Here is a sampling of significant criminal cases handled by the attorneys at The Weinhardt Law Firm.
State of Iowa v. Tommy Tipton, Polk County District Court (2016-2017) The State charged Tommy Tipton, a sheriff’s deputy and elected official in Texas, with aiding and abetting his brother’s well-documented scheme to defraud multiple state lotteries. Facing a felony charge that carried a maximum punishment of 25 years’ imprisonment, Mr. Tipton hired the Firm. Mark Weinhardt and Todd Lantz represented Mr. Tipton, investigated the case, advocated with the prosecutor and the district court, and eventually negotiated a plea bargain to fully resolve the criminal case. Mr. Tipton served only 75 days in a Texas county jail and was able to retain his firearms privileges.
State of Iowa v. Skow, Humboldt County District Court (2015-2017) The State charged a successful entrepreneur in the ethanol plant maintenance industry with nineteen felonies, including theft, money laundering, and ongoing criminal conduct, relating to the entrepreneur's prior employment with a competing business. After Mark Weinhardt and Todd Lantz investigated the case, prepared a written presentation for the prosecutor, and deposed the key witnesses, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss all charges in exchange for a guilty plea to a tax-related charge, which resulted in a deferred judgment and a probationary sentence.
United States v. Venkata Atluri (S.D. N.Y. 2017) Mark Weinhardt represented the president of a New Jersey computer staffing company charged with paying kickbacks to executives within a large New York-based medical management firm to maintain business for his staffing company. When he was charged, the president was in his native India on family business and the pending arrest warrant prevented his travel elsewhere. Mark negotiated with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for safe conduct for the Firm’s client back to the United States and negotiated a plea agreement. In a sentencing hearing for which Todd Lantz did substantial preparation work, Mark, working with counsel from New York’s Hughes, Hubbard & Reed, persuaded the New York federal court to impose a sentence of just three months. That was a substantial downward variance from the low end of the guideline sentencing range, which was 18 months.
FDIC/SBA Bank Fraud Investigation (2012-2016) Mark Weinhardt and Todd Lantz represented the president of an Iowa bank who was investigated for allegedly fraudulent transactions involving certain of the bank’s real estate and business loans. Mark and Todd extensively investigated the facts of the case, presenting the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the investigating agents with a dossier of evidence several inches thick to demonstrate the absence of wrongdoing by their client. Ultimately, the government closed the investigation with no criminal charges.
Alternative Energy Criminal Tax Investigation (2014-2016) Mark Weinhardt and Todd Lantz represented an officer in an alternative energy company that was investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS for alleged fraud in the claiming of tax benefits in the alternative energy industry. After a lengthy investigation, the authorities terminated the investigation and filed no criminal charges.
United States v. Mo Hailong (S.D. Iowa 2016) Acting as lead counsel and working with a team of lawyers from Iowa and California, Mark Weinhardt defended a Chinese national accused of stealing trade secret seed corn technology from two of the world’s largest agribusiness companies and sending that technology to China. The case garnered national press, including feature articles in the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. Federally indicted for theft of trade secrets and international transportation of stolen property, Mr. Mo faced a maximum sentence of 15 years. After extensive pretrial motion practice and investigation, Mark and his team negotiated a plea agreement calling for a maximum five year sentence. Following a contested sentencing hearing, the court sentenced the Firm’s client to three years.
State of Iowa v. Trent Steinhart (Marion County, Iowa 2016) Mark Weinhardt and Todd Lantz represented a highly respected teacher and father in a criminal prosecution that began when the client accidentally left his infant daughter in his vehicle while on a short trip to the grocery store. Weinhardt and Lantz investigated the case and advocated with the local county attorney, who agreed to dismiss all criminal charges if the client successfully completed an informal probation term and produced a public service announcement to avoid similar accidents in the future.
Sabotka v. Salamah (Ringgold County, Iowa 2016) Todd Lantz was hired by owners of agricultural land in Southern Iowa who had been found in contempt for not complying with a prior court order relating to drainage of surface water from a neighboring property. Todd defended the landowners against an aggressive quasi-criminal contempt action pursued by the neighbor. Ultimately, Todd convinced the district court judge to dismiss the contempt proceedings at the end of the first day of a two-day trial.
State of Iowa v. Timothy Watts (Polk County, Iowa 2016) Mark Weinhardt and Todd Lantz represented an out-of-state business owner who was charged with first degree theft arising from a check issued to a local contractor for work on a project in the Des Moines area. After investigating the case, Mark and Todd filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that the alleged facts did not constitute a crime under Iowa law. Before the court could rule on that motion, the State dismissed its case against the business owner.
