628 Fed.Appx. 642 (11th Cir. 2015), 14-11274, United States v. Gutierrez-Acanda

Docket Nº:14-11274
Citation:628 Fed.Appx. 642
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM:
Party Name:UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee, v. LAURA GUTIERREZ-ACANDA, Defendant - Appellant
Attorney:For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee: Kathleen Mary Salyer, Stephen Schlessinger, Sean Paul Cronin, Wifredo A. Ferrer, Emily M. Smachetti, U.S. Attorney's Office, MIAMI, FL. For LAURA GUTIERREZ-ACANDA, Defendant - Appellant: Rene A. Sotorrio, Law office of Rene Sotorrio, COCONUT GRO...
Judge Panel:Before MARCUS, WILLIAM PRYOR and JILL PRYOR, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:October 05, 2015
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 642

628 Fed.Appx. 642 (11th Cir. 2015)

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,

v.

LAURA GUTIERREZ-ACANDA, Defendant - Appellant

No. 14-11274

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

October 5, 2015

DO NOT PUBLISH. (See Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure Rule 32.1)

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. D.C. Docket No. 1:13-cr-20166-MGC-2.

AFFIRMED.

For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee: Kathleen Mary Salyer, Stephen Schlessinger, Sean Paul Cronin, Wifredo A. Ferrer, Emily M. Smachetti, U.S. Attorney's Office, MIAMI, FL.

For LAURA GUTIERREZ-ACANDA, Defendant - Appellant: Rene A. Sotorrio, Law office of Rene Sotorrio, COCONUT GROVE, FL.

Before MARCUS, WILLIAM PRYOR and JILL PRYOR, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 643

PER CURIAM:

Laura Gutierrez-Acanda appeals her convictions following a jury trial on multiple counts of bank and wire fraud and a conspiracy to commit those offenses, arising out of a scheme to fraudulently obtain and improperly disburse residential mortgage loans, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 1349, 1344, and 1343. Gutierrez-Acanda's sole challenge on appeal involves the sufficiency of the evidence supporting her convictions. Essentially, she argues that the government failed to establish that she was a knowing and willful participant in the alleged mortgage fraud conspiracy and that she acted with the requisite intent to defraud several financial institutions. After thorough review, we affirm each of her convictions.

We review a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a criminal conviction de novo, United States v. Drury, 396 F.3d 1303, 1312 (11th Cir. 2005), and " we examine the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, drawing all reasonable inferences and making all credibility choices in the government's favor," United States v. Silvestri, 409 F.3d 1311, 1327 (11th Cir. 2005). An appellant must do more than " put forth a reasonable hypothesis of innocence, because the issue is not whether a jury reasonably could have acquitted but whether it reasonably could have found guilt." United States v. Thompson, 473 F.3d 1137, 1142 (11th Cir. 2006). Thus, a court may not overturn a jury verdict " if any reasonable construction of the evidence would have allowed the jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." United States v. Rodriguez, 732 F.3d 1299, 1303 (11th Cir. 2013). Moreover, the test for sufficiency is the same regardless of whether the evidence is characterized as direct or circumstantial. United States v. Doe, 661 F.3d 550, 560 (11th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation

Page 644

marks and citation omitted). Where circumstantial evidence is involved, however, the verdict must rest on " reasonable inferences, and not mere speculation." United States v. Klopf, 423 F.3d 1228, 1236 (11th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

To sustain a conviction for bank fraud conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. § 1349, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) two or more persons agreed to a common and unlawful plan to commit bank and wire fraud, as alleged in the indictment; (2) the defendant knew of the unlawful plan; and (3) the defendant knowingly and voluntarily joined the plan. United States v. Moran, 778 F.3d 942, 960 (11th Cir. 2015). But the defendant need not have known " all of the details" of the conspiracy. Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Rather, the government must prove that she knew of the conspiracy's " essential nature" and joined it. United States v. Garcia, 405 F.3d 1260, 1270 (11th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (quoting United States v. Charles, 313 F.3d 1278 (11th Cir. 2002)). Because conspiracies are " predominantly mental in composition, it is frequently necessary to resort to circumstantial evidence to prove [their] elements," including " inferences [drawn] from the conduct of the alleged participants or from circumstantial evidence of a scheme." United States v. Vernon, 723 F.3d 1234, 1273 (11th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

A conviction for bank fraud under 18 US.C. § 1344 requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) a scheme existed to obtain money in the custody of a federally insured bank by fraud; (2) the defendant participated in the scheme by means of material false pretenses, representations or promises; and (3) the defendant acted knowingly. 18 U.S.C. § 1344(2); United States v. McCarrick, 294 F.3d 1286, 1290 (11th Cir. 2002) (citing United States v. Goldsmith, 109 F.3d 714, 715 (11th Cir. 1997)). As with conspiracy, " circumstantial evidence may prove [a defendant's] knowledge." United States v...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP