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United States v. Eagleman

United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division

February 14, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
VIOLET LYNN EAGLEMAN, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER.

          Brian Morris United States District Court Judge.

         Defendant Violet Eagleman (Eagleman) has moved for judgment of acquittal with respect to her conviction on Count II of the Indictment. The Government opposes the motion. The Court conducted a hearing on the motion on February 9, 2017.

         BACKGROUND

         Count II of the Indictment charged Eagleman with illegally structuring currency transactions to avoid currency reporting requirements, in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 5324(a)(3). The Indictment alleged that Eagleman committed the offense of structuring by cashing four checks in the amount of $9, 000 at Leon's Buy and Sell check cashing business in Havre, Montana, with the intent to evade the reporting requirements of 31 U.S.C. § 5313(a).

         Eagleman made an oral motion for judgment of acquittal under Fed. R. Crim. 29 at the close of the Government's case. Eagleman argued that she could not be convicted of Structuring because the Government had failed to prove that she possessed, or had access to, more than $10, 000 when she cashed the checks at Leon's Buy and Sell. The Court denied the motion. The jury convicted Eagleman of Structuring. Eagleman has renewed her motion for judgment of acquittal under Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c)(1).

         DISCUSSION

         a. Applicable Standard

         Rule 29 authorizes a court to set aside a guilty verdict and enter an acquittal if the evidence introduced at trial was insufficient to sustain a conviction. Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(a); United States v. Shetler, 665 F.3d 1150, 1163 (9th Cir. 2011). The Court must review the evidence in a light most favorable to the Government. United States v. Ching Tang Lo, 447 F.3d 1212, 1221 (9th Cir. 2006). A Rule 29 motion must be denied if a rational trier of fact could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. United States v. Nevils, 598 F.3d 1158, 1163-64 (9th Cir. 2010).

         b. Structuring

         Section 5313(a) of Title 31 and its implementing regulations require that every domestic financial institution that engages in a currency transaction of more than $10, 000 must file a Currency Transaction Report with the Internal Revenue Service. See 31 C.F.R. § 103.22(b)(1). Section 5324(a) of Title 31 prohibits a person from structuring a currency transaction for the purpose of evading this currency reporting requirement. 31 U.S.C. § 5324(a).

         To convict a defendant of structuring currency transactions to avoid currency reporting requirements the Government must prove the following elements: (1) the defendant knowingly structured a currency transaction at a domestic financial institution; (2) the defendant did so with knowledge that the financial institution involved was legally obligated to report currency transactions in excess of $10, 000; and (3) the defendant acted with intent to evade this reporting requirement. United States v. MacPherson, 424 F.3d 183, 189 (2nd Cir. 2005); United States v. Trading Post of Pasco, Inc., 348 Fed.Appx. 315, 316 (9th Cir. 2009) (unpublished).

         Eagleman argues that her conviction for structuring should be set aside because illegal structuring can occur only if it is shown that she possessed, or had access to, more than $10, 000 at any one time, and the Government did not prove that she possessed, or had access to, more than $10, 000 when she cashed the $9, 000 checks at Leon's Buy and Sell. (Doc. 64 at 13-14).

         The Government was not required to prove that a defendant possesses, or has access to, more than $10, 000 at any one time. See United States v. Sperraza, 804 F.3d 1113, 1125 (11th Cir. 2015); United States v. Van Allen, 524 F.3d 814, 820-821 (7th Cir. 2008) (holding that government is not required to prove a single “unitary cash hoard”); United States v. Sweeny, 611 F.3d 459, 472-473 (8th Cir. 2010). In Sperraza, the Court stated:

In sum, we hold the Government may properly charge a defendant with structuring a transaction in violation of § 5324(a)(3) by alleging he engaged in a series of currency transactions under $10, 000 for the purpose of evading the reporting requirement. The statute does not require the Government to show the defendant had in hand at one time $10, 000 or more of the funds he allegedly structured. The allegations in the Indictment of ...

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