December 1, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 14 cr 00010 -
Andrea R. Wood, Judge.
Bauer, Flaum, and Rovner, Circuit Judges.
March 19, 2015, a jury convicted defendant-appellant Precious
House of six counts of bank fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 1344, as a result of his involvement in a fraudulent
automobile loan scheme. At sentencing, the district court
determined the appropriate Sentencing Guidelines range was
108 to 135 months' imprisonment, and sentenced House to
serve 108 months. House appeals from that sentence, arguing
that the district court improperly applied a three-level
enhancement by finding that House was a manager or supervisor
of the scheme, pursuant to § 3B1.1(b) of the Sentencing
Guidelines. We affirm.
approximately February to December 2013, House and his
co-defendants participated in a scheme to secure automobile
loans-and retain a percentage of the proceeds-by falsifying
income and vehicle information for individuals who were
seeking personal loans.
owned a wholesale car dealership called Rolling Auto. In
September 2012, he approached co-defendant Crystal Williams,
who was working for a lending consulting company at the time,
and proposed a plan in which they would seek loans by falsely
stating that Rolling Auto intended to sell cars to loan
applicants. He picked an unreliable partner; Williams entered
into a plea agreement with the government and provided the
core testimony at trial against House and co-defendants Brian
Hughes and Murchael Turner. She testified that, as part of
the scheme, she prepared loan applications for 19 different
borrowers, none of whom would actually purchase a vehicle
from Rolling Auto. On those loan applications, Williams
falsified details such as registration fees, balances due,
taxes owed, and the names of salespersons. House provided her
with the details of vehicles she could use on false purchase
orders that would correspond with the amounts sought by the
borrowers. Specifically, House supplied her with the make,
model, color, year, vehicle identification numbers, mileage,
and price for vehicles that neither he nor Rolling Auto
would ensure that the loan checks were made payable to
Rolling Auto, and instructed the borrowers to send the loan
checks to Rolling Auto's address. In some cases, House
deposited the checks in Rolling Auto's business checking
account at TCF Bank, retaining a certain percentage of the
funds, and distributed the remainder to Williams and the
borrower, based on the amounts Williams provided. In other
cases, House cashed the checks at a currency exchange before
retaining his percentage and distributing the remainder.
House signed the checks in his role as owner of Rolling Auto.
March 2013, TCF returned one of the checks House had
deposited, which caused the Rolling Auto business account to
go into the negative. Williams anticipated that the bank
might close the account as a result, so she suggested that
they open another account with Bank of America. House
provided her with Rolling Auto's employer identification
number and other information, and she opened a new account in
Rolling Auto's name. House continued to deposit checks
into that account and distribute the funds as he had done
2013, credit unions began denying loans to Rolling Auto. In
response, Williams proposed creating a new business to use as
a front for the car loans. Williams drafted articles of
incorporation, which she sent to House for review, for a
company called Xpress Automotives; the business was not
operational, nor did it own a car lot or any cars. After
Williams filed the paperwork, House used Xpress Automotives
to apply for and receive nine additional loan checks.
was personally involved in applying for 51 loans to credit
unions for fictitious auto sales in 2013. Thirty-six of those
were approved, resulting in total loan proceeds of $1.1
million. House personally kept $105, 589.96 of that money,
which was the most in relation to his co-defendants. Williams
took approximately $60, 000, Hughes took approximately $68,
000, and Turner approximately $2, 500.
March 19, 2015, a jury found House guilty of all six counts
of bank fraud against him. Prior to his sentencing, the
United States Probation Office filed a Presentence
Investigation Report (PSR), which recommended a total offense
level of 31, combined with a criminal history category of II,
to reach a Sentencing Guidelines range of 121 to 151
months' imprisonment. As part of its calculation, the PSR
included a four-level enhancement for being the organizer or
leader of criminal activity, pursuant to § 3B1.1(a) of
the Sentencing Guidelines.
and the government each filed a sentencing memorandum in
response to the PSR. The government recommended a three-level
enhancement for being a manager or supervisor, pursuant to
§ 3B1.1(b). Among his other objections, House contended
that no enhancement under that section was warranted, ...