Argued May 28, 2015
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. No. 2:13-cr-00139-RL-JEM-1 -- Rudy Lozano, Judge.
For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee: Nicholas Padilla, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Hammond, IN.
For EUGENE CLARKE, also known as IMHOTEP BEY, also known as EUGENE CLARK, JR., Defendant - Appellant: Michael W. Bosch, Attorney, Highland, IN.
Before BAUER, EASTERBROOK, and RIPPLE, Circuit Judges.
Bauer, Circuit Judge.
On June 2 and 3, 2014, defendant-appellant, Eugene
Clarke, stood trial for seven counts of filing a false claim with the United
States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 287. At the close of the government's
evidence, Clarke moved for judgment of acquittal under Federal Rule of Criminal
Procedure 29, arguing that the government failed to present any evidence that he
knew the claims he presented were false. The district court denied the motion.
Clarke also requested a jury instruction on good faith, which the district court
also denied. The jury ultimately convicted him on all counts. Clarke now appeals
his conviction, as well as the district court's ruling on the jury instruction.
In August 2009, Clarke submitted federal tax returns for the " Eugene Clarke Trust" for tax years 2006, 2007, and 2008. Each return claimed that the trust had received $900,000 in income and expended $900,000 in fiduciary fees, but did not identify a particular source for the income. Each return further reported that $300,000 of federal tax had been withheld and paid over to the Internal Revenue Service (" IRS" ), and each therefore requested $300,000 in refunds. Clarke identified the trust's fiduciary as " Timothy F. Geither" (an apparent misspelling of the name of then-Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner), which raised a red flag
at the IRS regarding the legitimacy of the returns. As a result, the IRS notified Clarke that the returns were considered frivolous and would not be processed. Undeterred, Clarke resubmitted the returns for years 2006, 2007, and 2008 in December 2009. The returns again asked that the " Eugene Clarke Trust" be refunded $300,000 for each year, but did not name " Geither" as the fiduciary of the trust. Astonishingly, the IRS processed all three returns and mailed Clarke three $300,000 checks on January 5, 2010.
Four days after receiving the checks, Clarke attempted to cash one of them at PLS Check Cashers in Gary, Indiana. Suspicious of the validity of the check, district manager Stephen Eyabi questioned Clarke about how he obtained it. Clarke explained that the check was given to him out of a trust fund from his deceased father. Eyabi then gave Clarke a partial payment of $2,500 with the understanding that Clarke would receive the remaining amount after the check cleared (less the 5-10% check cashing fee).
Before the check cleared, Clarke returned the $2,500 and took the check back. On January 12, 2010, Clarke opened a bank account with Harris Bank and deposited one of the $300,000 checks. He deposited the second check into the account on January 13, 2010, and the third on February 24, ...