Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Morel

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

March 16, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
DORIS MOREL; ERIKA TOMASINO; Defendants, Appellants.

         APPEALS 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.

          Judith 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.

          Donald C. Lockhart, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Stephen G. Dambruch, Acting United States Attorney, was on brief, for appellee.

          Before Lynch, Circuit Judge, Souter, Associate Justice, [*] and Stahl, Circuit Judge.

          LYNCH, Circuit Judge.

         After a 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 defendants' convictions.

         I.

         On 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)).

         Between 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.

         Tomasino 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.

         Morel's 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 the funds.

         Juan 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.

         Morel 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 consolidated.

         II.

         A. The Batson Challenges

         Morel 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.