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United States v. Nersesian

decided: June 29, 1987.


Appeal from judgments of conviction entered in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Sprizzo, J.), convicting appellants of various narcotics and related offenses after a jury trial. Affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Author: Pierce


PIERCE, Circuit Judge:

This appeal presents numerous issues--some susceptible of summary disposition, others more complex--raised by defendants, who, together with others, were charged and convicted of participating in a large-scale conspiracy to import heroin from the Middle East and to distribute it in the United States. Some issues apply to appellants as a group, others apply only to individual appellants. We set forth so much of the factual background as is necessary for an understanding of this appeal.


Appellants Murad Nersesian, Elias Abdouch, Hassan Abdul Kader Maktabi, Peter Pazienza, Abdallah Georges Machaalani, Hani Fraih, Antwan Abdouch, Ayman S. Rabadi, Nedam Annabi, Dennis Meade, Maysoun Annabi, and Sami Annabi appeal their judgments of conviction in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Sprizzo, Judge), entered after a jury trial which lasted more than five months. On March 15, 1985, the government filed an indictment charging a total of thirty-six defendants with violations of narcotics laws and related offenses in twenty-eight counts. The charges against five defendants were severed, and some of these defendants were tried separately from the appealing defendants. Some defendants were not tried because they were never apprehended. Charges against others were not prosecuted either because the charges were dismissed or because defendants negotiated pleas of guilty and entered into cooperation agreements with the government. This appeal addresses twenty-two counts of the indictment which related to sixteen defendants, twelve of whom are the appellants presently before us.*fn1

Trial began on September 12, 1985 and concluded on February 19, 1986, when the jury returned its final verdict. The following are the dispositions of the various charges against appellants. All appellants on this appeal were convicted of conspiracy to distribute heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841. All appellants were also convicted of conspiracy to import heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 963, 952, 955, and 960, with the exception of Sami Annabi, who was not charged, and Nedam Annabi, against whom the charge was dismissed. Sami Annabi was convicted of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 848. Sami Annabi, Nedam Annabi, and Murad Nersesian were found guilty of substantive narcotics offenses in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 812 and 841--Dennis Meade was acquitted. Sami Annabi was convicted on two counts of using a telephone to facilitate narcotics offenses, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 843(b)--he and Murad Nersesian were found not guilty on two counts. Sami Annabi was convicted of one count of illegal receipt of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(h). Two counts charging Sami Annabi and Murad Nersesian with carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924, were dismissed. Hassan Abdul Kader Maktabi was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to conceal material facts by causing a bank not to file currency transaction reports, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. One count charging Maktabi with unlawful transportation of monetary instruments in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 5322(a) was dismissed. The charges for which each defendant was indicted, the dispositions of those charges, and the sentences imposed are also set forth in an appendix to this opinion.

The indictment charged and the evidence at trial showed the existence of a large-scale, loosely organized conspiracy to import heroin from the Middle East and a conspiracy to distribute it in the United States, particularly in the New York metropolitan area. Thus, while actually two separate conspiracies were charged and are therefore the subject of our concern, because both covered the same time frame and involved mainly the same defendants, for convenience we refer to both of these conspiracies principally as a single conspiracy to import and distribute heroin, except where the context makes clear otherwise. While we do not recount in detail the evidence adduced against each appellant, we consider it necessary to provide a broad overview of the conspiracy and a brief description of the role each appellant played in the scheme as demonstrated by the evidence.

The government's evidence consisted primarily of several accomplice witnesses who testified for the government, numerous wiretap conversations, and reports of physical surveillance by several government agents. In addition, the government introduced introduced expert testimony about the meaning of certain wiretap conversations, as well as other documentary evidence. Four of the defendants testified in their own defense.

The evidence revealed that the conspiracy began around mid-1982 when Sami Annabi approached Basil Cannata, an accomplice who testified for the government at trial, and Anthony P. Restaino, a post-verdict fugitive, for assistance in financing a trip to the Middle East to pick up heroin. Further, with the assistance of Cannata and Restaino, Sami Annabi was able to arrange for the importation of several kilograms of heroin. Restaino, however, was later dropped from the ring, after the others concluded that he had taken advantage of them by offering too low a price for some of this heroin.

On November 23, 1982, Sami Annabi and his brother, Nedam Annabi, were arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport while attempting to smuggle into the United States in excess of four kilograms of heroin with an average purity of eighty percent. At that time, both Sami and Nedam Annabi were charged in the Eastern District of New York with conspiracy to import heroin into the United States, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 963, with the substantive offense of importing heroin into the United States, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 952(a), and with possession of heroin with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Pursuant to an agreement with the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York, both pleaded guilty on February 4, 1983 to the importation count, and the remaining counts were dismissed at the time of sentencing. As a result of his agreement to cooperate with the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") and the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York in assisting them in connection with other drug cases and his subsequent testimony for the government in three Southern District cases in 1984, Sami Annabi's original sentence of incarceration, like that of his brother, Nedam Annabi, was eventually reduced to probation.

Nevertheless, despite his arrest and agreement to cooperate with the DEA, Sami Annabi continued his heroin trafficking even while purportedly cooperating with the government. At trial, it was the government's theory that Sami Annabi and Cannata remained at the center of the drug importation operation but called upon other members of the conspiracy to take a more active role in its functioning. What follows is a brief description of the roles played by the other co-conspirators, according to the government's theory of the case.

Three suppliers in Syria, Hassan Abdul Kader Maktabi, Abu Hamadah, and Sirop Siropian constituted the source for most of the heroin delivered to Annabi. Abdallah Georges Machaalani, who lived in Boston and was also involved in the importation of heroin, served as an occasional source for Sami Annabi.

In carrying out his narcotics dealings, Sami Annabi was aided by various members of his family, namely, his wife, Maysoun Annabi, his brother, Nedam Annabi, and two of his brothers-in-law, Rayman S. Rabadi and Hani Fraih. Family members assisted in different ways. For instance, government witnesses testified, inter alia, that Maysoun Annabi traveled to Syria following Sami Annabi's 1982 arrest to maintain contact with a supplier and that she was involved in handling money relating to narcotics transactions; that Nedam Annabi was said to have worked on the distribution side of the conspiracy, selling heroin on a number of occasions; that Rabadi, Maysoun Annabi's brother, on one occasion assisted Cannata in picking up heroin brought into the country by couriers posing as sky marshals of Alia, the Royal Jordanian Airlines; and that Hani Fraih assisted Sami Annabi by traveling to Syria with money sewn into his coat for delivery to a supplier, by storing money in his apartment and a safe deposit box on behalf of Annabi, and by keeping a scale which belonged to Annabi in his apartment.

