Submitted: September 22, 2017
from United States District Court for the Northern District
of Iowa - Cedar Rapids
LOKEN, ARNOLD, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
March 2015, Tamie Marie Samuels ("Samuels") filed
an alien relative visa petition (Form I-130) for the benefit
of her new husband, Randell Samuels ("Randell").
The petition asked, "Have you ever before filed a
petition for this or any other alien?" Samuels falsely
checked "no." A jury convicted Samuels of knowingly
making a false statement with respect to a material fact in
an immigration matter in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
1546(a). The district court sentenced her to three months in
prison and three years of supervised release. Samuels
appeals, arguing the district court erred in denying her
motion for judgment of acquittal because there was
insufficient evidence the false statement (i) was made
knowingly, and (ii) was made with respect to a material fact.
We review the sufficiency of the evidence de novo,
viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
verdict and accepting all reasonable inferences that support
the jury's verdict. United States v. Causevic,
636 F.3d 998, 1005 (8th Cir. 2011). We affirm.
The Trial Evidence.
trial, documentary evidence established that Randell is
Samuels's fourth husband. Samuels married Randell, a
citizen of Jamaica, on February 3, 2015, two days after he
entered the United States on a nonimmigrant visa. On March
12, 2015, Samuels filed the Form I-130 visa petition, and
Randell filed a Form I-485 application for adjustment of
status. In 1997, Samuels had filed a Form I-130 visa petition
for her second husband, Temistocles Lobaton, which was
approved in December 1997. Samuels falsely stated on the 2015
Form I-130 for Randell that she had never before filed a
petition for any other alien. Samuels and Lobaton divorced in
March 1999; Lobaton did not receive a visa. Samuels's
third husband, Demone Square, was a United States citizen;
they divorced in April 2010.
States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Officer
Justin Kaleas testified that he interviewed Samuels and
Randell in June 2015 as part of the Form I-130 decision
process. At the interview, Samuels confirmed that she had
never filed a Form I-130 petition for any other relative. Two
days after the interview, Kaleas approved Samuels's Form
I-130 petition, unaware of the Form I-130 Samuels filed in
1997 on behalf of Lobaton. Kaleas testified that checking
"yes" in response to the question, "Have you
ever before filed a petition . . .?" is considered a
"fraud indicator" that triggers inquiry into prior
Form I-130 filings. USCIS examines the details of any prior
petition, the status of that petition, and if the petition
was found to be based on fraud. USCIS considers whether there
is a pattern of fraudulently filing for and obtaining
Security Investigations Special Agent Chris Cantrell
testified that, in February or March 2015, he began
investigating the fraudulent use of a passport belonging to
Demone Square, Samuels's third husband. A non-U.S.
citizen, Danny Darroux, had attempted to use this passport to
enter the United States from St. Kitts. Cantrell testified
that on March 4 -- one week before Samuels filed the Form
I-130 here at issue -- he interviewed Samuels's parents
and Randell regarding the passport. During the interview,
Randell acknowledged that he would need to obtain an
immigrant visa to remain in the United States.
testified that he reviewed the Form I-130s filed by Samuels
in 1997 and 2015 and interviewed Samuels on September 11,
2015, as a part of his passport investigation. During the
interview, Samuels stated that she had filed a Form I-130 in
1997 on behalf of second husband Lobaton, but believed she
had cancelled the petition. Supervisory Officer Richard Moore
testified that he accompanied Cantrell to this interview and
confirmed that Samuels admitted filing the 1997 Form I-130.
The government also submitted evidence that no one had
cancelled or attempted to cancel the 1997 Form I-130.
Samuels nor any other witness testified for the defense.
After the jury returned a verdict finding Samuels guilty of
the offense, she filed a written Motion for Judgment of
Acquittal and Conditional Motion for New Trial. The district
court denied that Motion in a thorough nine-page Order.
The Knowingly False Statement Issue.
first argues that there was insufficient evidence to support
a finding that she made the false statement knowingly. The
district court instructed the jury, without objection, that
"[a]n act is done 'knowingly' if the defendant
is aware of the act and did not act through ignorance,
mistake or accident." See generally United States v.
Dockter, 58 F.3d 1284, 1288 (8th Cir. 1995). Samuels
argues the evidence was insufficient because she filed the
prior Form I-130 eighteen years before the Form I-130 at
issue without the assistance of counsel, Lobaton was not
issued a visa, and the couple subsequently divorced, so
"it is fair to assume that defendant had a good faith
belief that the visa petition had been canceled."
the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, we
agree with the district court there was sufficient evidence
for a reasonable jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that
Samuels knowingly made the false statement that she had never
before filed a Form I-130 for any alien. Two witnesses
testified that Samuels admitted during the September 2015
interview that she had previously filed an I-130 on behalf of
Lobaton. As the district court observed, based on this
admission, "which occurred shortly after her submission
of the 2015 Form I-130, the jury could reasonably conclude
that she remembered her previous filing of the 1997 Form
I-130 at the time she stated that she had never filed a prior
petition." Though the agents recalled Samuels saying
that she believed the 1997 Form I-130 petition had been
"cancelled, " there was no evidence the petition
was cancelled, leaving a reasonable jury free to ...