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December 15, 2004.

ROBERTA DUPRE and BEVERLY STAMBAUGH, a/k/a "Sue Stambaugh," Defendants.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: DENISE COTE, District Judge


On October 20, 2004, the defendants Roberta Dupre ("Dupre") and Beverly Stambaugh ("Stambaugh") were convicted by a jury of wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1343, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 371. The defendants now seek judgments of acquittal pursuant to Rule 29, Fed.R.Crim.P., on the ground that the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to sustain a conviction for either defendant on each of the two counts in the indictment. For the reasons set forth below, the defendants' motions are denied.


  Viewed in the light most favorable to the Government, a rational juror could have found the following facts. From before October 2002 through February 2004, Dupre and Stambaugh induced more than one thousand victims from across the United States to pay "advance fees" in order to secure the release and distribution of what they described as approximately $9 billion in frozen funds from an account at Citibank in New York City belonging to the family of former Filipino president Ferdinand Marcos. Dupre and Stambaugh promised investors returns ranging from $500,000 to $1 million for each $1,000 invested in the scheme. Dupre and Stambaugh, using interstate telephone calls, faxes, and e-mails, told potential investors that the advance fees were necessary to cover administrative expenses and fees associated with gaining access to the accounts, including the travel expenses of Filipino dignitaries and Marcos family members such as "Elena Romauldez," the individual Dupre and Stambaugh told investors was the niece of Imelda Marcos and the signatory on the Citibank account. The scheme ran for over nine years, during which time Dupre continually invented excuses for why they had not gained access to the account, including suggesting that Elena Romauldez had been taken hostage. Dupre and Stambaugh also asserted to investors that high-ranking United States Government officials, including an unnamed United States Senator, were involved in the project to help secure the release of the funds. The Government elicited testimony from a Citibank official indicating that the Marcos account did not exist, as well as testimony from a nephew of Imelda Marcos indicating that neither the account, nor a relative named Elena Romauldez, existed.

  Stambaugh worked out of her home in Colorado, operating as an initial contact point for investors, sending out weekly e-mail "updates" to investors to keep them apprized of the "progress" of the scheme, and collecting funds from investors, frequently wiring funds to accounts held by Dupre. Dupre lived in a hotel room in the Park Central Hotel in New York City, paid for by funds from defrauded victims, and represented to victims that she was in New York for the purpose of coordinating the fund transfers from the account at Citibank. Dupre's bills at the Park Central Hotel alone totaled approximately one quarter of a million dollars. Dupre and Stambaugh also wired large sums of money gathered from victims to Dupre and Stambaugh's family members.

  The scheme was imbued heavily with Christian religious sentiments and language, and Dupre and Stambaugh represented to potential victims that the scheme was motivated by their faith. Many of the victims were individuals of deep religious faith who were vulnerable to the type of manipulation employed by Dupre and Stambaugh throughout the course of the fraud. Once Dupre and Stambaugh had an initial commitment of funds from a victim, they would periodically return to that individual to request additional funds, usually on the pretext that an additional bureaucratic hurdle in securing the liquidation of the Marcos account had been encountered, but sometimes employing more personal pleas, such as announcing that relatives of Dupre had contracted cancer and needed financial help. All in all, Dupre and Stambaugh defrauded victims out of well over one million dollars.

  Dupre's motion states that there was insufficient evidence at trial to "disprove" that she acted in good faith in operating the scheme. Stambaugh's motion reiterates this argument, and also asserts that the Government's evidence was insufficient to establish Stambaugh's intent to commit the crimes charged, the existence of the conspiracy, Stambaugh's knowledge and membership in the conspiracy, and the particular wire transfer charged in the substantive count in the indictment. Stambaugh's application also asserts that the Government never proved that Stambaugh was actually the defendant Stambaugh.


  A defendant who challenges her conviction for lack of sufficient evidence bears a "very heavy burden." United States v. Amato, 15 F.3d 230, 235 (2d Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). The evidence at trial must be viewed "in the light most favorable to the government and all permissible inferences drawn in its favor." United States v. Valenti, 60 F.3d 941, 945 (2d Cir. 1995) (citation omitted). The verdict must be sustained if any rational trier of fact could have found the defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. United States v. Martinez, 54 F.3d 1040, 1042 (2d Cir. 1995). The jury's verdict may be based entirely on circumstantial evidence. Id. at 1043.