In addition to the Jordanian sky marshals, Angeel Abdouch, who was never apprehended, together with her son Antwan Abdouch, and her ex-husband, Elias Abdouch, were active as couriers for the Annabi conspiracy.

Both Cannata and, later, Sami Annabi himself were involved in distributing the imported heroin. Dennis Meade and Peter Pazienza assisted them on occasion by attempting to find customers for the heroin. There was testimony that Nedam Annabi and Rabadi also participated in the distribution or sale of heroin. Murad Nersesian was a customer of imported heroin. On one occasion he bought 1,300 grams of heroin from Cannata and Nedam Annabi for a price of $190,000.

All appellants except Nedam Annabi were arrested on December 18, 1984, or shortly thereafter. At that time, $138,000 in cash was found in a safe deposit box which Hani Fraih had rented with Maysoun Annabi, and another $50,050 was found in a suitcase in Hani Fraih's apartment. Approximately nine grams of heroin were found in Rabadi's residence. In addition, drug paraphernalia, records, photographs, and other evidence were seized.

Having briefly described the general functioning of the conspiracy, we now turn to a discussion of the various issues raised by this appeal.


I. Single or Multiple Conspiracy

Appellants contend that the trial evidence taken as a whole does not support the jury's verdict that there existed a conspiracy to import heroin and a conspiracy to distribute heroin, which we have referred to as a single conspiracy to import and distribute heroin. Rather, appellants argue, the evidence showed no conspiracy at all, or at most, the existence of multiple, smaller conspiracies to import and distribute heroin. For the reasons hereafter stated, we disagree.

We recently reaffirmed the oft-stated principle that "the issue of single versus multiple conspiracies is one which is committed to the province of a properly instructed jury." United States v. Calbas, 821 F.2d 887, slip op. 3287, 3297 (2d Cir. 1987); accord United States v. Teitler, 802 F.2d 606, 616 (2d Cir. 1986); United States v. Cambindo Valencia, 609 F.2d 603, 625 (2d Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 446 U.S. 940, 100 S. Ct. 2163, 64 L. Ed. 2d 795 (1980). In a charge tailored to the facts of this case, the district court instructed the jury on the issue of single versus multiple conspiracies, stressing specifically that "proof of separate conspiracies would not be sufficient to meet the government's burden on [the conspiracy counts]." Appellants do not claim error in the trial court's instruction, and we perceive of none. Accordingly, we turn to an examination of the evidence to see if it was sufficient to support the jury's finding that a single conspiracy existed as to the relevant counts. United States v. Heinemann, 801 F.2d 86, 91 (2d Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1094, 107 S. Ct. 1308, 94 L. Ed. 2d 163 (1987).

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government and construing all permissible inferences in its favor, as we must, 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 conclude that there was ample evidence to support the jury's finding. The jury reasonably could have inferred from the evidence that there existed over a period of time a single conspiracy to import and distribute heroin consisting of core members who organized and oversaw the importation and distribution, family assistants, interconnected suppliers in the Middle East, couriers who actually transported the heroin, and local redistributors and customers who purchased quantities of heroin. See United States v. Bynum, 485 F.2d 490, 495-497 (2d Cir. 1973), vacated and remanded on other grounds, 417 U.S. 903, 94 S. Ct. 2598, 41 L. Ed. 2d 209 (1974). See generally Cambindo Valencia, 609 F.2d at 622-625 (collecting cases involving single conspiracies.

Appellants Pazienza and Nersesian argue that the evidence showed three separate and distinct conspiracies. In their view, one extended form the initial 1982 agreement between Sami Annabi, Cannata, and Restaino and concluded when Restaino was dropped from the conspiracy. A second conspiracy began with Sami Annabi's and Cannata's agreement with the sky marshals to import heroin, involved a supplier in Union City and someone known as 'Davey' in Boston, and ended when Sami Annabi purportedly began cooperating with the DEA. A third conspiracy began on an unspecified date and ended with appellants' arrests. However, "a single conspiracy is not transposed into a multiple one simply by lapse of time, change in membership, or a shifting emphasis on its local of operations." Cambindo Valencia, 609 F.2d at 625. The jury need not have concluded that the same people were involved throughout the entire period of the conspiracy in order to find one conspiracy. The jury reasonably could have concluded that some members of the conspiracy charged participated throughout the entire period of the conspiracy, while others were involved in its early stages, and still others became involved in its late stages.

Sami Annabi argues that the evidence reveals instances of distrust, anger, and argument among appellants which are inconsistent with a single enterprise. However, it is not at all uncommon for disagreements to occur in a common enterprise. That conspirators may have problems or difficulties in dealing with one another which result in angry accusations or heated discussions does not necessarily negate the existence of a single conspiracy. See Heinemann, 801 F.2d at 92. The jury could have believed that any acrimony exhibited among the conspirators simply related to the common business of the single conspiracy charged.

II. Joinder

Several appellants claim that the district court improperly denied their motions for severance. Generally, a motion to sever is addressed to the sound exercise of the trial court's discretion. United States v. Arocena, 778 F.2d 943, 949 (2d Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1053, 106 S. Ct. 1281, 89 L. Ed. 2d 588 (1986). A district court's denial of a motion to sever will be reversed only upon a showing of a clear abuse of discretion. United States v. Cody, 722 F.2d 1052, 1061 (2d Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 467 U.S. 1226, 81 L. Ed. 2d 873, 104 S. Ct. 2678 (1984). To establish such an abuse an appellant must successfully bear "the heavy burden of showing that he suffered substantial prejudice due to the joint trial, amounting to a miscarriage of justice." United States v. Bari, 750 F.2d 1169, 1177 (2d Cir. 1984) (citations omitted), cert. denied, 472 U.S. 1019, 105 S. Ct. 3482, 87 L. Ed. 2d 617 (1985).

Nevertheless, the appellant's heavy burden notwithstanding, we are not unaware of the dangers of prejudice inherent in large conspiracy trials. In cases where many defendants are tried at one under a single conspiracy theory, we continue to stress the importance of the district court's giving special cautionary instructions, as was done herein, to ensure that each individual defendant receives a fair trial based on the charges and evidence fairly attributable to him.

