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United States v. Blake

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

December 21, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on the “Motion to Dismiss and Affirmative Defense of Entrapment, ” filed by the defendant, Airrion S. Blake. (DE 39.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion is DENIED.

         A. Background

         On May 20, 2016, the defendant, Airrion S. Blake, was charged with making a false, fictitious, or fraudulent claim upon and against the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) in violation 18 U.S.C. § 287 (Count 1) and theft of government money in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641 (Count 2). (DE 1.)

         As to Count 1, the indictment alleges that Blake established an Employer Identification Number (“EIN”) with the IRS for an estate in his name, the Airrion Socrates Blake Estate, and caused himself to be named as the fiduciary of the Estate. (Id. at 2.) In March 2010, Blake obtained a post office box in Munster, Indiana, for the Estate of Airrion S. Blake Holding Group and named himself as president on the application forms. (Id.) In November 2012, Blake opened a checking account in Munster on behalf of the Estate and listed himself as one of the account owners. (Id.) Around October 29, 2012, Blake allegedly prepared and filed a false and fictitious Form 1041 tax return for the Estate and fraudulently claimed a tax refund in the amount of $149, 358.35. (Id. at 2-3.) On February 5, 2013, the United States Treasury Department issued an income tax refund of $149, 358.35 and sent the check to the post office box associated with the Estate. (Id. at 3.)

         As to Count 2, the indictment alleges that Blake willfully and knowingly stole the tax refund money described above and converted it to his own use. (Id. at 4.)

         Blake moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that “the Government did not have sufficient evidence to support a probable cause to continue to prosecute the charges levied against the defendant.” (DE 39 at 4.) Blake also argues that dismissal is warranted because “the Government's charging documents do not reflect that they (Government) obtained the information from the IRS and the U.S. Treasury Department which set forth the requirements under Brady v. Maryland.” (Id. at 2.) In the event that the indictment is not dismissed, Blake requests that he be allowed to present an entrapment defense because he was allegedly “induced, encouraged, or led to believe that he was not committing a crime or was induced to go forward with an act that led to the criminal charges, in that, the Government sent a check notwithstanding the WORD-STAMP on the Form 1041 trust.” (Id. at 5.) The Government opposes the motion. Blake has not filed a reply.

         B. Discussion

         Under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 7(c)(1), an indictment shall “be a plain, concise and definite written statement of the essential facts constituting the offense charged . . . .” A grand jury indictment serves to protect rights granted by the Fifth Amendment, namely limiting the federal government's power to hold someone to answer for a felony unless on a grand jury indictment, and the Sixth Amendment, which grants persons accused of a crime the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation. See Russell v. United States, 369 U.S. 749, 760-61 (1962); United States v. Glecier, 923 F.2d 496, 499 (7th Cir. 1991). “An indictment is constitutionally sufficient and satisfies Fed. R. Crim. P. 7(c)(1) if it states the elements of the crime charged, informs the defendant of the nature of the charge so [he] may prepare a defense, and enables the defendant to plead the judgment as a bar against future prosecutions for the same offense.” United States v. Agostino, 132 F.3d 1183, 1189 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations omitted); see also United States v. Allender, 62 F.3d 909, 914 (7th Cir. 1995). An exhaustive recounting of the facts surrounding the crime is not required. Agostino, 132 F.3d at 1189. When reviewing a motion to dismiss a criminal indictment, the court must assume the facts alleged in the indictment are true and “must view all facts in the light most favorable to the government.” United States v. Yashar, 166 F.3d 873, 880 (7th Cir. 1999). Dismissing an indictment is an extraordinary measure. See, e.g., United States v. Morrison, 449 U.S. 361, 363 (1981) (concluding the dismissal of an indictment was unwarranted absent a constitutional infringement that substantially prejudiced defendant's case); United States v. Stokes, 124 F.3d 39, 44 (1st Cir. 1997) (“Because the public maintains an abiding interest in the administration of criminal justice, dismissing an indictment is an extraordinary step.”).

         Here, Blake does not argue that the indictment is facially invalid; rather, he argues that the indictment should be dismissed because the Government lacked probable cause to levy the charges against him. Specifically, Blake contends that the fact that he placed a “WORD-STAMP” with the phrase “VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW” on the Form 1041 tax return documents “negated any evidence that [he] was pursuing a criminal act” and, as such, there was no reasonable basis for his arrest and/or prosecution. (DE 39 at 4.) The Court agrees with the Government that Blake's argument is a non-starter. The Supreme Court has made it clear that there is a “fundamental and historic commitment” to entrust probable cause findings to grand juries:

This Court has often recognized the grand jury's singular role in finding the probable cause necessary to initiate a prosecution for a serious crime. An indictment fair upon its face, and returned by a properly constituted grand jury, we have explained, conclusively determines the existence of probable cause to believe the defendant perpetrated the offense alleged. And conclusively has meant, case in and case out, just that. We have found no authority for looking into and revising the judgment of the grand jury upon the evidence, for the purpose of determining whether or not the finding was founded upon sufficient proof. To the contrary, the whole history of the grand jury institution demonstrates that a challenge to the reliability or competence of the evidence supporting a grand jury's finding of probable cause will not be heard. The grand jury gets to say-without any review, oversight, or second-guessing-whether probable cause exists to think that a person committed a crime.

Kaley v. United States, 134 S.Ct. 1090, 1097-98 (2014) (internal quotations, alterations, and citations omitted); United States v. Schreiber, 866 F.3d 776, 782 (7th Cir. 2017) (“grand jury indictment conclusively establishes probable cause”); see also United States v. Moore, 563 F.3d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 2009) (“Challenging an indictment is not a means of testing the strength or weakness of the government's case, or the sufficiency of the government's evidence.”) (citation omitted). The issuance of the indictment itself establishes that the grand jury found probable cause to proceed with the charges in this case. Thus, Blake's probable cause argument is meritless.

         Blake also argues that the indictment should be dismissed because the Government allegedly “has not pursued the proper requirements under Brady v. Maryland”:

The Government did not request information on any other trust other than the one that defendant allegedly set up using mostly lower-cased letters for the named trust and neglected searching or requesting information on any other trust that might appear when using all UPPER-CASED letters or inquiry as to any trust that ...

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