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United States v. Wormick

decided: June 2, 1983.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JAMES WORMICK, JR., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 81 CR 290 -- Nicholas J. Bua, Judge.

Wood and Eschbach, Circuit Judges, and Hoffman, Senior District Judge.*fn*

Author: Eschbach

ESCHBACH, Circuit Judge.

The defendant appeals his conviction on five counts of violating 18 U.S.C. ยง 1341 through a mail fraud scheme designed to defraud State Farm Insurance by the submission of false automobile accident and theft claims. For the reasons below, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

I

The evidence adduced at Wormick's trial, taken in the light most favorable to the government, indicates that Wormick was involved in an insurance fraud scheme involving at least ten persons. Wormick's role, as a police officer in Dixmoor, Illinois, was to supply falsified police reports, for a price.

Ulric B. ("Buddy") Williams was at the center of this scheme. Beginning in 1976, he enlisted friends and acquaintances to defraud State Farm Insurance ("State Farm") out of approximately $143,000. Mr. Edward Gronowski, a State Farm claims supervisor, was paid to process the fraudulent claims quickly and for "top dollar." The defendant Wormick was paid to write false police accident and theft reports. Ulric Williams, using the aliases of Homer Boddy, John Travis and Elgin Carter, submitted and collected on eleven fraudulent claims. A friend of Williams, Rubylene Rayford, using her own name and the alias Francis Norris, submitted and collected on four fraudulent claims. Williams' employer, Elsa Townsell, in his own name and in the name of the body shop he owned, submitted and collected on six fraudulent claims. Other members of the scheme included Williams' sister (Linda Williams, one claim), girlfriend (Jackie Miller, two claims), and a secretary at Townsell's body shop (Amarie Davis, one claim). Other of Williams' friends accounted for five other claims, bringing the total number of fraudulent claims to thirty.

Wormick's involvement with the scheme began in early summer of 1976, when Williams solicited his help in obtaining false police reports. Wormick agreed to write such reports for between $250 and $400 each. Wormick wrote nine separate police reports, supposedly documenting six accidents, thefts and recoveries.

A superseding indictment charged Wormick and several codefendants with nineteen counts of mail fraud, stemming from nineteen fictitious automobile accidents, thefts and recoveries, some of which involved multiple insurance claims. Wormick was named in counts three through nineteen, and the evidence adduced at trial indicates that he personally wrote police reports purportedly documenting the occurrences which were the bases for counts three, nine, twelve, fifteen, sixteen and nineteen. Wormick admitted writing the reports, but insisted that he was an unwilling dupe of the parties to the scheme, merely recording information they gave him, as required by police policy. He denied receiving any payment for any of the reports.

The jury acquitted Wormick of all counts covering occurrences for which he did not personally write a police report, as well as count three, chronologically the first occurrence for which he wrote a report. The counts on which Wormick was found guilty are described in more detail below.

The evidence relating to count nine indicates that Wormick wrote a theft recovery report on February 6, 1977 for a 1977 Pontiac Grand Prix which had never been stolen. The indictment alleges that Wormick knowingly caused to be placed in the mails matter including an application for auto insurance for the car.

Count twelve involved the supposed accident between a 1975 Buick LaSabre and a 1974 Mercury on April 20, 1977. The indictment charged that Wormick knowingly caused to be placed in the mails matter including a check from State Farm to Dunn-Rite Rent-A-Car.

Count fifteen also involved a supposed accident, this one between a 1971 Cadillac Brougham and a 1976 Oldsmobile on June 15, 1977. The indictment alleged that Wormick knowingly caused to be placed in the mails matter including an application for auto insurance on the Cadillac.

Count sixteen involved the supposed theft and recovery of a 1977 Pontiac on June 22, 1977. The indictment charged that Wormick knowingly caused to be placed in the mails matter including a letter from State Farm to the Dixmoor Police Department concerning the car.

Count nineteen involved a supposed three car accident on October 31, 1977, that resulted in over $20,000 in claims. This event involved a 1976 Buick Riviera, a 1977 Chevrolet, and a 1977 Cadillac. The indictment charged Wormick with knowingly causing to be placed in the mails a Dunn-Rite Rent-A-Car invoice addressed to State Farm Insurance.

Wormick was sentenced to two years imprisonment on count nine and five years probation on the remaining counts, consecutive to the term of imprisonment. Wormick appeals.

II

Wormick raises three issues on appeal. First he challenges the admissibility of the government's evidence as well as the related argument regarding an incident, unrelated to the crimes charged, that resulted in Wormick's demotion from sergeant to patrolman for falsifying a police report. Second, he asserts that the government introduced no credible evidence linking him to the scheme to defraud. Finally, he contends that there is not a ...


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