Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Svete: Brown Overruled; Fraud Aimed at Gullible is Actionable

In U.S. v. Svete, No. 05-13809 (Feb. 2, 2009) (en banc), the Court, reversing U.S. v. Brown, 79 F.3d 1550 (11th Cir. 1996), held that proof of mail fraud does not require proof that a scheme is capable of deceiving a reasonably prudent person. Schemes aimed at the gullible or improvident are also prohibited.
The Court relied on the settled understanding of the reach of the mail fraud statute (which was broader than the common law fraud prohibition), on Neder v. U.S.’s discussion of materiality, and on the fact that Brown’s "ordinary prudence" element was rejected by all other circuits.
Consequently, the district court did not err when it declined to give the jury the requested Brown instruction regarding the requirement of ordinary prudence on the part of the victim. The Court upheld the fraud convictions.