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United States v. Watson

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

August 21, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
PIERRE WATSON, Defendant.

          FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

          JOHN A. ROSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter came before the Court for a bench trial on December 5, 2016, after Defendant Pierre Watson ("Watson") waived his right to a trial by a jury. After conclusion of the evidence, a transcript was prepared and the parties submitted proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. Upon careful consideration of the direct and circumstantial evidence, exhibits, testimony, and transcripts, the Court hereby supplements its findings on the record with the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.

         FINDINGS OF FACT

         1. On or about November 18, 2015, Defendant was detained at the Jennings Correctional Facility awaiting trial in criminal case number S3-4:15CR00440 AGF (JMB).[1]

         2. Through a series of telephone calls, notes, and jail visits beginning on March 20, 2016 and continuing until June 16, 2016, Defendant discussed various fraudulent schemes, including check-kiting, with co-defendant Taion Brown ("Brown").

         3. In particular, Defendant instructed Brown to open checking accounts at branches of U.S. Bank, Fifth Third Bank, and Bank of America, located in the St. Louis metropolitan area, activate debit cards issued by the banks, and set up personal identification numbers ("PINS"). Trial Transcript ("Tr."), Doc. No. 101 at 30:4-32:13; Ex. 8.01 (compact disc of recorded jail visits at Jail Visit Nos. 10, 15, 60, 74, 93); Ex. 13 ("activate the cards" letter from Watson to Brown). Pursuant to Defendant's instructions, Brown was to draft checks in amounts which exceeded her account balances, and deposit them into accounts at Regions Bank and U.S. Bank. Ex. 13.

         4. Watson also directed Brown to recruit other people to help her open checking accounts. Brown followed the direction from Watson and recruited her cousin, co-defendant Justice Carter ("Carter"). Tr. 36:3-21.

         5. On March 25, 2016, at the direction of Defendant, Brown opened checking accounts at U.S. Bank and Bank of America with cash deposits of $25.00. Ex. 13; Tr. 28-30.

         6. On March 27, 2016, Brown met with Defendant at the Jennings facility. In her possession were bank deposit records and financial documents, including a deposit receipt from Bank of America confirming a cash deposit of $25.00 on March 25, 2016; a U.S. Bank receipt for $25.00; a U.S. Bank account identification card; a Bank of America Direct Deposit Enrollment form for an account ending in 1666 for Brown; and Power of Attorney forms for Defendant. Tr. 10-12; Ex. 8.01 at Jail Visit 15; Ex. 7 (documents Brown brought to Defendant). Defendant explained to Brown that, within the first 30 days of opening an account, the bank would grant her immediate access to the first $200.00 of any check deposits, and the balance of the funds would be made available within three to five days thereafter. Ex. 8.01 at Jail Visit 15.

         7. On April 2, 2016, pursuant to Watson's instructions, Brown wrote a check payable to herself in the amount of $200.00 from her U.S. Bank account, despite the fact that her account lacked sufficient funds to cover the check, and then deposited it into her Bank of America account. Tr. 35:3-9; Ex. 1.01 (Check No. 98). She then withdrew $200.00 from the Bank of America account, got a money order in that amount, and deposited the money order into her U.S. Bank account. Tr. 35:13-23.

         8. On April 7, 2016, Brown and Carter traveled to branches of Regions Bank and Bank of America so that Carter could open checking accounts. Tr. 36:22-25; Ex. 2 (bank records of Justice Carter). The Bank of America account was opened with an initial cash deposit of $25.00; the Regions Bank account was opened with an initial cash deposit of $50.00. Ex. 2 at 1, 18 (Bank of America records for Carter); Ex. 12 at 1, 3, 10, 11 (Regions Bank records for Carter). Upon opening the accounts, Carter drafted a check drawn on her Regions Bank account in the amount of $1, 000.00 made payable to Brown. Tr. 37:9-15; Ex. 12.01 (check made payable to Brown). Brown, accompanied by Carter, deposited the check into her U.S. Bank account through an ATM transaction even though Brown and Carter knew Carter's balance in her Regions Bank account was $50.00. Tr. 37:16-38:18; Ex. 3 (U.S. Bank records of Brown); Exs. 3.02, 3.03 (U.S. Bank surveillance photographs); Ex. 3.04 (U.S. Bank ATM transaction detail); Ex. 3.05 (U.S. Bank Image ATM Deposit Ticket); Ex. 3.06 (Regions Bank check made payable to Brown). Immediately after the deposit, Brown withdrew $60.00 from a U.S. Bank branch located in Florissant, Missouri, and $200.00 from a U.S. Bank branch located in St. Louis, Missouri, which resulted in the removal of funds in excess of any legitimate deposits. Ex. 3.00.

         9. Also on April 7, 2016, Brown and Carter deposited a $400.00 insufficient funds check drawn on Brown's U.S. Bank account into Carter's Bank of America account. Ex. 2.00 at 6-9; Ex. 3.00 at 1, 17.

         10. As a result of the fraudulent deposits, Bank of America and Regions Bank closed Carter's accounts. Ex. 2.00 at 18-19; Ex. 12 at 3, 12.

         11. In mid-April 2016, Defendant instructed Brown to contact someone named "Lumpy" who agreed to provide her with additional checks. Tr. 39:14-40:4, 68-69.

         12. On April 19, 2016, Brown called Defendant to tell him she had met Lumpy and obtained three checks. Ex. 8.00 at Jail Call 393. Each check bore the name of Dyanthony Owens. Tr. 41:16-18.

         13. On April 22, 2016, Brown filled out one of the checks as instructed by Defendant. She made it payable to herself in the amount of $600.00 and signed the name of Dyanthony Owens. Tr. 42:19-43:7, 48:2-5; 49:5-7; Ex. 1.00 at 24, 25; Ex. 1.02 (Check Number 1098). Brown deposited the check into ...


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