Norman Hsu Pleads Guilty

Remember Norman Hsu?  His name was everywhere during the early portions of the Democratic primary season, primarily because he helped Hillary Clinton get beaucoup bucks.  (Obama, Biden, and Bill Richardson also received funds from Mr. Hsu.)  Once he got indicted, though, and after all the candidates had distanced themselves as much as possible, he largely disappeared from mainstream view.

Today, he’s back in the spotlight as, according to Bloomberg and others, he pleaded guilty to ten counts of mail and wire fraud in the Southern District of New York.  When he was indicted in 2007, he was charged with six counts each of mail and wire fraud, and three counts of campaign finance fraud.  What isn’t immediately clear is what will happen with the remaining counts.

Update:  Okay, there is an updated Bloomberg article now.  Looks like there was no plea deal, which is unsurprising as it would be rather surprising given that Mr. Hsu pleaded guilty to ten counts.  Also, it looks like he will continue to trial on the campaign finance fraud charges.

Public Corruption

Couple of interesting press releases from the DOJ today involving public corruption.

The first involves a South Korean businessman who was arrested “on a criminal complaint charging him with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, to commit wire fraud and to commit bribery, and one count of bribery.”  (The allegations stem out of a telecom contract involving employees of the Army Air Force Exchange Service.)  What is interesting about the charges is that they are brought in a criminal complaint.  The vast majority of federal charges are brought initially via indictment, and criminal complaints are typically used when it is felt that there is an emergency requiring the individual to be arrested immediately.  A criminal complaint is a written statement of the essential facts constituting the offense charged, and it must be presented under oath to a magistrate judge or other competent judicial authority.  If the magistrate judge feels there is probable cause, then he will issue an arrest warrant.  After the individual is arrested and brought before the magistrate judge, a couple of things can happen.  First, the case can proceed on the complaint, or, if the individual so chooses, he can ask that his case go to the grand jury for a formal indictment to be issued.  Sometimes, the complaint process is used to buy time to get more charges incorporated into an indictment.

The other public corruption case involves the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which is one of those laws that shows just how far the United States’ extraterritorial jurisdiction extends.  Aibel Group, Ltd, a UK-based company, pleaded guilty in the Southern DIstrict of Texas on a two-count criminal information, “charging a conspiracy to violate the FCPA and a violation of the FCPA.”  Aibel Group has agreed to pay a $4.2 million fine, and “to serve a two year term of organizational probation that requires, among other things, that it submit periodic reports regarding its progress in implementing antibribery compliance measures.”

Theft of Trade Secrets and Wire Fraud

Patents always seem to get the bulk of attention when it comes to intellectual property law, which is pretty interesting to me, considering the protections available to copyrights and trademarks endure longer.  But even less visible, are trade secrets.  From time to time, such as when Joya Wilson and Dirk Dimson (PDF) tried to sell Coca-Cola’s trade secrets to Pepsi, individuals who try to steal trade secrets get prosecuted.

Now a former Intel employee is facing four new wire fraud charges in addition to having already been charged with theft of trade secrets in August.  According to CNet, and others, Biswahoman Pani allegedly had “more than 100 pages of sensitive Intel documents, including 13 “top secret” files with designs for future processor chips” in his home.  Mr. Pani apparently left Intel to work for AMD, but is no longer employed by AMD.

Theft of trade secrets is prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. § 1832, and the AUSA trying the case (or trial attorney if its deemed that important) in the District of Massachusetts will have to prove a number of elements beyond a reasonable doubt, such as: there was intent to convert a trade secret; that it relates to a product placed in interstate or international commerce; that there’s an economic benefit to anyone but the proper owner; that there was intent to, or knowledge that it would, injure any owner of that trade secret; and any of a whole slew of other acts such as steal, copy, or possess the information.

Wire fraud is quite a bit different, and the CNet article is silent as to what the theory behind the four superseding charges are.  The US Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts has not posted a press release on its website setting out some details about how its wire fraud theory operates.  Generally speaking, wire fraud involves devising a scheme or artifice to defraud, and then carrying out the scheme using telecommunications.