Omargharib v. Holder

Decision Date23 December 2014
Docket NumberNo. 13–2229.,13–2229.
PartiesSayed Gad OMARGHARIB, Petitioner, v. Eric H. HOLDER, Jr., Attorney General, Respondent. Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition; Immigrant and Refugee Appellate Center, LLC, Amici Supporting Petitioner.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

775 F.3d 192

Sayed Gad OMARGHARIB, Petitioner
Eric H. HOLDER, Jr., Attorney General, Respondent.

Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition; Immigrant and Refugee Appellate Center, LLC, Amici Supporting Petitioner.

No. 13–2229.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

Argued: Sept. 16, 2014.
Decided: Dec. 23, 2014.

775 F.3d 193

ARGUED:Steffanie Jones Lewis, International Business Law Firm, PC,

775 F.3d 194

Washington, D.C., for Petitioner. Aimee J. Carmichael, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for Respondent. ON BRIEF:Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, John S. Hogan, Senior Litigation Counsel, Office of Immigration Litigation, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for Respondent. Heidi Altman, Morgan MacDonald, Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition, Washington, D.C.; Ben Winograd, Immigrant & Refugee Appellate Center, LLC, Alexandria, Virginia, for Amici Supporting Petitioner.

Before NIEMEYER, WYNN, and FLOYD, Circuit Judges.


Petition for review granted; reversed and remanded with instructions by published opinion. Judge FLOYD wrote the opinion, in which Judge NIEMEYER and Judge WYNN joined. Judge NIEMEYER wrote a separate concurring opinion.

FLOYD, Circuit Judge:

In this appeal, we consider whether Sayed Gad Omargharib's conviction under Virginia's grand larceny statute, Va.Code Ann. § 18.2–95, constitutes an “aggravated felony” under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) § 101, 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43). The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) answered this question in the affirmative using the so-called modified categorical approach, as clarified by Descamps v. United States, ––– U.S. ––––, 133 S.Ct. 2276, 186 L.Ed.2d 438 (2013). Under Descamps, the modified categorical approach applies only if Virginia's definition of “larceny” is “divisible”—that is, if it lists potential offense elements in the alternative, thus creating multiple versions of the crime. The BIA concluded that Virginia larceny is divisible because Virginia state courts have defined it to include either theft or fraud.

Consistent with our prior precedent on this issue, however, we conclude that mere use of the disjunctive “or” in the definition of a crime does not automatically render it divisible. We further hold that, under our recent decisions construing Descamps, the Virginia crime of larceny is indivisible as a matter of law. As such, we agree with Omargharib that the modified categorical approach has no role to play in this case. Instead, the categorical approach applies, and under that approach Omargharib's grand larceny conviction does not constitute an aggravated felony under the INA. We therefore grant Omargharib's petition for review, reverse the BIA's ruling, and remand with instructions to vacate the order of removal.


Omargharib, an Egyptian native and citizen, entered the United States in 1985 and became a lawful permanent resident in 1990. In 2011, he was convicted in Virginia state court of grand larceny under Va.Code Ann. § 18.2–95 for “tak [ing], steal[ing], and carry[ing] away” two pool cues valued in excess of $200 following a dispute with his opponent in a local pool league. J.A. 452. Omargharib received a suspended sentence of twelve months.1

Following his conviction, the Department of Homeland Security sought Omargharib's removal, contending that his conviction constituted an “aggravated felony” under the INA—namely, “a theft offense ... for which the term of imprisonment [is] at least one year.”

775 F.3d 195

8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(G) ; see 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii) (rendering deportable an alien who is convicted of an aggravated felony). Before an immigration judge (IJ), Omargharib denied that his conviction made him removable. Omargharib argued that, under the categorical approach set forth in Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, 110 S.Ct. 2143, 109 L.Ed.2d 607 (1990), the IJ could only compare the elements of larceny under Virginia law with the generic elements of a “theft offense” in the INA and determine whether they match. According to Omargharib, the elements do not match because Virginia law broadly defines larceny to include both theft and fraud, whereas the INA's aggravated felony statute distinguishes between theft and fraud. Compare 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(G) (theft)with id. § 1101(a)(43)(M)(i) (fraud).2

Under the categorical approach, it is thus possible that Omargharib's grand larceny conviction rested on facts amounting to fraud, not theft. It is undisputed that Omargharib's conviction does not constitute a fraud offense under the INA.3 And under the categorical approach, the IJ was not free to review the record to determine whether Omargharib's grand larceny conviction was based on theft, not fraud.

The IJ agreed that Virginia's definition of larceny is broader than the INA's corresponding “theft offense” crime and thus that the two crimes are not a categorical match.4 But the IJ proceeded to employ the modified categorical approach, which the IJ held permits consideration of the underlying facts surrounding Omargharib's conviction. Applying that approach, the IJ concluded that Omargharib's larceny conviction rested on facts amounting to theft, not fraud. As such, the IJ held that Omargharib's conviction constituted a theft offense under the INA, making Omargharib removable and ineligible for all forms of discretionary relief.5

Omargharib appealed the IJ's decision to the BIA. On September 6, 2013, the BIA dismissed Omargharib's appeal and affirmed the IJ's decision in all respects. Like the IJ, the BIA concluded that the modified categorical approach applied because Virginia law defines larceny in the disjunctive to include “wrongful or fraudulent” takings. J.A. 3. Omargharib then timely petitioned this Court for review. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1252.


