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United States v. Christeson

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

June 11, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CRAIG JOHN CHRISTESON, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          KAREN E. SCHREIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, the United States of America (United States), brought this action against defendant, Craig John Christeson, for violation of the False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. § 3729-3733), common law fraud, unjust enrichment, payment by mistake, and breach of the fiduciary duty of loyalty. Docket 1. Plaintiff now moves for summary judgment. Docket 5.

         BACKGROUND

         The undisputed facts, [1] viewed in the light most favorable to the defendant, are as follows:

         From May 2000 through March 2015, Christeson was employed by the United States Postal Service (USPS). Docket 7 ¶ 1. From January 2010 until January 2014, Christeson was the postmaster in the Madison, South Dakota post office. Id. In January 2014, he became the postmaster in the DeSmet, South Dakota post office. Id.

         The USPS sells postage meters to permit customers to print out their own postage. A spoiled postage meter strip occurs when an envelope is put through a postage meter, but the postage strip generated is not used. Id. ¶ 3. When this occurs, a customer may bring the spoiled postage meter strip to the post office and receive a credit or refund. Id. As postmaster, Christeson was in charge of verifying and issuing credit or refunds to customers for spoiled postage meter strips. Id. ¶ 2.

         Between June 26, 2013, and March 27, 2015, Christeson used his role as postmaster to falsely certify that he had received spoiled postage meter strips from customers when he had not. Id. ¶ 4. Christeson would then print out a money order in the name of the customer, cash the money order at the post office, and keep the money for himself. Id. During this time period, at the Madison post office and DeSmet post office, Christeson falsely certified that he had received approximately sixty-one spoiled postage meter strips. Id. ¶ 5. Because of Christeson's actions verifying false claims for spoiled postage meter strip refunds, and issuing and cashing money orders, the USPS suffered damages totaling $8, 970.71. Id. ¶ 10.

         Christeson pleaded guilty to the criminal offense of Theft of Government Property (18 U.S.C. § 641) for knowingly submitting fraudulent claims for spoiled postage meter refunds to the USPS. Id. ¶ 11. He was sentenced to a term of probation and restitution was ordered payable to the USPS in the amount of $8, 970.71. Id. This civil action was then commenced against Christeson. Docket 1.

         Christeson has failed to file an answer to the complaint and is in default. The United States moved for summary judgment and Christeson failed to respond. The deadline for a response has passed.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant “shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party can meet this burden by presenting evidence that there is no genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). To avoid summary judgment, “[t]he nonmoving party may not ‘rest on mere allegations or denials, but must demonstrate on the record the existence of specific facts which create a genuine issue for trial.' ” Mosley v. City of Northwoods, 415 F.3d 908, 910 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting Krenik v. County of Le Sueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995)).

         Summary judgment is precluded if there is a dispute in facts that could affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). For purposes of a summary judgment motion, the court views the facts and the inferences drawn from such facts “in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 588 (1986).

         DISCUSSION

         I. ...


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