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United States v. Petre

United States District Court, D. Maine

August 17, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
IULIAN PETRE, a/k/a JULIAN PETRE

          ORDER ON MOTION IN LIMINE

          JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         With trial looming, the Court denies the Defendant's motion in limine insofar as he seeks a ruling that the Government may not admit evidence that in 2007, he questioned government officials about the laws and regulations applicable to the exporting of firearms from the United States to Romania and was informed by law enforcement what laws and regulations would be applicable. However, the Court defers ruling on whether evidence that the Defendant attempted to smuggle firearms to Romania in 2007 will be admissible as evidence to prove that he did so successfully in 2012. Finally, the Court concludes that evidence that the Defendant confessed to shipping three firearms to a person in Romania between September and November 2012 would likely be admissible without reference to the fact that the firearms were the same firearms the Defendant attempted to export in 2007.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         On June 20, 2017, a federal grand jury issued a seventeen count indictment against Iulian Petre for ten counts of receipt of a firearm in interstate commerce, alleged violations of 18 U.S.C. § 924(b), three counts of shipment of a firearm in foreign commerce, alleged violations of 18 U.S.C. § 924(b), three counts of promotion money laundering, alleged violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(2), and one count of smuggling, an alleged violation of 18 U.S.C. § 554. Indictment (ECF No. 23). On July 12, 2017, a federal grand jury issued a second seventeen count indictment against Mr. Petre. Superseding Indictment (ECF No. 32). On July 13, 2017, the Court set the matter for jury trial with jury selection occurring on August 21, 2017 and trial to follow immediately thereafter. Notice of Hr'g (ECF No. 39). On August 9, 2017, a federal grand jury issued a second, seventeen count superseding indictment. Second Superseding Indictment (ECF No. 63). On August 10, 2017, the Government moved to dismiss Count IX of the Second Superseding Indictment and on the same day, the Court granted the Government's motion, leaving sixteen counts pending against Mr. Petre. Gov't's Unopposed Mot. to Dismiss Count Nine (ECF No. 62); Order (ECF No. 66).

         On August 1, 2017, Mr. Petre filed a motion in limine for a ruling to prohibit the Government from introducing evidence of his prior bad acts. Mot. in Limine for a Ruling Prohibiting the Gov't from Introducing Alleged Prior Bad Acts in Violation of Fed. R. of Evid. 404(b) and 403 (ECF No. 46) (Def's Mot.). On August 7, 2017, the Government filed a response. Gov't's Resp. to the Defense Mot. in Limine Regarding Prior Acts of the Def (ECF No. 56) (Gov't's Opp'n). Mr. Petre elected not to reply to the Government's response.

         B. Factual Background

         1. The Second Superseding Indictment and the Government's Trial Brief

         The second superseding indictment in this case alleges that Mr. Petre violated the federal firearms law that prohibits the receipt of a firearm that had been shipped from one state to another with the purpose of committing another federal offense. Second Superseding Indictment at 1-2 (ECF No. 63). The other federal offenses, according to the indictment, are the unauthorized export of arms and smuggling. Id. at 1. In its trial brief, the Government explains that Mr. Petre purchased firearms from the onhne auction site, Gunbroker.com, and directed that the firearms be shipped from outside the state of Maine to the address of a friend within the state of Maine with the intention of exporting the firearms to Romania without the necessary federal licenses. Gov't's Trial Br. at 2-3 (ECF No. 59).

         Next, the second superseding indictment alleges that Mr. Petre violated the federal firearms law that prohibits the shipment of a firearm in foreign commerce with the purpose of committing another felony offense. Second Superseding Indictment at 2-3. The Government's trial brief states that after he received them in Maine, Mr. Petre shipped three rifles to Romania without the necessary governmental permits in violation of federal law. Gov't's Trial Br. at 4.

         Thirdly, the second superseding indictment alleges that Mr. Petre violated the federal prohibition against money laundering. Second Superseding Indictment at 4-5. The Government's trial brief says that Mr. Petre provided his bank account information to persons in Romania and received funds in his Maine-based bank account in order to export the firearms to Romania without proper licenses. Gov't's Trial Br. at 4.

         Finally, the second superseding indictment alleges that by exporting firearms and receiving payment, Mr. Petre engaged in smuggling in violation of federal criminal law. Second Superseding Indictment at 5. The Government's trial brief contends that by exporting these firearms to Romania without proper permission, Mr. Petre engaged in smuggling. Gov't's Trial Br. at 4-5.

         2. The 2007-08 Incident

         The second superseding indictment alleges that Mr. Petre committed each of these crimes between August 27, 2012 and August 17, 2013. Second Superseding Indictment at 1-5. However, in its trial brief, the Government alludes to an incident that took place in 2007:

This conduct involved not only the firearms described in Counts 1 through 13, but also others, including the three firearms he attempted to export in 2007 and did, by his own admission, export successfully in 2012.

Gov't's Trial Br. at 4-5.

         In response to Mr. Petre's motion in limine, the Government explained the background underlying the 2007 incident, which spilled over into 2008. Gov't's Opp'n at 2-7. It seems that in November 2007, Mr. Petre called the Portland Maine office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and inquired about obtaining a license to ship firearms outside the country. Id. at 2. Mr. Petre told Special Agent Paul McNeil of ATF that he had shipped a number of shotguns to Romania over the past year but he wanted to ship rifles, and that the Postal Service had said that he needed some type of license. Id. Agent McNeil told Mr. Petre about the legal requirements for export from the Department of State and the Department of Commerce. Id. Agent McNeil also told Mr. Petre that he would need to become a ...


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