Thursday, April 04, 2024

Another SDFLA acquittal

 This one was before Judge Rodney Smith, who granted a Rule 29 motion.  Congrats to the defense lawyers -- Sam Rabin and Jessica Duque.  (I am particularly proud of Jessica, a former student in my White Collar Seminar at UM).  

Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald covers the case here:

Two years ago, a South Florida lawyer was charged with her fiancé and others in what appeared to be a textbook conspiracy case accusing them of applying for million of dollars in federal government loans meant to help small businesses survive during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pembroke Pines attorney Mariel Tollinchi had to post a $250,000 bond, including $50,000 in cash, and wear an electronic ankle bracelet, to gain her release before trial while her liberty and law practice remained in limbo. But on Friday, Tollinchi, 37, gained her freedom when a federal judge acquitted her of fraud, money laundering and identity theft charges after prosecutors completed their side of the case during a jury trial in Fort Lauderdale. The evidence in the case was so weak that U.S. District Judge Rodney Smith granted her lawyers’ motion for acquittal on all charges before they even put on a defense. “Intent was the issue at trial, and the government failed to prove any intent on her part to defraud the [pandemic] loan program,” her attorneys, Jessica Duque and Sam Rabin, said Monday after the week-long trial. They called Tollinchi a “victim” of her former fiancé’s deception. Tollinchi’s legal victory — which kept her from being convicted, going to prison and losing her law license — followed a string of similar outcomes against almost all of the other defendants charged in the $8 million pandemic loan fraud case.


But at Tollinchi’s trial, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office were unable to prove that Tollinchi conspired with her former fiancé, Philossaint, to file falsified applications for PPP and other loans, which were guaranteed by the Small Business Administration after Congress passed the CARES Act in March 2020. Prosecutors accused Tollinchi of fabricating loan applications for four businesses: The Technical Advantage, Ferro’s Entertainment and Production, Perfect Landscaping, and a nonprofit charity, Cinda Foundation. All of the businesses were owned by either her or her parents, according to the indictment. The loan requests were for a total of $253,865; of that amount, Tollinchi received about $142,000 and her parents the balance, according to the indictment. Prosecutors claimed that Tollinchi conspired with Philossaint to file bogus applications for the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, including falsifying business revenues, number of employees, payroll expenses and corporate taxes. The SBA agreed to forgive the loans, which were processed by financial institutions, as long as they were used for payroll and other overhead expenses. Rabin, a veteran criminal defense attorney, said Tollinchi filed “legitimate” paperwork with her loan applications and tax records but Philossaint “doctored” them to maximize his commission fees — without her knowledge. “She didn’t see it coming,” Rabin said. His partner, Duque, said if federal authorities had investigated the case more deeply, they would have discovered that Philossaint and Tollinchi were not in cahoots. “She was absolutely a victim in all of this,” Duque said.


Craig D. Rolle said...

Congrats! She's so blessed that she got to have you as her White Collar Professor. I'm jealous!

Anonymous said...

Have to love weaver, “objective” “reporter”, as ever.

Placing Sam’s defense in quotes (grammatically not required, ) to diminish the defense and the outcome.


Anonymous said...

Have to love weaver, “objective” “reporter” that he is.

Placing Sam’s defense - and what the court agreed with - in quotes, solely to diminish the defense (not grammatically required.)


Anonymous said...

If there were real justice in this country, there would be a rule 57.105 equivalent in criminal trials. There is no downside to the government playing games with people. I am old and remember Ray Donovan, Reagan's labor secretary who was indicted on utterly bogus charges. He was acquitted. The infamous quote "where do I go to get my reputation back" still resonates.

Rumpole said...

This is what we work for. My guess is Sam and Jessica will be walking a few feet above the ground after this for a while.
The feeling of using your ability and training to help someone in need and win is what keeps us all going.
It’s not the fun we have at calendar calls being berated for not being ready ten days after getting a terabyte of discovery.

WTG Sam and Jessica.
Well done.
Well done indeed.

Anonymous said...

He needs to stop. Fraud is fraud!

Anonymous said...

Playing the poor beat down woman game gets old...