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United States v. Chychula

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 2, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MARIA CHYCHULA, Defendant-Appellant

Argued December 5, 2013

Page 616

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:10-cr-01047-1 -- Sharon Johnson Coleman, Judge.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Stuart D. Fullerton, Attorney, Office of The United States Attorney, Chicago, IL.

For Maria Chychula, Defendant - Appellant: Keri A. Ambrosio, Attorney, Law Offices of Keri A. Ambrosio, P.C., Chicago, IL.

Before WOOD, Chief Judge, and SYKES and TINDER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 617

Tinder, Circuit Judge

Maria Chychula was convicted of nine counts of wire fraud, and the district court sentenced her to 48 months' imprisonment. Chychula appeals, arguing that the district court erred in applying a two-level enhancement to her offense level for obstruction of justice because it failed to make the necessary findings. We affirm.

I. Background

A grand jury charged Chychula with nine counts of participating in a scheme to defraud by means of interstate wire communications in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343. The indictment charged that Chychula and her codefendants engaged in a broad investment scheme, pursuant to which they defrauded more than 60 investors and obtained almost $4.5 million. The scheme lasted several years and took on various forms, including investment in the Gnxpert Companies--companies that Chychula and her co-schemers incorporated. In furtherance of the scheme, Chychula sent false information to investors by electronic mail and facsimile, and caused wire transfers of funds from investors' bank accounts to Cinema Investment Fund. Following review of a psychological report regarding Chychula's competency and the parties' arguments, the district court found Chychula fit to stand trial.

At the bench trial the government proved a scheme to defraud in which Chychula and her co-schemers, among other things, overstated profits, misled investors about existing contracts and Gnxpert products on the market, and converted investment money for the defendants' own use.

Page 618

The scheme was proved through witness testimony and hundreds of exhibits, including Chychula's grand jury testimony, emails between Chychula and others, and bank records. At the conclusion of trial, the district court found Chychula guilty of all nine counts of wire fraud. Chychula moved for judgment of acquittal and a new trial; both motions were denied.

A presentence investigation report (PSR) was prepared and provided to the district court and the parties. In calculating Chychula's offense level, the PSR included a two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice pursuant to U.S.S.G. ยง 3C1.1, based on Chychula's ...


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