from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Louisiana
DAVIS, HAYNES, and COSTA, Circuit Judges.
EUGENE DAVIS, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
a jury trial, Louis W. Carbins, Jr., was convicted of one
count of conspiracy to defraud the United States in violation
of 18 U.S.C. § 371, seven counts of aiding and abetting
theft of Government money in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§§ 2 and 641, and one count of aiding and abetting
aggravated identity theft in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§§ 2 and 1028A. Carbins challenges the sufficiency
of the evidence supporting his conviction for aiding and
abetting aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory
consecutive two-year prison term. Concluding that the
evidence was sufficient to support Carbins' conviction,
indictment charged that Carbins, along with co-defendant,
Laphrida T. Watts, conspired to defraud the Internal Revenue
Service ("IRS") by obtaining fraudulent tax refunds
to which they were not entitled (Count 1), converted those
unlawfully obtained IRS refunds which were issued in the
names of various "identity victims" to their own
use and the use of another (Counts 2 through 8), and, during
and in relation to their theft of the IRS refunds, knowingly
used without lawful authority the names and social security
numbers of the various "identity victims." (Count
9). Watts ultimately entered into a plea agreement with the
Government, pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud the
United States (Count 1) and aiding and abetting aggravated
identity theft (Count 9). She testified for the Government at
testified that she started a romantic relationship with
Carbins in November of 2012. Around this time, Watts was
communicating with people on the internet about
"different types of jobs." Specifically, the people
on the internet were discussing a "bank drop, "
which Watts explained was a "wire transfer or someone
walking in and putting money into your [bank] account."
internet contact by the name of "Documentation" or
"Doc" asked Watts if she had a bank account in
which bank drops could be made. Watts communicated with Doc
using an "app" called ICQ, through instant
messaging, or by calling him on a computer line. When Watts
informed Doc that she did not have a bank account, Doc asked
if she knew anyone who did. During one of Watts' online
conversations with Doc, Carbins saw Watts communicating with
Doc. At that point, Carbins asked Watts what a bank drop was.
explained that a bank drop involved someone wiring money into
a bank account. In order for a bank drop to occur, she
explained, the account holder would have to give his personal
bank account information to the person wiring the money.
After hearing Watts' description of a bank drop, Carbins
"said he wanted to do it." Watts informed Doc that
she "found someone" for the bank drops.
himself then began communicating with Doc over ICQ, instant
messaging, and e-mail, as well as on his cellphone. Carbins
gave Doc the information regarding an existing bank account
he had at Regions Bank. Carbins also opened a second bank
account at Regions and additional bank accounts at Bank of
America, Teche Federal Bank, MidSouth Bank, Whitney Bank, and
Patterson State Bank. After Carbins established the bank
accounts, he created online account access and gave Doc the
necessary information so that Doc too could access the
account information online, "as if he were the account
testified that two or three days prior to a bank drop being
made into one of Carbins' accounts, Doc sent an e-mail
showing a "breakdown" of the amount of money he was
to receive from the drop and the amount Carbins was to
receive. Doc would always receive 50 percent of the drop. The
other 50 percent would be split between Carbins and another
person responsible for wiring Doc's percentage to
whatever name Doc provided in his e-mail. Watts testified
that the names of the individuals Doc instructed them to wire
the money to were "really crazy" and that the
addresses were mostly located in Ukraine. In many cases,
Carbins and Watts would go to a MoneyGram located inside a
Wal-Mart store in order to wire the money to the name
indicated in Doc's e-mail. Watts testified that in the
beginning of the scheme, she and Carbins did not know the
money being deposited into Carbins' bank accounts was
"IRS money." Watts believed, and told Carbins, that
the money was "illegal money" and was
"probably coming from somebody that owed [Doc] money for
drugs or something else."
evidence admitted at trial included the bank statements from
Carbins' various bank accounts. The statements reflected
that the first bank drop in the amount of $7, 695 hit
Carbins' original account at Regions on March 5, 2013.
