__ U.S. __ (2014), 13-316, Loughrin v. United States

Docket Nº:13-316
Citation:__ U.S. __, 134 S.Ct. 2384, 189 L.Ed.2d 411, 82 U.S.L.W. 4549
Opinion Judge:KAGAN JUSTICE
Party Name:KEVIN LOUGHRIN, PETITIONER v. UNITED STATES
Attorney:Kevin K. Russell argued the cause for petitioner. Anthony A. Yang argued the cause for respondent.
Judge Panel:KAGAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, GINSBURG, BREYER, and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined, and in which SCALIA and THOMAS, JJ., joined as to Parts I and II, Part III-A except the last paragraph, and the last footnote of Part III-B. SCALIA, J., filed an opin...
Case Date:June 23, 2014
Court:United States Supreme Court
SUMMARY

The bank fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. 1344(2), makes it a crime to “knowingly execut[e] a scheme ... to obtain” property owned by, or under the custody of, a bank “by means of false or fraudulent pretenses.” Loughrin was charged with bank fraud after he was caught forging stolen checks, using them to buy goods at a Target store, and then returning the goods for cash. The district court declined to... (see full summary)

 
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Page __

__ U.S. __ (2014)

134 S.Ct. 2384, 189 L.Ed.2d 411, 82 U.S.L.W. 4549

KEVIN LOUGHRIN, PETITIONER

v.

UNITED STATES

No. 13-316

United States Supreme Court

June 23, 2014

Argued April 1, 2014

[134 S.Ct. 2386] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT

710 F.3d 1111, affirmed.

SYLLABUS

[134 S.Ct. 2387] A part of the federal bank fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1344(2), makes it a crime to " knowingly execut[e] a scheme . . . to obtain" property owned by, or under the custody of, a bank " by means of false or fraudulent pretenses." Petitioner Kevin Loughrin was charged with bank fraud after he was caught forging stolen checks, using them to buy goods at a Target store, and then returning the goods for cash. The District Court declined to give Loughrin's proposed jury instruction that a conviction under § 1344(2) required proof of " intent to defraud a financial institution." The jury convicted Loughrin, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed.

Held : Section 1344(2) does not require the Government to prove that a defendant intended to defraud a financial institution. Pp. 4-15.

(a) Section 1344(2) requires only that the defendant intend to obtain bank property and that this end is accomplished " by means of" a false statement. No additional requirement of intent to defraud a bank appears in the statute's text. And imposing that requirement would prevent § 1344(2) from applying to cases falling within the statute's clear terms, such as frauds directed against a third-party custodian of bank-owned property. Loughrin's construction would also make § 1344(2) a mere subset of § 1344(1), which prohibits any scheme " to defraud a financial institution." That view is untenable because those clauses are separated by the disjunctive " or," signaling that each is intended to have separate meaning. And to read clause (1) as fully encompassing clause (2) contravenes two related interpretive canons: that different language signals different meaning, and that no part of a statute should be superfluous. Pp. 4-6.

(b) Loughrin claims that his view is supported by similar language in the federal mail fraud statute and by federalism principles, but his arguments are unpersuasive. Pp. 7-15.

(1) In McNally v. United States, 483 U.S. 350, 107 S.Ct. 2875, 97 L.Ed.2d 292, this Court interpreted similar language in the mail fraud statute, § 1341--which served as a model for § 1344--to set forth just one offense, despite the use of the word " or." But the two statutes have notable textual differences. The mail fraud law contains two phrases strung together in a single, unbroken sentence, whereas § 1344's two clauses have separate numbering, line breaks, and equivalent indentation--all indications of separate meaning. Moreover, Congress likely did not intend to adopt McNally 's interpretation when it enacted § 1344, because at that time (three years before McNally ) every Court of Appeals had interpreted the word " or" in the mail fraud statute in its usual, disjunctive sense. And while McNally found that unique features of the mail fraud statute's history supported its view, the legislative history surrounding the adoption of § 1344 points the other way. Pp. 7-9.

(2) Loughrin also contends that without an element of intent to defraud a bank, § 1344(2) would apply to every minor fraud in which the victim happens to pay by check. This, he says, would unduly expand the reach of federal criminal law into an area traditionally left to the States. But this argument ignores a significant textual limit on § 1344(2)'s reach: The criminal must acquire (or attempt to acquire) the bank property " by means of " the misrepresentation. That language limits § 1344(2)'s application to cases (like this one) in which the misrepresentation has some real connection to a federally insured bank, and thus to the pertinent federal interest. Pp. 9-15.

