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U.S. v. BALJIT

May 8, 2002

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
V.
KRISHENDAT BALJIT, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR Marrero, United States District Judge.

DECISION AND ORDER

In a two-count indictment filed on April 20, 2001, Defendant Krishendat Baljit (hereinafter "Baljit") was charged with: (1) conspiracy to commit postage meter fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, and (2) engaging in or aiding and abetting postage meter fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 501 and 2. At the conclusion of a four day jury trial on March 18, 2002, Baljit was acquitted on Count One and convicted on Count Two. At the close of the Government's case on March 14, 2002, Baljit moved for a judgment of acquittal on both counts, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 (hereinafter "Rule 29"). The Court reserved judgment and Baljit renewed his motion on March 18, 2002, after the jury returned a verdict of guilty on Count Two.

On April 8, 2002, Baljit filed a memorandum of law in further support of his motion for a judgment of acquittal (hereinafter "Def.'s Mot."). On April 12, 2002, the Government filed a letter brief in opposition to Baljit's motion (hereinafter "Govt.'s Opp.") and an April 17, 2002, Baljit filed a reply letter brief (hereinafter "Def.'s Reply"). In a letter dated April 15, 2002, Baljit requested the Court to consider, in the alternative, granting him a new trial, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 (hereinafter "Rule 33"). In making this motion Baljit rested on the arguments presented in the memorandum of law in support of his earlier motion for a judgment of acquittal. For the reasons set forth below, Baljit's motions are denied.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The following facts were adduced during the course of trial. During the period relevant to the Indictment, American Presort Inc. (hereinafter "API") possessed a number of postage meters owned by the United States Postal Service (hereinafter the "Postal Service), pursuant to license agreements that API had entered into with the Postal Service.*fn1 From February 1997 through June 1997, two of the postage meters malfunctioned so that they printed incorrect postage on the mail processed at API. The Government charged that Baljit and others used the malfunctioning postage meters to print free postage, knowing that the Postal Service would not be paid for such postage, thereby defrauding the Postal Service out of several million dollars.

At trial, it was uncontroverted that certain individuals at API, other than Baljit, had participated in a conspiracy to defraud the Postal service and API's customers. For example, the Court admitted, with a limiting instruction, the guilty plea allocution of Steven Fruchter (hereinafter "Fruchter"), who had been the President of API during the relevant time period. In his allocution, Fruchter admitted to participating in a pattern of criminal activity that included fraud through the alteration of reports and accounting statements to the Postal Service and API's customers and through knowingly allowing malfunctioning postage meters to print free postage. (Trial Tr. at 283-84.) Similarly, the controller of API, Leonard Taylor (hereinafter "Taylor"), acknowledged at trial that he had pled guilty to participating in a racketeering enterprise through a number of acts, including defrauding the Postal Service by allowing malfunctioning postage meters to print free postage. (Trial Tr. 132-33.)

During this period, Baljit was the nighttime supervisor of the postage meter room at API and his brother, Deodat Baljit (hereinafter "Deodat"), was the daytime supervisor. Baljit supervised a number of postage meters and employees who operated them from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. He was also responsible for creating and maintaining postage meter logs that were used to bill customers who had their mail metered by API. Such logs recorded the remaining balance on each postage meter so that Baljit knew when a meter had to be returned to the Postal Service to be refilled (Trial Tr. at 113-115.) Baljit also determined which mail would be run through particular postage meters and he had the authority to suspend and fire employees who worked-under him in the meter room. (Trial Tr. at 367.)

At some point in 1994, one of the postage meters, called a Hasler 5 meter based on its model and the company that manufactured it (hereinafter tne H-5 meter"), started printing a free dollar on every peice of mail that it metered. After consulting with Fruchter, Taylor instructed Baljit and Deodat to maintain separate postage logs for the H5 meter to record each time the meter printed extra postage. (Trial Tr. at 131-33.) Fruchtner and Taylor then used these logs to bill customers for the extra postage, which over the course of about one and one half years totaled approximately $350,000.

At trial, one of the employees in the meter room, Hector Gonzales (hereinafter "Gonzales"), testified that when he became aware that the H5 meter was malfunctioning, he told Baljit that it was printing a dollar of free postage on each piece of mail. When asked about Baljit's response, Gonzales testified: "He acted as if I hadn't said anything. He just ignored me and didn't say anything." (Trial Tr. 371.) After receiving no response from Baljit, Gonzales told Frank Singh, the general manager at API, that he did not: want to use the malfunctioning meter because he felt it was illegal to do so. Singh told Gonzales that he had to use the meter and that he would be fired if he refused. (Trial Tr. at 371-72.) Baljit continued to use the H5 meter during the night shift, and on approximately ten occasions, he instructed Gonzales to continue using the same meter during the day. (Trial Tr. at 372-73.)

At some point thereafter, Baljit told Gonzales that the H6 meter had rolled over. According to Gonzales, Baljit was smiling at the time. (Trial Tr. at 382.) Gonzales told Baljit that he did not want to use the meter because he felt that it was illegal. (Trial Tr. at 383.) Baljit did not tell Gonzales that the free postage was being paid for. (Id.) Gonzales also noticed that the malfunctioning H6 meter was not placed on its proper base. Instead, it was placed on the base for a bigger machine, which allowed the H6 meter to stamp mail faster than normal. (Trial Tr. at 384-85.) Gonzales testified that he saw on one occasion Deodat hitting the bottom of the H6 meter with a hammer and a screwdriver. The next day, Gonzales saw Deodat and Baljit talking and pointing at the print mechanism of the H6 meter. (Trial Tr. at 388.)

On June 27, 1997, United States postal inspectors entered the premises of API with a search warrant. They seized the H5 meter, which they found under Taylor's desk, and the H6 meter, which they found buried in a bin of mail. They also found a number of postage meter logs, including the separate log that had been maintained for the H6 meter. At trial, Postal Inspector Joseph McGinley testified that his analysis of API's general postage logs and the daily logs revealed that after the H6 meter rolled over, the amount of mail that API processed with the H6 meter per week increased dramatically from approximately 76,000 to approximately 600,000 pieces. (Trial Tr. at 477-78.)

II. DISCUSSION

Because Baljit moves for a judgment of acquittal and in the alternative, for a new trial, the Court must consider the legal ...


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