Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Brown: Value Means Face Value not Actual Worth

In U.S. v. Brown, No. 10-12273 (Dec. 23, 2011), the Court affirmed convictions and a restitution order arising out of mail fraud and interstate transportation of forged securities.

The Court rejected Brown’s argument that the admission of evidence of two similar schemes involving his attempt to deposit IRS tax refund checks with forged endorsements into checking accounts in his name violated Fed. R. Evid. 404(b). The Court noted that this evidence was relevant to disprove Brown’s defense that he was the victim of identity theft in the charged transaction.

The Court also rejected Brown’s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. The Court found sufficient evidence from which the jury could infer that the checks at issue had a “value” of at least $5,000, the jurisdictional threshold for a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2314. Brown argued that the checks were worthless, because they were cancelled months before they were transported in interstate commerce, but the Court found that the value was “the amount payable written on the face of the checks.” The Court cited precedent from other circuits holding that “value” means “face value,” not “actual worth.” Here the face value of the checks exceeded $5,000.

The Court also affirmed a restitution order, rejecting, based on prior Circuit precedent, Brown’s argument that the total amount should not have included losses caused by schemes not expressly charged in the indictment and outside the statute of limitations. The Court noted that the other transactions “fit well within the overarching scheme alleged in the indictment.”