710 F.3d 1111, affirmed.

Kevin K. Russell argued the cause for petitioner.

Anthony A. Yang argued the cause for respondent.

KAGAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, GINSBURG, BREYER, and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined, and in which SCALIA and THOMAS, JJ., joined as to Parts I and II, Part III-A except the last paragraph, and the last footnote of Part III-B. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which THOMAS, J., joined. ALITO, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.

OPINION

KAGAN JUSTICE

A provision of the federal bank fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1344(2), makes criminal a knowing scheme to obtain property owned by, or in the custody of, a bank " by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises." The question presented is whether the Government must prove that a defendant charged with violating that provision intended to defraud a bank. We hold that the Government need not make that showing.

I

Petitioner Kevin Loughrin executed a scheme to convert altered or forged checks into cash. Pretending to be a Mormon missionary going door-to-door in a neighborhood in Salt Lake City, he rifled through residential mailboxes and stole any checks he found. Sometimes, he washed, bleached, ironed, and dried the checks to remove the existing writing, and then filled them out as he wanted; other times, he did nothing more than cross out the name of the original payee and add another. And when he was lucky enough to stumble upon a blank check, he completed it and forged the accountholder's signature. Over several months, Loughrin made out six of these checks to the retailer Target, for amounts of up to $250. His modus operandi was to go to a local store and, posing as the accountholder, present an altered check to a cashier to purchase merchandise. After the cashier accepted the check (which, remarkably enough, happened time after time), Loughrin would leave the store, then turn around and walk back inside to return the goods for cash.

Each of the six checks that Loughrin presented to Target was drawn on an account at a federally insured bank, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Employees in Target's back office identified [134 S.Ct. 2388] three of the checks as fraudulent, and so declined to submit them for payment. Target deposited the other three checks. The bank refused payment on one, after the accountholder notified the bank that she had seen a man steal her mail. Target appears to have received payment for the other two checks, though the record does not conclusively establish that fact. See Brief for United States 6, 7, n. 3.

The Federal Government eventually caught up with Loughrin and charged him with six counts of committing bank fraud--one for each of the altered checks presented to Target. The federal bank fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1344, provides as follows:

" Whoever knowingly executes, or attempts to execute, a scheme or artifice--

(1) to defraud a financial institution; or (2) to obtain any of the moneys, funds, credits, assets, securities, or other property owned by, or under the custody or control of, a financial institution, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises; shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both." 1

Ruling (for a reason not material here) that Circuit precedent precluded convicting Loughrin under the statute's first clause, § 1344(1), the District Court allowed the case to go to the jury on the statute's second, § 1344(2).

The court instructed the jury that it could convict Loughrin under that clause if, in offering the fraudulent checks to Target, he had " knowingly executed or at-tempted to execute a scheme or artifice to obtain money or property from the [banks on which the checks were drawn] by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises." App. 7. Loughrin asked as well for another instruction: The jury, he argued, must also find that he acted with " intent to defraud a financial institution." App. to Pet. for Cert. 43a. The court, however, declined to give that charge, and the jury convicted Loughrin on all six counts.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed. See 710 F.3d 1111 (2013). As relevant here, it rejected Loughrin's argument that " a conviction under § 1344(2) requires proof that he intended to defraud the banks on which the [altered] checks had been drawn." Id., at 1115. That intent, the court reasoned, is necessary only under the bank fraud law's first clause. The court acknowledged that under its interpretation, § 1344(2) " cast[s] a wide net for bank fraud liability," but concluded that such a result is " dictated by the plain language of the statute." Id., at 1117.

We granted certiorari, 571 U.S. ___, 134 S.Ct. 822, 187 L.Ed.2d 623 (2013), to resolve a Circuit split on whether § 1344(2) requires the Government to show that a defendant intended to defraud a federally insured bank or other financial institution. 2 We now affirm the Tenth Circuit's decision.

II

We begin with common ground. All parties agree, as do we and the Courts [134 S.Ct. 2389] of Appeals, that § 1344(2) requires that a defendant " knowingly execute[ ], or attempt[ ] to execute, a scheme or artifice" with at least two elements. First, the clause requires that the defendant intend " to obtain any of the moneys . . . or other property owned by, or under the custody or control of, a financial institution." (We refer to that element, more briefly, as intent " to obtain bank property." ) Brief for United States 11, 17, 20, 22, 32; Brief for Petitioner 30-31. And second, the clause requires that the...

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