United States v. Lonich, No. 18-10298 (9th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
In schemes involving Sonoma County, California real estate, attorney Lonich conspired with Sonoma Valley Bank (SVB) officers Melland and Cutting to obtain fraudulent loans. The Ninth Circuit affirmed their convictions but vacated their sentences.
The Sixth Amendment’s Speedy Trial Clause was not violated with respect to charges first brought in a superseding indictment. Even assuming the clock started with the original indictment, the delay caused no relevant prejudice. With respect to money laundering (18 U.S.C. 1957) and misapplication of bank funds (18 U.S.C. 656) charges, the district court’s general “knowingly” jury instruction was permissible. Sufficient evidence supported Melland’s conviction for bribery by a bank employee (18 U.S.C. 215(a)(2)). The district court appropriately instructed the jury that, to find Melland “acted corruptly,” the jury must determine he “intend[ed] to be influenced or rewarded in connection with any business or transaction of” a financial institution. Sufficient evidence also supported Lonich’s conviction for attempted obstruction of justice (18 U.S.C. 1512(c)(2)) by encouraging a straw buyer to mislead the grand jury about his role in the scheme.
The district court applied several enhancements that dramatically increased the recommended Guidelines sentencing ranges, premised on a finding that defendants caused SVB to fail, making them responsible for associated losses. The court applied a “clear and convincing evidence” standard and noted the district court made no independent findings about the cause of the bank’s collapse. Restitution orders ($20 million) were premised on the same theory.