  Under 18 U.S.C. § 1343, to convict the defendants of wire fraud, the Government had to establish that there existed (i) a scheme to defraud, (ii) to get money or property, (iii) furthered by the use of interstate wires. See United States v. Autuori, 212 F.3d 105, 115 (2d Cir. 2000). Proof of fraudulent intent is an essential component of the scheme to defraud. Id. Under 18 U.S.C. § 371, to convict a defendant of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the Government had to establish that the defendant entered into an unlawful agreement with another person, that she knowingly and willfully became a member of the conspiracy, and that at least one overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy and during the life of the conspiracy was committed. See United States v. Maldonado-Rivera, 922 F.2d 934, 961-62 (2d Cir. 1990).

  Based on the evidence adduced by the Government at trial, a rational trier of fact would have found the defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. First, it was clear that the defendants knowingly participated in a scheme to defraud, and conspired to do so with each other. For example, the Government introduced a tape recorded telephone call between Dupre and Detective Sergeant Keith Caddy of the Montrose Police Department in Montrose, Colorado, that took place on February 12, 2003. In that conversation, which took place the day after a similar conversation between Det. Caddy and Stambaugh, Det. Caddy inquired about the investment scheme, and Dupre indicated that she knew the detective was going to call her because Stambaugh had tipped her off the previous evening. Similarly, the Government introduced a series of tape recorded conversations between an undercover FBI agent posing as a potential investor, and Dupre and Stambaugh, that clarified the way that Stambaugh and Dupre operated the fraud together. When the agent first contacted Stambaugh on September 30, 2003, she described the scheme to him and informed him that she was working with Dupre in New York. Later that day, Stambaugh gave the agent Dupre's hotel room phone number. The agent then contacted Dupre, who described the program and explained that she would instruct Stambaugh to fax various forms to the agent. On October 2, the agent spoke to Stambaugh, who confirmed that he was supposed to wire money to an account in the name of Roberta Dupre. Although the agent and the defendants had spoken about the possibility of him wiring $10,000, he wired $1,000, and on October 6, the agent had a conversation with Dupre where Dupre expressed surprise at the fact that the agent had wired a smaller amount of money than she had expected.

  Second, the Government clearly established that the defendants gained substantial sums of money from the scheme. The Government offered bank record evidence for accounts held by the defendants, and demonstrated the existence both of wire transfers into the accounts from victims, as well as withdrawals from the accounts by Dupre and Stambaugh for purchases of merchandise and services, as well as money transfers to family members. Evidence also indicated money transfers between Dupre and Stambaugh. The Government offered the testimony of a hotel administrator who demonstrated the hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenses racked up by Dupre during her multi-year hotel stay, as well as the testimony of a salon owner who demonstrated the thousands of dollars of hair treatment expenses Dupre enjoyed at her victims' expense.

  Third, the Government clearly established the joint efforts by Dupre and Stambaugh to use interstate wires to gather money from unwitting victims across the country. Victims from Pennsylvania, Texas, Colorado, and other states testified that they had numerous long distance telephone calls with Dupre and Stambaugh, received and responded to a substantial number of e-mails from Stambaugh, received wiring instructions and bank account forms via e-mail and fax, and wired money to Dupre and Stambaugh across state lines.

  Moreover, based on the fantastic assertions made by Dupre and Stambaugh regarding the fraud, such as the involvement of high-ranking U.S. government officials, the amount of money in the bank account, the participation of members of the Marcos family, and the astronomical rate of return offered to participants, it was certainly rational for the jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants did not have a good faith belief in the legitimacy of their scheme. Whenever the defendants were confronted with skeptical questions from potential investors about such preposterous claims, recorded telephone conversations as well as e-mails indicated that the defendants would hide behind a supposed "nondisclosure agreement" that would prevent them from giving out any more details than they had already provided. Therefore, the Government offered more than sufficient evidence at trial to lead a rational juror to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the ...

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