White-collar crimes often involve federal statutes that make them much more complex than other types of crimes. United States v. Renzi, a case from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, involved a Congressmen and his friend who were convicted of insurance fraud, public corruption, and racketeering.
According to court records, the congressman owned and operated an insurance agency that specialized in providing liability insurance to non-profit organizations and crisis pregnancy centers. Through his company, he essentially served as a broker for two underwriting companies. The congressman would collect the premiums from his customers, keep a small percentage for his profit, and remit the rest of the premium to the underwriters.
In 2001, he announced his candidacy to run for congress and immediately started taking money from his company to fund his campaign. It is alleged that he called these contributions a personal loan to avoid disclosure requests, but the money was traced back to his client’s premium payments.
When one of the insurance carriers sent him an invoice for nearly $250,000 in premium payments, he instructed his employee not to pay, since he had already spent the money on his campaign. The company threatened to cancel the customer’s insurance policies for nonpayment, and he did not reply.
When the company sent cancellation notices to the clients, they called the congressmen to find out why this was happening. He responded by dictating a letter to be sent to his clients saying that spiritual counseling was no longer covered by these companies, so he found them a new company and there would be no lapse in coverage. He provided them with certificates of coverage from the new company. None of this was true, and the new insurance company did not exist. He sent out 74 of these letters to the customers who had contacted him and did nothing with respect to the others.
State insurance regulators began to investigate and contacted the customers. He sent another letter to customers stating that there would be no lapse in coverage. He was then elected to the United States House of Representatives and also received a $230,000 gift from his father that he used to convince the insurance companies to retroactively reinstate the policies.
He then told investigators that an employee had mistakenly typed the wrong name on the certificates he sent to the clients and that this was simply and ongoing dispute that had been settled. He and his associates were eventually charged with various federal crimes and convicted. He attempted to defend the charges on several protections available to standing members of congress, but the trial court and the court of appeals found that he had violated the public trust. His conviction was affirmed.
As our federal defense attorneys in Birmingham can explain, the government has extremely broad powers when charging for a deprivation of honest services. It is essential that your attorney has experience in these types of cases and thoroughly understands the complex legal issues involved in refuting such charges.