United States v. Stargell

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 10-17-2013
  • Case #: 11-50392
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Chief District Judge Beistline for the Court; Circuit Judges S. Thomas and Hurwitz
  • Full Text Opinion

A financial institution can be "affected" under 18 U.S.C. § 1343 if the institution encounters a new or an increased risk of loss.

Willena Stargell was a tax preparer, and during her work as such she filed many 143 tax returns containing false statements. This was done in order to obtain refund anticipation loans (“RAL”). Stargell’s first claim of error stated that the government failed to prove her conduct “affected” a financial institution as is required under 18 U.S.C. § 1343, wire fraud. The Ninth Circuit held that the “affect” element of 18 U.S.C. § 1343 may be satisfied by a new or an increased risk of loss to a financial institution. The banks endured an increased risk of financial loss in this case because “when a bank issues a RAL and the IRS later stopped the refund for the related [false] return, the bank was not able to recoup the value of the RAL and suffered a financial loss.” Stargell’s second claim of error stated that her convictions under 18 U.S.C. § 1028A, aggravated identity theft, were incorrect because her actions taken toward this conviction preceded the enactment of this statute. Because 18 U.S.C. § 1028A relied on a concurrent action or relation to a felony violation and Stargell’s felony violation, wire fraud, occurred after 18 U.S.C. § 1028A’s enactment, her second claim failed. More specifically, wire fraud is only completed once all the elements of such are satisfied. Even though Stargell began wire fraud processes in February 2004, all the elements were not completed until January 2005. Thus, Stargell's violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A occurred after the statute's enactment. Stargell’s third and fourth claims attacked the district court’s allowance of her previous defense attorney to stand as a witness and claimed an error in damage calculations. These claims also failed. AFFIRMED.

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