Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Taylor

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 16, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
TERRY TAYLOR, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          SARA L. ELLIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On October 5, 2017, the Government indicted Defendant Terry Taylor for wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349. Following a four-day trial, on March 21, 2019, a jury found Taylor guilty on both counts. Taylor now moves for a judgment of acquittal, or alternatively, a new trial [114, 115]. In support of a judgment of acquittal, Taylor argues that he did not have knowledge of or intent to commit wire fraud and that he could not have reasonably foreseen a wiring in furtherance of the fraud. In support of a new trial, Taylor argues that the Court improperly instructed the jury on aiding-and-abetting liability and deliberate avoidance, and improperly admitted evidence that Taylor did not file tax returns during the scheme. Because the Court finds that the Government introduced sufficient evidence for a jury to find that Taylor had the requisite intent, the Court denies Taylor's motion for a judgment of acquittal. Additionally, the Court denies Taylor's motion for a new trial because the Court finds that it properly instruct the jury and admitted evidence of his failure to file tax returns.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 allows a defendant to challenge whether the evidence is “insufficient to sustain a conviction.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(a). “A motion for acquittal should be granted only where the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction.” United States v. Kohli, 847 F.3d 483, 489 (7th Cir. 2017) (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court will only overturn the jury's verdict if “after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Government, the record is devoid of evidence from which a reasonable jury could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” United States v. Wrobel, 841 F.3d 450, 454 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting United States v. Campbell, 770 F.3d 556, 571-72 (7th Cir. 2014)). “When a defendant has introduced evidence in his own defense at trial, we examine the evidence as a whole, including that presented by the defendant.” United States v. Wilson, 879 F.3d 795, 802 (7th Cir. 2018). “When challenging a conviction based on sufficiency of the evidence, a defendant bears a ‘heavy' burden that is ‘nearly insurmountable.'” Kohli, 847 F.3d at 489 (quoting United States v. Moses, 513 F.3d 727, 733 (7th Cir. 2008)).

         Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 allows “a district court to grant a timely request for a new trial ‘if the interest of justice so requires.'” United States v. O'Malley, 833 F.3d 810, 811 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a)). Courts look at the weight of the evidence, including the credibility of witnesses, to determine “whether the verdict is against the manifest weight of the evidence.” United States v. Washington, 184 F.3d 653, 657-58 (7th Cir. 1999). The Court should grant a new trial only if the evidence “preponderates[s] heavily against the verdict, such that it would be a miscarriage of justice to let the verdict stand.” United States v. Swan, 486 F.3d 260, 266 (7th Cir. 2007) (alteration in original) (quoting United States v. Reed, 875 F.2d 107, 113 (7th Cir. 1989)).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Judgment of Acquittal

         First, Taylor argues that the Government failed to introduce sufficient evidence to sustain his two convictions. “To establish that [Taylor] committed wire fraud, the government had to prove that: (1) [Taylor] participated in a scheme to defraud; (2) with intent to defraud; and (3) interstate wires were used in furtherance of the fraud.” United States v. Bloom, 846 F.3d 243, 250 (7th Cir. 2017); 18 U.S.C. § 1343. To obtain a conspiracy conviction, the government must prove that: (1) there was a conspiracy; (2) Taylor joined the conspiracy with the intent to further it; and (3) at least one conspirator committed an overt act in furtherance of the agreement. See United States v. Dingle, 862 F.3d 607, 614 (7th Cir. 2017).

         A. Taylor's Knowledge and Intent

         Taylor argues that he did not know a fraud was occurring, and he did not intend to defraud or knowingly join a conspiracy to commit fraud. Taylor's argument, however, centers around the credibility of two Government witnesses: Sharlon Bailes, Taylor's co-defendant, and Agent Robert Walker. The issues of witness credibility, the resolution of evidentiary conflicts, and inferences that the jury could draw from the evidence presented by the parties, remain in the jury's exclusive domain and the Court cannot consider them in considering a sufficiency of the evidence challenge. See United States v. Pope, 739 F.2d 289, 291 (7th Cir. 1984) (the jury has the “exclusive authority to assess the witnesses' credibility, resolve evidentiary conflicts and draw reasonable inferences from the evidence presented”).

         Instead, the Court must look at the evidence in the light most favorable to the Government and determine whether it sufficiently provided a basis for the jury to conclude that Taylor knew a fraud was occurring, that he intended to defraud, and that he knowingly joined a conspiracy to commit fraud. The Court concludes that it did.

         The Court finds that there was sufficient evidence that the jury could conclude that Taylor knew about the alleged fraud. Bailes testified that Taylor owned his own construction company and did remodeling work for her. Doc. 110 at 69. Taylor completed a job at her home painting the interior of the house and Bailes paid him with a check with a check from Near North, of which only 35% actually paid for Taylor's labor and costs for the paint job. Id. at 83. The remaining 65% of the check Taylor split between taxes at 50% and a payment to his contact at the Currency Exchange to cover the contact's fee for cashing the check at 15% . Id. at 83-4. The following week, Bailes gave Taylor another check written on Near North accounts in response to Taylor's request that Bailes help him out. Id. at 85. Bailes testified that Taylor told her that they didn't have to worry about getting caught because he had a connection at the Currency Exchange. Id. Taylor received this check despite having done no work on Bailes' home or any property associated with Near North to justify the payment. Id. at 86 -7. In fact, Taylor never worked as a contractor for a Near North project. Id. Between 2008 and 2012, Taylor received some Near North checks from Bailes as "loans" but he never repaid the money nor received it as compensation for work he had legitimately done for either Bailes or Near North. Id. at 88. Additionally, Agent Walker testified that Taylor admitted he knew cashing the checks was wrong in his first interview with law enforcement. Doc. 112 at 302.

         Based on this evidence, a jury could reasonably determine that Taylor knew of the alleged fraud. Taylor accepted these checks written on Near North accounts in spite of the fact that he was not a contractor for any Near North project and at times, in spite of the fact that he had done no work for Bailes. Taylor told Bailes that they would not have worry about getting caught because of his contact at the Currency Exchange to whom he paid a fee each time he cashed a Near North check. It strains credulity that Taylor would not have known about the fraud and yet still mention to Bailes that she did not have to worry about getting caught. Further, Taylor took checks written on Near North accounts that contained information about specific properties from Bailes for work he did not do in response to his request that she help him out financially. This evidence is sufficient for the jury to find that Taylor knew of the alleged fraud.

         As for evidence relating to his intent, “[i]ntent 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. The intent to defraud may be established both from circumstantial evidence and inferences drawn by examining the scheme itself.” United States v. Domnenko, 763 F.3d 768, 772-73 (7th Cir. 2014). Here, Taylor benefitted financially from scheme to defraud, receiving money from Bailes for more than the cost of the work he did for her or at times, for doing no work at all. With the proceeds from the scheme, he bought a house and rehabbed it. Doc. 110 at 115-17. He admitted to Agent Walker that Bailes paid ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.