Bearing this in mind, we turn to an examination of appellants' specific claims. Those appellants who played relatively lesser roles in the conspiracy, such as appellants Pazienza, Nersesian, and Machaalani, claim that the evidence offered against them was minimal in comparison to that offered against other defendants, and that therefore they were exposed to testimony that did not relate directly to them. This exposure, they argue, created a prejudicial spillover effect such that the jury did not focus on the evidence that concerned only them. However, as noted, see section I, supra, the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's conclusion that all defendants participated in a single conspiracy. The government was therefore entitled to show the entire range of evidence of the conspiracy against each appellant. We are unaware of any evidence offered to prove conspiracy that was admitted at the joint trial which would have been inadmissible at an individual trial. See United States v. Cunningham, 723 F.2d 217, 230 (2d Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 466 U.S. 951, 80 L. Ed. 2d 540, 104 S. Ct. 2154 (1984). That one appellant's role in the conspiracy may have been smaller or less central than that of certain other co-conspirators does not mandate a separate trial. United States v. Vega, 458 F.2d 1234, 1236 (2d Cir. 1972), cert. denied, 410 U.S. 982, 93 S. Ct. 1494, 36 L. Ed. 2d 177 (1973). As we have previously said, "differences in degree of guilt and possibly degree of notoriety" of defendants do not require that there be separate trials. United States v. Aloi, 511 F.2d 585, 598 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 1015, 96 S. Ct. 447, 46 L. Ed. 2d 386 (1975).

Sami Annabi's objections to the joint trial present us with an interesting variation of a claim of prejudicial spillover. More often than not, the issue of severance arises in cases where a defendant fears that strong evidence against co-defendants may have spillover effect against him. In this case, however, Sami Annabi claims spillover prejudice because the evidence directly involving him was stronger than the evidence directly involving the other defendants. Sami Annabi acknowledges that he was the centerpiece of the government's conspiracy claim, the one alleged to be the mastermind of the importation and distribution network. Such being the case, Annabi claims that other defense counsel, and on occasion even the court, assumed his guilt and spoke and conducted themselves based on that assumption. In sum, Annabi argues that "it was impossible for [him] to obtain a fair trial in the face of the prejudicial joinder which created a near irrebuttable presumption of his guilt."

We acknowledge that a defendant properly joined at the start of a trial may have to be severed during trial to protect adequately against spillover prejudice. A district court has a continuing duty to protect a defendant from substantial prejudice resulting from improper joinder and to consider whether severance is necessary. See Cambindo Valencia, 609 F.2d at 629. However, there is no per se rule that when evidence against a defendant is strong, severance is mandated. It would be an anomalous rule that would allow joinder of a defendant where evidence against him is considered weak and he fears prejudicial spillover but that would not permit joinder where evidence against that defendant is considered strong. In either instance, the test remains the same, whether the prejudice resulting from joinder is sufficiently great to mandate severance in order to assure a fair trial. In this case, there is little doubt that the government's evidence against Sami Annabi is strong. However, we do not believe a showing has been made of prejudice so substantial that it can be said that a "miscarriage of justice" resulted, Bari, 750 F.2d at 1177.

We have carefully reviewed all the instances cited by Sami Annabi which he asserts support his claims of prejudice. Most of these instances relate to references in which either the court or defense counsel mentioned the abundant evidence against Sami Annabi in the course of argument on various motions outside the presence of the jury. As for remarks that were made in the presence of the jury, in our view, they fall far short of demonstrating the necessary prejudice that would require severance. For instance, Annabi claims that during the opening statements of defense counsel, one attorney stated that "the evidence will be overwhelming" and another referred to "strong evidence," but both emphasized that the evidence did not pertain to their clients. Neither attorney mentioned Sami Annabi by name nor in any way implied that they were referring to him. On said, "as against some people . . . the evidence will be overwhelming;" the other said, there may be "strong evidence against certain suspects." Other examples of prejudice cited by Annabi are similarly without merit. On two occasions during the questioning of the expert witness, Nolan, see section IV, infra, the court asked Nolan to state the basis of his (Nolan's) opinion that Annabi was dealing in heroin; contrary to Annabi's assertion, the court did not imply that it agreed with that opinion. On other occasions defense counsel, cross-examining Sami Annabi, referred to Annabi's cocaine usage, however, such usage was entirely consistent with Annabi's defense that part of his conduct could be explained by reference to his personal cocaine usage. Accordingly, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Sami Annabi's and the other appellants' motions for severance.

III. Admission of the Wiretap Evidence

The government introduced into evidence numerous transcriptions of conversations intercepted via wiretaps. The wiretap evidence, taken together with expert testimony which interpreted it, see section IV, infra, was a crucial element of the government's case. Appellants, and specifically Sami Annabi, claim that the wiretap evidence was improperly admitted.

Sami Annabi first challenges the admission into evidence of conversations intercepted over the phones of Saverio Schifano and Rafaela Soto, co-conspirators who pleaded guilty to the charges brought against them. Initially, we note that no appellant has standing to contest the Schifano and Soto wiretaps because no appellant was named in the wiretap orders, and none of appellants' conversations were intercepted over these wiretaps. United States v. Salerno, 794 F.2d 64, 70 (2d Cir. 1986), rev'd on other grounds, 481 U.S. 739, 107 S. Ct. 2095, 95 L. Ed. 2d 697, (1987); United States v. Fury, 554 F.2d 522, 525-26 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 433 U.S. 910, 53 L. Ed. 2d 1095, 97 S. Ct. 2978 (1977). Although Sami Annabi was listed in an order which extended the Schifano wiretap, he does not point to, nor are we aware of any information resulting from that extension order which was introduced into evidence.

