Thursday, 06 February 2014 03:23

U.S. v. Rodney Foster: Conspiracy to Commit Identity Theft

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Court documents state that on December 7, 2010, an indictment was returned charging defendant with conspiracy to commit identity theft and wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. A superseding indictment was returned on January 4, 2011, charging the same offense.

Rodney Foster owned a home in Missouri with his wife. They put the house up for sale but could not find a buyer, so Foster approached Maurice Ragland, his brother-in-law for help in selling the property. Ragland had formed a mortgage appraisal and brokerage service known as TERM with some of his associates. TERM performed legal and illegal activities, with the illegal activities often involving a straw-buyer who acted as a fraudulent borrower-buyer on property listed by an associate of TERM. TERM often used the real identities of real people when arranging the straw-buyer transactions. Several of these transactions were made in the name of Christopher Taylor.

One of the coconspirators, Steven Edenfield, obtained a fake driver's license with his photograph and Taylor's name and completed a fraudulent loan application for the Foster property through Ragland. Ragland told Foster that he could sell his house, but that his sister, Foster's wife, could not know about the details of the sale. The conspirators in the case inflated the property's appraisal value so Foster's mortgage could be repaid and the surplus funds could be divided among the coconspirators. The sale was finalized in 2005.

Everything went according to their plan until Foster and his wife were divorced in 2009. Following the divorce, Foster's ex-wife went to visit her former home and became suspicious about the sale of the property after finding it vacant. She informed the FDIC about her suspicions that the home had been the subject of a fraudulent sale. Christopher Taylor, the identity theft victim, was named as a defendant in a civil suit for unpaid homeowner's association dues linked to his apparent ownership of the Missouri property.

According to court documents, Foster was indicted on one count of conspiracy, under 18 U.S.C. § 371, to commit identity theft and wire fraud. ((See 18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(7) (identity theft); 18 U.S.C. § 1343 (wire fraud)). After presentation of the defense case, Foster moved for a judgment of acquittal, which the district court denied. He was found guilty of conspiracy by a jury and appealed the decision, arguing that the Government did not establish that the conspirators knew the straw-buyer’s identity belonged to a real person, as required by the identity-theft statute.

However, the appellate court found that the Government had satisfied the burden of proof in regard to this issue and upheld the district court's ruling.

Resources

U.S. v. Rodney Foster, Appeal

U.S. v. Rodney Foster, Memorandum of Matters Discussed and Action Taken At Pretrial Conference

 

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