Supreme Court hears case on fraud in government contracting

Facing fraud charges in Tennessee is no small matter. It can put one’s reputation and future on the line. Anyone dealing with the risk of fraud charges should make sure they take steps to protect their rights.

However, it is also critical to understand the potential changes in how courts prove fraud.

First, what is necessary to prove fraud?

The elements needed to prove fraud occurred differ slightly depending on the type of fraud. However, to prove wire fraud, the prosecution must show:

  • There was a scheme or false pretenses to obtain money
  • There was knowing intent to defraud someone
  • Technological communications across state lines facilitated the scheme

The first two elements are essential for any kind of fraud conviction. However, courts have found it difficult to use these basic factors in a recent case.

Fraud case leading to questions

While Summers, Rufolo & Rodgers is not involved in this case, it is important to highlight the questions arising from the case that the United States Supreme Court will hear. Here are the critical details:

  • What happened? In short, a development firm, owned by Louis Ciminelli, won a contract for a New York government real estate project. However, Ciminelli had inside connections with the board in charge of this project. Ciminelli and his connection on the board worked together to create criteria that favored Ciminelli in the selection process.
  • What is the case questioning? While it seems there was indeed a scheme to favor Ciminelli in the partner selection process, prosecutors ran into challenges when trying to prove that fraud occurred. They attempted to prosecute Ciminelli for wire fraud, but it was difficult to prove considering the elements listed above. It was even difficult when courts attempted to prove a deprivation of honest services or the right to control. Ciminelli’s firm completed the work under the contract and earned no additional profit from the contract’s terms.

Essentially, while the process of selecting the partner may have involved corruption, proving fraud occurred at any point in the selection and development was not so simple.

What should you know for the future?

This case will lead courts to evaluate what exactly counts as fraud against the government. While this specific case occurred in New York, the fact that the Supreme Court has this case before them for review could have an impact across the country. It could affect the elements considered to prove fraud and even the government’s role in these cases.

The elements needed to prove fraud could change – they could become more constrictive, or broader. Either way, it is critical to be aware of these changes to fight fraud charges effectively.

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