FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
RHODE ISLAND [Hon. William E. Smith, U.S. District Judge]
Virginia G. Villa for appellant Doris Morel.
H. Mizner, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Federal Public
Defender Office, District of Massachusetts, with whom
Christine DeMaso, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Federal
Public Defender Office, District of Massachusetts, was on
brief, for appellant Erika Tomasino.
C. Lockhart, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom
Stephen G. Dambruch, Acting United States Attorney, was on
brief, for appellee.
Lynch, Circuit Judge, Souter, Associate Justice,
and Stahl, Circuit Judge.
six-day trial, a federal jury convicted co-defendants Doris
Morel and Erika Tomasino of conspiracy and multiple
fraud-related counts based on their participation in a
multi-year tax-return fraud scheme. Each was sentenced to
three years in prison. On appeal, Morel challenges her
conviction with only a Batson jury claim. Tomasino
adopts Morel's Batson claim and raises four
claims of her own, described later. We affirm both
September 17, 2015 a grand jury indicted Juan Vasquez, Belkis
Vasquez, Doris Morel, and Erika Tomasino for conspiracy,
theft of government property, mail fraud, money laundering,
and aggravated identity theft, for their participation in an
extensive scheme primarily run from a grocery store in
Pawtucket, Rhode Island called the "Dominican
Market." We provide an overview of the scheme and
specify Morel's and Tomasino's alleged roles,
reciting the evidence in the light most favorable to the
verdict. United States v. Van Horn, 277 F.3d 48, 50
(1st Cir. 2002) (citing United States v. Escobar-de
Jesus, 187 F.3d 148, 157 (1st Cir. 1999)).
2010 and 2014, about 450 fraudulent or stolen U.S. Treasury
tax refund checks, amounting to over $2.6 million, were
deposited into bank accounts under Juan Vasquez's or his
co-conspirators' control. The vast majority of the
refunds were procured from bogus federal tax returns, which
used the names and social security numbers of real U.S.
citizens residing in Puerto Rico. The returns listed false
addresses in the Northeast, from which the conspirators would
retrieve the refund checks once delivered. The conspirators
then endorsed the checks by forging the payees'
signatures, and deposited them into shell bank accounts. To
camouflage their illicit activity, the conspirators
concurrently deposited legitimate paychecks from customers of
the Dominican Market, Juan Vasquez's grocery store.
was employed at the Dominican Market for over ten years in a
variety of positions, including secretary, bookkeeper, and
cashier. At work, Tomasino would receive faxes with the
names, social security numbers, and dates of birth of other
persons, and would send the information to Juan Vasquez's
office. In 2011, multiple tax refund checks were mailed to
Tomasino's residence and an adjacent mailbox. Between
2013 and 2014, Tomasino deposited and paid others to deposit
twenty refunds, totaling almost $150, 000, alongside
legitimate Dominican Market customer checks, into bank
accounts under her control. Then, again both personally and
through others, Tomasino made withdrawals from those
accounts, as well as transfers to an account under
Vasquez's control. Tomasino received a one-percent cut
from Vasquez for cashing the Treasury checks.
involvement in the scheme was similar. Like Tomasino, Morel
was a longstanding Dominican Market employee. She worked at
the cash register and also cashed customer checks. Morel used
her own residence and nearby addresses to pick up the tax
refund checks generated by the fraudulent scheme. She then
deposited the refunds alongside legitimate Dominican Market
checks into accounts under her control, and later withdrew
Vasquez, the head of the operation, and his sister Belkis,
pled guilty. Juan was sentenced to six years in prison, and
Belkis to three years of probation. Neither of them testified
at Morel and Tomasino's trial.
and Tomasino pled not guilty. In September 2016, at the close
of their six-day joint trial, they were each convicted of all
but one of the charges against them. In March 2017, they were
each sentenced to three years in prison. Morel and Tomasino
separately appealed their convictions, and their appeals were
The Batson Challenges
seeks reversal of her convictions on the basis of a
Batson challenge, see Batson v. Kentucky,
476 U.S. 79 (1986), which Tomasino adopts and incorporates
into her own ...