876 F.3d 604 (4th Cir. 2017), 16-4247, United States v. Raza

Docket Nº:16-4247, 16-4259, 16-4261, 16-4262
Citation:876 F.3d 604
Opinion Judge:KING, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Mohsin RAZA, Defendant-Appellant. United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, Farukh Iqbal, Defendant-Appellant. United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Mohammad Ali Haider, Defendant-Appellant. United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Humaira Iqbal, Defendant-Appellant.
Attorney:Geoffrey Paul Eaton, WINSTON & STRAWN LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellants. Jack Hanly, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee. G. Derek Andreson, Thomas M. Buchanan, Ilan Wurman, WINSTON & STRAWN LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant Mohsin Raza. John N. Nassika...
Judge Panel:Before NIEMEYER, KING, and HARRIS, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:November 20, 2017
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 604

876 F.3d 604 (4th Cir. 2017)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Mohsin RAZA, Defendant-Appellant.

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

Farukh Iqbal, Defendant-Appellant.

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Mohammad Ali Haider, Defendant-Appellant.

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Humaira Iqbal, Defendant-Appellant.

Nos. 16-4247, 16-4259, 16-4261, 16-4262

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

November 20, 2017

Argued: September 15, 2017.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Alexandria. Claude M. Hilton, Senior District Judge. (1:15-cr-00118-CMH-1, 1:15-cr-00118-CMH-3, 1:15-cr-00118-CMH-4, 1:15-cr-00118-CMH-2)

ARGUED:

Geoffrey Paul Eaton, WINSTON & STRAWN LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellants.

Jack Hanly, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

G. Derek Andreson, Thomas M. Buchanan, Ilan Wurman, WINSTON & STRAWN LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant Mohsin Raza.

John N. Nassikas III, R. Stanton Jones, Dirk C. Phillips, Robert A. DeRise, ARNOLD & PORTER LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant Humaira Iqbal.

Peter H. White, Gary Stein, Jeffrey F. Robertson, Brittany L. Lane, SCHULTE ROTH & ZABEL LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant Farukh Iqbal.

Thomas G. Connolly, Patrick O'Donnell, Stephen W. Miller, Lauren E. Snyder, HARRIS, WILTSHIRE & GRANNIS LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant Mohammad Ali Haider.

Dana J. Boente, United States Attorney, Joseph A. Capone, Special Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee.

Before NIEMEYER, KING, and HARRIS, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed by published opinion. Judge King wrote the opinion, in which Judge Niemeyer and Judge Harris joined.

OPINION

KING, Circuit Judge.

In February 2016, the defendants in these proceedings— Mohsin Raza, Humaira Iqbal, Farukh Iqbal, and Mohammad Ali Haider— were convicted by a jury in the Eastern District of Virginia of the offenses of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Those crimes were predicated on a fraudulent mortgage lending scheme centered at the Annandale branch of SunTrust Mortgage in Fairfax County, Virginia.1 The defendants have appealed, maintaining that the trial court fatally undermined their convictions by giving erroneous instructions to the jury.

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As explained below, we reject the contentions of error and affirm.

I.

A.

On April 23, 2015, a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, returned a seven-count indictment against the defendants— who were former employees of SunTrust's Annandale branch.2 The indictment's first count charged them with conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution, in contravention of 18 U.S.C. § 1349.3 Counts 2 through 7 made substantive allegations of wire fraud affecting a financial institution, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343.4 The substantive offenses were interposed against defendants Raza and Farukh Iqbal (Count 2); Raza and Humaira Iqbal (Counts 3 and 5); Raza alone (Counts 4 and 6); and Raza and Haider (Count 7).

The fraud scheme underlying the indictment involved a total of twenty-five mortgage loans made by SunTrust from May 2006 through February 2007.5 Pursuant thereto, the defendants prepared fraudulent mortgage loan applications for prospective SunTrust borrowers. The false information contained in the loan applications underlying the indictment included, inter alia, false employment claims, inflated incomes, and overstated assets. As a result, SunTrust made twenty-five mortgage loans on thirteen properties located in various cities and counties in eastern Virginia.6

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B.