Moreover, even assuming arguendo that appellants do have standing to contest the validity of the Schifano and Soto wiretap orders, their objections are without merit. The applications for the Schifano and Soto wiretaps set forth in detail the limitations of other investigative techniques thereby meeting the requirements of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2518(1)(c) and (3)(c). Furthermore, the district court's carefully considered conclusion, with which we agree, that the wiretaps were properly obtained is entitled to deference by a reviewing court. See United States v. Wilkinson, 754 F.2d 1427, 1433 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 472 U.S. 1019, 105 S. Ct. 3482, 87 L. Ed. 2d 617 (1985). Annabi's complaint that the issuing judge was not adequately apprised of Annabi's suspected involvement in the conspiracy, as required by 18 U.S.C. § 2518(1)(b) and (e), was not raised in the district court and is therefore waived. See United States v. Lanza, 790 F.2d 1015, 1021 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 861, 107 S. Ct. 211, 93 L. Ed. 2d 141, (1986). Finally, Annabi's complaints that the government did not properly comply with the wiretap sealing requirements, 18 U.S.C. § 2518(8)(a), are without merit. The initial Schifano wiretap order expired on October 13, 1984, whereupon further interception was interrupted until October 17 when an extension order was issued. The government's submission of the tapes from the initial wiretap on October 17, four days after the expiration of the initial order, was timely because sealing is required only after "the expiration of the period of the order, or extensions thereof," 18 U.S.C. § 2518(8)(a) (emphasis added). The brief gap between the termination of the first wiretap order and the issuance of the second does not prevent the latter from being an extension of the former. See United States v. Vazquez, 605 F.2d 1269, 1277-78 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 981, 62 L. Ed. 2d 408, 100 S. Ct. 484 (1979). Also, § 2518(8)(a), which requires the issuing judge to seal any recordings obtained pursuant to a wiretap order, was not violated simply because the Schifano wiretap recordings were submitted for sealing to a judge (Judge Sand) other than the issuing judge (Judge Wyatt). Judge Wyatt signed the initial Schifano wiretap order "at Part I in the absence of Judge Sand attending the Judicial Conference" and requested that all further matters relating to the wiretap be submitted to Judge Sand. Under these circumstances, the sealing was proper. See Vazquez, 605 F.2d at 1280 n.25.

Sami Annabi also challenges the validity of the wiretap that was placed on his own telephone. That wiretap, which was placed pursuant to a New York State court order obtained on October 19, 1984 and extended twice thereafter, authorized both state and federal agents to engage in interception of conversations under those orders. Annabi's principal contention on appeal is that the government did not properly establish probable cause.

The standard of probable cause for the issuance of a wiretap "is the same as the standard for a regular search warrant." Fury, 554 F.2d at 530. "'Only the probability, and not a prima facie showing, of criminal activity is the standard of probable cause.'" Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 235, 76 L. Ed. 2d 527, 103 S. Ct. 2317 (1983) (quoting Spinelli v. United States, 393 U.S. 410, 419, 21 L. Ed. 2d 637, 89 S. Ct. 584 (1969)). A determination of probable cause, which is generally paid great deference by reviewing courts, will be upheld as long as there existed a substantial basis for a magistrate or judge to conclude that a search would uncover evidence of wrongdoing. Id. at 236.

Probable cause for the wiretap on Annabi's telephone was established from several sources. The government's affidavit in support if its application for a wiretap order included, among other evidence, that the New York State authorities had information from one Gerry Mullahey who told them that he had been present at Sami Annabi's residence when Joseph Vataj and Sami Annabi were handling a garbage bag full of heroin. In addition, a wiretap placed on Vataj's phone revealed a series of telephone calls between Annabi and Vataj in which they arranged meetings. Mullahey had told the state police that the purpose of these meetings was to discuss or transact drug deals. Moreover, the application also recounted Schifano's heroin sale to an undercover agent and summarized a series of narcotics-related calls leading up to a meeting between Schifano and Cannata to discuss a heroin deal, after which Cannata was observed driving directly to Sami Annabi's residence. In our view, these facts provided the state court with more than a substantial basis to conclude that a wiretap on Annabi's telephone would uncover evidence of wrongdoing. Gates, 462 U.S. at 236.

We need not address Annabi's claims that the government violated a cooperation agreement Annabi had entered into with the DEA by relying in its affidavit on testimony Annabi had provided as a cooperating witness in other drug cases in which he acknowledged importing heroin on a number of occasions in 1982 and 1983. Pursuant to the cooperation agreement, the government agreed that anything Annabi told the government would not be used against him so long as the information and testimony he provided was full and complete and he ceased his drug dealing. Eve if Annabi's statements were improperly included in the government's affidavit, nevertheless, the remaining information, considered independently, plainly established probable cause. See United States v. Ferguson, 758 F.2d 843, 849 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 841, 106 S. Ct. 124, 88 L. Ed. 2d 102 and 106 S. Ct. 592 (1985).

Annabi also claims that there was insufficient evidence to establish probable cause to support the Vataj wiretap order pursuant to which information used in the Annabi wiretap application was obtained. We disagree. That application contained evidence, inter alia, that a confidential informant working with the state police, who had previously provided reliable information, had called Vataj and had a series of narcotics-related conversations, some concerning cocaine. Moreover, some of these calls were consensually recorded and the state police independently determined them to be narcotics-related, thus obviating any need to rely on the informant's credibility.

Finally, Sami Annabi argues that the minimization requirements of 18 U.S.C. § 2815(5) were not followed with respect to the wiretap on his phone, thus causing many clearly innocent calls, often involving husband and wife, to be intercepted. Sami Annabi's motion attacking the efforts to minimize the interception of nonpertinent conversations over his telephone as inadequate was not made until well after the conclusion of the trial and was properly rejected by the district court as untimely. See, e.g., United States v. Jimenez, 789 F.2d 167, 169-70 (2d Cir. 1986). Moreover, other defendants' timely pretrial suppression motions on minimization grounds were carefully considered by the district court and rejected on the merits. That determination appears to be proper when considered in light of the factors set forth in Scott v. United States, 436 U.S. 128, 140-41, 56 L. Ed. 2d 168, 98 S. Ct. 1717 (1978), for assessing whether surveillance agents acted reasonably in minimizing intercepted conversations. The instant case involved factors such as the presence of ambiguous or coded language, a conspiracy thought to be widespread, and the fact that the phone tapped was located in the residence of a person thought to be the head of a major drug ring, all of which tend to justify extensive surveillance. We cannot conclude that in monitoring the intercepted conversations, the investigators did not "observe reasonable safeguards against excessive intrusion," United States v. Terry, 702 F.2d 299, 312 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 461 U.S. 931, 103 S. Ct. 2095, 77 L. Ed. 2d 304 (1983), such as to amount to a violation of the minimization requirement.

IV. Expert Testimony

As noted above, part of the government's trial evidence consisted of the introduction of numerous intercepted telephone conversations. The government contended that these conversations contained coded language which was related to narcotics. In support of this contention, the government called, as the final witness in its case-in-chief, DEA agent John Nolan to testify as an expert concerning the meaning of various wiretap conversations. The district court found that Agent Nolan was qualified to testify as an expert regarding drug codes on the basis of his fifteen years of drug investigatory experience, which included participation in 125 wiretap investigations, one of which involved Arabic-language conversations. Prior to testifying in this case, Agent Nolan had already been qualified at least three times as an expert on the use of codes by narcotics traffickers.

