Brickley v. Scantech Identifications Beam Systems, LLC
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER Granting Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Signed by Judge Royce C. Lamberth. (rg)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
JAN 0 8
CHRIS QUINN, Trustee for the
CryptoMetrics, Inc. Creditors' Trust,
WESTERN DISTRIcT (F TEXAS
Civil Case No. 5:13-834
BEAM SYSTEMS LLC et al.,
This lawsuit arises from the bankruptcy of CryptoMetrics, Inc. Plaintiff Chris Quinn
serves as trustee. Defendants Joel Shaw, Michael Vitale, Robert Barra, and Susan Barra were
CryptoMetrics executives. Defendant Michael Stolzar, of defendant firm Karlen & Stolzar, LLP,
was CryptoMetrics's lawyer. Defendants ScanTech Security LLC, ScanTech Identifications
Beam Systems LLC, and ScanTech Holdings, LLC were related companies who dealt with
CryptoMetrics. Defendants Mike Yaqub and Suzan Yaqub were ScanTech executives.
Quinn claims Shaw, Vitale, and the Barras' waste, mismanagement, and self-dealing
forced CryptoMetrics into bankruptcy. Quinn also claims Robert Barra and Shaw enlisted
ScanTech agents to bribe Middle Eastern officials and businessmen. And Quinn claims Stoizar
helped implement their schemes, drafting fraudulent documents and lying about CryptoMetrics's
finances to investors and lenders. So Quinn brought this adverse action with fourteen distinct
claims: five claims to avoid and recover fraudulent transfers under state and federal law; a breach
of fiduciary duty claim; an aiding-and-abetting breach of fiduciary duty claim; a civil conspiracy
claim; three civil RICO claims; an unjust enrichment claim; and a legal malpractice claim.
Over two prior opinions, the Court determined Quinn lacked standing to bring the civil
conspiracy, unjust enrichment, and legal malpractice claims. The Court also found the in pan
delicto doctrine barred the breach of fiduciary duty and civil RICO claims against Stoizar and his
firm. This resolved all claims against Stolzar and his firm. And Quinn settled with Vitale and the
Barras, moving to voluntarily dismiss all claims against them. But Quinn's remaining claims
against Shaw, the Yaqubs, and the ScanTech companies persist.
The ScanTech companies recently moved for judgment on the pleadings for the two
pending claims against them: a civil RICO claim and a civil RICO conspiracy claim based on
Robert Barra and Shaw's illegal payments to ScanTech to facilitate bribing Middle Eastern
officials and businessmen. ScanTech argues the in pan delicto doctrine bars these claims since
Quinn seeks to recover for CryptoMetrics' s own RICO violations. Yet Quinn claims the adverse
interest exception to that doctrine should apply, alleging for the first time in his opposition that
the bribes were intended to generate revenue for Barra and Shaw's personal start-up, not for
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C.
(RICO), criminalizes use in interstate commerce of income derived from acts involving bribery
chargeable under state law and punishable by more than one-year imprisonment.
1962. And the statute allows corporations to sue violators for injuries they cause.
But if the corporation participated in the RICO violation, the equitable doctrine inpani
delicto blocks recovery. So since a senior executive's actions impute to the corporation if
relevant to the executive's employment and intended to benefit the corporation, see In re
Hellenic Inc., 252 F.3d 391, 395 (5th Cir. 2001), inpari delicto bars most civil RICO claims by
corporations whose own executives violated the law. See Rogers v. McDorman, 521 F.3d 381,
(5th Cir. 2008). And because a bankruptcy trustee "stands in the shoes of the debtor," the
bar applies "with equal force to a trustee-in-bankruptcy." Official Comm. of Unsecured Creditors
of PSA, Inc. v.
Edwards, 437 F.3d 1145, 1151(11th Cir. 2006).
Yet if an executive's illegal acts were solely self-interested, and completely adverse to
the corporation, their violation does not impute to the corporation. Thus in pan delicto would not
thwart the claim. See F.D.LC.
Shrader & York, 991 F.2d 216, 223-24 (5th Cir. 1993). But this
"adverse interest" exception requires the executive to have totally abandoned the company's
interests. Id. In other words, if the executive's RICO violation benefitted the corporation at all,
the exception does not apply.
Indeed, under New York
lawthe operative law here, since courts "look to state law to
ascertain when wrongful conduct should be imputed to a corporation," Mem. Op. at 34 n.6, ECF
No. 31 (quoting Nisselson
Lernout, 469 F.3d 143, 154 (1st Cir.
2006))the adverse interest
exception applies only to "outright theft or looting or embezzlement." Kirschner
938 N.E.2d 941, 952 (N.Y. 2010) (deeming it the "most narrow of exceptions"). Simply put, the
RICO violation must have been "committed against a corporation rather than on its behalf." Id.
Even an executive's self-interested intentions bear no moment. Id. (citing Price
N.Y. 378, 384 (1875)).
Inpari delicto thwarts Quinn's attempts to recover CryptoMetrics's payments to the
ScanTech companies. At bottom, his complaint alleges CryptoMetrics violated RICO when
Shaw and Robert Barra paid ScanTech to bribe foreign officials for contracts intended to
advance CryptoMetrics's interests. See, e.g., Am. Compl. ¶J 6-8, 185-188, 193-206, 339-355,
ECF No. 1-5. Though the scheme ultimately failed, Quinn (standing in CryptoMetrics's shoes)
cannot now recover the
lostbut still illegalpayments.
Quinn's invocation of the adverse interest exception falls flat for two reasons.
Procedurally, though Quinn now argues "CryptoMetrics was not actually [the bribes'] intended
beneficiary," but rather their "intended victim," Pl.'s Resp. 2, ECF No. 84, his complaint
contradictsthat claim. Compare id. ("While the defendants used CryptoMetrics
funds to pay the bribes, the purpose of the scheme was to obtain favorable security contracts not
for CryptoMetrics itself, but for [ScanTech] and a newly created company.
entirely owned by
Defendants Barra and Shaw personally."), with, e.g., Am. Compl. ¶ 340 ("ScanTech Holdings,
ScanTech IBS, and CryptoMetrics formed an association-in-fact.
for the express purpose of
pursuing business opportunities in the Middle East and for the mutual benefit of ScanTech
Holdings, ScanTech IBS, and CryptoMetrics."). And to decide a motion for judgment on the
pleadings, a court may consider only facts in the complaint or facts capable ofjudicial notice.
See Machete Prods., L.L.C.
Page, 809 F.3d 281, 287 (5th Cir. 2015). Quinn's new claim
made for the first time in opposition to ScanTech's motion for judgment on the
in neither category.
Secondly, even if Quinn included the allegation in his amended complaint, the adverse
interest exception would still fall short substantively. Under New York law, an executive's self-
interested intent is immaterial; the exception fails if any benefit redounded to the corporation.
See Kirschner, 938 N.E.2d at 952. And here, although Quinn claims the bribery scheme
ultimately hurt CryptoMetrics, he concedes one "benefit obtained by CryptoMetrics through [the
scheme] was a single minor security contract." Am. Compi. ¶ 5; see
at p.74 (noting
"CryptoMetrics obtain[ed] minimal benefit from the Yaqub bribes" (emphasis added)). That is
enough to sunder the adverse interest exception. In pan
stymies Quinn's civil RICO
claims against the ScanTech companies.
The Court will grant the ScanTech companies' motion for judgment on the pleadings. A
separate order follows.
Royce C. Lamberth
United States District Judge
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