United States v. Camara, 110618 FED4, 17-4602

Docket Nº:17-4602
Opinion Judge:PAMELA HARRIS, CIRCUIT JUDGE
Party Name:UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee, v. LAMINE CAMARA, Defendant-Appellant.
Attorney:John Marcus McNichols, WILLIAMS & CONNOLLY LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant. Kellen Sean Dwyer, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee. Geremy C. Kamens, Federal Public Defender, Cadence A. Mertz, Assistant Federal Public Defender, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLI...
Judge Panel:Before WILKINSON and HARRIS, Circuit Judges, and William L. OSTEEN, Jr., United States District Judge for the Middle District of North Carolina, sitting by designation.
Case Date:November 06, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,

v.

LAMINE CAMARA, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 17-4602

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

November 6, 2018

Argued: September 28, 2018

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Alexandria. Claude M. Hilton, Senior District Judge. (1:17-cr-00001-CMH-1)

ARGUED:

John Marcus McNichols, WILLIAMS & CONNOLLY LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant.

Kellen Sean Dwyer, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Geremy C. Kamens, Federal Public Defender, Cadence A. Mertz, Assistant Federal Public Defender, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Alexandria, Virginia; Martha C. Kidd, WILLIAMS & CONNOLLY LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant.

Dana J. Boente, United States Attorney, Nathaniel Smith III, Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellee.

Before WILKINSON and HARRIS, Circuit Judges, and William L. OSTEEN, Jr., United States District Judge for the Middle District of North Carolina, sitting by designation.

PAMELA HARRIS, CIRCUIT JUDGE

A jury convicted appellant Lamine Camara of criminal conspiracy for his involvement in a scheme to acquire and resell luxury vehicles using stolen identities. Ray Ekobena orchestrated this scheme, and Camara's indictment charged him with conspiring "with Ray Ekobena and others, known and unknown," to violate three different federal laws. J.A. 9 (emphasis added). Following Camara's trial, the district court instructed the jury using the same language. During deliberations, however, the jury submitted a written question, asking, "Do we need to agree the defendant was conspiring with Ray specifically or conspiring in general?" J.A. 617. The district court responded, "[T]he government has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was conspiring specifically with Ray or other known or unknown co-conspirators." J.A. 628 (emphasis added).

Camara identifies two putative constitutional errors based on this supplemental instruction. First, he contends it constructively amended the indictment in violation of the Fifth Amendment by allowing the jury to convict him of a conspiracy that did not involve Ekobena. Second, he argues that it violated his Sixth Amendment right to a trial in a district in which the crime took place, on the theory that Ekobena provided the only connection between his crime and the district in which the government prosecuted him. In the alternative, Camara raises two challenges to the district court's sentence.

Finding no error, we affirm both Camara's conviction and his sentence.

I.

A.

The case against Camara centered on his involvement in Ray Ekobena's luxury car scheme. Ekobena used stolen identities to submit fraudulent loan applications to car dealerships. Once a dealership approved his loan applications, Ekobena relied on third parties to deliver the vehicles to Washington, D.C. Ekobena then resold those vehicles at a steep discount, mostly because he did not have valid title to transfer to a subsequent buyer, as is required to register a car and receive vehicle tags. In total, Ekobena fraudulently purchased ten vehicles as part of this scheme.

At trial, the government introduced evidence of Camara's involvement in five transactions within Ekobena's scheme. Camara purchased two vehicles from Ekobena, paying as little as one-tenth of their market value. For the first car Camara purchased, Ekobena provided a Virginia title with the name of an identity theft victim. Camara forged the identity theft victim's signature on the title and on the bill of sale in order to submit a Maryland title application. For the second, Camara received no title at all from Ekobena. Instead, Camara paid an individual named Zambia Jackson $150 for temporary tags - even though he knew the state of Maryland charged only $20 for legitimate tags. Camara did not know Jackson, and he never attempted to verify that she had the authority to issue vehicle tags. The tags Camara eventually received were fraudulent, stating that he purchased the vehicle from a dealership that does not exist.

Camara also facilitated three other transactions involving Ekobena. He introduced Ekobena to two friends, each of whom purchased cars from Ekobena. Camara participated in the delivery of both vehicles, and Ekobena paid him for his involvement. Because neither vehicle came with valid title, Camara ordered temporary tags from Jackson for each. Finally, Camara connected Ekobena with his local mechanic, who placed an order for a car and deposited money in Ekobena's account.

Before Ekobena could acquire that last vehicle, he was arrested. Ekobena ultimately pleaded guilty to seven felonies, three of which involved his use of stolen identities to purchase cars. Soon after Ekobena's arrest, federal authorities arrested Camara.

B.

A grand jury returned a one-count indictment against Camara. That indictment charged Camara, under 18 U.S.C. § 371, with conspiracy to commit three federal crimes: (1) knowingly transporting stolen vehicles in interstate commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2312; (2) knowingly receiving, possessing, concealing, storing, bartering, selling, and disposing of stolen motor vehicles that have crossed state lines, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2313; and (3) committing wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343. The indictment specifically charged Camara with conspiring "with Ray Ekobena and others, known and unknown." J.A. 9 (emphasis added).

Ekobena, who served as one of the government's main witnesses, testified at trial to Camara's extensive participation in his scheme. Camara also testified, and he did not deny his involvement. Instead, Camara staked his defense on the idea that he was unaware that the vehicles involved in Ekobena's scheme were stolen.

At the end of the trial, the district court instructed the jury on the elements of Camara's charged offense. The court told the jury that the government alleged that, "in the Eastern District of Virginia, the defendant did knowingly, willfully conspire and agree together with Ray Ekobena and others...

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