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United States v. Collins
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
581 F. App’x 59 (2014)
Joseph Collins (defendant) worked as outside counsel for Refco, Inc., which went bankrupt because of accounting fraud. Refco executives hid Refco’s growing debt by repeatedly taking short-term loans from a subsidiary just before audits and repaying the subsidiary just after the audits. Shuffling the debt between the subsidiary and the parent company concealed the debt from banks, regulators, and customers until Refco’s initial public offering. Collins prepared documents supporting the fraudulent short-term loans but claimed that he did not know about the accounting conspiracy. The government (plaintiff) introduced evidence showing that Collins wrote a legal opinion discussing Refco’s $700 million in debt when Refco’s filings only disclosed $179 million in debt, and that another attorney spoke directly to Collins about Refco’s $1.1 billion in debt. Collins was charged with fraud relating to his involvement in the scheme, and the trial court gave the jury instructions on conscious avoidance. The jury found Collins guilty of seven fraud-related charges, and the trial court sentenced Collins to prison. Collins appealed, arguing that there was not enough evidence to allow the court to have given a jury instruction on conscious avoidance.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Jacobs, Calabresi, Droney, J.J.)
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