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United States v. Villalobos

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
748 F.3d 953 (2014)


Rabbi Amitai Yemeni, the director of the Los Angeles Chabad Israel Center, was under investigation by the federal government for his role in a fraudulent work-visa scheme. Yemeni brought Israeli nationals to the United States and paid them as though they worked at the center, though they did not. Yemeni then personally collected the center’s payments back from the nationals. In 2009, the husband of Orit Anjel, one of the fraudulent workers, hired Alfred Nash Villalobos (defendant), a lawyer, to help recover the money Orit paid to Yemeni. Villalobos learned that the federal government was preparing to interview Orit as part of the Yemeni investigation. Villalobos approached Yemeni and Yemeni’s lawyer, Benjamin Gluck, demanding payment in return for Orit’s favorable testimony during Orit’s interview with the federal government. The United States government (plaintiff) subsequently charged Villalobos with attempted extortion under 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a), known as the Hobbs Act. At trial, the district court instructed the jury that all threats to testify or provide evidence for the investigation were wrongful under the act so long as Villalobos made the threats with the intent to induce or take advantage of fear. A jury convicted Villalobos, and he appealed, challenging the jury instruction and contending that the court inappropriately prohibited him from presenting a claim of right defense.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Smith, J.)

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