The central issue before us is whether Omargharib's 2011 grand larceny conviction

775 F.3d 196

in Virginia constitutes a “theft offense” as defined by 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(G), and thus an aggravated felony under the INA that is grounds for removal.

We review the BIA's determination on this issue de novo. Karimi v. Holder, 715 F.3d 561, 566 (4th Cir.2013). “Although we generally defer to the BIA's interpretations of the INA, where, as here, the BIA construes statutes [and state law] over which it has no particular expertise, its interpretations are not entitled to deference.” Id.; see also Matter of Chairez–Castrejon, 26 I. & N. Dec. 349, 353 (BIA 2014) (recognizing that the BIA is bound by this Court's “interpretation of divisibility under Descamps ”). The government has the burden of proving that Omargharib committed an aggravated felony by clear and convincing evidence. Karimi, 715 F.3d at 566.

To qualify as an aggravated felony, Omargharib's conviction must have been “a theft offense (including receipt of stolen property) or burglary offense for which the term of imprisonment [is] at least one year.” 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(G). Because we conclude that his crime of conviction did not constitute a “theft offense” under the INA, we reverse without reaching Omargharib's alternative argument that his term of imprisonment was for less than one year.


In order to determine whether a state law conviction qualifies as an aggravated felony for removal purposes, we use the categorical approach set forth in Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, 110 S.Ct. 2143, 109 L.Ed.2d 607 (1990), and recently clarified in Descamps. See United States v. Aparicio–Soria, 740 F.3d 152, 160–61 (4th Cir.2014) (en banc).6 Under that approach, we consider only the elements of the statute of conviction rather than the defendant's conduct underlying the offense. Descamps, 133 S.Ct. at 2285 (stating that the categorical approach's “central feature” is “a focus on the elements, rather than the facts, of a crime”). If the state offense has the same elements as the generic INA crime, then the prior conviction constitutes an aggravated felony. See id., 133 S.Ct. at 2283. But, if the state law crime “sweeps more broadly” and criminalizes more conduct than the generic federal crime, the prior conviction cannot count as an aggravated felony. Id. This is true “even if the defendant actually committed the offense in its generic form.” Id.7

775 F.3d 197

Like the BIA, we conclude that the Virginia crime of larceny does not categorically match the INA's theft offense crime because Virginia larceny punishes a broader range of conduct than that federal offense. Specifically, Virginia law defines larceny to include both fraud and theft crimes.8 See Britt v. Commonwealth, 276 Va. 569, 667 S.E.2d 763, 765 (2008) (Keenan, J.) (defining larceny as “the wrongful or fraudulent taking of another's property without his permission and with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of that property” (emphasis added)); see also Stokes v. Commonwealth, 49 Va.App. 401, 641 S.E.2d 780, 782, 784 (2007) (upholding a conviction for grand larceny when the defendant...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2 cases
  • Shaw v. Sessions, 17-1213
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • 7 Agosto 2018 determine whether the Conspiracy Statute as a whole necessarily related to a controlled substance. See Omargharib v. Holder , 775 F.3d 192, 196 (4th Cir. 2014). The "modified categorical approach applies only if a state crime consists of multiple, alternative elements creating several di......
  • Mena v. Lynch
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • 27 Abril 2016
    ...F.3d 944, 948 (4th Cir.2015). We review de novo the BIA's determination that an offense is an INA aggravated felony, Omargharib v. Holder, 775 F.3d 192, 196 (4th Cir.2014), affording “appropriate deference” to the BIA's statutory interpretation of the INA, Espinal–Andrades v. Holder, 777 F.......
2 books & journal articles
  • Detention as deterrent: denying justice to immigrants and asylum seekers
    • United States
    • Georgetown Immigration Law Journal No. 36-1, July 2021
    • 1 Julio 2021
    ...543 U.S. 1 (2004); Mena v. Lynch, 820 F.3d 114 (4th Cir. 2016); Castillo v. Holder, 776 F.3d 262 (4th Cir. 2015); Omargharib v. Holder, 775 F.3d 192 (4th Cir. 2014); Prudencio v. Holder, 669 F.3d 472 (4th Cir. 2012). 149. See, e.g. , Statement of Interest of the U.S. 1, Varden v. Clanton, N......
  • Divisibility Redux "alternatively Phrased Statutes" and State Law in the Post-mathis Categorical Approach
    • United States
    • Full Court Press AILA Law Journal No. 1-2, October 2019
    • Invalid date
    ...(barring review of the record of conviction when the statutory alternatives are means rather than elements), and Omargharib v. Holder, 775 F.3d 192 (4th Cir. 2014) (same).15.. Mathis, 136 S. Ct. at 2256.16.. Id. at 2249.17.. Id. at 2248 (first quoting Elements of a Crime, Black's Law Dictio......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT