Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ellisor: Christmas Show Fraud Punished by 87 months

In U.S. v. Ellisor, No. 05-14459 (April 7, 2008), the Court affirmed the mail fraud convictions and 87-month sentence of a defendant convicted of defrauding schools and children’s parents of money paid for tickets for a non-existent "Christmas Around the World Show."
The Court rejected Ellisor’s claim that the district court violated Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) when it admitted evidence of two prior incidents, a fraudulent "Washington D.C. on Tour" show, and his non-payment of his $ 1,657 charges at Coconut Grove’s Doubletree Hotel. The first incident showed Ellisor’s "intent to defraud by promoting an illusory show," while the evidence of the unpaid hotel bill was intertwined with the proof of the government’s fraud case, occurring as it did in the weeks leading up to the dates advertised for the show.
The Court also affirmed the exclusion of evidence of Ellisor’s prior authentic shows, noting that evidence of good conduct is not admissible to negate criminal intent.
The Court rejected a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, finding "ample" evidence from which the jury could have convicted. "‘Christmas From Around the World’ was billed as featuring 28 foreign ambassadors, Harry Potter characters, lavish Christmas decorations, raffle prizes, and even live reindeer. When the children showed up . . . the convention center was locked and bare."
Turning to the sentence, the Court rejected Ellisor’s argument that the loss amount was less than $30,000, that schools, not parents and children, should only be counted as victims, and that he had misrepresented that the University of Miami was a sponsor. The Court also affirmed the obstruction of justice enhancement based on Ellisor’s perjurious testimony at trial.
Finally, the Court affirmed the upward variance based on the "reprehensible" offense and prior similar misconduct.