90 F.3d 1096 (6th Cir. 1996), 95-5974, United States v. Haun

Docket Nº:95-5974.
Citation:90 F.3d 1096
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. J.T. HAUN, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:July 19, 1996
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 1096

90 F.3d 1096 (6th Cir. 1996)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

J.T. HAUN, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 95-5974.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

July 19, 1996

Argued June 6, 1996.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Jay I. Bratt (argued), U.S. Dept. of Justice, Kenneth L. Jost, Deborah S. Smolover, (on the brief), U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Consumer Litigation, Washington, DC, for plaintiff-appellee.

Jerry H. Summers (argued and briefed), Summers, McCrea & Wyatt, Chattanooga, TN, J.T. Haun, Federal Correctional Institute, Manchester, KY, for defendant-appellant

Before: KENNEDY and NORRIS, Circuit Judges; MATIA, [*] District Judge.

KENNEDY, Circuit Judge.

Defendant J.T. Haun appeals his convictions for mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and money laundering. Defendant challenges his money laundering convictions arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions and that the money laundering statute is unconstitutionally void for vagueness. He also argues that the District Court improperly admitted certain deposition testimony. Finally, with respect to his sentence, defendant challenges the District Court's calculation of his offense level. For the following reasons, we AFFIRM.

I. Facts

In late 1989, defendant, the operator of Auto World, a Tennessee car dealership, began purchasing automobiles from Ron Germadnik, an Ohio car dealer. Germadnik purchased used Chevrolet Caprices at auctions specializing in wrecked and theft-recovered vehicles. Germadnik separated the cars' bodies from their chassis and replaced the old bodies with new ones. Once rebuilt, the cars looked like new and the odometers reflected low mileages. These cars were titled in Ohio and the "self-assembled" notation on the title's "previous owner" line indicated that the cars had been rebuilt. During 1989 and 1990, Germadnik sold a number of rebuilt Caprices to Auto World. Germadnik told defendant how the Caprices were constructed and provided defendant with true information regarding the chassis' years and mileages.

Defendant and his salesmen Stanford Sharp and Ray Lewis subsequently sold these cars without disclosing to buyers that they were reassembled and that the chassis had mileages far in excess of the body mileages that were reflected on the odometers. Buyers typically paid Auto World a fee to obtain a Tennessee title for them. The Tennessee titles, however, did not bear the "self-assembled" notation so buyers could not learn from the titles that these cars had been rebuilt.

When one buyer wanted to obtain a Tennessee title on his own, defendant instructed Greg Goins, a car buyer for Auto World, to obtain an Ohio title that did not have the "self-assembled" disclosure. Goins then asked Gary Burkeen, a used car wholesaler doing business as Eighty-Eight Fleet, Inc., to "flip" that title for him. To satisfy that request, Goins supplied Burkeen with paperwork that showed that ownership of that vehicle was transferred from Auto World to Eighty-Eight Fleet, Inc. Although that transfer never occurred, the new Ohio title reflected "Auto World" rather than "self-assembled" as the previous owner.

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A jury found defendant guilty on five counts of money laundering under 18 U.S.C. § 1956, five counts of mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341, and one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. 1

II. Discussion

  1. Money Laundering Convictions

    1. Sufficiency of the Evidence

      Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his money laundering convictions under 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(A)(i) on two bases. He contends that (1) the money laundering statute does not apply in the context of criminal offenses that do not involve narcotics; and (2) the trial evidence did not establish the elements of money laundering. We address each argument in turn.

      1. Money Laundering Statute's Application to Nondrug-Related Offenses

        Defendant's first argument is that the federal money laundering statute under which he was convicted, 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(A), was intended to reach money laundering of proceeds of narcotics transactions, not nondrug-related transactions. Because defendant's activities did not involve narcotics, he argues that his convictions under that statute were improper. The District Court rejected defendant's argument based on the clear language of the statute. Reviewing the District Court's decision concerning the question of statutory interpretation de novo, Nixon v. Kent County, 76 F.3d 1381, 1386 (6th Cir.1996) (en banc), we too find defendant's argument to be without merit.

        Section 1956(a) provides in relevant part:

        (a)(1) Whoever, knowing that the property involved in a financial transaction represents the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity, conducts or attempts to conduct such a financial transaction which in fact involves the proceeds of specified unlawful activity--

        (A)(i) with the intent to promote the carrying on of specified unlawful activity

        ...

        * * *

        shall be sentenced to a fine of not more than $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater, or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both.

        The statute defines "specified unlawful activity" to include "any act or activity constituting an offense listed in section 1961(1) of this title." 18 U.S.C. § 1956(c)(7). Included among the offenses listed in § 1961(1) is mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341, the statute under which defendant was convicted...

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