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United States v. Williams

May 20, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
BOBBY JAMES WILLIAMS, JR., ALSO KNOWN AS JUNIOR, APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Smith, Circuit Judge.

Submitted: January 15, 2010

Before MELLOY, SMITH, and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges.

A jury found Bobby Williams Jr. guilty of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, also commonly known as "Ecstasy"). Williams was also found guilty of money laundering in connection with the conspiracy. The district court*fn1 sentenced Williams to 360 months' imprisonment on the two counts. On appeal, Williams argues that the district court: (1) erred in overruling his motion for judgment of acquittal based on insufficient evidence that he laundered money; (2) abused its discretion by rejecting a jury instruction defining the scope of illicit proceeds in money laundering cases; (3) erred in its calculation of MDMA attributable to Williams when Williams was incarcerated during a period of the conspiracy; (4) erred in applying a four-level role-in-the offense enhancement or, alternatively, the enhancement created an unwarranted disparity among similarly situated co-defendants; and (5) erred in failing to dismiss the indictment for a violation of the Speedy Trial Act. For the following reasons, we affirm.

I. Background

A. The Money Laundering

In August 2006, United States Postal Inspector Bryan Witt began investigating packages mailed between Oakland, California, and St. Louis, Missouri, based upon suspicious postal packages observed in St. Louis. Witt reviewed parcel records looking for characteristics common to packages discovered to have contained drugs. Witt identified a significant number of such packages having a similar weight, and all but one were mailed from the same post office in Oakland. Witt obtained copies of eight shipping labels that he believed to be related. With the cooperation of informants Diane Pittman and Rickey Miller, Witt connected Bobby Williams to mail shipments of MDMA to St. Louis.*fn2

Witt pursued the money-laundering investigation by locating records for a series of postal money orders dating from March 6, 2006, to April 5, 2006. On March 6, 2006, two $1000 postal money orders were purchased with cash in East St. Louis, Illinois, by James Smith, 675 Post, San Francisco, California. Williams negotiated both money orders the following day at a Bank of America in San Francisco, California. Witt identified the account holder as Bobby Williams Jr. at P.O. Box 9169, Richmond Heights, Missouri. Witt determined that 675 Post in San Francisco did not exist.

On April 5, 2006, Mike Smith of 589 O'Farrell, San Francisco, California, purchased six $1000 postal money orders from four different post office branches in the St. Louis area. "O'Farrell" had been used on some of the earlier parcel labels. All six were cashed at the same time on April 7, 2006-by Williams-at the same San Francisco Bank of America branch using the same account number as the first two. The bank account records also showed that on April 5, 2006, an additional $3000 was deposited in St. Louis, Missouri to the same San Francisco bank account.*fn3

During the investigation, Witt learned that Williams was incarcerated in late May 2006 through sometime in January 2007. Bank and credit card records showed that Williams paid down his Bank of America credit card balance shortly before going to prison by making cash payments of almost $20,000 between May 10, 2006, and May 24, 2006. Once out of prison, almost $7000 in cash deposits were made to Williams's account between May 12, 2007, and June 27, 2007. Western Union records also showed that between December 27, 2005, and May 24, 2006, the day before Williams reported to prison, seven Western Union money orders totaling $13,500 were sent to Williams by co-defendants or their relatives.

Southwest Airlines records showed that between December 29, 2005, and November 29, 2007, Williams flew to or from St. Louis, Missouri and Oakland, California, 76 times, spending approximately $24,000 on airfare. Records obtained from the Internal Revenue Service showed that Williams filed no tax returns for tax years 2004--2007.

B. Diane Pittman

Pittman testified that Miller introduced her to Williams, his cousin, because Miller wanted her to take drug money on an airplane to California, accompanied by Williams in March or April 2006. She had been in a relationship with Miller since she was 16 and had lived with him-off and on-since then. Pittman testified that Williams wanted the drug supplier, "T," to meet Pittman and know her face so that she could take over when Williams was incarcerated. An Asian man picked them up at the airport and took them to "T." Williams gave "T" the money. While in California, Williams and Pittman went to a post office where they mailed a package containing MDMA back to St. Louis. Pittman made another ten to 12 trips to Oakland after Williams went to prison on an unrelated charge.

