95 F.3d 1520 (11th Cir. 1996), 94-8733, United States v. Tokars

Docket Nº:94-8733.
Citation:95 F.3d 1520
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Fredric W. TOKARS, James H. Mason, Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:September 06, 1996
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
 
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Page 1520

95 F.3d 1520 (11th Cir. 1996)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Fredric W. TOKARS, James H. Mason, Defendants-Appellants.

No. 94-8733.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

September 6, 1996

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Jerome J. Froelich, Jr., McKenney & Froelich, Atlanta, GA, Jay L. Strongwater, Strongwater & Cherniak, Atlanta, GA, for Tokars.

Kevin Brehm, Federal Defender Program, Inc., Atlanta, GA, for Mason.

Wilmer Parker, Amy Levin Weil, Katherine B. Monahan, Robert P. Marcovitch, Asst. U.S. Attys., Atlanta, GA, for U.S.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Before DUBINA and BLACK, Circuit Judges, and MARCUS [*], District Judge.

DUBINA, Circuit Judge:

Appellants-defendants Fredric W. Tokars ("Tokars") and James H. Mason ("Mason") (collectively, the "defendants") appeal their convictions for various violations of federal law. In addition, Mason challenges his sentence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

I. STATEMENT OF THE CASE

  1. Procedural Background

    On August 25, 1993, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Tokars and Mason with various racketeering, drug, and money laundering violations. The grand jury later returned a superseding indictment charging Tokars with racketeering conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) (Count I); racketeering, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c) (Count II); violence in aid of racketeering, 18 U.S.C.

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    § § 1959(a)(1) and 2 (Count III); murder-for-hire, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1958 and 2 (Count V); conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, 21 U.S.C. § 846 (Count VI); money laundering, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(1)(B)(i) and 2 (Counts VII, VIII, IX, X and XI); and conspiracy to launder money, 18 U.S.C. § 1956(g) (Count XIII). Mason was charged in Counts I, II, IV (violence in aid of racketeering, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1959(a)(3) and (2), VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, and XIII.

    The defendants entered not guilty pleas and moved to change venue based on pre-trial publicity. The district court granted the defendants' change of venue motions, and the trial was moved to Birmingham, Alabama. After the government's presentation of its case-in-chief, the court dismissed Count VII against Mason and Counts VIII and IX against Tokars. The jury returned guilty verdicts against Tokars and Mason on all remaining counts. Tokars was sentenced to concurrent life sentences on Counts I, II, III, and V. As to Counts VI, X, XI, and XIII, Tokars was sentenced to 97 months' incarceration on each count to be served concurrently with each other and concurrently with the life sentences, as well as a $400 special assessment. Mason was sentenced to 200 months' incarceration on each count to be served concurrently, as well as a $450 special assessment. The defendants then perfected this appeal.

  2. Factual Background

    This case involves drugs, money laundering, torture, kidnapping, and murder-for-hire. The case is best explained when divided into two sections: the narcotics money laundering enterprise and the murder of Sara Tokars ("Sara").

    1. Narcotics money laundering enterprise

    At the trial, Jessie Ferguson ("Ferguson") testified that he and Julius Cline ("Cline") were drug dealers in Detroit, Michigan. In July of 1985, Ferguson moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he met Mason. Cline also moved to Atlanta, and he and Ferguson invested $75,000 in drug proceeds in the VIP Club. Mason was the manager of the club, and he was listed as an owner in order to obtain a liquor license because Cline and Ferguson were "in trouble" with the authorities in Detroit. Ferguson testified that Cline's principal source of cocaine was "Andrew." Cline transported the cocaine from Miami, Florida, to Atlanta. Andre Willis ("Willis") testified that he obtained cocaine from Cline until Cline was murdered on July 25, 1992. Willis distributed the cocaine in Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tennessee. According to Willis, Cline also obtained cocaine from Al Brown ("Brown"), who was part owner of the Diamonds and Pearls nightclub in Detroit. Willis testified that he and Cline received and sold approximately twenty kilograms of cocaine per week. According to Willis, Cline described his relationship with Mason as follows: "[Mason] was just a front for the nightclubs because [Ferguson] and himself had a criminal record, and they could not get any liquor license in their name, so James Mason would be the front for all the nightclubs." R62-2059. According to Willis, Cline owned several clubs, including the VIP, Traxx, the Parrot, and Zazu's, as well as the Park Place Beauty Salon.

