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US Supreme Court accepts review of bank fraud appeal

A man accused of creating a scheme to defraud a Target store is bringing his bank fraud case to the United States Supreme Court. The high court accepted review last week. The issue involves what prosecutors must prove to support bank fraud charges in the type of case brought against the man. The criminal case did not arise in Louisiana, however, Baton Rouge area residents may understand that Supreme Court decisions are binding on courts nationwide.

His petition to the United States Supreme Court says that he was accused of stealing checks from people’s mailboxes. He then allegedly altered the checks so that he could use them at Target. In all, he was accused of using six checks adding up to a total of $1,184.58 to purchase merchandise at Target. He later returned the goods for cash, according to prosecutors.

The criminal defense argued in the trial court that prosecutors had to prove that the man intended to defraud the bank. The judge found that the bank was never at risk of losing money—only Target was at a loss under the scheme, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The trial court denied the defense request to require proof of intent to defraud the bank to support the bank fraud charge and the man was convicted.

The appellate court affirmed the bank fraud convictions.

On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the issue to be decided is whether the government can get a bank fraud conviction without proving intent to defraud a bank (rather than another other entity—in this case, Target). Appellate courts are split on the issue.

Notably, prosecutors bear the burden of proof in a criminal case. But, what must be shown is also a vital factor. That is, proving random facts should not be sufficient to support a conviction. The criminal defense argues that the acts allegedly proven are not those prohibited under the provision with which he was charged. The high court is being asked to clarify the issue.

Source: Courthouse News, “High Court to Clarify Bank Fraud Convictions,” Annie Youderian, Dec. 13, 2013

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