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United States v. Waits

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

March 29, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
Anthony Leon Waits, Defendant-Appellant. United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
Jacqueline D. Mills, Defendant-Appellant.

          Submitted: September 25, 2018

          Appeals from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Little Rock

          Before COLLOTON, BEAM, and GRASZ, Circuit Judges.

          COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.

         A jury convicted Anthony Waits and Jacqueline Mills after a trial in a fraud case. The district court sentenced Waits and Mills to 175 and 150 months' imprisonment, respectively, and entered forfeiture orders against them. On appeal, Waits and Mills challenge their convictions, and Waits also challenges his term of imprisonment and forfeiture order. We affirm the convictions and Waits's term of imprisonment. We vacate the forfeiture order against Waits and remand for further proceedings on that issue.

         I.

         The United States Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service provides federal funding to after-school and summer programs that serve food to children in low-income areas. The agency acts through the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program, which includes an At-Risk Afterschool component, and the Summer Food Service Program.

         In Arkansas, the Department of Human Services administers these programs. An organization in Arkansas must receive approval from the Department to become a sponsor who participates in a feeding program. A sponsor may serve snacks or meals to eligible children and receive reimbursement from the Department for the food served. As a condition of participation, a sponsor must follow the Department's regulations governing feeding programs, including those that require keeping and maintaining records related to the program.

         Waits and Mills were convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud related to their involvement with these feeding programs. The jury also found Mills guilty of multiple substantive counts of wire fraud, bribery of an agent of a program receiving federal funds, and money laundering.

         According to evidence at trial, Mills participated in the programs as a sponsor and claimed inflated or fabricated reimbursements for more than thirty sites. To avoid scrutiny of her false claims, she paid money to Department officials in exchange for approval of her programs and help in avoiding detection. Waits was not a program sponsor, but he recruited others to become sponsors. Waits helped others to claim fraudulent reimbursements and to create receipts that supported their false claims. He then collected a share of the profits of the fraud.

         After a jury convicted Waits and Mills, the district court sentenced them to 175 and 150 months' imprisonment, respectively. The court also ordered Waits to forfeit a personal money judgment of $3, 316, 280.85, based on the gross amount that he and his co-conspirators received from their participation in the conspiracy.

         II.

         Waits and Mills first argue that the district court erred in rejecting their proposed theory-of-defense instructions. We review the district court's rulings for abuse of discretion. United States v. Christy, 647 F.3d 768, 770 (8th Cir. 2011).

         Waits's proposed instruction stated: "Anthony Leon Waits submits that he did not voluntarily or intentionally agree or conspire with anyone to commit the crime of wire fraud. Furthermore, he denies that he had knowledge of any agreement, plan or scheme to commit wire fraud." The proposal then stated that the burden of proof is always on the ...


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