Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Maxwell: Convictions for MIA Contract Fraud Affirmed

In U.S. v. Maxwell, No. 07-11301 (Aug. 19, 2009), the Court affirmed convictions and sentences arising out of a fraudulent scheme to obtain construction contracts for work at Miami International Airport set aside for socially and economically disadvantaged companies.
The Court rejected the argument that the district court violated the Sixth Amendment when it limited defense cross-examination of a government witness. The Court found that the examination exposed facts that were more than sufficient to allow the defense to argue that the witnesses were biased. Further, the topic on which the defense sought to cross-examine a witness was "of no palpable impeachment value." In addition, certain questions "were beyond the scope" of direct examination.
The Court rejected challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence, finding "ample" evidence that Maxwell made material misrepresentations. The Court found that the jury could conclude that the supposed subcontractor performed no commercially useful function.
The Court found no error in refusing to give the jury instructions Maxwell proposed. These instructions would have addressed the ambiguity of the regulations at issue. The Court stated that the "good faith defense" given by the district court were sufficient to allow Maxwell to argue in closing argument that he did not have the requisite criminal intent.
Turning to sentencing, the Court rejected Maxwell’s challenge to the loss calculation. The Court found that the district court actually understated the amount of the loss, because it relied on the 6% profit on the government contracts, not the entire value of the diverted contracts of over $7 million. However, because the government did not cross-appeal this issue, the Court did not remand for resentencing.