Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, June 08, 2015

Wilson: Affirming convictions for fraudulent IRS refunds

In U.S. v. Wilson, No. 13-14846 (June 5, 2015), the Court affirmed the convictions and sentence of a defendant charged with converting to his own use fraudulently obtained IRS tax refunds. The Court rejected Wilson’s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, pointing out that the payees of the tax refunds did not file the tax returns associated with the refunds, and that Wilson’s check-cashing business contained no records that he had verified the identities of the payees, as required by law. The Court rejected the argument that the mere use of a person’s “name” sufficed to show use of a “means of identification” for purposes of aggravated identity theft. Acknowledging a circuit conflict, the Court ruled that the use of a name suffices. The Court also rejected the argument that the district court erroneously admitted the testimony of an accomplice. The Court noted that it was reviewing the issue for “plain error,” because the district court, pre-trial, did not rule definitively, and, after it ruled at trial, Wilson did not preserve his objection. The Court found no plain error, because this evidence was “intrinsic” to the charged crimes. The Court also rejected a Confrontation Clause challenge to the admission of text messages sent by Wilson’s defense attorney to a law enforcement agent regarding the delivery of boxes of documents. The Court found that the messages were “non-testimonial,” because they were informal, haphazard communications. Turning to sentencing, the Court rejected the argument that the district court should not have included refund checks in its loss calculation, because these checks were not charged in the indictment. The Court found that these checks were part of the “pattern” proved at trial.