The Court found that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction. Although the defendant never tried to persuade, influence, coax, or encourage the business to file a form containing misstatements, he knowingly caused the business to do so. The defendant negotiated and paid for the vehicles with cash; he knew that the business would be required to complete a form as a result; he solicited his friend to act as a straw owner; and, as a result, the forms contained material misstatements about the identity of the owner.
The defendant also argued, for the first time on appeal, that the evidence was insufficient because the government failed to introduce either the original or certified copy of form submitted to the IRS, but instead introduced an IRS-prepared document summarizing the transactions. The Court agreed that the failure to admit the IRS form was error under the best evidence rule in Federal Rule of Evidence 1002. However, applying plain error, the Court concluded that this error did not affect the defendant's substantial rights or the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of the proceedings because, even without any evidence of a form containing the misstatements, the defendant still could have been convicted of attempting to cause the business to file a false form.
The Court, however, remanded for re-sentencing because the district court failed to make sufficient factual findings about how the defendant obstructed or impeded the investigation. Instead, it made only vague and equivocal statements about his tax returns filed years before the offense, his use of a straw buyer, and his false statements that did not actually impede the investigation. And the record did not clearly reflect how those statements supported the obstruction enhancement. Accordingly, the Court vacated the sentence and remanded to allow the district court reconsider the obstruction enhancement and support it with factual findings.