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United States v. Zapien

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

May 7, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
[1] HECTOR PALMA ZAPIEN, (a/k/a Hector Palma Zapien SANDOVAL-ROSALES, [3] MARIA SANDOVAL-ROSALES

MEMORANDUM

KEVIN H. SHARP, District Judge.

Pending before the Court are the Motions for Severance (Docket Nos. 93 & 94) filed by Defendants Martha Sandoval-Rosales and Maria Sandoval-Rosales, to which the Government has responded in opposition (Docket No. 96). Defendants' Motions will be granted in part.

I. Background

On February 26, 2014, a federal grand jury returned a 31-count Indictment against four Defendants, along with two forfeiture allegations. Count One charges all four Defendants with conspiring "to defraud the United States and to commit and aid and abet the commission of one or more offenses against the United States, that is, wire fraud, a violation of Title 18 United States Code, Section 1343; structuring, a violation of Title 31, United States Code, Section 5324(a)(3); and operation of an unlicensed money transmitting business, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1960(b)(1)(B)." (Docket No. 19 at 4). Counts Two through Nineteen charge all four Defendants with distinct acts of unlawful money structuring in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 5324(a)(3). Both the conspiracy and structuring counts involve multiple bank deposits from La Palma Mexican Market into the First Federal Bank of Dickson.

In addition to those overriding charges, Defendant Hector Palma Zapien is charged in Count Twenty with managing an unlicensed money transmitting business (La Palma Mexican Market), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1960(b)(1)(B); in Count Twenty-One with making a material false statements to the First Federal Bank of Dickson, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1014; in Counts Twenty-Two through Twenty-Seven with wire fraud based on wire transfers from the La Palma Mexican Market, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343; and in Count Twenty-Eight with unlawful re-entry of an alien in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326(a)(2)(B). In Count Twenty-Nine, that Defendant and his wife, Defendant Maria Sandoval-Rosales, are charged with unlawfully possessing six firearms in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(5) and 924. Finally, in Count Thirty, Defendant Maria Correa-Ruiz is charged with falsely using a Social Security Number in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 408(a)(7)(B) and, in Count Thirty-One, with utilizing a forged Permanent Resident Card, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1546(A), both in relation to an employment application.

In her Motion, Defendant Martha Sandoval-Rosales "moves the Court for an Order severing [her] (2) from all of the remaining defendants (1, 3, 4) charged in the indictment." (Docket No. 93 at 1). For her part, Defendant Maria Sandoval-Rosales requests that this case be severed into four trials, specifically, that there be one trial as to Counts One through Twenty-Seven, another trial as to Count Twenty-Eight, still another trial as to Count Twenty-Nine, and yet another trial as to Counts Thirty and Thirty-One. While this Court finds that severance is appropriate, it does not believe that severance is warranted to the extent requested by either Defendant.

II. Legal Discussion

Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure governs whether multiple offenses may be joined in a single indictment by providing:

The indictment or information may charge a defendant in separate counts with 2 or more offenses if the offenses charged-whether felonies or misdemeanors or both-are of the same or similar character, or are based on the same act or transaction, or are connected with or constitute parts of a common scheme or plan.

Fed. R. Crim. P. 8(a). "[T]he spirit of Rule 8(a)... is to promote the goals of trial convenience and judicial efficiency, '" United States v. Tran, 433 F.3d 472, 478 (6th Cir. 2006) (citation omitted), and the Sixth Circuit "construes Rule 8(a) in favor of joinder and evaluates whether joinder was appropriate based upon the four corners of the indictment." United States v. James, 496 Fed.Appx. 541, 546 (6th Cir. 2012).

Rule 8(b), in turn, governs the joinder of multiple defendants in one indictment by providing:

The indictment or information may charge 2 or more defendants if they are alleged to have participated in the same act or transaction, or in the same series of acts or transactions, constituting an offense or offenses. The defendants may be charged in one or more counts together or separately. All defendants need not be charged in each count.

Fed. R. Crim. P. 8(b). As with Rule 8(a), joinder under Rule 8(b) is "encouraged rather than discouraged" because it helps to "promot[e] efficiency and avoid[] the potential for inconsistent verdicts." United States v. Cope, 312 F.3d 757, 779 (6th Cir. 2002).

In response to Defendants' Motions, the Government asserts that all of the charges and Defendants are properly ...


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