The trial of the defendants was conducted in Alexandria in late January and early February of 2016. To understand those proceedings, a brief explanation of the relationships between the defendants and their responsibilities at SunTrust is appropriate. During the relevant time frame, defendant Raza managed SunTrust's Annandale office. Raza's wife, defendant Humaira Iqbal, worked as Raza's personal assistant. Humaira's brothers, defendants Farukh Iqbal and Haider, worked for Raza as loan officers. Each of the defendants performed loan officer duties during the fraud scheme.

The SunTrust loan officers assisted prospective borrowers in obtaining residential mortgages and refinancing existing mortgages. During a consultation with such a loan officer, a prospective borrower would provide information relating to, inter alia, the borrower's income, employment, and assets. The loan officer utilized that information to prepare the prospective borrower's mortgage loan application. In preparing an application, the loan officer would select the type of loan that SunTrust should consider for approval. The different types of SunTrust loans had distinct interest rates and separate requirements with respect to supporting evidence. For example, pursuant to SunTrust guidelines, a " full document" loan required supporting documents corroborating the loan applicant's income, employment, and assets. On the other hand, a " stated income, stated asset" loan required only those documents necessary to verify the applicant's employment for the prior two years.

After completing a loan application, the loan officer forwarded it to a SunTrust underwriter in Richmond for review and possible approval. The underwriter would sometimes conditionally approve a loan application, subject to the bank's receipt of additional supporting documents. If the loan officer and the applicant thereafter fulfilled the specified conditions— for example, by providing the underwriter with the applicant's pay stubs or bank statements— the loan application would be approved for closing. SunTrust would then fund the loan by wiring money from Georgia to a bank account in Virginia. Following the loan closing, SunTrust paid a commission to the loan officer.

1.

The prosecution's case-in-chief, which encompassed five trial days, consisted of four categories of evidence. First, the prosecutors called two coconspirators who explained the wire fraud conspiracy and the fraud scheme. Next, the prosecution presented testimony from the SunTrust borrowers involved in the mortgage loans underlying the wire fraud offenses. Third, other SunTrust borrowers were called to buttress the conspiracy evidence and to provide evidentiary support for the fraudulent practices underlying the wire fraud scheme. Finally, a SunTrust official explained the significance to SunTrust of the misrepresentations on the pertinent loan applications and the risks those misrepresentations posed to the bank.

a.

Rina Delgado worked as a loan officer at SunTrust's Annandale branch during

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Raza's tenure as the branch manager. She described a fraud scheme that was largely overseen by Raza and his wife Humaira Iqbal. As explained by Delgado, either Raza or Humaira reviewed each loan application originated at Annandale before it was submitted to the SunTrust underwriters. Raza and Humaira would check the prospective borrower's income, assets, and liabilities, seeking to ascertain whether the applicant was qualified for SunTrust mortgage loans. If an applicant's income was insufficient, Raza and Humaira would sometimes have Delgado inflate the applicant's income on the loan application.

Delgado described in detail how the defendants used a series of false representations and fraudulent documents to circumvent SunTrust's loan requirements. She identified an incident when Humaira Iqbal needed a landlord to verify that a loan applicant was paying rent. Humaira had Delgado impersonate the applicant's landlord over the phone and falsely confirm to a SunTrust underwriter that the applicant was current on his rental payments. In a similar vein, Farukh Iqbal and Haider asked Delgado to secure fraudulent accounting records to verify the assets shown on pending loan applications. Delgado responded by providing Farukh with false bank statements that were used to further the scheme. Delgado pleaded guilty in federal court in 2013 to an information that charged a wire fraud conspiracy offense. Pursuant to her plea agreement with the United States Attorney, she cooperated with the prosecutors. Delgado was sentenced to prison for her involvement in the fraud conspiracy.

Another key prosecution witness concerning the conspiracy offense was Ranjit Singh— a tax preparer in northern Virginia. In 2015, Singh confessed to the FBI that he had manufactured and delivered false tax and payroll documents to the defendants. Singh cooperated with the FBI and the prosecutors and was...

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