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United States v. Crinel

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 19, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
LISA CRINEL, ET AL.

         SECTION: “E” (2)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          SUSIE MORGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         After the submission of this case to the jury on May 5, 2017, Defendant Barnes moved for an acquittal with respect to Count 47 of the Second Superseding Indictment pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29.[1] Defendant Barnes argues the Government did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt the jurisdictional element under Count 47, Obstruction of a Federal Audit pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1516. The Government objects to Defendant Barnes' Rule 29 motion.[2] For the following reasons, Defendant Barnes' motion for judgment of acquittal as to Count 47 is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         On April 10, 2017, this criminal matter proceeded to a trial by jury with respect to Defendants Shelton Barnes, Henry Evans, Michael Jones, Paula Jones, Gregory Molden and Jonathon Nora. After a trial lasting approximately five weeks, the jury returned verdicts on May 9, 2017.[3] Of importance to Defendant Barnes' motion at issue in this Order, the Jury unanimously found Defendant Shelton Barnes guilty as to Count 47, Obstruction of a Federal Audit, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1516 and 2.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         I. 18 U.S.C. § 1516

         Section 1516 of Title 18 of the United States Code reads:

Whoever, with intent to deceive or defraud the United States, endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impeded a Federal auditor in the performance of official duties relating to a person, entity, or program receiving in excess of $100, 000, directly or indirectly, from the United States in any 1 year period under a contract or subcontract, grant, or cooperative agreement … shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.[4]

         II. Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29

         A motion for judgment of acquittal under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 “is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain a conviction.”[5] When considering the sufficiency of the evidence, the court must determine whether “a rational jury, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, could have found the essential elements of the offense to be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt.”[6] The court determines “only whether the jury made a rational decision, not whether its verdict was correct on the issue of guilt or innocence.”[7] “[I]f the fact finder was presented with sufficient evidence to support the verdict reached, that verdict must be upheld.”[8] “All reasonable inferences which tend to support the Government's case must be accepted. Any conflicts in the evidence must be resolved in the Government's favor.”[9]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Defendant Barnes argues that in order to find him guilty of Count 47, the Government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he received in excess of $100, 000 from the government in any one-year period.[10] Barnes argues the Government failed to prove this jurisdictional threshold and that, although the Government may have proven that he received total funds in excess of $100, 000 during the six-year period of the indictment, the Government did not prove he received in excess of $100, 000 in any one year.[11] Further, Defendant Barnes argues that, even if his interpretation of the statute is not correct, the statute is ambiguous as to the jurisdictional requirement and pursuant to the rule of lenity, his motion must be granted.[12]

         The Government argues that Defendant Barnes' interpretation that the statute's jurisdictional figure applies only to the end-recipients of federal funds, not to individuals, entities, or programs, such as Medicare, is incorrect.[13] The Government further argues that to satisfy its burden on the $100, 000 jurisdictional element, the United States originally intended to call a witness to introduce business records and contracts showing that Pinnacle Business Solutions, Inc. (“Pinnacle”), a wholly owned subsidiary of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield (“ABCBS”), was contracted to administer Medicare Part B in Louisiana in 2011.[14] According to the Government, the parties later entered into a stipulation obviating the Government's witness's testimony.[15] The parties stipulated that, “between January 26, 2011, and April 27, 2011, Pinnacle Business Solutions, Inc., was a Federal auditor in ...


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