Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, January 28, 2013

Jimenez: Conflict of Interest alone is insufficient to misapply funds

In U.S. v. Jimenez, No. 11-15039 (Jan. 25, 2013), the Court held that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction for violating 18 U.S.C. § 666 by intentionally misapplying $5,000 or more from an organization receiving federal funds.

Jimenez was Deputy Director of a Head Start program in Hillsborough County, Florida. During his tenure, the program paid $9,000 to the defendant’s wife to order 750 copies of her book entitled Travel Boy Helps Sebastian Trapping the Germs. It was not Jimenez, but Mason, Jimenez’s superior, who directed the payment of funds. Jimenez failed to complete the required “conflict of interest” disclosure form indicating that his wife had a contractual relationship with Head Start.

The government argued that Jimenez’s skirting of conflict of interest rules established a § 666 violation. The Court rejected this argument. The Court pointed out that the statute makes it unlawful to intentionally misapply funds. Here, it was not Jimenez, but his superior, Mason (who was also charged – and acquitted – of a § 666 violation), who directed the application of funds. The Court held that an undisclosed conflict of interest, standing alone, is insufficient to sustain a § 666 violation.