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Name: People v. Williams
Case #: D040174
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 05/13/2004

Williams owned three corporations which played roles in developing and executing a “Ponzi” scheme. The victims were elderly investors, who lost large amounts of money. Williams was prosecuted for his acts as well as the acts of his agents. On appeal, he contended that the court’s instruction defining “Agency and Agent” eliminated the elements of knowledge and control required for criminal liability under an agency theory or on an aider and abettor theory. The contested portion of the instruction told the jury that a principal was responsible for the acts of an agent “where a principal directly authorizes or otherwise causes a crime to be committed through the instrumentality of an agent…” Williams contended that the language allowed the jury to convict him without finding that he had control over his employees, had knowledge of what they were doing, and allowed the illegal practice to continue. The appellate court disagreed and affirmed. The court also properly instructed the jury on the element of control. Further, the jury was instructed on criminal liability under an aider and abettor theory. Considered in their totality, the court’s instructions were adequate. Further, imposition of the aggravated white collar crime enhancement under Penal Code section 186.11, did not violate ex post facto prohibitions. In 1996, when section 186.11 was enacted, Williams’s firm had already solicited investments from several victims. Once he continued to defraud investors after the enactment date, he was on fair notice of the provisions of section 186.11.