The bank statement described this deposit as follows:
"US Treasury 312 Tax Ref Gowdy, David &." The
bank statement further indicated that, on the same day the
deposit entered Carbins' account, withdrawals of $2, 499
and $2, 415, listed as purchases from Wal-Mart, were made
from the account.
second bank drop in the amount of $7, 183 entered
Carbins' account at Bank of America on March 6, 2013. The
bank statement from that account described this deposit as
follows: "US Treasury 312 Des: Tax Ref ID:Xxxxxxxxx IRS
Indn: White, Forrest & Marie Co ID:3111036170 Ppd."
The statement further indicated that on March 28, 2013, a
withdrawal of $2, 502.10, listed as a purchase from Wal-Mart,
was made from the account.
third bank drop in the amount of $8, 878 hit Carbins'
original account at Regions on March 20, 2013. The bank
statement from that account described this deposit as
follows: "US Treasury 312 Tax Ref Edmonds, Micha."
The bank statement further indicated that on the same date as
the deposit, withdrawals of $2, 950 and $1, 999, listed as
purchases from Wal-Mart, were made from the account.
fourth bank drop in the amount of $7, 671 entered
Carbins' additional account at Regions on April 11, 2013,
and was described in the bank statement as follows: "US
Treasury 312 Tax Ref Heinen, Dennis." The fifth bank
drop in the amount of $174, 937 was made into Carbins'
account at Patterson State Bank on April 24, 2013, and was
described in the bank statement as follows: "AC-US
TREASURY 312 - TAX REF." The sixth and final bank drop
in the amount of $516, 091.45 entered Carbins' account at
Teche Federal Bank on July 3, 2013, and was described in the
bank statement as follows: "US Treasury 312 TAX REF
testified that the first time she and Carbins encountered any
problems with the bank drops was on April 25, 2013, the day
after the fifth bank drop, when a detective called Carbins
regarding his account at Patterson State Bank. The detective
wanted to see Carbins, and Carbins "had no choice"
but to meet him. Watts testified that when Carbins returned
from the meeting, "that's when we actually knew the
money was really [from the] IRS, because from what we
understood, Doc could make it look like it was an IRS
Cope, a vice president at Patterson State Bank, testified
that on April 25, 2013, she became aware of an issue with
Carbins' account at the bank. Specifically, the account
reflected a tax refund deposit from the IRS of $174, 934, but
the names listed as the payees on the refund check were
Daniel and Laura Bair, not Carbins. Cope subsequently called
the IRS fraud department, which instructed her to return the
entire deposit to the IRS. At that point, Cope learned from
bank records that Carbins had already withdrawn $2, 611 from
the IRS funds. She then froze the account.
testified that next she telephoned Carbins. She
"instructed him that a deposit was made into his account
that did not belong to him and that we were required to
return it[, ] and that [she] needed him to immediately return
the money that had been withdrawn from the account." She
informed Carbins "that the deposit was an IRS refund
check." She requested that Carbins come to the bank
later that day to return the money he had withdrawn or she
would contact the local police department.
Carbins never showed up, Cope contacted the Patterson Police
Department regarding a "fraudulent deposit" at the
bank. Four days later, Carbins went into the bank and met
with Cope. She informed him again that an IRS tax refund had
been deposited into his account, "that [it] did not
belong to him, " and that he needed to return the money
he had withdrawn on those funds. She further told Carbins
that if he did not make arrangements to repay the funds, she
would pursue charges against him. Although Carbins did agree
to a payment arrangement, only two payments were completed,
so that the remaining balance owed to the bank equaled $2,
testified that after Carbins' encounter with Patterson
State Bank in April 2013, a final bank drop was made into
Carbins' account at Teche Federal Bank in July 2013. She
and Carbins were not "aware that a drop was
coming." They learned about the drop from an e-mail
alert sent by the bank, which message indicated that the
deposit amounted to over $500, 000. Carbins had a debit card
for that account, and he went to an automatic teller machine
(ATM) to see if he could withdraw any money out of the
account. Although they did not think it was possible, Carbins
was able to withdraw money from the account. They also went
to Best Buy stores in "Lafayette, New Orleans, and a
couple of different places" to purchase some iPads,
MacBooks, and other items from a list that Doc e-mailed to
them. After purchasing these electronics, they mailed them to
an address in New York, ...