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United States v. Christ Bambulas

decided: December 22, 1972.


Duffy, Senior Circuit Judge, Kiley, Circuit Judge, and Grant,*fn* Senior District Judge.

Author: Duffy

DUFFY, Senior Circuit Judge.

Defendant Bambulas, one Charles Russell and two unindicted co-conspirators, Fortner and Taylor, were named in a three-count indictment charging them with having transported, or caused to be transported, stolen United States Savings Bonds in interstate commerce and publishing them as true at various banks in Wisconsin and Texas for the purpose of defrauding the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยง 2314. Conspiracy under the substantive offense was charged in Count I of the indictment. Counts II and III charged respectively the interstate transportation of stolen bonds from Chicago to Eau Claire and Green Bay, Wisconsin, and to Fort Worth and Houston, Texas.

After protracted deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of finding Bambulas guilty on all three counts. Defendant Bambulas appeals.

Co-defendant Russell pleaded guilty prior to trial and testified for the government. He was sentenced for the same term as was defendant Bambulas, concurrent five year terms of imprisonment on each count subject to parole.

Russell stated at trial that he and Courtney Taylor were arrested on a charge of transporting stolen securities, convicted of that offense and sentenced to imprisonment in April 1964. Russell testified that he had been acquainted with defendant Bambulas prior to the 1964 arrest and had instructed Bambulas to obtain stolen government savings bonds while he, Russell, was in prison in order to have them ready for conversion to cash after his release from prison.

Russell was released from prison in July, 1967. He contacted defendant Bambulas who told Russell he had accumulated $100,000 worth of stolen savings bonds. Following his release, Russell attested to various conversations with Bambulas with respect to the stolen bonds and stated that Bambulas exhibited the bonds to him in the kitchen of Bambulas' home. After counting and sorting the bonds, the two discussed an appropriate cut for each after the bonds had been passed. They agreed, however, to wait until the two passers arrived whom Taylor had recruited in prison.*fn1 However, the latter two refused to participate in the scheme. Russell then sent word to Taylor in prison to recruit and train another passer, which he did, in the person of Fortner.

Defendant Bambulas told Russell the bonds were not to be cashed in Illinois and determined that the first set of bonds would be passed in Wisconsin.

Taylor sent Lee Fortner, the recently released inmate, to Chicago after training him in prison as a "passer". He arrived on January 30, 1968. Russell told Fortner they would be cashing the bonds in Eau Claire and Green Bay, Wisconsin and that defendant Bambulas would finance the first operation. Later, Bambulas gave Russell the sum of $150 for expense purposes.

According to the testimony, Russell and Fortner then left Chicago for Green Bay where they rented an apartment and opened savings accounts in five or six banks in the name of "Frank Scarpino". The following day they drove to Eau Claire where a similar procedure was followed. After receiving an additional $100 from defendant Bambulas, they again visited Green Bay and Eau Claire and made small deposits in each bank account.

After laying the groundwork for the scheme, Russell and Fortner returned to Chicago. Defendant Bambulas and Russell carefully sorted the stolen bonds retained by Bambulas in substantially equal groups and each group was placed in an envelope with the pass book for the savings account at a particular bank.

Russell and Fortner then returned to Wisconsin with the bonds. Fortner entered each bank with forged identifications and negotiated the bonds. After each transaction (except for the last transaction in each city where the inculpatory evidence was destroyed in their automobile), Fortner would meet Russell at a nearby tavern where Russell collected the proceeds and destroyed the passbooks. After cashing all the Scarpino bonds, Fortner and Russell returned to Chicago where they divided the proceeds totaling approximately $24,000 among themselves, defendant Bambulas and Taylor. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds were paid to defendant Bambulas together with funds sufficient to cover his costs in obtaining the bonds.

After returning to Chicago, Russell told Bambulas that he would be ready to cash the balance of the bonds within a week or ten days, that he had decided to negotiate the bonds in Texas. Bambulas delivered the balance of the bonds to Russell. They followed the procedure previously used in Wisconsin by first renting rooms and opening a series of savings accounts in Fort Worth and Houston banks (In the names of "Rauwolf", "Dzwigon", and "Talty"). They later returned, made small deposits in each bank and finally cashed in the bonds. Approximately $26,000 in bonds were cashed in Texas. In all, twenty -one banks were victimized.

Lee Fortner corroborated Russell's testimony in substantial part also testifying as a government witness. Fortner added that Taylor had informed him while still in prison of Bambulas' role as supplier of stolen savings bonds. In addition, while Bambulas attempted to remain unidentified to Fortner, Fortner explained that he had followed Russell to ...

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