    Marvin Baynard ("Baynard") met with Tokars in late 1986 to discuss providing a legal defense to drug runner Dexter Askew ("Askew"). Askew had been charged with possession of cocaine that had been provided by Baynard. Baynard informed Tokars that he sold one-fourth to one-half a kilo of cocaine per week amounting to between $5,000 and $10,000. Tokars requested a $10,000 retainer fee and said he would help Baynard "legitimize" himself by incorporating Baynard's business. Tokars incorporated a business which Baynard used with Alex Yancey ("Yancey"), Baynard's associate in the cocaine business. Baynard sold drugs from 1986 to 1989 and obtained cocaine from Cline and Greg Johnson ("Johnson") beginning in 1987. Baynard recalled that Tokars often discussed offshore banks and had a blue book that explained how to set up an offshore bank for $15,000. Baynard did not invest his drug money but instead kept it as cash in his bedroom and, on Tokars's advice, kept the cocaine in another apartment under a different name. Baynard testified that he introduced

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    Johnson to Tokars so that Tokars could launder some of Johnson's drug money.

    Murray Silver ("Silver") first met Tokars when Tokars was an assistant district attorney. After leaving the district attorney's office, Tokars shared office space with Silver from approximately July 1986 to October 1989. Silver recalled a conversation with Tokars about a booklet Tokars authored entitled Tax Havens and Offshore Investment Opportunities. The booklet details Tokars's plan for laundering drug money. Tokars asked that Silver refer some of his clients to Tokars. Tokars said that he was not worried about the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") because he intended to leave no paper trail. Tokars told Silver that he had used this process to help a client who was going through a divorce hide $150,000 from his wife and the IRS by depositing it in his bank in the Bahamas. Silver recalled that Tokars lectured to law enforcement officials on the topic of money laundering. The Director of the Georgia Police Academy testified that Tokars taught courses in money laundering for the academy, as well as for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy.

    In late December of 1988, Mason, Cline, and Ferguson accused Michael Jones ("Jones") of stealing money from Mason's home. Jones testified that he went to Mason's house where Cline closed and locked the door. Ferguson placed a 9-millimeter handgun on the table and asked Jones whether he knew where the money was. Ferguson then placed the handgun down Jones's throat and threatened to kill him. When Mason returned home, Jones recounted the meeting to him. About thirty days later, Mason asked Jones to meet him at the Park Place Salon. Mason then asked Jones to accompany him home. Ferguson arrived at Mason's home and instructed Mason to leave. Mason left, and Ferguson proceeded to physically torture Jones for two to three hours. Ferguson then put Jones in the bathroom, but Jones escaped. Ferguson testified that he and Cline would often keep large amounts of drug money at Mason's home. Mason told Ferguson that he thought that Jones had stolen the money. Mason hired a private investigator who observed Jones attempting to purchase fur coats and a new car. Ferguson testified that he instructed Mason to get Jones to the house.

    Mason and Cline, together with Jim Killeen, Bill Fraser, and William Kohler, formed Zebra, Inc., and Zebra Management, Inc., to operate a club called Dominique's. Mason and Cline contributed $20,000 to the operation but were later removed from Zebra's due to Cline's reputation as a drug dealer. Mason and Cline then opened Traxx. Ferguson testified that he invested $15,000 in Traxx and that Cline invested $45,000.

    Mark McDougall ("McDougall"), who had taken cocaine from Mason, testified that he and Zane Carroll ("Carroll") discussed with Tokars their proposed investment in the Parrot nightclub. McDougall and Carroll would own 51% of the club. Billy Carter ("Carter") would obtain the liquor license due to McDougall's felony conviction. Tokars and Carter discussed in McDougall's presence that Cline was the silent partner and money man for Mason. Tokars incorporated the Parrot Acquisition Corporation. The shareholder and management agreement reflected Tokars as the club's attorney and Carter and Mason as subscribing to 40,000 and 60,000 shares of stock, respectively. Ferguson testified that Cline invested $40,000 to $60,000 in the Parrot. When McDougall and Carroll were not pleased with the investment return, McDougall threatened Cline with a gun.

    Linda Campbell ("Campbell"), who was employed at the Park Place Salon, was assaulted by Mason. She employed an attorney and filed suit against Mason, and her case was settled for $17,500, for which Mason's shares of stock in the Parrot were pledged as collateral. Campbell's attorney testified that Tokars represented Mason and that it was Tokars's idea to pledge the Parrot stock. Campbell employed new counsel who demanded that the stock be assigned to Campbell because Mason had defaulted on payment. Tokars claimed that...

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