ATLANTA (CN) — Attorneys for a former business executive sentenced to two decades in prison for tax and wire fraud asked an 11th Circuit panel Tuesday to reverse a ruling dismissing his challenges to the modification of a forfeiture order.
Frank Amodeo, the former head of Mirabilis Ventures Inc. and Presidion Solutions Inc., pleaded guilty and was convicted of conspiring to defraud the IRS, conspiring to commit wire fraud, obstructing an agency proceeding and failing to collect and remit payroll taxes. He was sentenced in May 2009 to 22 years in prison.
Amodeo was ordered to pay $181 million in restitution to the IRS, the amount he owed in payroll taxes.
As part of his plea agreement, Amodeo also agreed to forfeit several properties, vehicles, a Lear jet, financial accounts, and the assets of 11 companies.
In November 2009, a federal judge in Florida entered a final order of forfeiture as to seven companies previously owned by Amodeo. He appealed the order to the 11th Circuit but his appeal was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
In February 2014, the government moved to partially vacate the final order of forfeiture against two of Amodeo's shell companies, Nexia Strategy Corporation and AQMI Strategy Corporation, and divest ownership in those companies because of ongoing litigation against them. The district court granted the government's motion.
Amodeo filed a petition for writ of error last year to correct the "jurisdictionally defective forfeiture order,” alleging the court lacked jurisdiction to enter the 2009 final forfeiture order. U.S. District Judge John Antoon II dismissed the petition.
Attorney Elaine Mittleman, representing Amodeo, argued Tuesday in the 11th Circuit that the district court lacked jurisdiction to vacate the final forfeiture order and asked a three-judge panel to reverse the dismissal of his petition.
But the panel seemed unsure what relief Amodeo might be entitled to at this late juncture.
"I wonder if your client had standing to complain about
. This court previously ruled that your client lacked standing to complain about anything in the final forfeiture order. Now it's nine years later. That 2010 order was the law of the case that your client has no interest in any of these properties," U.S. Circuit Judge William Pryor Jr. said.
"Your client only has standing if the district court's vacature of the final forfeiture order revested your client with these properties, but the order didn't appear to do that," U.S. Circuit Judge Robin Rosenbaum said.
"I think it's left in limbo," Mittleman replied.
"If he wasn't, then you don't have standing. Justice [Antonin] Scalia once gave a lecture about standing – he said it's like asking, in layman's terms, 'What's it to you?' I'm trying to understand how the vacature affects your client. What's it to you?" Pryor asked.
Anita Cream, an attorney representing the U.S. government, argued that it's "well established" that Amodeo lacks standing to bring his appeal.
"It is clear defendant lacked standing in district court and lacks standing here and the district court had the authority to enter the ruling that it did," Cream told the panel.
"Do you really care if Amodeo gets the property back?" U.S. District Judge John Moore II asked.
"I care not, but I care very much about the government's ability to vacate an order of forfeiture," Cream responded.
The panel did not indicate when they might issue a decision in the case.
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