Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, May 23, 2008

Mendez: 371 requires United States to be conspiracy's target

In U.S. v. Mendez, No. 07-13433 (May 21, 2008), the Court reversed a conspiracy to defraud the United States conviction, under 18 U.S.C. § 371, because the fraud involved Florida commercial driver’s licenses, which did not defraud the "United States," as the statute requires.
The district court had held that there was sufficient federal involvement in the fraud because the federal government issued regulations for obtaining a commercial driver’s licence. Reversing, the Court said this connection was insufficient to show that the United States was the "target" of the fraud. It also did not suffice that the Florida guidebook for licenses referenced the United States regulations, since the defendant did not know of this reference.
The Court, however, upheld Mendez’ separate conviction for unlawful production of a false commercial licence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(1). The Court rejected the argument that there was an insufficient nexus with interstate commerce. The Court pointed out that Mendez intended to operate a commercial vehicle, and, even if the vehicle never left Florida, its operation in Florida sufficed to establish the minimal nexus required.