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United States v. Kimble

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

May 2, 2017

KAREN KIMBLE, a/k/a Karen Kimble Mamah, a/k/a Karen Mamah, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: March 24, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. William D. Quarles, Jr., District Judge. (1:13-cr-00035-WDQ-1)


          Vincent Anthony Jankoski, VINCENT A. JANKOSKI, ESQ., Silver Spring, Maryland, for Appellant. Kathleen O'Connell Gavin, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Rod J. Rosenstein, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.

          Before TRAXLER and WYNN, Circuit Judges, and DAVIS, Senior Circuit Judge.

          WYNN, Circuit Judge:

         Following a two-day bench trial, the district court convicted Defendant Karen Kimble of numerous charges stemming from her submission of fraudulent immigration and tax filings to various state and federal agencies over a nearly five-year span. Seeking to overturn her conviction, Defendant argues that the district court erred in admitting certain evidence obtained following a search of her home pursuant to a validly issued warrant. For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that the district court correctly admitted this evidence, which-together with additional evidence offered at trial- provided sufficient support for the trial court's guilty verdict on each of the government's charges against Defendant. Accordingly, we affirm.



         A summary of the facts proven at trial, as found by the district court, follows. Between 2007 and 2011, Defendant perpetrated a series of schemes that ultimately led to her indictment on charges ranging from tax and visa application fraud to aggravated identity theft. First, in the fall of 2007, Defendant participated in a marriage and immigration fraud scheme with Tamim Mamah, a native of Ghana. According to the government, after Mamah's earlier attempt to obtain a green card by means of a fraudulent marriage failed, Defendant filed, under Mamah's first wife's name, for a divorce from Mamah. Thereafter, Defendant submitted a new green card application on Mamah's behalf using a marriage certificate listing herself as Mamah's wife.

         During roughly the same period, in September 2007, Defendant committed perjury in connection with her testimony in the criminal trial of Mamah's brother, who was charged with importing heroin in his luggage on a flight from Ghana. At that trial, Defendant testified that she traveled with Mamah's brother to Ghana in 2006. In particular, Defendant testified that, during that trip, she observed numerous individuals visit the brother's home, which she asserted was customary in Ghana. The defense relied on Defendant's testimony as evidence that someone other than Mamah's brother packed his luggage and placed the heroin in his bag. However, a subsequent review of Defendant's travel records revealed that she did not travel to Africa during the period in question.

         Finally, beginning in February 2008 and continuing through at least April 2012, Defendant submitted numerous fraudulent tax returns for herself and others. In addition to inflating her own refunds, Defendant-who falsely held herself out as a certified tax preparer-filed returns on behalf of others that included artificially inflated credits and deductions. Defendant provided the taxpayers with versions of the returns that did not include the inflated figures and kept the excess refunds, which totaled roughly $222, 000. During the course of her tax fraud scheme, Defendant committed identity theft on at least four occasions.


         In July 2011, the Department of Homeland Security ("Homeland Security") obtained a search warrant in connection with its investigation of Defendant's marriage and immigration fraud and perjury. In an accompanying affidavit, the government asserted probable cause to believe that Defendant's home contained evidence of perjury, marriage and immigration fraud, and false statements, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1001, 1425, 1621, and 1623 and 8 U.S.C. § 1325(c). Entitled "Items to be Seized from [Defendant's Residence], " Attachment B to the warrant affidavit averred that the requested search would enable the government to seize "[a]ny and all records and documents relating to the travel of [Defendant] to Ghana in 2006 including but not limited to . . . documents, correspondence, notes, statements, receipts or other records that reference or indicate the fraudulent activity [and] items evidencing the obtaining, secreting, transferring, concealment and/or expenditure of illegal proceeds and currency to include cash." J.A. 46.

         Homeland Security agents executed the search warrant on July 29, 2011. At the beginning of the search, the agents asked Defendant if she had any valuables in the house, to which Defendant replied that there was some cash in a laundry basket. Defendant then led the agents to the cash, which was contained in a bag in a laundry basket in the home and totaled more than $41, 000. When the agents inquired as to the source of the funds, Defendant told the agents that the cash did not belong to her. Rather, she said that, at Mamah's request, she had retrieved the cash from a stranger about a week earlier and was holding it for Mamah. Aware Mamah was detained on unrelated narcotics distribution charges, the agents seized the cash on suspicion that it derived from Mamah's alleged drug activity.

         Several months later, Defendant filed a claim to recover the seized funds. At odds with the explanation she gave at the time of the initial seizure, Defendant claimed that the cash was proceeds of an insurance claim she filed after her home was damaged in a fire. Their suspicions piqued by Defendant's revised account, investigators subpoenaed Defendant's bank records in an attempt to confirm the source of the seized funds. After reviewing the records, however, investigators found numerous deposits from ...

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