On direct-examination, Agent Nolan, who had read most of the voluminous English transcripts of tape recordings that had been played for the jury but had not actually listened to the Arabic tapes themselves, drew upon his specialized knowledge and experience to explain patterns of speech and language that, in his experience, narcotics dealers commonly use in the conversations. For instance, he pointed out that caution, pauses, excessive use of pronouns, and the participants' apparent knowledge of what they were talking about were indicia that could be relied upon in assessing whether a conversation was drug-related. He also identified certain key words or phrases used in certain intercepted conversations as narcotics-related. For instance, he testified that, depending on the context, words such as cheese, land, room, house, car, horse, and stick-shift, could carry a hidden meaning related to narcotics. The district court specifically directed that Agent Nolan limit his testimony to an analysis of the telephone calls, without reference to other evidence in the case. Accordingly, on direct-examination, Agent Nolan phrased his testimony in terms of whether a conversation was "narcotics-related" or "cocaine-related," except in those cases in which intrinsic evidence, such as prices mentioned by the conversants, established the topic of conversation to be heroin.

On cross-examination, Agent Nolan was asked numerous questions by defense counsel that referred specifically to heroin or cocaine and was called upon to identify which of those two drugs was the topic of certain conversations. Responding to such questions, Agent Nolan stated his opinion that certain of the conversations about which he was asked related specifically to heroin. During the third day of cross-examination, the district court intervened to restrict Nolan's testimony. The district court determined that Nolan's responses as to what type of narcotics a code referred to went beyond the fair scope of Nolan's expertise. The judge stated, "I think he can only testify that [a code] is narcotics related . . . I think this witness is usurping the jury's function if he says, based upon all the evidence in the case, all the conversations he read, Annabi was selling heroin and therefore these conversations relate to heroin." The judge limited cross-examination accordingly, and instructed the jury strictly and at length that the jury could consider the expert testimony only as it related to the use and interpretation of codes in narcotics-related transactions, but not, except in those instances in which price or some other peculiar indicia of the specific narcotics was mentioned, as to what drug, heroin or cocaine, was involved. Defense motions for a mistrial and to strike Nolan's entire testimony were denied by the district court.

Appellants now contend that Agent Nolan's testimony was unduly prejudicial. Specifically, they argue that even assuming there was enough evidence to show that defendants engaged in activities involving narcotics, there was insufficient evidence to establish that the drug involved was heroin, as charged in the indictment, and not some other substance. Agent Nolan's opinion testimony that defendants were speaking specifically of heroin went to an element of the government's case, proof of which, in appellant's view, was clearly deficient, making his testimony fatally prejudicial. We do not agree.

It is well settled that the decision whether to admit expert testimony under Fed. R. Evid. 702 is vested in the broad discretion of the trial court, and that decision will be sustained unless manifestly erroneous. United States v. Cruz, 797 F.2d 90, 96 (2d Cir. 1986). Moreover, it is well established that the operations of narcotics dealers are a proper subject for expert testimony under Fed. R. Evid. 702. Id. In the past, we have upheld the admission of expert testimony to explain the use of narcotics codes and jargon in intercepted conversations. E.g., United States v. Ginsberg, 758 F.2d 823, 830 (2d Cir. 1985); United States v. Cirillo, 499 F.2d 872, 881 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 419 U.S. 1056, 95 S. Ct. 638, 42 L. Ed. 2d 653, 95 S. Ct. 639 (1974). We acknowledge some degree of discomfiture in cases such as the instant one in which this practice is employed, since, uncontrolled, such use of expert testimony may have the effect of providing the government with an additional summation by having the expert interpret the evidence. See United States v. Brown, 776 F.2d 397, 401 (2d Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1141, 106 S. Ct. 1793, 90 L. Ed. 2d 339 (1986). In fact, in this case, the district judge recognized the danger that an expert may come dangerously close to usurping the jury's function. Nevertheless, a district court's decision to allow an expert to testify will not be overturned lightly. In this case, we perceive no error in the district court's decision to allow the government to elicit expert testimony from a properly qualified expert witness regarding the parlance of the narcotics trade and the meaning thereof. The district court's decision to allow Agent Nolan to testify was within the wide latitude provided by Fed. R. Evid. 702.

Appellants' contention that they were irreparably prejudiced by the specific drug references to heroin and cocaine that they elicited from Agent Nolan on cross-examination must be rejected. First, as we have noted, on direct-examination, the district court was careful to limit the testimony of Agent Nolan, and Nolan testified in general terms that certain calls were or were not narcotics-related. It was defense counsel who opened the door and sought to broaden the scope of Nolan's testimony by making inquiries which related to specific drugs. Appellants can hardly complain about the residual detrimental effects resulting from two days of inquiry on cross-examination, since they elicited the testimony in the first place. Cf. United States v. Jones, 763 F.2d 518, 524 (2d Cir.) (conviction affirmed despite presence of alternate jurors during deliberations when their presence was requested by defendants), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 981, 106 S. Ct. 386, 88 L. Ed. 2d 339 (1985); United States v. Ferguson, 758 F.2d 843, 851-52 (2d Cir.) (conviction on lesser charge affirmed when defendants requested lesser charge for which they had not been indicated), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 841, 106 S. Ct. 124, 88 L. Ed. 2d 102 and 106 S. Ct. 592 (1985). Defense counsel having broadened the scope of Nolan's testimony, the district court, responsible for keeping the testimony from exceeding appropriate evidentiary limits, restricted Nolan's testimony on further cross-examination. Moreover, the district court's strict and thorough limiting instructions to the jury were sufficient to cure any possible prejudice which may have resulted from Nolan's earlier specific drug references. See United States v. Young, 745 F.2d 733, 761 (2d Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 470 U.S. 1084, 85 L. Ed. 2d 142, 105 S. Ct. 1842 (1985). We, therefore, reject appellants' claims of prejudice.

V. Maktabi's "Money Laundering" Conspiracy

Count Four of the indictment alleged that one of the appellants, Hassan Abdul Kader Maktabi, and other co-conspirators, not appellants herein, engaged in a conspiracy to convert in excess of $117,000 in cash into money orders and travelers checks in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. Section 371 has two separate prongs: it is a crime under § 371 to "conspire . . . to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose." Id. (emphasis added). Maktabi was charged under § 371 both with conspiracy to defraud the United States or an agency thereof, specifically the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"), by depriving the IRS of information to which it was entitled, and with conspiracy to commit a substantive offense, namely, to violate 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Section 1001 makes it a crime to "knowingly and willfully falsify, conceal[], or cover[] up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact" in any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States. Id.