Pittman testified that when Williams left for prison, Williams instructed Miller to continue to mail the money to "T" as if Williams was there. Pittman understood that "T" was going to save the money for Williams to preserve his income during his incarceration.

On June 6 or 7, 2006, St. Louis airport security stopped Pittman and seized $37,251 cash from her. Pittman lied to the Drug Enforcement Agency about who gave her the money to transport, not mentioning Miller or Williams. On July 8, 2006, Jennings, Missouri police officers found and seized marijuana, drug paraphernalia, a firearm, and $41,000 in cash at the home that Pittman shared with Miller. Pittman told the police that the money came from Miller's sale of MDMA. She did not mention Williams. Pittman stopped flying to Oakland at that time. Instead, she started mailing the drug money Miller earned to "T" in Oakland.

C. Terrell Terry

Terrell Terry testified that he had known Miller and Pittman most of his life. In late 2005, Miller introduced Terry to Williams. In early 2006, Miller and Terry were selling marijuana that they received from Williams. Miller received the marijuana from California through the mail. Terry testified that one day Miller asked Williams if he could get Ecstasy, and Williams said he could get Ecstasy pills for $1 per pill but would charge $2 to $2.50 for them. Miller and Terry bought $3000 worth of Ecstasy from Williams. A group thereafter began to make regular purchases of Ecstasy from Williams, and approximately ten boxes of Ecstasy came through the mail from January 2006 through June 2006, when Terry left the operation and branched off on his own. Williams was present every time the pills initially arrived, and he would then leave when the time came to split up a batch of pills.

The price of pills went up sometime in February, March or April 2006. Terry testified that Miller told him that Williams was raising the price on the pills an extra 25 cents because Williams was going to turn himself in to do some jail time and wanted to make some more money before he was incarcerated. The pills went up to $2.75 per pill. Terry estimated that he personally sold 25,000 to 30,000 pills during his involvement in the scheme. Terry and Miller continued to sell the pills while Williams was incarcerated. Terry testified that Miller told him that Miller was putting the extra money up for Williams.

Williams, along with nine co-defendants, was indicted on December 6, 2007, for conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute MDMA in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1) ("Count I"), and money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i) ("Count II"). The total amount of MDMA attributed to the conspiracy was 28,000 units or 7000 grams. The presentence investigation report (PSR) attributed the entire amount of MDMA to Williams.

A jury found Williams guilty of both counts. Williams filed a pro se motion for a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel, pro se objections to the PSR and a pro se motion to dismiss for violation of the Speedy Trial Act. Williams's attorney also filed objections to the PSR. Williams denied that the convictions filed in the role-in-the-offense enhancement under 21 U.S.C. § 851 were his convictions. The defense's objections included general denials of being involved in a conspiracy or laundering money. Williams also challenged the drug quantity allegations, his role in the offense, and his criminal history. The district court denied all of Williams's motions and overruled all of his objections. The PSR set Williams's total offense level at 38 and his criminal history at V producing a Guidelines incarceration range of 360 months to life, with a statutory maximum sentence of 360 months. The court sentenced Williams to 360 months' imprisonment on the drug charge and 240 months' imprisonment on the money laundering charge, to be served concurrently. A six-year term of supervised release (three years concurrent on Count II) was also ordered.

II. Discussion

On appeal, Williams argues that the district court (1) erred in overruling his motion for judgment of acquittal because insufficient evidence supported the money laundering conviction; (2) abused its discretion by rejecting a jury instruction defining the scope of illicit proceeds in money laundering cases; (3) erred in its calculation of MDMA attributable to Williams when Williams was incarcerated during a period of the conspiracy; (4) erred in applying a four-level role-in-the offense enhancement or, alternatively, the enhancement created an unwarranted disparity among similarly situated co-defendants; and (5) should have dismissed the indictment for a violation of the Speedy Trial Act. We address each argument in turn.

A. Insufficient Evidence

Williams's sufficiency argument contends that no evidence suggested a design or scheme to conceal the nature, location, source, ownership, or control of the funds transported. Thus, he argues the government failed to prove that Williams laundered money. Williams asserts that the evidence presented at trial instead proved a different crime. According to Williams, the government showed that he ...


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