Firotto v. United States, 11986

Decision Date15 January 1942
Docket Number11987.,No. 11986,11986
Citation124 F.2d 532
PartiesFIROTTO v. UNITED STATES (two cases).
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit

Mark J. McCabe, of Minneapolis, Minn. (A. M. Cary, of Minneapolis, Minn., on the brief), for appellant.

John W. Graff, Asst. U. S. Atty., of St. Paul, Minn. (Victor E. Anderson, U. S. Atty., of St. Paul, Minn., on the brief), for appellee.

Before GARDNER, SANBORN, and WOODROUGH, Circuit Judges.

GARDNER, Circuit Judge.

Appellant was prosecuted under two separate indictments. Indictment No. 7221 contained two counts, the first charging him alone with the possession of counterfeit notes, and the second charging him alone with the sale of counterfeit notes. Indictment No. 7223 contained two counts, the first charging him, with three others, Frank Trappani, Jasper Trappani and Pete Collurafici, with conspiracy to possess, pass, distribute, utter and sell counterfeit obligations of the United States, and the second charging the same parties with possessing and transporting the counterfeit notes described in count 1. Indictment No. 7224, returned at the same time, but not naming Firotto, contained two counts, the first charging Frank Trappani with possession of counterfeit obligations of the United States, and the second charging him with the sale of certain counterfeit obligations. On motion of the Government the three cases were consolidated for the purpose of trial. By direction of the court, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty of the offense charged in the second count of Indictment No. 7223. It found Firotto guilty as charged in the first and second counts of Indictment No. 7221, and guilty of the offense charged in count 1 of Indictment No. 7223, so that Firotto was found guilty on counts 1 and 2 of Indictment No. 7221 and on count 1 of Indictment No. 7223, charging conspiracy.

In Indictment No. 7221, in which Firotto alone was indicted, the court, upon the verdict of guilty, imposed a sentence of six years and a fine of $500 on the first count, and a like sentence on the second count, the sentences to be served concurrently. In Indictment No. 7223, the court imposed a sentence of two years on Firotto on the first count, the sentence to be served concurrently with the sentence imposed in Indictment No. 7221. The jury, in its verdict, found the other defendants guilty on the counts in which they were charged with offenses, except the second count of Indictment No. 7223, in which the court directed a verdict of not guilty.

At the conclusion of the testimony, counsel for Firotto moved for a directed verdict of not guilty upon all the counts wherein he was charged, which motion, except as to count 2 of Indictment No. 7223, was denied, and he saved an exception. Firotto also excepted to the order of the court consolidating the cases for the purpose of trial.

In view of the verdict of the jury, we must take the most favorable view of the Government's testimony of which it is reasonably susceptible. From the testimony the jury may well have found that the defendant Frank Trappani operated a restaurant in Litchfield, Minnesota from May, 1939, to August, 1939, and had in his employ one June Bram. During that period June Bram and Frank Trappani had conversations from time to time regarding counterfeit money and the opportunity to obtain it. In the middle of October, 1939, June Bram went to Chicago, Illinois, with Frank Trappani and was there informed that before any counterfeit money could be obtained Frank Trappani would have to make a trip to New York City. In November, 1939, he went to New York City and after his return to Litchfield, conferred with June Bram, informing her of his trip to New York City, and in response to her inquiry as to whether or not he had obtained any counterfeit money, Frank Trappani replied that it could be arranged, and directed her to meet a certain person on the next Friday, November 17, 1939, at the Persian Palms Restaurant in Minneapolis. She was instructed by Frank Trappani how to dress and the number 654 was agreed upon as an open-sesame so that the unidentified person she was to meet could be identified. She was told that the person whom she was thus to meet would be able to furnish her with counterfeit bills.

