Parr v. United States, 391

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation80 S.Ct. 1171,363 U.S. 370,4 L.Ed.2d 1277
Docket NumberNo. 391,391
PartiesGeorge B. PARR et al., Petitioners, v. UNITED STATES
Decision Date13 June 1960

363 U.S. 370
80 S.Ct. 1171
4 L.Ed.2d 1277
George B. PARR et al., Petitioners,



No. 391.
Argued April 28, 1960.
Decided June 13, 1960.

Page 371

Mr. Abe Fortas, Washington, D.C., and T. Gilbert Sharpe, Brownsville, Tex., for petitioners.

Mr. Malcolm Richard Wilkey, Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Justice WHITTAKER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners, nine individuals and two state banking corporations,1 were indicted in 20 counts in the United

Page 372

States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, for mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The first 19 counts charged that petitioners devised, prior to September 1, 1949, and continued to February 20, 1954, a scheme to defraud the Benavides Independent School District ('District') of Duval County, Texas, the State of Texas, and the taxpayers of each, and that they used the mails for the purpose of executing the scheme, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341, 18 U.S.C.A. § 1341.2 The twentieth count charged that petitioners conspired to commit the substantive offense charged in the first count, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, 18 U.S.C.A. § 371.3

After their various motions, including one challenging venue and asking transfer of the action to the Corpus Christi Division of the court, and one for a bill of particulars, were denied, petitioners entered pleas of 'not guilty' and in due course the case was put to trial before a jury. The jury returned verdicts finding petitioners

Page 373

guilty as charged—some of them on all counts and others on only some of the counts. After denying timely motions in arrest of judgment and for a new trial, the court entered judgments upon the verdicts, convicting petitioners and sentencing them to imprisonment.4 On appeal, the judgments were affirmed, 265 F.2d 894, and, to determine questions of importance relative to the scope and proper application of § 1341, we granted certiorari. 361 U.S. 912, 80 S.Ct. 254, 4 L.Ed.2d 182.

Petitioners' principal contentions here are: (1) that, although the indictment charged and the evidence tended to show that petitioners devised and practiced a scheme to defraud the District by the local or state crimes of misappropriating and embezzling its money and property, neither the indictment nor the proofs support the judgments, because the indictment did not charge, and the proofs did not show, any use of the mails 'for the purpose

Page 374

of executing such scheme' within the meaning of that phrase as used in § 1341, and (2) that the court's charge did not submit to the jury any theory or issue of fact that could constitute use of the mails 'for the purpose of executing such scheme.' The nature of these contentions requires a detailed examination of the indictment, the evidence adduced, and of the issues of fact actually tried and submitted to the jury, for its resolution, by the court in its charge.

We turn first to the indictment. Summarized as briefly as fair statement permits, the first count alleged that the District is a public corporation organized under the laws of Texas to acquire and hold the facilities necessary for, and to operate, the public schools within the District,5 and, for those purposes, to assess and collect taxes; that the laws of Texas vest exclusive control of the property and management of the affairs of the District in its Board of Trustees, consisting of seven members; that prior to September 1, 1949, petitioners devised, and continued to February 20, 1954, a scheme to defraud the District, the State of Texas, and the taxpayers of each, and to obtain their money and property for themselves and their relatives.

It then alleged that, as part of the scheme, petitioners would falsely represent that district checks were issued, and its funds disbursed, only to persons and concerns for services rendered and materials furnished to the District, and that its Annual Reports to the State Commissioner of Education were correct.

It next alleged that, as a further part of the scheme, seven of the petitioners would establish and maintain

Page 375

domination and control of the District;6 that three of them would acquire and maintain control of petitioner, the Texas State Bank of Alice, which was the authorized depository of the District's funds,7 and that one of them would acquire and maintain control of petitioner, the San Diego State Bank.8

It then alleged that it was a further part of the scheme that petitioners would sent or cause to be sent letters, tax statements, checks in payment of taxes, and receipted tax statements, through the United States mails; that the checks and moneys received by the District from taxpayers and others would be deposited to the credit of the District in the authorized depository bank, against which petitioners would issue district checks payable to fictitious persons, and to existing persons, without consideration (falsifying the District's records to show that such checks were issued in payment for services or materials), and would cash such checks, upon forged endorsements or without endorsements of the payees, at the depository bank and convert the proceeds; that they would open accounts and deposit checks received in payment of taxes in unauthorized banks, and that petitioner Chapa would withdraw and convert the funds; that they would convert and cash checks received by the District in payment of taxes and keep the proceeds; that they would obtain merchanedise for themselves on the credit and at the expense of the District; that they would prepare, and the Board of Trustees would approve, false Annual Reports of the District and mail them to the State Commissioner of

Page 376

Education at Austin, Texas; that they would conceal their fraudulent misuse of district funds by destroying canceled checks, bank statements and other records of the District and the microfilmed records of the petitioner banks showing the fraudulent checks drawn against and paid out of the District's accounts.

