Submitted: June 13, 2019
Appeals from United States District Court for the District of
COLLOTON, KELLY, and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.
COLLOTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
convicted Fester Sayonkon and Saddam Samaan of aggravated
identity theft and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
See 18 U.S.C. §§ 1028A, 1344, 1349. A
third defendant, Momodu Sesay, pleaded guilty to one count of
conspiracy to commit bank fraud and testified for the
prosecution. The district court sentenced the defendants to terms
of imprisonment. Sayonkon and Samaan appeal their
convictions, and all three defendants challenge their
sentences. We affirm the judgments.
2008, the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force began
receiving reports of an uptick in counterfeit checks
deposited at banks around the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. An
investigation revealed a three-tiered check-fraud scheme.
"Check printers" generated counterfeit checks using
check-writing software, blank check stock, and valid bank
account and routing number information. "Runners"
negotiated or deposited the fraudulent checks, often opening
their own bank accounts and attempting to withdraw as much
cash as possible before the fraud was discovered.
"Recruiters" solicited and managed runners,
transported them to bank locations, coached them on how to
carry out the transactions, and served as the intermediaries
between the printers and the runners.
Task Force identified Sesay and Sayonkon as two of the
primary check printers and recruiters. At trial, Sesay
admitted that from October 2009 to December 2012, he
generated up to six counterfeit checks per month, and
coordinated a team of runners and recruiters to negotiate or
deposit those checks. During this same period, Sayonkon
printed his own fraudulent checks and recruited runners, but
also obtained fraudulent checks from Sesay and shared
information and coordinated runners with him.
2011, Sayonkon recruited Samaan to the conspiracy. Samaan was
incarcerated at the time, but he began providing Sayonkon
with the names and addresses of contacts in Jordan who might
serve as runners and negotiate counterfeit checks. After his
release in March 2012, Samaan served as a runner for
2012, the Task Force executed a search warrant at an
apartment shared by Sesay and another conspirator.
Investigators seized two laptops loaded with VersaCheck, a
check-writing software designed for small businesses. Data
obtained from the computers showed names of payees and other
details about the checks generated by the software.
Investigators matched these payees to a number of known
runners, including Sayonkon. After Sesay agreed to cooperate
with authorities, he acknowledged that from October 2009
through June 2012, he and his fellow conspirators caused or
intended to cause over $1.4 million in losses at more than
forty financial institutions.
jury charged Sesay, Sayonkon, Samaan, and three others with
conspiracy to commit bank fraud, see 18 U.S.C.
§§ 1344, 1349, and alleged that Sayonkon and Samaan
committed aggravated identity theft. See id. §
1028A. Sesay pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to
commit bank fraud, and became a witness for the government. A
jury convicted Sayonkon and Samaan of the conspiracy and
aggravated identity theft charges.
Sesay's sentencing, the court departed downward from the
advisory guideline range and imposed a term of 63 months'
imprisonment. Sayonkon was sentenced to a total of 151 months
in prison and Samaan to 87 months' imprisonment.
and Samaan challenge their convictions for conspiracy to
commit bank fraud. Each argues that the government presented
evidence of two separate conspiracies and created a
prejudicial variance from the single conspiracy charged in
the indictment. Where a defendant claims a variance based on
proof of multiple conspiracies, we will reverse only if the
evidence is insufficient to support a finding of a ...