347 U.S. 1 (1954), 50, Pereira v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 50
Citation:347 U.S. 1, 74 S.Ct. 358, 98 L.Ed. 435
Party Name:Pereira v. United States
Case Date:February 01, 1954
Court:United States Supreme Court

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347 U.S. 1 (1954)

74 S.Ct. 358, 98 L.Ed. 435



United States

No. 50

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 1, 1954

Argued October 20, 1953




Petitioners were convicted in a federal court of (1) violating the mail fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1341, by causing a letter to be mailed by a bank pursuant to a scheme to defraud, (2) violating the National Stolen Property Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2314, by causing a check obtained by fraud to be transported by a bank in Texas to a bank in California for collection, and (3) a conspiracy to commit the two substantive offenses in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. The charges arose out of a scheme to defraud a wealthy widow of her property. Petitioner Pereira married her and absconded shortly thereafter. She divorced him before the trial, and was permitted to testify against both petitioners over their objections.

Held: The convictions are affirmed. Pp. 3-13.

1. There was no error in the admission of the victim's testimony over the objection that it violated the privilege for confidential marital communications; because it related primarily to statements made before the marriage or in the presence of third persons or acts which did not amount to confidential marital communications, and any residuum which may have been intended to be confidential was so slight as to be immaterial. Pp. 6-7.

2. Evidence that, pursuant to a scheme to defraud, Pereira delivered to a bank in one city for collection a check drawn on a bank in another city and that it was mailed to the drawee bank in the ordinary course of business was sufficient to sustain his

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conviction of the substantive offense of using the mails to defraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341. Pp. 7-9.

(a) In view of 18 U.S.C. § 2(b), it was not necessary to show that petitioner actually mailed or transported anything himself; it was sufficient to show that he caused it to be done. P. 8.

(b) Where one does an act with knowledge that the use of the mails will follow.in the ordinary course of business, or where such use can reasonably be foreseen, even though not actually intended, then he "causes" the mails to be used. Pp. 8-9.

3. Evidence that Pereira delivered to a Texas bank for collection a check obtained by fraud and drawn on a bank in California and that it was sent to the drawee bank was sufficient to sustain his conviction of the substantive offense of causing property obtained by fraud to be transported in interstate commerce in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2314. P. 9.

4. Sections 1341 and 2314 constitute two separate offenses, and a defendant may be convicted of both, even though the charges arise from a single act or series of acts, since each requires proof of a fact not essential to the other. P. 9.

5. In view of 18 U.S.C. § 2(a) and the trial court's charge to the jury, the evidence presented by the Government that petitioner Brading was a participant in the fraud from beginning to end and actively aided and abetted Pereira in its perpetration was sufficient to sustain Brading's conviction of the substantive offenses. Pp. 9-11.

6. Petitioners' convictions on both the substantive counts and of a conspiracy to commit the crimes charged in the substantive counts did not constitute double jeopardy. Pp. 11-12.

7. The evidence was sufficient to sustain petitioners' convictions on the charge of conspiracy. Pp. 12-13.

202 F.2d 830 affirmed.

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WARREN, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The petitioners, Pereira and Brading, were convicted in the District Court for the Western District of Texas under three counts of an indictment charging violation of the mail fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. (Supp. V) § 1341, violation of the National Stolen Property Act, 18 U.S.C. (Supp. V) § 2314, and a conspiracy to commit the aforesaid substantive offenses, 18 U.S.C. (Supp. V) § 371. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed. 202 F.2d 830. This Court granted certiorari to consider questions which are important to the proper administration of criminal justice in the federal courts. 345 U.S. 990.

On April 19, 1951, Mrs. Gertrude Joyce, a wealthy widow, fifty-six years old, and her younger half-sister, Miss Katherine Joyner, were accosted by the petitioner Brading as they were about to enter a hotel in El Paso, Texas. Mrs. Joyce and her sister had just arrived from their home in Roswell, New Mexico, and were preparing to register at the hotel. Brading identified himself, assisted them in parking their car, and invited them into the hotel bar to meet a friend of his. They accepted. The friend was petitioner Pereira, thirty-three years of age. After a few drinks, the men suggested that they all go to Juarez for dinner. The women accepted, and, after dinner, visited some night clubs with the petitioners. Pereira devoted himself to Mrs. Joyce, telling her that their meeting was an "epoch" in his life. He mentioned that he was getting a divorce. This same performance was repeated the following night. When Pereira said that he would like to return to Roswell with the women, Mrs. Joyce invited the two men to be her house guests, and they accepted. Pereira commenced to make love to Mrs. Joyce, and she responded to his attentions. On May 3, Pereira exhibited a telegram to Mrs. Joyce, in the presence

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of Brading and Miss Joyner, stating that his divorce would be granted on May 27, but that he would not receive his share of the property settlement, some $48,000, for a month.

