838 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 2016), 15-20409, United States v. Suchowolski

Docket Nº:15-20409
Citation:838 F.3d 530
Opinion Judge:RHESA HAWKINS BARKSDALE, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee v. IVAN SUCHOWOLSKI, Defendant - Appellant
Attorney:For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee: John A. Reed, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Renata Ann Gowie, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas, Houston, TX. For IVAN SUCHOWOLSKI, Defendant - Appellant: John Dennis Hester, Dan Lamar Cogdell, Esq., Cogdell ...
Judge Panel:Before JOLLY, BARKSDALE, and SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:September 26, 2016
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
SUMMARY

Defendant plead guilty to theft of government property, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 641, for his unlawful receipt of social security benefits, and was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment. The court concluded that the district court did not err in applying a two-level enhancement under USSG 2B1.1(b)(11)(C)(i) for using an unauthorized means of identification to obtain another means of... (see full summary)

 
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Page 530

838 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 2016)

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee

v.

IVAN SUCHOWOLSKI, Defendant - Appellant

No. 15-20409

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

September 26, 2016

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee: John A. Reed, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Renata Ann Gowie, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas, Houston, TX.

For IVAN SUCHOWOLSKI, Defendant - Appellant: John Dennis Hester, Dan Lamar Cogdell, Esq., Cogdell Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Houston, TX.

Before JOLLY, BARKSDALE, and SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 531

RHESA HAWKINS BARKSDALE, Circuit Judge:

After almost a quarter-century's unlawful receipt of social-security benefits in the guise of a person who died in 1990, Ivan Suchowolski pleaded guilty to theft of government property, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641, and was sentenced, inter alia, to 18 months' imprisonment. At issue is whether, in calculating the offense level for use in computing the advisory Sentencing Guidelines range, the district court erred in applying Guideline § 2B1.1(b)(11)(C)(i): a two-level enhancement for using an unauthorized means of identification to obtain another means of identification. AFFIRMED.

I.

In the 1980s, Ruth Stolzenback, a former caregiver to defendant's mother, gave him permission to assist with Stolzenback's financial affairs while she was in a nursing home. To this end, Suchowolski was authorized to access a joint bank account with Stolzenback to pay her bills. During this time, Stolzenback received Social Security Administration (SSA) retirement benefits; Suchowolski provided his address on her SSA account to receive paper checks and deposit them in the joint account.

Stolzenback died in 1990. Suchowolski claims he attempted to notify the SSA of her death; nonetheless, he continued to receive checks from the SSA payable to Stolzenback and deposit them in the joint account for his personal use.

In 2008, the SSA began requiring direct deposit of benefits payments, ending the practice of mailing paper checks. As a result, and in order to continue receiving the payments, Suchowolski forged Stolzenback's name on a signature card and used her social-security number to open a joint checking account at a credit union under his and Stolzenback's names. The SSA payments were directly deposited into this account from 2008 to 2011, when the credit union closed. Therefore, again forging Stolzenback's name on a signature card and using her social-security number, Suchowolski opened a joint checking account at a bank to continue receiving the payments.

Suchowolski continued to receive SSA payments unlawfully until 2014, when they were terminated, following the SSA's investigating Stolzenback's SSA account through a review program for individuals who had not used Medicare benefits for three years. In doing so, the SSA discovered Stolzenback's death certificate and confronted Suchowolski. After pleading guilty, he was convicted in 2015.

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