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United States v. Harris

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 1, 2015

WILLIE J. HARRIS, Defendant-Appellant

Argued, February 25, 2015

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. No. 2:10-cr-00123-PPS-APR-1 -- Philip P. Simon, Chief Judge.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: John M. Maciejczyk, Attorney, Office of The United States Attorney, South Bend, IN.

For Willie J. Harris, Defendant - Appellant: Christopher Keleher, Attorney, Keleher Appellate Law Group, Chicago, IL.

Before BAUER, FLAUM, and MANION, Circuit Judges.


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Bauer, Circuit Judge.

On May 10, 2013, defendant-appellant, Willie J. Harris, was convicted of two counts of fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud with identification documents in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 1028(a)(7), 1028(f), 1029(b)(2), and 1349, three counts of production and trafficking in counterfeit devices (credit card fraud) in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1029(a)(2), and one count of aggravated identity theft in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A. The district court sentenced Harris to 156 months' imprisonment and ordered him to pay $299,298.67 in restitution. On appeal, Harris contends that the court erroneously denied his pretrial motion to suppress and that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction. He also appeals his sentence, arguing that the district court erred in applying a number of sentencing enhancements and imposed an unreasonable sentence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

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From 2007 to 2010, Harris was involved in a conspiracy to commit account takeover fraud, in which he and seven coconspirators fraudulently added themselves as authorized users on existing credit card accounts without the account holders' knowledge or permission. Once added, Harris and his co-conspirators took out cash advances, cashed convenience checks, and made fraudulent purchases with the victims' accounts. The scheme lasted three years, involved over fifty victims, and resulted in approximately $300,000 in pecuniary loss.

Harris' fraudulent transactions began in Indiana in 2007. During 2007, he added co-conspirators as authorized users of victims' credit cards. He also directed co-conspirators to draw on these accounts through cash advances and checks. Sometime amid the 2007 activity, he relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, but continued fraudulently adding users to victims' credit cards in Indiana.

On April 7, 2008, Harris and one of his co-conspirators, seventeen-year-old Darriell Watkins, attempted to obtain a $4,500 cash advance at a Chase Bank branch in Munster, Indiana. Watkins went into the bank, while Harris waited outside in his truck. The credit card Watkins used for the advance had been issued on the account of a man named Mark Sulzman, without his authority or permission. Suspicious of the legality of the transaction, the bank alerted the Munster Police Department. Upon arrival, an officer arrested Harris and placed him in the back of a police car. Another officer searched Watkins, discovering the fraudulent credit card, a second credit card not in Watkins' name, and a slip of paper containing Sulzman's birth date, social security number, credit card numbers, address, phone number, his mother's maiden name, and his bank password. When Watkins was placed in a patrol car, she asked an officer to retrieve her personal belongings from Harris' truck--namely, a backpack, a coat, and " school stuff." The officer returned a backpack, a notebook that he found under the backpack, and a wallet to Watkins, all of which were in plain view in the truck.

Watkins and Harris were both interviewed thereafter. During her interview, Watkins explained that the backpack recovered from the truck was hers, but the notebook and wallet belonged to Harris. When asked, Harris admitted the wallet was his, but said the notebook belonged to Watkins. Because both of them disclaimed ownership, the notebook remained in police custody. The notebook contained a litany of personal information about fourteen people, including birth dates, addresses, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and security codes. A fingerprint examination revealed 48/50 prints pulled from the notebook matched Harris' prints. Eventually, both Watkins and Harris were released from custody.

In March 2009, law enforcement began investigating Harris after he was connected to $26,000 worth of suspicious transactions. The investigation continued into 2010, when local police and postal inspector Cecil Frank executed a search warrant on Harris' Atlanta apartment. They seized computers, thumb drives, and Harris himself. A second notebook containing personal information about a host of people was also discovered.

Harris was indicted on June 21, 2010. The indictment alleged a conspiracy from March 2007 to January 2010 to commit identity theft and credit card fraud. ...

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