Brading represented himself as a prosperous oil man, dealing in leases, and Pereira as the owner and operator of several profitable hotels. Brading then told Mrs. Joyce that Pereira was about to lose an opportunity to share in the profits of some excellent oil leases because of the delay in the divorce property settlement, and persuaded her to lend Pereira $5,000.

Pereira suggested that he and Mrs. Joyce take a trip together to "become better acquainted." He borrowed $1,000 from her to finance the trip. Brading joined them at Wichita Falls, and the three of them continued the trip together as far as Dallas. Pereira discussed his purported hotel business in Denver during this part of the trip. He stated that he was giving two hotels to his divorced wife, but intended to reenter the hotel business in the fall. In the meantime, he was going to "play a little oil" with Brading. In Hot Springs, Arkansas, Pereira proposed marriage and was accepted. Brading reappeared on the scene, expressing great joy at the impending marriage. Pereira then told Brading, in the presence of Mrs. Joyce, that he would have to withdraw from further oil deals and get a hotel to assure himself of a steady income.

Pereira and Mrs. Joyce were married May 25, 1951, in Kansas City, Missouri. While there, Pereira persuaded Mrs. Joyce to procure funds to enable him to complete an arrangement to purchase a Cadillac through a friend. She secured a check for $6,956.55 from her Los Angeles broker, and drawn on a California [74 S.Ct. 361] bank, which she endorsed over to Pereira. The price of the car was $4,750, and she instructed Pereira to return the balance of the proceeds of the check to her. He kept the change.

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From that time on, Pereira and Brading, in the presence of Mrs. Joyce, discussed a hotel which by words and conduct they represented that Pereira was to buy in Greenville, Texas. They took Mrs. Joyce -- by this time, Mrs. Pereira -- to see it, and exhibited an option for its purchase for $78,000 through a supposed broker, "E. J. Wilson." Pereira asked his then wife if she would join him in the hotel venture and advance $35,000 toward the purchase price of $78,000. She agreed. It was then agreed, between her and Pereira, that she would sell some securities that she possessed in Los Angeles, and bank the money in a bank of his choosing in El Paso. On June 15, she received the check for $35,000 on the Citizens National Bank of Los Angeles from her brokers in Los Angeles, and gave it to Pereira, who endorsed it for collection to the State National Bank of El Paso. The check cleared, and, on June 18, a cashier's check for $35,000 was drawn in favor of Pereira.

At five o'clock in the morning of June 19, Pereira and Brading, after telling their victim that they were driving the Cadillac to a neighboring town to sign some oil leases, left her at home in Roswell, New Mexico, promising to return by noon. Instead, Pereira picked up the check for $35,000 at the El Paso Bank, cashed it there, and, with Brading left with the money and the Cadillac.

That was the last Mrs. Joyce saw of either petitioner, or of her money, until the trial some seven months later. She divorced Pereira on November 16, 1951.

The record clearly shows that Brading was not an oil man; that Pereira was not a hotel owner; that there was no divorce or property settlement pending in Denver; that Pereira arranged to have the telegram concerning the divorce sent to him by a friend in Denver; that there were no oil leases; that the hotel deal was wholly fictitious; and that "E. J. Wilson" was the petitioner Brading. The only true statements which the petitioners

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made concerned the purchase of the Cadillac, and they took that with them. Pereira and Brading contrived all of the papers used to lend an air of authenticity to their deals. In short, their activities followed the familiar pattern of the "confidence game."

The petitioners challenge the admissibility of Mrs. Joyce's testimony as being based on confidential communications between Mrs. Joyce and Pereira during the marriage. Petitioners do not now contend that Mrs. Joyce was not a competent witness against her ex-husband. They concede that the divorce removed any bar of incompetency. That is the generally accepted rule. Wigmore, Evidence, § 2237; 58 Am.Jur., Witnesses,...

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