Justia Pennsylvania Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in White Collar Crime
Marion v. Bryn Mawr Trust Co.
Robert Bentley (Bentley) was a broker of certificates of deposits (CDs). He operated his business through two entities: Bentley Financial Services (BFS) and Entrust Group (Entrust). Entrust had a $2 million line of credit with Main Line Federal Savings Bank (Main Line). In 1996, Main Line terminated the line of credit after the bank discovered Bentley had forged his accountant’s signature on a document. Main Line demanded repayment of the outstanding $2 million balance. In order to pay back Main Line, Bentley sold $2 million of fake CDs. Thereafter, Bentley engaged in a Ponzi scheme in which he would sell fraudulent or fictitious CDs to new investors in order to pay off previous investors. In 1997, as he continued to defraud investors, Bentley opened deposit and wire transfer accounts with a new bank, Bryn Mawr Trust Company (BMT). Bentley became one of BMT’s largest customers. In 2001, the Securities and Exchange Commission commenced an action against Bentley for his Ponzi scheme. The federal court appointed David Marion (Marion) as a receiver for BFS and Entrust. In 2004, Marion initiated this case. Marion’s complaint, amended in 2012, raised claims of breach of fiduciary duty, breach of the Uniform Fiduciaries Act (UFA), aiding and abetting fraud, and negligence. In 2014, the trial court granted summary judgment to BMT on the claim of aiding and abetting fraud. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted limited discretionary review to consider whether to recognize a cause of action for aiding and abetting fraud and, if so, to determine the scienter requirement for this tort. The Court held aiding and abetting fraud was a cognizable claim under Pennsylvania law, and the required state of mind was actual knowledge of the fraud. Accordingly, the Superior Court’s decision was affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded to the trial court for a new trial. View "Marion v. Bryn Mawr Trust Co." on Justia Law
Pennsylvania v. Veon
Appellant Michael R. Veon, a twenty-two-year member and eventual Minority Whip of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, was entitled to $20,000 annually to cover business expenses associated with maintenance of a district office, as well as $4,000 for postage. Pursuant to House Democratic Caucus (“Caucus”) procedures, Veon could seek additional funds from Caucus leadership if he exhausted his $20,000 allocation, and it was not uncommon for Caucus members to do so. In 1991, Veon formed the Beaver Initiative for Growth (“BIG”), a non-profit corporation. BIG received all of its funding from public sources, primarily through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (“DCED”). Veon's Beaver County district office initially shared space with BIG, but opened two more district offices, for which the rent easily exceeded his caucus allotment. Veon was criminally charged with various offenses relating to BIG paying the district offices' rents. After some charges were withdrawn, Veon went to trial on nineteen counts. In the portion of the jury charge that was relevant to Veon’s appeal to the Supreme Court, the trial court defined the pecuniary requirement in the conflict of interest statute. The statute prohibited public officials from leveraging the authority of their offices for “private pecuniary benefit;” at issue here was whether or not that benefit extended to what the trial court in this case referred to as “intangible political gain.” In addition, another issue before the Supreme Court was whether the Commonwealth could receive restitution following prosecution of a public official for a crime involving unlawful diversion of public resources. The Court concluded the trial court committed prejudicial error in its jury charge regarding conflict of interest, and that it erred in awarding restitution to the DCED. Veon's judgment of sentence was vacated, the matter remanded for a new trial on conflict of interest, and for other proceedings. View "Pennsylvania v. Veon" on Justia Law
Pennsylvania v. Goodson
In 2001, Appellant Daniel Goodson was involved in a car accident. His insurance company paid $6,300 for the loss to the bank which still held title to the Appellant's car; Appellant received $135. Appellant, dissatisfied with his "meager" share of the insurance proceeds, presented a forged check for $6,300 to his bank with which to open a new account. The bank permitted Appellant to withdraw several thousand dollars before learning that the check was forged. The insurance company confirmed that it had not paid Appellant $6,300. Appellant paid back all the money he had withdrawn, but the State still pressed charges for forgery, insurance fraud and theft. Defendant challenged his sentence and conviction, arguing that he was not guilty of insurance fraud, and that his sentence was accordingly unreasonable. Finding that the trial court erred in convicting Appellant on insurance fraud charges, the Supreme Court remanded the case for resentencing based on forgery and theft. View "Pennsylvania v. Goodson" on Justia Law