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United States of America v. James F. Lynch

December 18, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JAMES F. LYNCH



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DuBois, J.

MEMORANDUM

I.INTRODUCTION

James F. Lynch pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 based on his failure to disclose a conflict of interest. He was sentenced to three years' probation, a $25,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment. In a related administrative proceeding, Lynch forfeited $19,400 as criminal proceeds. After the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Skilling, 130 S. Ct. 2896 (2010) that honest services fraud did not include undisclosed conflicts of interest, this Court vacated and set aside Lynch's conviction and sentence. Additionally, the government was ordered to repay to Lynch all sums that Lynch had paid on account of his fine and special assessment.

Presently before the Court is Lynch's motion for the return of the $19,400 he forfeited. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied in part and dismissed in part.

II.BACKGROUND

The background of this case is set forth in detail in this Court's prior opinion and will be recited in this Memorandum only as necessary to address Lynch's motion. See United States v. Lynch, 807 F. Supp. 2d 224 (E.D. Pa. 2011).

Lynch was a real estate tax assessor for the City of Pennsylvania. Id. at 227. His criminal case arose out of interactions with co-defendant James Campenella, a real estate developer. Id. Lynch helped Campenella lower the assessed value of two properties and assisted him in resolving a delinquent tax issue on a third property. Id. at 227-28. Campenella then gave Lynch $20,000 in cash. Id. at 228. Lynch failed to disclose this financial relationship or to recuse himself from matters affecting Campenella and his businesses. Id. Campenella thereafter asked Lynch to help resolve a lawsuit over a tax assessment on a fourth property. Id. It appears that the lawsuit was then, in fact, resolved. Id.

Lynch gambled with some of the $20,000. (Sentencing Hearing, 8/17/2008 at 27-29.) He lost $600 of it, leaving him with the $19,400 at issue in this case. (Id.) Lynch initially denied having any financial relationship with Campenella but later voluntarily surrendered the $19,400 in cash to the government. (Id. at 27-28; Change of Plea Hearing, 9/14/2007 at 27.)

Lynch pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. Lynch, 807 F. Supp. 2d at 224. He was sentenced to three years' probation, a $25,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment. (Lynch Judgment, Document No. 32 at 2-4.) As part of his guilty plea agreement, he agreed "not to contest the administrative or civil forfeiture to the government" of the $19,400. (Mot. Ex. A, Guilty Plea Agreement at 5.) The money was later administratively forfeited, and Lynch did not challenge the forfeiture. (See Mot. Ex. C, Declaration of Administrative Forfeiture.)

After his guilty plea, the Supreme Court decided United States v. Skilling, 130 S. Ct. 2896 (2010). In Skillingthe Supreme Court confined honest services fraud to its "solid core" of bribery and kickbacks and ruled that, without more, an undisclosed conflict of interest does not give rise to criminal liability. Id.at 2931-32. As a result of the Skilling decision, this Court granted Lynch's motion for a Writ of Coram Nobis. Lynch, 807 F. Supp. 2d at 235. The Court ordered that Lynch's conviction and sentence be vacated and set aside. Id. The government was also ordered to repay to Lynch all sums that he had paid on account of his fine and special assessment. Id.

Lynch now moves for the return of the $19,400 he administratively forfeited.

III.DISCUSSION

A. Jurisdiction

The Court will construe Lynch's motion under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(g) as a civil action in equity. See Arevalo v. United States, 238 Fed. App'x 869, 870 (3d Cir. 2007); United States v. McGlory, 202 F.3d 664, 670 (3d Cir. 2000) (discussing former Rule 41(e)); but see United States v. Winkelman, 430 Fed. App'x 208, 210 (3d Cir. 2011) (affirming the district court's dismissal of a Rule 41(g) motion after criminal proceedings had ...


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