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United States v. Mowen

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

May 18, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
DEAN MOWEN, Defendant.

          OPINION

          SUE E. MYERSCOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are Defendant Dean Mowen's post-trial motions based on Rules 29(c), 33, and 34 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (d/e 134). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's post-trial motions are DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On April 6, 2016, a two-count Indictment (d/e 1) was filed in this Court. Count 1 of the Indictment charged Defendants Dean Mowen and David Speer with conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Count 2 charged Defendants Mowen and Speer with mail fraud. On August 11, 2016, Defendant Speer appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Tom Schanzle-Haskins and pleaded guilty to Count 1 of the Indictment. On September 2, 2016, the Court accepted Defendant Speer's guilty plea and adjudged him guilty of the offense alleged in Count 1 of the Indictment.

         On January 10, 2017, Defendant Mowen went to trial on both counts of the Indictment. The jury heard testimony from numerous witnesses for the Government, including Defendant Speer, Danny Tally (an unindicted co-conspirator), Fred Perritt (another unindicted co-conspirator), Kip Herron, Wayne Carlisle, Carl Carlisle (Wayne's nephew), Bill Wiewel (Defendant Mowen's insurance agent), Larry Wyatt (an investigator for Grinnell Mutual), Chris Byers (an insurance adjustor for Grinnell Mutual), and Nick Hiland (an agent with the West Central Illinois Task Force). Among others, Defendant Mowen and his fiancée, Jamie Andino, testified for the defense. On January 17, 2017, the jury found Defendant Mowen guilty of both mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

         On January 24, 2017, without having the benefit of the trial transcripts, Defendant Mowen filed post-trial motions based on Rules 29(c), 33, and 34 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Defendant Mowen's Rule 29(c) motion requests a judgment of acquittal, arguing that the evidence on which the jury found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the charged offenses was insufficient. Defendant Mowen's Rule 33 motion requests a new trial and is also based on the insufficiency of the evidence against him, while his Rule 34 motion seeks an arrest of judgment based on the Indictment's failure to charge offenses and the Court's lack of jurisdiction over the offenses charged. As explained below, Defendant Mowen is not entitled to relief on any of his post-trial motions.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Defendant Mowen Is Not Entitled to a Judgment of Acquittal.

         The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that a criminal defendant may move for a judgment of acquittal “within 14 days after a guilty verdict or after the court discharges the jury, whichever is later.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c)(1). “A defendant is not required to move for a judgment of acquittal before the court submits the case to the jury as a prerequisite for making such a motion after jury discharge.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c)(3). Defendant Mowen's Rule 29(c) motion is timely, as it was filed seven days after the jury rendered its guilty verdicts against him.

         In ruling on a motion for acquittal, the Court must determine whether there existed relevant evidence from which the jury could reasonably have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. United States v. Beck, 615 F.2d 441, 447-48 (7th Cir. 1980). In making this determination, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the Government, keeping in mind that it is the exclusive function of the jury to resolve evidentiary conflicts, determine the credibility of witnesses, and draw reasonable inferences. Id. at 448. The Court must examine all the evidence, including that offered by the defendant. Id. The Court may grant the motion for acquittal only if “no rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.” United States v. Pree, 408 F.3d 855, 865 (7th Cir. 2005). “Any challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence comes with a heavy, indeed, nearly insurmountable, burden.” United States v. Dessart, 823 F.3d 395, 403 (7th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         To prove the charge of mail fraud, the Government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant participated in a scheme to defraud, that the defendant acted with the intent to defraud, and that the defendant used the United States mail in furtherance of the fraudulent scheme. United States v. Daniel, 749 F.3d 608, 613 (7th Cir. 2014). The Government need not prove that the defendant personally used the mail, only that the use of the United States mail in furtherance of the fraudulent scheme was reasonably foreseeable to the defendant and that a mailing was sent in furtherance of the scheme. Id. at 615. Further, the Government must prove that the deceptive conduct underlying the fraudulent scheme was “material, ” meaning that the conduct had a tendency to influence or was capable of influencing the “decision of the decisionmaking body to which it was addressed.” United States v. Seidling, 737 F.3d 1155, 1160 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Neder v. United States, 527 U.S. 1, 16 (1999)). A scheme to defraud requires the concealment of a material fact or the making of a false statement or material misrepresentation. United States v. Sloan, 492 F.3d 884, 890 (7th Cir. 2007). The intent to defraud requires a willful act by the defendant “with the specific intent to deceive or cheat, usually for the purpose of getting financial gain for one's self or causing financial loss to another.” United States v. Sheneman, 682 F.3d 623, 629 (7th Cir. 2012). Intent to defraud “may be established both from circumstantial evidence and inferences drawn by examining the scheme itself.” Id.

         To prove the charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, the Government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a conspiracy to commit mail fraud existed, that the defendant joined the conspiracy with the intent to further the conspiracy, and that at least one conspirator committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. United States v. Sims, 329 F.3d 937, 943 (7th Cir. 2003). The Government must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the use of the United States mail in furtherance of the conspiracy was reasonably foreseeable. Id. at 943 n.3 (citing United States v. Shelton, 669 F.2d 446, 451 (7th Cir. 1982)). Whether the relevant evidence establishes a conspiratorial agreement must be determined by the totality of the circumstances. United States v. Cruse, 805 F.3d 795, 811 (7th Cir. 2015).

         Here, the evidence presented at trial, viewed in the light most favorable to the Government, was more than sufficient to support the jury's guilty verdicts against Defendant Mowen on the charges of mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. During the trial, the jury heard testimony that in 2015, Defendant Mowen and Defendant Speer traveled to Walls, Mississippi, where Defendant Mowen purchased a New Holland 8970 tractor and a Case IH 2388 combine from Wayne Carlisle for approximately $32, 000. Defendant Mowen subsequently informed his insurance agent, Bill Wiewel, that he had paid $50, 000 for the tractor and $58, 000 for the combine. Defendant Mowen obtained insurance on the two pieces of equipment for those respective amounts. Had Wiewel known that Defendant Mowen paid approximately $32, 000 for the tractor and combine, the two pieces of equipment would not have been insured for a total of $108, 000, regardless of the actual value of the equipment, as Defendant Mowen's policy was an actual cash value policy. That actual cash value policy would have reimbursed Defendant Mowen only the amount he paid for the equipment, not the amount he would have had to pay to replace the equipment. With the insurance for the equipment in place, Defendant Mowen and Defendant Speer agreed that Defendant Speer would set the tractor and combine on fire in an effort to collect the insurance proceeds. Defendant Speer set the tractor and combine on fire on or about October 1, 2015. Shortly thereafter, Defendant Mowen contacted his insurance agent to make a claim regarding the tractor and combine.

         As a result of Defendant Mowen's claim, Camp Point Mutual Insurance Company (Camp Point), requested information and proof of payment with respect to the tractor and combine. Despite the fact that Defendant Mowen had purchased the tractor and combine from Wayne Carlisle, Defendant Mowen and Defendant Speer obtained a bill of sale from Fred Perritt for the tractor and an invoice from Danny Tally for the combine. Jamie Andino, on behalf of Defendant Mowen, subsequently mailed to Camp Point the bill of sale and the invoice, along with a cancelled check, dated September 2, 2015, made out to H.T. Farms, an entity owned by Danny Tally, for $55, 000, and a sticky note. The sticky note stated that the cancelled ...


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