Specifically, the indictment alleged that Maktabi and his co-conspirators agreed to convert U.S. currency in an amount over $117,000 into money orders and travelers checks. According to the government's theory, these purchases, each individually in an amount under $10,000, were undertaken at several different banks and bank branches over a period of days for the purpose of keeping the banks from submitting the Currency Transaction Reports ("CTRs") that banks are required to file with the IRS in connection with transactions in currency exceeding $10,000 in a single day. For instance, the trial evidence showed that Maktabi and others purchased at various branches of the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City approximately $23,000 worth of money orders on December 13, 1984, approximately $30,000 on December 14, and approximately $20,000 on December 17. All these money orders were purchased in $1,000 denominations. Of the $23,000 converted on December 13, $11,000 was purchased at the same branch in eleven separate $1,000 money orders. The other $12,000 was purchased at various other branches of the Chase Manhattan Bank. Other money orders were purchased in a similar manner at other banks in New York City, including, the Anchor Savings Bank, Citibank, and Chemical Bank on these and other dates during December 1984. None of the banks filed CTRs with regard to the purchase of any of these money orders.

Maktabi argues on appeal, first, that the statutory and regulatory framework which requires the submission of CTRs by banks has no provision for imposition of criminal liability on a bank customer, including one who engages in transactions in an overall amount exceeding $10,000 but where none of the transactions individually exceeds $10,000, and where, as a consequence, the bank is unaware that a CTR should be filed. Second, he contends that even if such a substantive crime does exist, the evidence was insufficient to show that he had the requisite specific knowledge that banks are required to report to the government currency transactions over $10,000. In our view, the indictment properly charged a conspiracy to defraud the United States under § 371 as well as a conspiracy to violate § 1001, and the evidence was sufficient to support Maktabi's conviction.

A. Existence of Crimes Charged

The Bank Secrecy Act, (the "Act"), 31 U.S.C. § 5311 et seq., requires the making and keeping of "certain reports or records [which] have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax or regulatory investigations or proceedings." 31 U.S.C. § 5311. Section 5313 authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to require domestic financial institutions, and any other participants in transactions for the payment, receipt, or transfer of United States currency, to report those transactions to the Secretary.*fn2 Under the regulations issued by the Secretary, only financial institutions are required to file these reports for transactions involving more than $10,000. 31 C.F.R. § 103.22(a).*fn3 The CTR itself (IRS Form 4789) calls for, among other things, the name and address of the person conducting the transaction, and the name and address of such person, if any, for whom the transaction was completed. Criminal penalties for willfull violation of the statute or regulations are set forth in 31 U.S. C. § 5322.

Initially, we note that other circuits are divided on the question whether a bank customer can be prosecuted under the substantive provisions of the Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 5313 and 5322, 18 U.S.C. § 1001 (concealment of a material fact), and 18 U.S.C. § 2(b) (causing another to commit an offense against the United States), for causing a bank to fail to file a CTR by not disclosing the structured nature of currency transactions. The Eleventh Circuit has adopted a position, termed "a sensible, substance-over-form approach in dealing with schemes to circumvent financial institution reporting requirements," United States v. Tobon-Builes, 706 F.2d 1092, 1098 (11th Cir. 1983) (citing United States v. Thompson, 603 F.2d 1200 (5th Cir. 1979)). It holds that "where a person causes a financial institution not to report currency transactions that it had a duty to report, the person is guilty of the substantive offense." United States v. Puerto, 730 F.2d 627, 631 (11th Cir.) (citing Tobon-Builes, supra), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 847, 105 S. Ct. 162, 83 L. Ed. 2d 98 (1984); see also United States v. Cure, 804 F.2d 625, 627 (11th Cir. 1986) (per curiam); United States v. Giancola, 783 F.2d 1549, 1552-53 (11th Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1018, 107 S. Ct. 669, 93 L. Ed. 2d 721 (1987); United States v. Denemark, 779 F.2d 1559, 1563 (11th Cir. 1986); United States v. Sans, 731 F.2d 1521, 1531 (11th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1111, 83 L. Ed. 2d 785, 105 S. Ct. 791 (1985). On the other hand, the First, Eighth, and Ninth Circuits have adopted the position that since the Act and regulations promulgated thereunder do not impose a duty on a bank customer to disclose his transactions to the government either directly or through the financial institution, there can be no substantive violation of the Act or violation of §§ 2(b) or 1001 by a bank customer. United States v. Larson, 796 F.2d 244, 246 (8th Cir. 1986); United States v. Varbel, 780 F.2d 758, 762 (9th Cir. 1986); United States v. Anzalone, 766 F.2d 676, 682-83 (1st Cir. 1985); see also United States v. Reinis, 794 F.2d 506, 508 (9th Cir. 1986); United States v. Dela Espriella, 781 F.2d 1432, 1435 (9th Cir. 1986).

In this circuit, we have held that an individual, although under no legal responsibility himself to file a CTR, nevertheless, can be criminally liable under 18 U.S.C. § 2(b) for causing a financial institution to fail to file a currency transaction report which it had a legal duty to file. United States v. Heyman, 794 F.2d 788 (2d Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 989, 107 S. Ct. 585, 93 L. Ed. 2d 587 . Heyman involved a Merrill Lynch employee, Alan Heyman, who structured his customer's deposits so that no single transaction involved an amount greater than $10,000. By doing so, Heyman willfully caused Merrill Lynch to fail to file the appropriate CTRs. Under the facts of that case, we held that had Merrill Lynch, a financial institution, structured the transactions as Heyman did, it would have violated the federal laws requiring the filing of CTRs, namely, 31 U.S.C. §§ 5313 and 5322. Accordingly, since 18 U.S.C. § 2(b) holds liable as a principal any person (Heyman) who willfully causes an act to be done which if directly performed by another (Merrill Lynch) would be a federal offense, Heyman was criminally liable for a violation of 31 U.S.C. § 5313 and 5322.

Heyman, however, is only applicable in this case by analogy because it involved a prosecution under the Act and 18 U.S.C. § 2(b), crimes not charged here. The questions presented here are whether an individual bank customer can be charged with a violation of either § 371, conspiracy to defraud the United States, or § 371, conspiracy to violate § 1001, concealment of a material fact. The district court charged the jury herein under both prongs of § 371 and the jury returned a general verdict of guilty. We now examine each prong of § 371 not only for sufficiency of evidence but also to see if they state cognizable conspiracy offenses, assuming without deciding that it is necessary for us to do so, see Stromberg v. California, 283 U.S. 359, 367-68, 75 L. Ed. 1117, 51 S. Ct. 532 (1931); United States v. Peterson, 768 F.2d 64, 67-68 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 923, 106 S. Ct. 257, 88 L. Ed. 2d 264 (1985); United States v. Murray, 618 F.2d 892, 898-99 (2d Cir. 1980); United States v. Natelli, 527 F.2d 311, 324-25 (2d Cir. 1975), cert. denied, 425 U.S. 934, 96 S. Ct. 1663, 48 L. Ed. 2d 175 (1976).

