738 F.3d 878 (7th Cir. 2013), 13-1297, United States v. Rucker

Docket Nº:13-1297.
Citation:738 F.3d 878
Opinion Judge:KAPALA, District Judge.
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Phillip RUCKER, Defendant-Appellant.
Attorney:John M. Maciejczyk, Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney, South Bend, IN, for Plaintiff-Appellee. Christopher M. Glinski, Attorney, Racine, WI, for Defendant-Appellant.
Judge Panel:Before FLAUM and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges, and KAPALA, District Judge.[*]
Case Date:December 31, 2013
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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738 F.3d 878 (7th Cir. 2013)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Phillip RUCKER, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 13-1297.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

December 31, 2013

Argued Nov. 15, 2013.

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John M. Maciejczyk, Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney, South Bend, IN, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Christopher M. Glinski, Attorney, Racine, WI, for Defendant-Appellant.

Before FLAUM and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges, and KAPALA, District Judge.[*]

KAPALA, District Judge.

After a jury found defendant, Phillip Rucker, guilty of one count of wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, the district court sentenced him to 30 months' imprisonment, one year of supervised release, and ordered him to pay $73,488.95 in restitution. In this direct criminal appeal, Rucker contends that the district court erred in refusing to allow him to use a prior conviction to impeach a testifying co-defendant. We affirm.

I. Background

The grand jury charged Rucker, Jerry Haymon, and Sheila Chandler, with engaging in a mortgage fraud scheme. Count III of the indictment, the only count in which Rucker was named, alleged the following. With the promise of a $10,000 payment, Rucker recruited Leequiter Smith to purchase residential property at 3758 Buchanan Street in Gary, Indiana for $85,000. Haymon led the owner, Margaret Peterson, to believe that he would sell the property for approximately $35,000. Rucker had Smith sign numerous false documents to support her loan application. Chandler completed a mortgage application for Smith knowing it contained false information. Haymon filed a fake mechanics lien claiming that his business, Priced Right Construction and Management, LLC (" Priced Right" ), was owed $44,000 for work performed on 3758 Buchanan. In fact, Priced Right performed no work at the property. The transaction closed on July 14, 2008, and on that date Rucker, Haymon, and Chandler caused $84,118.48 to be transmitted by means of wire transmission in interstate commerce from a lender in Florida to a title company in the Northern District of Indiana. After the closing, Haymon cashed a $44,000 check issued to Priced Right and paid kickbacks to Rucker, Smith, and Chandler for their roles in the scheme.

Prior to trial, the government moved in limine to exclude evidence of Chandler's November 14, 2000 conviction for a theft concerning a program receiving federal funds, in violation of

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18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(1)(A), for which she received a sentence of five years' probation. On the first day of trial in December 2011, the district court took up the government's motion in limine and questioned why introducing the stale conviction was necessary since Rucker could impeach Chandler with " the fact that she pled guilty in this case." The court preliminarily granted the motion and ordered counsel to approach the bench before attempting to use the conviction for impeachment.

During the government's case, Sheila Chandler testified that she had pled guilty to two of the counts of wire fraud charged in the instant indictment, as well as nine counts of wire fraud charged in a previous federal case. Chandler stated that she began working as a loan originator in 1999 or 2000 and worked at various places. In 2004, while she was with Challenge Mortgage, she began to lie to lenders on behalf of buyers and create false documents such as W-2 forms and earnings statements to support loan applications. Chandler met Rucker in 2005 when he was also working at Challenge Mortgage as a loan officer.

Chandler further testified that in 2008, after she left Challenge Mortgage and while she was working for her son's mortgage brokerage company, Rucker called her and said that Haymon wanted to find buyers for a couple of houses that he had because there was a lot of money to be made and that she could make $10,000 per house. In connection with the sale of the house at 3758 Buchanan Street, Rucker provided Chandler with Leequiter Smith's name, address, social security number, and date of birth. After pulling Smith's credit, Chandler believed that she could obtain a loan for her. Chandler forged the seller's signature on a $85,000 purchase agreement and gave it to Rucker to take to Smith for her signature. Chandler indicated on the uniform residential loan application that Smith was going to live in the residence so that she could obtain a FHA loan with a lower down payment and interest rate even though Chandler knew that Smith was planning to rent the residence to another. Chandler explained that Smith did not have money for a down payment. To address this problem, Haymon agreed that he would provide money for the down payment and Rucker disclosed an acquaintance, also named Smith, who he thought would assist them. Chandler created a gift letter, purportedly from Rucker's acquaintance, that provided, " I, Lamar Smith, donor, do hereby certify the following: I have made a gift of $4,000 to Leequiter Smith, whose relationship is sister." Chandler knew that Lamar Smith was not Leequiter Smith's sibling. Chandler gave the gift letter to Rucker who had both parties...

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