United States v. Ram Hingorani (S.D. Iowa 2015) Mark Weinhardt and Todd Lantz represented the owner of a commercial construction company that performed over $23 million in government contracts that the government later claimed it was ineligible to receive. After a lengthy investigation and criminal prosecution, the business owner pled guilty to two counts and the government dismissed 28 counts. Although the government argued for 24 months' imprisonment and the advisory sentencing range was much worse, the firm persuaded the federal judge to require only six months in a halfway house and a period of supervised release.
United States v. Anthony Bartleson (N.D. Iowa 2015) Mark Weinhardt and Todd Lantz represented the owner of a small masonry company who was accused of embezzling from an IRA plan for the company's employees. Following a negotiated guilty plea, Todd represented the client in a contested sentencing hearing in which the government argued for imprisonment. Ultimately, the federal district court was persuaded to impose a sentence of probation only, which was a downward variance from the advisory sentencing range.
State of Iowa v. John Hoyman, 863 N.W.2d1 (Iowa 2015): Mark Weinhardt and Todd Lantz defended former Indianola City Attourney John Hoyman against felony charges of theft, fraudulent practices, and felonious misconduct in office arising from alleged irregularities in Mr. Hoyman's billing to the City for legal services. Following a jury trial, Mr. Hoyman was acquitted on the theft and felonious misconduct charges but convicted on the fraudulent practices charge. Mark and Todd argued to the Iowa Supreme Court that the district court erred in its instructions to the jury in two respects. The Supreme Court agreed, notably holding for the first time that to be guilty of fraudulent practices by submitting false documents, the defendant must intend to deceive the recipient of documents and not merely know that the documents are incorrect. Mark and Todd further argued to the Supreme Court that the district court should have recused itself based upon the judge's spouse's close friendship with the prosecutor. While not ruling on that challenge on the merits, the court directed that a different district judge hear the case on remand.
Real Estate Lending Bank Fraud Investigation (2012-2015): The Firm represented the owner of numerous rental properties in a city in Iowa. The firm’s client sold many of those properties. The owner later became a “target” of a federal investigation into allegations of bank fraud. The client was investigated for conspiring with the purchasers of the properties to deceive banks into lending money to fund the purchases. In response to the government’s investigation, the Firm conducted a detailed factual and legal investigation of its own and made an extensive presentation to the government of why its client should not be charged. At the conclusion of its investigation, the government elected to pursue no charges against the Firm’s client.
United States v. Michael Stein, United States District Court, Southern District of Iowa (2014): Mark Weinhardt defended the owner of an Iowa City pharmacy against 15 counts of health care fraud. The government alleged that the Firm’s client, in conjunction with a Florida company, engaged in a nationwide scheme to defraud health insurers out of the cost of drugs for treating hemophiliacs – drugs that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient per year. Mark countered that all of the drugs delivered by the Firm’s client had been medically necessary and eligible for insurance coverage and that the prosecution was a misguided extension of a purely civil contract dispute. The jury acquitted Mr. Stein on all charges.
Criminal Immigration Fraud Prosecution, United States District Court, District of Kansas (2014): Mark Weinhardt along with counsel in Kansas, represented one of two owners of a staffing company that supplied computer programmers to U.S. industries. The government alleged in a 21-count Indictment that the defendants committed immigration fraud, mail fraud, false statements to the federal government, and money laundering by bringing some of the programmers to the United States without complying with all of the rules of the H-1B visa program. Mark and his Kansas counsel (as well as counsel for the co-defendant) prepared the case for trial but, following a wide-ranging pretrial motions hearing the week before trial, the government agreed to dismiss all criminal charges against the individuals in exchange for deferred prosecution agreements for the two men and a guilty plea and modest fine from the now-inactive company.
State of Iowa v. Grady Marx, Iowa District Court for Polk County (2013-2014): Mark Weinhardt and Todd Lantz represented a business owner accused of theft, fraudulent practices, money laundering, conspiracy, and ongoing criminal conduct. The charges arose from the Firm’s client’s business dealings with a former employee of the Iowa Department of Transportation. After Mark and Todd investigated the case and presented the results of their investigation to the prosecuting attorney, the State agreed to a complete dismissal of all charges against the Firm’s client.
Employee Stock Ownership Plan Grand Jury Investigation (2012-2013): The Firm represented a Northwest Iowa manufacturing company regarding allegations of fraud in connection with the company’s Employee Stock Ownership Plan. Mark Weinhardt defended the company and its majority owner with regard to the investigation, conducted a thorough internal investigation of their own, and contended that no crime had been committed by anyone. After a little more than six months — a very short time for a complex white collar investigation — the prosecutors notified The Firm that they were closing their file on this case and returning the documents taken in the search warrant.
Iowa District Court for Polk County (2010-2012): Along with Iowa City Attorney Leon Spies, Mark Weinhardt and Todd Lantz represented an individual in a 30-month investigation and prosecution arising out of a campaign contribution. A special prosecutor charged The Firm's client and other individuals and entities with campaign finance offenses. On The Firm's motion, the court dismissed one of the charges against their client, and the special prosecutor dismissed the other two charges shortly before trial. The client entered an “Alford” plea to a simple misdemeanor (the lowest level of criminal offense in Iowa), and he received a deferred judgment. Mr. Weinhardt said at the time of the resolution, “Against a $350 fine, a consistent denial of wrongdoing, and no criminal record, it was hard to justify the expense of a two-week trial, even though we were confident about the outcome of that trial.”
Iowa Medicaid Fraud Control Unit: Social Services Agency Investigation (2012): Mark Weinhardt represented a prominent social services agency that was investigated by the Iowa Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (“IMFCU”) for both suspected billing improprieties and alleged physical mistreatment of the agency’s clients at the agency’s facilities. Mark conducted their own extensive internal investigation of the agency’s operations, shadowed the government’s investigation, and then presented their findings to the IMFCU. That agency closed the investigation without any action against the social services agency or any of its management or employees.
Attorney General’s Investigation of Iowa Film Office (2010-2012): The operation of an aggressive tax credit program to attract filmmaking to Iowa resulted in a statewide scandal, multiple criminal charges, and some prison sentences. The Firm’s client fared better, however. Mark Weinhardt represented a filmmaker and that filmmaker’s production company for more than two years during the investigation. They presented the government with an analysis of the facts regarding the film project in question, and ultimately they persuaded the Attorney General’s Office to bring no charges against either the filmmaker or the production company.
United States v. Vision Systems Group and Viswa Mandalapu, United States District Court, Southern District of Iowa (2011): Mark Weinhardt represented a computer consulting firm and its owner in a prosecution alleging various immigration fraud and mail fraud crimes arising from the company bringing computer programmers to the United States under the H-1B visa program. After winning a motion to dismiss that threw out a number of the charges in the case, and after litigating a motion to suppress that excluded some of the government's evidence from trial, the case was resolved with a guilty plea under which the company paid a fine and owner received a sentence of probation with no incarceration.
Clean Water Act Grand Jury Investigation (2007-2011): Mark Weinhardt represented a business entity that owns and operates a 10,000-head cattle feedlot in Iowa. The entity became the subject of a federal grand jury investigation into alleged violations of the Clean Water Act arising from a manure spill that allegedly entered into protected waters of the United States. Over the course of an investigation that lasted more than three years, Mark advocated to the government's criminal prosecutors that no crime had occurred. In early 2011, the government advised the entity that it would take no criminal action in the case.
United States v. Armas, United States District Court, Southern District of Iowa (2011): Mark Weinhardt and Todd Lantz successfully defended at a jury trial a woman accused of tampering with a witness in a separate criminal case. The woman had come to Iowa from her home in Southern California to care for an infant relative during criminal proceedings involving the parents of the infant. Mark and Todd's client was indicted following an encounter between her, other members of her family, and a figure in the other criminal case. The jury acquitted the client after two hours of deliberation.
State v. Sholom Rubashkin and Aaron Rubashkin, Iowa District Court for Allamakee County (2010): Mark Weinhardt, along with other counsel including West Des Moines attorney F. Montgomery Brown, defended Sholom Rubashkin, the general manager of Agriprocessors, Inc. in Postville, Iowa, in a five-week trial. The 83-count complaint alleged that Mr. Rubashkin permitted the employment of minors in a meatpacking plant and under certain dangerous conditions in violation of Iowa law. At the close of the State's evidence, the district court granted a defense motion to dismiss 16 of the counts. The jury acquitted Mr. Rubashkin on the remaining 67 counts.
The case arose from the immigration enforcement raid against Agriprocessors in May 2008, then the largest workplace immigration enforcement action in United States history. Mr. Rubashkin's acquittal received national media coverage, including in The New York Times. When the charges were originally filed in September 2008, they also named Mr. Rubashkin's father, plant owner Aaron Rubashkin. Mark represented Aaron Rubashkin from the inception of the case until the State voluntarily dismissed all charges against Aaron Rubashkin.