We turn first to the legal sufficiency of that part of Count Four of the indictment which charged a conspiracy to violate § 1001. Reading the pertinent statute and regulations, it seems clear from the face of each that a bank customer is not require to file a CTR for any banking transaction; only financial institutions are required to file reports. Although section 5313 extends its coverage to the financial institution and any other participant in the transaction and, thus, the Secretary of the Treasury could have required not only banks to file reports, but also, bank customers, or participants other than financial institutions, nevertheless, 31 C.F.R. § 103.22 limits the reporting requirement to financial institutions only. See California Bankers Ass'n v. Shultz, 416 U.S. 21, 58, 69-70 & n.29, 39 L. Ed. 2d 812, 94 S. Ct. 1494 (1974). Courts that have considered this statutory and regulatory scheme are in agreement that there is no duty on bank customers themselves to file reports with the government of any transactions. Heyman, 794 F.2d at 791; accord Larson, 796 F.2d at 246; Varbel, 780 F.2d at 761-62; Anzalone, 766 F.2d at 681; Tobon-Builes, 706 F.2d at 1097.

It also seems clear from the statute and regulations that the requirement to file a CTR depends on a transaction occurring at a single financial institution. The statute speaks of "a domestic financial institution" being involved in "a transaction for the payment, receipt, or transfer of United States coins or currency." 31 U.S.C. § 5313 (emphasis added). Thus, no obligation to file a CTR arises where a customer structures his transactions, each under $10,000, at different financial institutions. See Denemark, 779 F.2d at 1562-63. Similarly, transactions occurring on different days at the same financial institutions are not aggregated to constitute a single transaction so that a bank would have to file a CTR. Heyman, 794 F.2d at 792; Reinis, 794 F.2d at 508. We need not address whether transactions on the same day, each under $10,000 at different branches of the same bank totalling over $10,000, trigger a bank's CTR filing requirement. See Giancola, 783 F.2d at 1552 (CTR requirement triggered). But see id. at 1554 (dissenting opinion). In this case, at least on one day, December 13, 1984, Maktabi and his associates procured $11,000 in $1,000 money orders at the same branch of one financial institution.

Thus, one fundamental question that we face is whether a bank customer can be liable for a violation of § 1001, concealment of a material fact, where that customer is under no duty to file a CTR with the government. Generally, a defendant cannot be prosecuted under § 1001 for concealing material facts unless he had a duty to disclose the material facts at the time he was alleged to have concealed them. United States v. Irwin, 654 F.2d 671, 678 (10th Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 455 U.S. 1016, 72 L. Ed. 2d 133, 102 S. Ct. 1709 (1982). While it is true that Maktabi had no duty himself to file CTRs with the government, it is not disputed that a bank is required to file a CTR for a single transaction in excess of $10,000 received on a single day. Had the bank intentionally structured the transactions as Maktabi did, splitting up large sums into blocks of less than $10,000 in order to avoid the filing of a CTR, it surely would have violated the Act as well as been guilty of concealing a material fact in violation of § 1001. Heyman, 794 F.2d at 791; see also Puerto, 730 F.2d at 632-33; Tobon-Builes, 706 F.2d at 1099. Under 18 U.S.C. § 2(b), a bank customer has a duty not to willfully cause a bank to violate the Act or to conceal material facts from the IRS. Heyman, 794 F.2d at 791-92. Had Maktabi been charged here with a substantive violation of § 1001, he could have been held liable under § 1001 by application of § 2(b). Id. Here Maktabi is not charged with a substantive violation of § 1001, but with conspiracy to violate § 1001. It is a crime to conspire to cause another to commit a crime. United States v. Perry, 643 F.2d 38, 45 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 835, 70 L. Ed. 2d 115, 102 S. Ct. 138 (1981). This is true, even where, as here, "the indictment and the jury instructions do not spell out in so many words" that the defendant could be found guilty of conspiracy to cause another to commit a crime, as long as "all the elements necessary [to find a conspiracy to cause another to commit a substantive offense] were fairly put to the jury." Id. In sum, not only is it a crime to conspire to violate § 1001, but it is also a crime to conspire to cause another to violate § 1001. Thus, bank customers who intentionally and with knowledge of the reporting requirements structure their transactions so as to circumvent or prevent a bank from complying with those requirements commit a crime. Herein, Maktabi is charged with conspiring to divide up the total amounts involved in the subject currency exchanges so that they did not exceed $10,000, in order to cause the bank to fail to file a CTR, and thus to conceal material facts from a government agency. An agreement to divide a large transaction in excess of $10,000 into a series of smaller ones each below $10,000 can constitute an unlawful agreement to "conceal or cover up by . . . trick, scheme, or device" the material fact that the transaction involved a sum totalling more than $10,000. In our view, Maktabi was properly charged with a conspiracy to violate § 1001 by causing a bank to conceal material facts from the IRS. See Puerto, 730 F.2d at 632; Tobon-Builes, 706 F.2d at 1099; United States v. Richter, 610 F. Supp. 480, 487 (N.D. Ill. 1985), aff'd without opinion, 793 F.2d 1296 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 855, 107 S. Ct. 191, 93 L. Ed. 2d 124 (1986).

We turn next to the legal sufficiency of that part of Count Four of the indictment which charged a conspiracy to defraud. A conspiracy to defraud under § 371 embraces "any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing, or defeating the lawful function of any department of Government." Dennis v. United States, 384 U.S. 855, 860-61, 16 L. Ed. 2d 973, 86 S. Ct. 1840 (1966) (quotations and citations omitted). It is well established that the term "defraud" as used in § 371 not only reaches schemes which deprive the government of money or property, but also is designed to protect the integrity of the United States and its agencies. United States v. Johnson, 383 U.S. 169, 172, 15 L. Ed. 2d 681, 86 S. Ct. 749 (1966). Thus, the crime of conspiracy to defraud the United States includes acts that interfere with or obstruct one of its lawful governmental functions by deceit, craft, or trickery, or by means that are dishonest. Hammerschmidt v. United States, 265 U.S. 182, 188, 68 L. Ed. 968, 44 S. Ct. 511 (1924); United States v. Turkish, 623 F.2d 769, 771 (2d Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1077, 101 S. Ct. 856, 66 L. Ed. 2d 800 (1981).

