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United States v. Dixon

December 30, 1964


Author: Castle

Before KNOCH, CASTLE and SWYGERT, Circuit Judges.

CASTLE, Circuit Judge.

Arnold Thomas Dixon, the defendant-appellant, was convicted, following a jury trial, of the interstate transportation of a falsely made and forged security, with fraudulent intent, in violation of 18 U.S.C.A. § 2314.He was sentenced for the maximum period of imprisonment (10 years) pursuant and subject to the provisions of 18 U.S.C.A. § 4208(b) and (c).

The issues precipitated by defendant's appeal involve the sufficiency of the evidence to support the conviction. He contends the interstate transportation of the money order from Illinois to Missouri was not caused by him but was a new chain of commerce initiated by the alleged victim. He further contends the government failed to prove an element requisite to establish the money order was forged or falsely made. In resolving these issues at the appellate level we must view the evidence and the reasonable inferences which may be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the government. Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 80, 62 S. Ct. 457, 86 L. Ed. 680.

The record discloses that on August 20, 1963, at about 7:00 P.M., the defendant, attired and disguised as a woman, entered a liquor store in Granite City, Illinois, operated by Joseph Postar. He selected liquors and other items totalling $36.92 and tendered a money order in payment. The money order, in the face amount of $90.07, was drawn upon the Mound City Trust Company of St. Louis, Missouri, and was purportedly issued by Benson's Thrifty Market of St. Louis as agent of Safety Money Order Company, also of St. Louis. It was payable to Margaret A. Ivory and bore a stamped signature "A. C. Zimmerman" purportedly on behalf of Safety Money Order Company.

The defendant endorsed the name Margaret A. Ivory on the back of the instrument, gave Postar a telephone number, and exhibited a social security card and a driver's license bearing the name Margaret A. Ivory, as identification. Postar cashed the money order and gave the defendant the merchandise and $53.15 in change.

During the course of the transaction a local police officer entered the store. He testified he drew Postar aside and advised him another liquor store proprietor down the street had told the officer he had refused to cash the money order for this woman but that it "might be good" and that Postar replied that with the identification presented he would take that chance. Postar testified the conversation with the police officer occurred after the defendant had left the store with the merchandise and it was not until then he was told that possibly the money order might not be good.

Shortly thereafter Postar attempted to make telephone inquiries concerning the money order and the East St. Louis, Illinois, address given by the defendant as Margaret A. Ivory's. The existence of such a street address was verified but, in so far as the record discloses, Postar learned nothing that evening concerning the validity of the money order.

The next morning Postar drove to the Mound City Trust Company at St. Louis, Missouri, a distance of some ten or twelve miles from Granite City, Illinois, where he was told the money order was invalid. He testified: "if it would have been O.K., I would have endorsed it and got my money for it". And that he "most certainly would have" cashed it had the trust company said it was O.K. Postar further checked with Benson's Thrifty Market and the successor to Safety Money Order Company with the same result.

The Safety Money Order Company had been purchased by Nationwide Check Corporation early in 1961, and all outstanding Safety Money Order Company blanks had been recalled at that time. None were re-issued.

In written statements given by the defendant to local authorities following his arrest the defendant admitted that at the time he cashed the money order he had knowledge it was "no good". He had been given a number of such money orders all made out, the social security card, and the driver's license, by a Charles Phillips. He was instructed to sign the money orders "as near as possible to the way they were made out". When he turned over the merchandise and cash he received from Postar he was given $25.00 for his part.

We do not regard as of significance the discrepancy between the testimony of the police officer and that of Postar as to whether their conversation about the possible invalidity of the money order took place prior to Postar's cashing it or immediately after the defendant left the store. In either event the jury was fully warranted in concluding that when Poster took the money order to St. Louis to make inquiry at the trust company, and to cash the order if valid, he had become suspicious but had no knowledge, actual or constructive, that the money order actually was invalid. Nor is there basis for an inference that Postar presented the money order to the St. Louis trust company "for the purpose of making a case from the federal standpoint" as was the situation in United States v. Gardner, 7 Cir., 171 F.2d 753, relied upon by the defendant. In Gardner the victim actually knew several days prior to their presentment that the checks he had received were no good and he deposited them not for payment but for the admitted purpose of attempting to make a case for federal prosecution.

The jury could reasonably infer that when Postar's suspicion was aroused he preferred to ascertain immediately the true status of the money order by personally presenting it to the drawee in nearby St. Louis rather than to incur the delay attendant to depositing it for collection through his normal banking channels and to avoid having the instrument returned to him as invalid should his suspicion prove well-founded.

We agree with the government that the rationale of United States v. Sheridan, 329 U.S. 379, 67 S. Ct. 332, 91 L. Ed. 359, applies. It was pointed out ...

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