United States v. Brown, United States District Court, Southern District of Texas (2010): Mark Weinhardt represented a former executive of a publicly-traded oilfield services company accused of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Mark represented his client through a years-long investigation, negotiated a guilty plea that capped his client's exposure at less than half of what was suggested by the United States Sentencing Guidelines, and then represented his client at sentencing. The court sentenced Mark's client to one year and one day of incarceration, well below the guideline sentence and well below the sentence recommended by the federal government even after an adjustment for cooperation with the government's investigation.
United States v. Gammage, 580 F.3d 777 (8th Cir. 2009): Mark Weinhardt successfully appealed the sentence of a man convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm following a domestic violence conviction. Based upon his criminal record from decades ago in Mississippi, the district court sentenced Mr. Gammage to a mandatory minimum 15 years in prison. Mark argued on appeal that the sentencing enhancement under the Armed Career Criminal Act did not apply, and the Eighth Circuit agreed. On resentencing, Mr. Gammage received a sentence of time served.
United States v. Hatch, United States District Court, Southern District of Iowa (2009): Mark Weinhardt represented the owner of a company that illegally sold night vision goggles — considered a regulated munition under the Arms Export Control Act — in a prosecution for violating the AECA and other federal statutes. Despite sentencing guidelines under the AECA calling for a sentence of at least five years, Mark negotiated a guilty plea to a lesser charge and, at sentencing, their client received a sentence of probation with no incarceration.
United States v. Iannone, United States District Court, Southern District of Iowa (2003): Mark Weinhardt defended a nationally prominent cardiologist at a jury trial. Their client was accused of insider trading in connection with options trades in advance of a merger announcement which earned the client over $1 million. Dr. Iannone was charged with 28 counts of conspiracy, insider trading, and wire fraud. The jury acquitted Dr. Iannone on all 28 counts.
Food Safety Grand Jury Investigation (2001-2004): Mark Weinhardt represented a public company in the food industry in a grand jury investigation in which the government alleged food safety violations. Mark persuaded the government not to indict the company and negotiated a pretrial diversion agreement that also spared any individual within the company from criminal action.
Bank Executive Grand Jury Investigation (2000-2001): This matter involved a VP-level executive for a publicly traded banking entity. Mark Weinhardt and Danielle Shleton were not retained in this matter until after that executive had received a target letter from the U.S. Attorney's Office with jurisdiction in the case. The government alleged bank fraud and false statements to the government. Mark and Danielle initially persuaded the government to delay indicting the executive and ultimately persuaded the government to take no criminal or civil action against the executive whatsoever.
State v. Savage, Iowa District Court for Polk County (2000): Nationally known journalist and columnist Dan Savage covered the 2000 Iowa presidential caucuses for Salon.com. Mr. Savage, a Seattle resident, wrote that he registered to vote as an Iowan and voted at the caucus near his hotel. The State brought felony charges carrying a five year prison term against Mr. Savage for making a false declaration of Iowa citizenship. Mark Weinhardt represented Mr. Savage and settled the case with a guilty plea to a misdemeanor and the payment of a small fine.
United States v. Shafranek/State v. Shafranek/Cassens Mill v. Shafranek (1996-99): Mark Weinhardt represented an Iowa farmer against allegations that the farmer participated in a conspiracy to defraud a federally insured grain elevator. Mark obtained a directed verdict at the close of the government's case on the federal charges. Thereafter, the State brought similar charges against Mark's client. Though Mark obtained a dismissal of those charges on collateral estoppel grounds below, the Iowa Supreme Court reversed that dismissal. State v. Shafranek, 576 N.W.2d 115 (Iowa 1998). Mark then obtained an acquittal for Mr. Shafranek at the jury trial on the State charges. The grain elevator then brought a civil claim against Mr. Shafranek. Mark obtained a defense verdict at that civil jury trial.
People v. Stremmel, Illinois Circuit Court, Winnebago County (1991): Among the half dozen first degree murder cases Mark Weinhardt tried as a criminal prosecutor in Rockford, Illinois, was the first murder case in Illinois in which DNA evidence was used to help identify the defendant. Mark won a lengthy and complex pretrial admissibility hearing working closely with representatives of the FBI crime lab and various independent scientists. At the time there was no appellate law in Illinois on the admissibility of DNA, and the trial court decisions in the state were in conflict. The admission of DNA evidence was upheld on appeal. People v. Stremmel, 258 Ill. App.3d 93, 630 N.E.2d 1301 (2d Dist. 1994).
United States v. Sodini, et al., United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois (1986): As an associate at Phelan, Pope & John, Ltd. in Chicago, Mark Weinhardt assisted in the trial representation of a figure in one of Chicago's notorious "Operation Greylord" judicial corruption trials.