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U.S. v. GROSSMAN

July 21, 2003

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JEFFREY GROSSMAN, DONALD GRAUER, AND DALE TARANTUR, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bucklo, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Dale Tarantur was an accountant to and employee of companies operated by Jeffrey Grossman and Donald Grauer, two Chicago real estate developers. According to the government, Mr. Grossman and Mr. Grauer defrauded banks and investors who advanced money in connection with the development of two large residential properties. On July 11, 2002, FBI agents arrived at the offices maintained by Mr. Grossman and Mr. Grauer with a search warrant. Mr. Tarantur was the only employee present, and he was interviewed by one of the agents.

On February 26, 2003, Mr. Tarantur was charged with three counts in the 35-count indictment returned against the three defendants. In Count 25, he is charged under 18 U.S.C. § 1014 and 2 with knowingly providing a forged document to a bank's escrow agent, in Count 34 under 18 U.S.C. § 1503 with conspiracy to obstruct justice, and in Count 35 under 18 U.S.C. § 1001 with lying to a federal agent. Mr. Tarantur now moves to dismiss counts 34 and 35, to sever his trial from that of his co-defendants, and to suppress his statements to the FBI agent. I deny the motions to dismiss and to sever, and order an evidentiary hearing on the suppression question.

I.

Mr. Tarantur argues that an indictment under 18 U.S.C. § 1503, as alleged in Count 34, must specifically allege that the defendant knew that a judicial proceeding was underway at the time he committed the complained-of acts, and that the charge must be dismissed because it fails to do so. "An indictment is sufficient if it (1) states all the elements of the offense charged, (2) informs the defendant of the nature of the charge, and (3) enables the defendant to plead the judgment as a bar to later prosecution of the same offense." United States v. Allender, 62 F.3d 909, 914 (7th Cir. 1995). The elements of obstruction of justice, as expressed in the Seventh Circuit's pattern jury instructions, are:

First, that the defendant influenced . . . or endeavored to influence . . . the due administration of justice; Second, that the defendant acted knowingly; and Third, that the defendant's acts were done corruptly, that is . . . with the purpose of wrongfully impeding the due administration of justice.

II.

Mr. Tarantur argues that Count 35 must be dismissed because even if he did lie to an FBI agent, such an event was not "within the jurisdiction" of the FBI as required by 18 U.S.C. § 1001. It is clear, however, that the "within the jurisdiction" clause of § 1001 includes false statements to FBI agents. See, e.g., United States v. Cherif, 943 F.2d 692 (7th Cir. 1991) (affirming a conviction under § 1001 where the defendant lied to an FBI agent). The motion to dismiss Count 35 is denied.

III.

Mr. Tarantur argues that any statements he made during his interview with an FBI agent at his office should be suppressed under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966) and Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428 (2000) because he was not informed of his right to remain silent or to have a lawyer present during questioning. As the Miranda rights do not attach unless a suspect is in custody, Oregon v. Mathiason, 429 U.S. 492, 494 (1977), a threshold question is whether Mr. Tarantur was in custody at the time he made the statements. In answering that question, I must look to the totality of the circumstances to determine how a reasonable man in Mr. Tarantur's position would have understood the situation. United States v. Crossley, 224 F.3d 847, 861 (7th Cir. 2000).

A factual dispute between the parties prevents me from answering that question at this stage. Mr. Tarantur claims that when the FBI agents entered his workplace, he was ordered to remain in his office and forbidden to use the telephone. The agent in question, however, claims that she informed Mr. Tarantur that he was free to leave at any time. If so, Mr. Tarantur was not in custody during the interview. See Crossley, 224 F.3d at 847 (holding that a defendant was not in custody during an interview in his workplace ...


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