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United States v. Stokes

decided: August 9, 1993.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ELIZABETH ANN PRATT STOKES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. D.C. DOCKET NUMBER CR-92-13-I. JUDGE Henry A. Mentz, Jr.

Before King, Higginbotham, and DeMOSS, Circuit Judges.

Author: Demoss

DeMoss, Circuit Judge:

I.

Stokes was employed as the office manager of a satellite Tulane University Medical Center Cardiology Clinic (Tulane) in Hammond, Louisiana, from March 30, 1985, until June 2, 1987. In this capacity, she had signature authority on the clinic's bank account.

Stokes used money embezzled from Tulane to open two bank accounts in the name of Cardiology Associates of Hammond. She deposited $134,000 into the first Cardiology Associates account and $71,000 into the second. Stokes's husband, Jimmy, was the only person authorized to withdraw money from the second account.

Stokes wrote checks on the first Cardiology Associates account to herself and Jimmy for approximately $20,000 in 1986, and $30,000 in 1987.

Stokes purchased a money order for $15,000 with a check written to herself from the Cardiology Associates accounts and bought a car. Stokes then purchased a second money order for $15,000 with a check written to herself and bought some land.

Stokes and her husband, Jimmy, filed joint income tax returns in 1986 and 1987. The Stokes's 1986 return reflected their income as $30,876. Their 1987 return reflected their income as $20,464. Stokes never gave her tax accountant any information about the checks that came from the first Cardiology Associates accounts. Nor did the tax preparer ever see any statements from the second Cardiology Associates. Therefore, none of the amounts from these checks were declared on the Stokes's income tax returns. Rather, Stokes only reported the amounts reflected on her W-2 forms received from Tulane Medical Center.

On June 5, 1992, a jury convicted Stokes of making a fraudulent income tax return for the tax years 1986 and 1987, in violation of Title 26, U.S.C. § 7206(1). The probation officer recommended in Stokes's presentence investigation (PSI) report that the district court adjust Stokes's base offense level upward two levels for using sophisticated means to impede discovery of the nature or extent of her offense pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2T1.3. The district court adopted the PSI recommendations and made the upward adjustment.

On appeal to this Court, Stokes contends that the district court improperly qualified an expert witness; the evidence at trial was insufficient to find Stokes guilty of the indictment; and the trial court erred in making a two level enhancement for the use of sophisticated means.

We AFFIRM in part and AMEND in part.

II.

WHETHER THE DISTRICT COURT IMPROPERLY QUALIFIED AN ...


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