Pursuant to this arrangement, she arrived in Minneapolis about 6 p.m. on November 17 and went to the Persian Palms. After using the number agreed upon for identification purposes, she met a man whom she identified at the time of the trial as appellant Firotto. They later went to Firotto's hotel room, where he gave her certain counterfeit bills, and while no price was agreed upon, it was arranged that she should return the following Sunday after she had disposed of the bills, and pay Firotto whatever sum they might then agree upon. June Bram and her brother, John Bram, went to Wahpeton, North Dakota, Hancock, Minnesota, and other places in that vicinity for the purpose of passing these counterfeit bills, and succeeded in passing about a dozen or more of the counterfeit bills in $10 denominations, which she had received from Firotto. On the following Sunday, November 19, 1939, June Bram and her brother, John Bram, drove to Minneapolis from Litchfield, and during the evening June Bram met Firotto at one of the restaurants in the Bridge Square District and then paid Firotto some $75 in genuine money for the counterfeit bills she had theretofore received from him. At that time Firotto and June Bram were joined by John Bram, who related some of his experiences in trying to pass the counterfeit notes, and it was then agreed among the three of them, that June Bram would do the passing and that John would limit his activities to acting as a lookout. Thereafter, June Bram, in pursuance to an understanding between herself and Frank Trappani, called him over the telephone, saying to him that she wanted some "olives," this being the term as between them signifying counterfeit notes, and Trappani directed her to come to Chicago, which thereafter, on December 1, 1939, she did, and there met Frank Trappani. She passed one of the $10 counterfeit notes given her by Firotto in a dress shop in Chicago, and attempted to pass another at a five and dime store, but was not successful. In the evening of December 2, she went to Louie's Tavern, in Chicago, where she met Frank Trappani and had further conversation with him about counterfeit government notes, and asked him for some additional counterfeit money, and after some conversation with other parties, Frank Trappani secured a package from which he took out a number of counterfeit notes, put them in his pocketbook, and gave the balance to the defendant Pete Collurafici, with instructions to put them away for him. After Frank Trappani, Peter Collurafici, and June Bram, with another party not involved, had been out touring the night clubs on the morning of December 3, Frank Trappani furnished June Bram with some ten $10 counterfeit bills, but it was later agreed between June Bram and Frank Trappani that June should return the notes because it would not be wise to attempt to pass them in Chicago, but if she wanted some later, Trappani would either send her some or meet her at some half way place.

In the middle of December, 1939, June Bram called Frank Trappani over the telephone and said that she wanted some counterfeit notes for the holiday season, and he told her to come to Chicago, which she did. She there met Frank Trappani, Pete Collurafici and Jasper Trappani. On that visit, and in the presence of the named persons, Frank Trappani said that the town was too hot for the handling of counterfeit money. At any rate, June Bram returned to Litchfield without securing any additional money. On January 13, 1940, Frank Trappani came to Litchfield, Minnesota, in company with one Violet Jennings. Before Violet Jennings and Frank Trappani went to Litchfield, they stopped at the Via Lago Cafe, where Frank Trappani interviewed Firotto, and it was arranged between them that Firotto would take dinner with Frank Trappani, Violet Jennings and June Bram, when they returned from Litchfield. On the way to Litchfield, Frank Trappani threw a package purporting to be a package of Camel cigarettes into Violet Jennings' lap and told her to open it, saying that they were "olives," and when she remarked that it looked like money he said it was counterfeit, and in response to her inquiry as to whether or not that was not risky business, he replied that it was not, that June Bram passed it and that he didn't take any risks. After returning from Litchfield with June Bram, at Frank Trappani's suggestion, Violet Jennings gave June Bram one of the notes out of the cigarette package, and June Bram tried to pass it at a grocery store at Penn Avenue, but without success. Later the three went to the Via Lago Cafe, where they dined with Firotto, and after dinner Firotto, in referring to Violet Jennings, stated to Frank Trappani that she was "kind of young" to be mixed up in his activities, but Frank Trappani assured him that it was all right because they were going to be married, to which Firotto responded that she would hang him yet. After dinner, Firotto and Frank Trappani retired to a back room and conferred, and after they had left the Via Lago Cafe, ...

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