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United States v. Rodolitz

March 17, 1986

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ABRAHAM J. RODOLITZ, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, after a jury trial before John E. Sprizzo, Judge, convicting defendant of three counts of mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341 and one count of tampering with a witness in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512. Affirmed.

Author: Coffrin

Before: NEWMAN and WINTER, Circuit Judges, and COFFRIN, Chief District Judge.*fn*

COFFRIN, District Judge:

Defendant Abraham J. Rodolitz appeal from a judgment of conviction entered in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (John E. Sprizzo, Judge) on March 27, 1985. The jury convicted Rodolitz of three counts of mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341 and one count of tampering with a witness in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512. The case arises out of defendant's allegedly fraudulent scheme to conceal from the Massachusetts Bay Insurance Company his involvement in the repair of a damaged roof on one of his own buildings. In addition, the defendant allegedly attempted to persuade a witness to lie before a federal grand jury. On appeal, Rodolitz contends, inter alia, that the government presented insufficient evidence to establish either mail fraud or tampering with a witness. He also alleges that assorted trial defects constitute reversible error. For the reasons stated below, we affirm both convictions.

I. BACKGROUND

In late 1976, a windstorm damaged the roof of a commercial building owned by Oak Point Industrial Park, Inc. ("Oak Point"). Rodolitz owned Oak Point and, through the Massachusetts Bay Insurance Company, had insured the building against damage.

After the building was damaged, Rodolitz initiated a fraudulent plan designated to inflate the recovery of the claim against the insurance company. To accomplish this, either Rodolitz or one of his associates set up bank accounts in the name of one of several business entities. These businesses include Bolla Supply Company ("Bolla Supply"), Lawrence Roofing and Sheet Metal Company ("Lawrence Roofing"), and Tubular Products Manufacturing Company. Rodolitz also maintained an account in the name of Zeroy Industrial and Distribution Corporation ("Zeroy") which became active in this plan. Rodolitz, himself or through his associates, transferred funds between these corporations in an effort to create an appearance of legitimate transactions in roofing supplies and services between the businesses. According to the documents evincing the purported transactions, Rodolitz hired Lawrence Roofing and Zeroy to repair the roof on the Oak Point building. Lawrence Roofing and Zeroy then purportedly purchased from Bolla Supply the supplies necessary to perform the job. In fact, Rodolitz owned or controlled all the businesses and merely transferred money, materials and services between different branches of those businesses to give the illusion of arm's length transactions.

After using this method to establish a paper trail, Rodolitz filed a claim with the Massachusetts Bay Insurance Company for the $1,248,000 he asserts he expended in repairing the roof. He did not, however, reveal his connection to the companies purportedly involved in the repair. After the insurance company declined to pay the claimed amount, Oak Point sued the company in a New York state court and received a jury verdict of $1,226,241.39.*fn1 At no point, however, did Rodolitz reveal to the jury in that case that all money expended on the repair eventually returned to him.

During the course of the civil suit against the insurance company, Rodolitz caused the mails to be used on three separate occasions to further his attempt to recover the $1,248,000 from the insurance company.

After Rodolitz learned that a federal grand jury was investigating his activities in connection with his claim under the insurance policy, he attempted to persuade one Seymour Blutstein to lie in certain significant respects about Bolla Supply. At Rodolitz's request, Blutstein had fronted for Bolla Supply. He opened a bank account indicating through the Certificate of Doing Business that he was engaged in dealing in building material and supplies under that trade name. He deposited checks furnished by Rodolitz in the account and made withdrawals, as Rodolitz directed, to other payee business entities created by Rodolitz. Blutstein, granted immunity by the government, eventually refused to tell the story which Rodolitz had requested even though initially he had advised Rodolitz he would do so.

II. DISCUSSION

Rodolitz claims on appeal that the government offered insufficient evidence as a matter of law to convict him of mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341, or of witness tampering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512. It is well established that the reviewing court must sustain the jury verdict in a criminal case if, "viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Government, any rational trier of facts could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." United States v. LeRoy, 687 F.2d 610, 616 (2d Cir. 1982)(citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 61 L. Ed. 2d 560, 99 S. Ct. 2781 (1979)), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1174, 103 S. Ct. 823, 74 L. Ed. 2d 1019 (1983). Defendant, therefore, bears a very heavy burden. United States v. Carson, 702 F.2d 351, 361 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 462 U.S. 1108, 103 S. Ct. 2456, 77 L. Ed. 2d 1335 (1983).

We find that the defendant clearly failed to meet his heavy burden with regard to the three mail fraud convictions. The government presented ample evidence from which a jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant conducted a scheme to defraud and the use of the mails in furtherance thereof. Although a closer question, we also find that the record provides sufficient ...


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