United States v. Burns, No. 15-2824 (7th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
At USARMS, Burns provided estate-planning services and offered clients an investment in promissory notes that USARMS sold. The notes were allegedly backed by Turkish bonds. USARMS’s owners, Durmaz and Pribilski, claimed to have a connection in the Turkish government that allowed them to purchase the bonds at a below-market rate. USARMS guaranteed an 8.5 percent rate of return and told investors that returns could be as high as 14 percent. In reality, USARMS never purchased Turkish bonds. Durmaz and Pribilski used the investments for their personal use and to pay earlier investors “returns.” Burns was unaware of that deception. Before charges were filed, Durmaz fled the country and Pribilski died. Based on the government’s assertion that that Burns had induced victims to invest by falsely telling them that he had experience managing investments and that he and his family had invested in the bonds, a jury convicted Burns of wire fraud and mail fraud. The district court enhanced Burns’s sentence, ordered restitution, and ordered forfeiture based on the victims’ $3.3 million total loss in the Ponzi scheme. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the conviction, rejecting a claim of insufficient evidence of material misrepresentations. The court remanded the sentencing enhancement and the restitution order because the district court failed to address proximate cause.