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United States v. Kumar

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division

September 26, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
SANJAY KUMAR, Defendant.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the court on defendant’s motion for judgment of acquittal as to structuring transaction counts 33, 34, 35, 39, and 40 (“money laundering counts”) pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 29. (DE 388). The issues raised have been briefed fully, and in this posture are ripe for ruling. For reasons set forth below, defendant’s motion is denied.

         BACKGROUND

         On August 12, 2019, a jury found defendant guilty of five counts of unlawful distribution of oxycodone in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (counts 3, 4, 5, 9, and 11), five counts of money laundering by concealment in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i) and (ii) (counts 33, 34, 35, 39, and 40), and three counts of tax evasion in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7201 (counts 43, 44, and 45).

         More specifically and as relevant to resolution of the instant motion, counts 3 and 5 charged the defendant with unlawfully prescribing oxycodone to Chris Fulcher on March 14, 2013 and April 12, 2013, respectively, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Counts 4, 9, and 11 charged the defendant with unlawfully prescribing oxycodone to Ashley Fulcher on April 9, 2013, January 10, 2014, and February 12, 2014, respectively, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Counts 33, 34, 35, 39, and 40 charged the defendant with money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i) and (ii), and alleged that October 25, 2013 and June 3, 2014, defendant conducted financial transactions, cash deposits, involving the proceeds of specified unlawful activity, funds derived from the unlawful distribution of controlled substances, with the intention of concealing those proceeds and/or avoiding transaction reporting requirements. The specific deposits at issue regarding these money laundering counts are as follows:

         (Image Omitted)

         On August 12, 2019, defendant filed the instant motion. Defendant argues that because the jury found defendant guilty of only five counts of unlawful distribution on five separate days, proceeds of which would total $1, 000.00, [1] such is insufficient to sustain a verdict on the money laundering counts, where the jury found deposits in the amount of $21, 000.00 identifiable as “proceeds of unlawful activity.” (DE 388 at 2-3). Defendant argues, therefore, “the verdict is inconsistent, and the structuring counts must be dismissed for insufficiency of the evidence” and “inconsistency of the verdict.” (Id.). Defendant puts forth no case law or further argument in support of his motion.[2]

         COURT’S DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         A defendant may “move for a judgment of acquittal, or renew such a motion, within 14 days after a guilty verdict or after the court discharges the jury, whichever is later.” Fed.R.Crim.P. 29(c)(1). A Rule 29 motion for judgment of acquittal must be denied if when “‘viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, any rational trier of facts could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.’” United States v. Harvey, 532 F.3d 326, 333 (4th Cir.2008) (quoting United States v. Tresvant, 677 F.2d 1018, 1021 (4th Cir.1982)).

         B. Analysis

         Sufficient evidence was presented at trial to find defendant guilty on the money laundering counts.[3] In order to sustain a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)1)(B)(i) and (ii), the government must prove: 1) defendant conducted or attempted to conduct a financial transaction having at least a de minimis effect on interstate commerce; 2) defendant knew that the money or property involved in the financial transaction was the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity; 3) the money or property was, in fact, the proceeds of specified unlawful activity; and 4) defendant knew that the financial transaction was designed, in whole or in part, to conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, or control of the proceeds, and/or to avoid a transaction reporting requirement under state or federal law. United States v. Wilkinson, 137 F.3d 214, 220 (4th Cir. 1998). The court will address the sufficiency of the evidence as to each element in turn below.

         1. De Minimis Effect on Interstate Commerce

         To be a “financial transaction” as required by the statute, the transaction must satisfy one of the four requirements set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 1956(c)(4). Under that provision, a financial transaction includes a transaction that affects interstate or foreign commerce and involves the use of a “monetary instrument, ” which is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1956(c)(5) as currency, money orders, checks, travelers checks, investment securities, or negotiable instruments in bearer forms. Interstate nexus may be proven by evidence that the funds ...


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