363 U.S. 370 (1960), 391, Parr v. United States

Docket Nº:No. 391
Citation:363 U.S. 370, 80 S.Ct. 1171, 4 L.Ed.2d 1277
Party Name:Parr v. United States
Case Date:June 13, 1960
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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363 U.S. 370 (1960)

80 S.Ct. 1171, 4 L.Ed.2d 1277

Parr

v.

United States

No. 391

United States Supreme Court

June 13, 1960

Argued April 28, 1960

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Petitioners were indicted on 20 counts in a Federal District Court for using the mails to defraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341, and conspiring to do so, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. The indictment charged that together they controlled a School District and its depository bank, the assessment and collection of school taxes, and the expenditure of school funds, and that they entered into and carried out a scheme to defraud the School District, the State, and the taxpayers of each by misappropriating and embezzling funds and property of the School District. The specific offense charged in each of the first 19 counts was that, for the purpose of executing the scheme, petitioners caused a particular letter, check, tax statement, tax receipt, or invoice to be placed in, or received from, an authorized depository for United States mail. Count 20 charged that petitioners conspired to commit the offense set out in the first count and committed specific overt acts to that end. They were convicted, and the convictions were sustained by the Court of Appeals.

Held: although the indictment charged, and the evidence tended to show, that petitioners devised and practiced a scheme to defraud the School District by misappropriating and embezzling its money and property, neither the indictment nor the evidence supports the judgments, because the indictment did not charge, and the evidence did not show, any use of the mails "for the purpose of executing such scheme," within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 1341.

Pp. 371-394.

(

  1. The indictment did not expressly or impliedly charge, and there was no evidence tending to show, that the taxes assessed were excessive, "padded" or in any way illegal; nor did the Court submit any such issue to the jury. Pp. 385-388.

(b) In the light of the particular circumstances of this case, and especially of the facts that (1) the School Board was legally required to collect and assess taxes, (2) the indictment did not charge, nor the proofs show, that the taxes assessed and collected were excessive, "padded" or in any way unlawful, (3) no such issue was submitted to, or determined by, the jury, (4) the Board was compelled by state law to collect and receipt for the taxes, and

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(5) it was legally compelled to use the mails in doing so, it must be concluded that the legally compelled mailings complained of in the first 16 counts of the indictment were not shown to have been made "for the purpose of executing such scheme,"within the meaning of § 1341. Pp. 388-391.

(c) On the record in this case, it cannot be said that the mailings complained of in the first 16 counts of the indictment constituted false pretenses and misrepresentations to obtain money. Pp. 391-392.

(d) As to the charges in Counts 17, 18, and 19 that two of the petitioners fraudulently obtained gasoline and other filling station products and services for themselves upon the credit card and at the expense of the School District, knowing that the oil company would use the mails in billing the School District for these things, it cannot be said that the mailings in question were "for the purpose of executing" the scheme to defraud, since the scheme had reached fruition when these two petitioners received the goods and services complained of and before the mailings occurred. Pp. 392-393.

(e) Inasmuch as Count 20 charged petitioners with conspiring to commit the offense complained of in Count 1, and inasmuch as, on this record, that count cannot be sustained, it follows that petitioners' convictions upon Count 20 cannot stand. P. 393.

265 F.2d 894, reversed.

WHITTAKER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITTAKER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners, nine individuals and two state banking corporations,1 were indicted in 20 counts in the United

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States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, for mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The first 19 counts charged that petitioners devised, prior to September 1, 1949, and continued to February 20, 1954, a scheme to defraud the Benavides Independent School District ("District") of Duval County, Texas, the State of Texas, and the taxpayers of each, and that they used the mails for the purpose of executing the scheme, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341.2 The twentieth count charged that petitioners [80 S.Ct. 1174] conspired to commit the substantive offense charged in the first count, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.3

After their various motions, including one challenging venue and asking transfer of the action to the Corpus Christi Division of the court, and one for a bill of particulars, were denied, petitioners entered pleas of "not guilty" and in due course the case was put to trial before a jury. The jury returned verdicts finding petitioners

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guilty as charged -- some of them on all counts and others on only some of the counts. After denying timely motions in arrest of judgment and for a new trial, the court entered judgments upon the verdicts, convicting petitioners and sentencing them to imprisonment.4 On appeal, the judgments were affirmed, 265 F.2d 894, and, to determine questions of importance relative to the scope and proper application of § 1341, we granted certiorari. 361 U.S. 912.

Petitioners' principal contentions here are: (1) that, although the indictment charged and the evidence tended to show that petitioners devised and practiced a scheme to defraud the District by the local or state crimes of misappropriating and embezzling its money and property, neither the indictment nor the proofs support the judgments, because the indictment did not charge, and the proofs did not show, any use of the mails "for the purpose

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of executing such scheme" within the meaning of that phrase as used in § 1341, and (2) that the court's charge did not submit to the jury any theory or issue of fact that could constitute use of the mails "for the purpose of executing such scheme." The nature of these contentions requires a detailed examination of the indictment, the evidence adduced, and of the issues of fact actually tried and submitted to the jury, for its resolution, by the court in its charge.

We turn first to the indictment. Summarized as briefly as fair statement [80 S.Ct. 1175] permits, the first count alleged that the District is a public corporation organized under the laws of Texas to acquire and hold the facilities necessary for, and to operate, the public schools within the District,5 and, for those purposes, to assess and collect taxes; that the laws of Texas vest exclusive control of the property and management of the affairs of the District in its Board of Trustees, consisting of seven members; that, prior to September 1, 1949, petitioners devised, and continued to February 20, 1954, a scheme to defraud the District, the State of Texas, and the taxpayers of each, and to obtain their money and property for themselves and their relatives.

It then alleged that, as part of the scheme, petitioners would falsely represent that district checks were issued, and its funds disbursed, only to persons and concerns for services rendered and materials furnished to the District, and that its Annual Reports to the State Commissioner of Education were correct.

It next alleged that, as a further part of the scheme, seven of the petitioners would establish and maintain

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domination and control of the District;6 that three of them would acquire and maintain control of petitioner, the Texas State Bank of Alice, which was the authorized depository of the District's funds,7 and that one of them would acquire and maintain control of petitioner, the San Diego State Bank.8

It then alleged that it was a further part of the scheme that petitioners would sent or cause to be sent letters, tax statements, checks in payment of taxes, and receipted tax statements through the United States mails; that the checks and moneys received by the District from taxpayers and others would be deposited to the credit of the District in the authorized depository bank, against which petitioners would issue district checks payable to fictitious persons, and to existing persons, without consideration (falsifying the District's records to show that such checks were issued in payment for services or materials), and would cash such checks, upon forged endorsements or without endorsements of the payees at the depository bank and convert the proceeds; that they would open accounts and deposit checks received in payment of taxes in unauthorized banks, and that petitioner Chapa would withdraw and convert the funds; that they would convert and cash checks received by the District in payment of taxes and keep the proceeds; that they would obtain merchandise for themselves on the credit and at the expense of the District; that they would prepare, and the Board of Trustees would approve, false Annual Reports of the District and mail them to the State Commissioner of

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Education at Austin, Texas; that they would conceal their fraudulent misuse of district funds by destroying canceled checks, bank statements and other records of the District and the microfilmed records of the petitioner banks showing the fraudulent checks drawn against and paid out of the District's accounts.

The last paragraph of the count -- the only paragraph purporting to charge an offense -- charged that petitioners, on September 29, 1952, for the purpose of executing the scheme, caused to be taken from the post...

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