by regulators.  Wynn never got such approval, but when asked if the approval had been given, fabricated an appropriate stamp from the regulators and sent it to the airport by mail and later the regulators as an attachment to an email.  As a result, Wynn was charged and convicted for mail fraud and wire fraud.  He was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $118,000.

On appeal, Wynn challenged both his conviction and sentence, both of which the court upheld.  As to his convictions, Wynn argued that the district court improperly instructed the jury by allowing a conviction without the Government proving that he intended to harm the airport (or the county that ran it) and that the evidence was insufficient to prove that element.  The court disagreed, holding that the instructions correctly told the jury it needed to find an intent to defraud on Wynn's part, not simply a falsehood in his dealings with the airport.  The court also rejected Wynn's argument that providing the falsely approved version of the plan to was not material or reasonably relied upon.  As to his sentence, Wynn argued that the loss calculation by the district court greatly overestimated the actual loss, because it included fees paid by the county to Wynn's firm that were unrelated to the fraud.  The court disagreed, holding that it was not clear error for the district court to concluded that the other fees would not have been paid to Wynn's firm had the county paying them been aware of his fraud.

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