The last paragraph of the count—the only paragraph purporting to charge an offense—charged that petitioners on September 29, 1952, for the purpose of executing the scheme, caused to be taken from the post office, in the Houston Division of the court, a letter addressed to Humble Oil & Refining Company, Houston, Texas.9

Each of Counts 2 through 19 adopted by reference all allegations of the first count, except those contained in the last paragraph of that count which charged a specific offense against petitioners, and then proceeded to allege that on a stated date the petitioners, for the purpose of executing the scheme, 'caused' a particular letter, tax statement, check, tax receipt or invoice to be placed in or taken from an authorized depository for United States mail in the Houston Division of the court.10 Doubtless

Page 377

the charge in each of these counts was so limited, in the light of Rule 18 of Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, 18 U.S.C.A., fixing venue over crimes in the District and division where

Page 378

committed,11 in order to give the Houston Division venue over this action, and consequently the indictment does not count upon petitioners' full uses of the mails, for they were principally made in Duval County in the Corpus Christi Division of the court.

The twentieth count charged that throughout the relevant period petitioners feloniously conspired and agreed among themselves and with others to commit 'the offenses * * * which are fully described and set out in the first count of this indictment,' and that, to effect the object of the conspiracy, petitioners committed specified overt acts.12

Page 379

We now look to the evidence. Condensed to pith, the 6,000 pages of evidence disclose that the District, acting through its Board of Trustees of seven members, operated the public schools in the towns of Benavides and Freer, each having slightly more than 1,000 pupils. From time to time the Board met to appoint (a) an assessor-collector, (b) an independent firm of engineers and accountants to assist the assessor-collector in determining the ownership and valuation of property—particularly mineral lands and complex fractional interests therein—in the District, (c) a Board of Equalization, and (d) a depository of the District's funds, and also met (e) to consider and propose to the electorate the authorization and sale of bonds in 1949 ($265,000) and in 1950 ($362,500) to finance the construction of new school facilities.

In actual operations the engineering-accounting firm would annually prepare and submit to the assessor-collector a list showing the ownership and its appraisal of the value of the various properties and mineral interests in the District, from which, after the Board of Equalization and completed its work thereon (in June and July), the assessor-collector would prepare the tax rolls for the current year and therefrom prepare and sent out the tax statements by mail, and on receipt of checks in payment of taxes (the great majority of which were received in the mails) would—with exceptions later noted—deposit them to the credit of the District in the depository bank, and then mail receipts to the taxpayers.

Three members of the Board resided in Freer, and the other four resided in Benavides. Aside from the meet-

Page 380

ings for the purposes above stated, the Trustees rarely met as a board. Each group, rather independently, operated the schools in its town, and the actual costs of operation were about the same in each town.13 But the Benavides members handled generally the day-to-day business of the District, including the staffing and operation of its office, the keeping of its books and records, the making of its contracts, its relations with the assessor-collector, the Annual Report to the State Commissioner of Education (to obtain from the State the amount per pupil prescribed to be paid to such school...

To continue reading

Request your trial
316 cases
  • Faryniarz v. Jose E. Ramirez, JR Chem, LLC, 3:13-CV-01064 (CSH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • November 9, 2015
    .... . . how the bank which paid or credited the check would collect from the drawee bank." Id. at 94. Later, in Parr v. United States, 363 U.S. 370 (1960), the court relied on its reasoning in Kann to conclude that mail fraud liability did not lie against defendants, who fraudulently used a s......
  • US v. Frega, Criminal No. 96-698.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • July 9, 1996
    ...... any matter or thing whatever to be sent or delivered by the Postal Service." 18 U.S.C. § 1341. However, in Parr v. United States, 363 U.S. 370, 80 S.Ct. 1171, 4 L.Ed.2d 1277 (1960), the Supreme Court reversed the mail fraud convictions of defendants accused of defrauding the school dist......
  • McLendon v. Continental Group, Inc., Civ. A. No. 83-1340.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
    • January 22, 1985
    ...such scheme violated ERISA; as such, it contravened important public policies. This alone constitutes fraud. See Parr v. United States, 363 U.S. 370, 389, 80 S.Ct. 1171, 1182, 4 L.Ed.2d 1277 (1960), citing Badders v. United States, 240 U.S. 391, 393, 36 602 F. Supp. 1508 S.Ct. 367, 367-68, ......
  • Celpaco, Inc. v. MD PAPIERFABRIKEN, Civ. No. B-86-108 TFGD.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • May 10, 1988
    ...other things, that the documents used to effect the incorporation actually contained fraudulent representations. Parr v. United States, 363 U.S. 370, 392, 80 S.Ct. 1171, 1184, 4 L.Ed.2d 1277 (1960); see McNally v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 107 S.Ct. 2875, 2878 n. 2, 97 L.Ed.2d 292 (1987)......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review No. 58-3, July 2021
    • July 1, 2021
    ...for the substantive fraud, and that the use of mails or wires is merely a ‘jurisdictional hook’”). 6. See, e.g., Parr v. United States, 363 U.S. 370, 389 (1960) (stating the mail fraud statute’s “purpose was ‘to prevent the post off‌ice from being used to carry [fraudulent schemes] into eff......

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