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Monday, March 31, 2014

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decided one Indiana case Friday

In U.S. v. Causey (ND Ind., Lozano), a 20-page opinion, Judge Williams writes:

Randall Causey was part of a conspiracy that preyed on novice real estate investors during the housing bubble in 2005–06, defrauding both borrowers and lenders alike. A five‐day trial revealed that Causey and his co‐conspirators would do just about anything to complete a sale and make a profit, whether it was making promises they had no intention of keeping or falsifying receipts, incomes or other information on loan forms. Causey, who was the only co‐conspirator that did not plead guilty, was convicted and sentenced for his role in the fraud.

Causey raises five issues—four evidentiary and one sentencing— on appeal. First, he argues the court improperly admitted irrelevant and prejudicial photographs taken of the houses around the time of trial rather than at the time of the sale. We reject this argument because the photographs gave the jurors a sense of the size, location and style of the house, and the jurors were repeatedly reminded when the pictures were taken. Second, evidence of a fraudulent sale that took place outside of the conspiracy was properly admitted because Causey placed his intent to defraud and knowledge of the fraudulent scheme at issue by claiming he was an innocent pawn, and this sale demonstrated his fraudulent knowledge and intent. Third, a defense witness’s testimony was properly excluded as undisclosed expert testimony because the witness had no personal knowledge of the transactions at issue and was asked instead about industry norms, which is only permissible if a witness is qualified as an expert. Fourth, Causey argues the district court erred in allowing an unqualified co‐conspirator to give broad expert testimony and allowing her to testify as both a fact and expert witness without a limiting instruction. Since the witness was never referred to as an expert in front of the jury, there was extensive cross examination about her credentials and the basis for her opinion, and her opinion was not significant to the government’s case, we reject Causey’s arguments. Finally, a two‐level sentencing enhancement for being an “organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor of the conspiracy” was properly assessed because Causey was responsible for recruiting the buyers into the conspiracy and exercised control over them during their involvement, which included submit ting fraudulent paperwork during closings, and some buyers were also uncharged criminally responsible parties.

We affirm the district court on each of these issues.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 31, 2014 07:39 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions