Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, April 29, 2019

Delva: Upholding Identity-Theft and Tax Fraud Convictions and Sentences Over Various Challenges

In United States v. Delva, No. 16-12947 (Apr. 29, 2019) (Hull, Marcus, Grant), the Court affirmed the defendants' identity-theft and tax fraud convictions and sentences.

First, the Court upheld the denial of a suppression motion under the automobile exception because probable cause existed to search the defendant's automobile and, in any event, the evidence would have been inevitably discovered.

Second,  the Court found the evidence sufficient to support that the defendant knowingly participated in the criminal activities--including that the defendant knew that the PII belonged to real people, since the fraud was successfully using that information to obtain tax refunds.

Third, the Court found no abuse of discretion in permitting an experienced detective to testify as an expert about the meaning of jargon used in stolen identity refund fraud.

Fourth, the Court upheld the application of a 2-level enhancement under 2B1.1(b)(15)(B) for possession of a firearm in connection with the offenses.  Amidst all the defendants' fraud-related materials and money, they had a rifle leaning up against the wall in the same room and at the same time as they were conducting their fraudulent activities.  One of the defendants also admitted in a post-Miranda statement that firearms were kept in the house to protect them from being robbed.

Lastly, the Court found the defendant's 84-month guideline-range sentence to be substantially reasonable.