The Supreme Court has recognized the importance to the government of having financial institutions provide the Secretary of the Treasury with reports of sizeable currency transactions by their customers. See Shultz, 416 U.S. at 26-27. For instance, one purpose for the filing of CTRs is to ferret out criminal activity. Id. at 27. The regulations emphasize the important purposes behind the filing of CTRs by stating that "the Secretary hereby determines that the records required to be kept by this subpart have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax, or regulatory investigations or proceedings." 31 C.F.R. § 103.31.

It is our view that to be held liable under the broad sweep of the fraud prong of § 371, defendants need not have agreed to commit, or have actually committed, a specific substantive offense. They merely must have agreed to interfere with or to obstruct one of the government's lawful functions. See United States v. Southland Corp., 760 F.2d 1366, 1382 (2d Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 106 S. Ct. 88 (1986). Thus, the fact that Maktabi, as an individual bank customer, had no duty to report transactions over $10,000 is not the operative issue as to whether he agreed to unlawfully defraud the United States by impairing and obstructing its lawful governmental functions of collecting data and reports of currency transactions in excess of $10,000. The IRS has an interest in receiving CTRs from financial institutions when customers arrange transactions in excess of $10,000. In order for this lawful governmental function to operate, it is imperative that reports by submitted by financial institutions. If Maktabi and his associates agreed to interfere with and to obstruct this lawful function of the IRS, they could properly be charged with a violation of the "defraud prong" of § 371. This lawful function of the IRS, they could properly be charged with a violation of the "defraud prong" of § 371. See Puerto, 730 F.2d at 630-31; Sans, 731 F.2d at 1533-35; Richter, 610 F. Supp. at 485.

Having concluded that Maktabi was properly charged with a crime under both prongs of § 371, conspiracy to violate § 1001 and conspiracy to defraud the United States, we must still determine whether there was sufficient evidence to support his conviction.

B. Sufficiency of the Evidence

Maktabi does not dispute, and there was ample evidence at trial, including the testimony of surveillance agents and bank tellers, as well as exhibits of bank records, to show that Maktabi and his associates actually converted large amounts of cash into money orders and traveler's checks in varying amounts under $10,000 between December 13, 1984 and December 17, 1984. However, Maktabi does dispute that there was sufficient evidence to prove that he specifically knew of the reporting requirements and, with that knowledge, deliberately sought to avoid its strictures by buying money orders in less than the triggering amount in related transactions. To find a defendant guilty of a conspiracy involving a willful currency transaction violation, the government must prove that the defendant had specific knowledge of the reporting requirements and intended to cause them to be evaded. See United States v. DiTommaso, 817 F.2d 201 (2d Cir. 1987); United States v. Dichne, 612 F.2d 632, 636 (2d Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 445 U.S. 928, 94 S. Ct. 1982, 40 L. Ed. 2d 313 (1980). The district court properly charged the jury that to find Maktabi guilty of either a conspiracy to defraud or a conspiracy to conceal a material fact, it had to find that transactions in excess of $10,000 and intended to evade that requirement.

Maktabi points to a number of facts that in his view show that he did not have actual knowledge of the currency reporting requirement. He claims that there was no pattern whatever in the amounts purchased and no series of purchases just short of the reporting minimum, which might have allowed for the inference of knowledge; that there was no evidence that he was told early on by a bank teller or by anyone else of the reporting requirements; and that there was no evidence that banks had signs or notices posted informing purchasers of the law. Moreover, he points to an episode which occurred on December 17, 1984, the last day on which Maktabi purchased money orders, which, in his view, provides conclusive evidence that he did not know of the currency transaction reporting laws. On that day, one of his associations entered a Chase Manhattan Bank branch, armed with $10,000 in cash that Maktabi had supplied, and asked to by a single money order. When the teller responded by asking for the information needed for a CTR, appellant argues, another associate of Maktabi then intervened and arranged the transaction in such a way as to purchase money orders for less than $10,000. Maktabi argues that had he known of the reporting requirement or had he been attempting to buy money orders in such a way as to avoid the reporting requirement, he would not have told his associate to buy a money order for $10,000. Thus, according to Maktabi, the "only possible conclusion" that can be drawn from this incident is that, at the time of the final purchase of money orders, he did not have the requisite specific knowledge of the reporting requirements coupled with guilty intent. We do not agree.

We have said that:

Knowledge . . . may be inferred or gathered from the outward manifestations, by the words or acts of the party charged with knowledge and from the facts and circumstances surrounding or attendant upon the act with which it is charged to be connected. It may be proved by all the facts and circumstances disclosed by the evidence taken in connection with the case.

United States v. Sheiner, 410 F.2d 337, 340 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 396 U.S. 825, 90 S. Ct. 68, 24 L. Ed. 2d 76 (1969) (quoting Anderson v. United States, 270 F.2d 124, 127 (6th Cir. 1959)); accord United States v. Sanzo, 673 F.2d 64, 69 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 858, 74 L. Ed. 2d 111, 103 S. Ct. 128 (1982). "[A] finding of knowledge that is largely inferential is not impermissible." Sheiner, 410 F.2d at 340.

Although the evidence does permit the inference that Maktabi did knot know of the reporting requirements, we cannot conclude that there was no evidence from which any rational trier of fact could have found that Maktabi knew of the reporting requirements. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 61 L. Ed. 2d 560, 99 S. Ct. 2781 (1979). That the evidence permits inferences that are consistent with innocence does not detract from its sufficiency. To be sufficient "the evidence need not have excluded every possible hypothesis of innocence." United States v. Soto, 716 F.2d 989, 993 (2d Cir. 1983). The jury could have inferred from the fact that Maktabi chose to carry out his currency exchanges in a series of small transactions over a number of days rather than in a single transaction or several large transactions, that he knew of the reporting requirements and was attempting to avoid them. Contrary to Maktabi's assertion, more than one explanation exists for his associates' attempt to purchase a money order for $10,000 on December 17. Among other possibilities, the jury could have inferred that the associate misconstrued or misinterpreted Maktabi's instructions. Moreover, the jury could have inferred from the fact that another associate intervened to prevent the filing of a CTR that Maktabi was aware of the reporting requirements and that he had specifically instructed his associates to avoid triggering them.

We conclude that Maktabi was properly charged in Count Four of the indictment with conspiracy to either conceal material facts from the IRS or to defraud the United States, and that the evidence was sufficient to support an inference that he had specific knowledge and intent with respect to the ...

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