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United States v. Mattia

decided: June 29, 1967.


McLaughlin, Hastie and Seitz, Circuit Judges.

Author: Seitz


SEITZ, Circuit Judge.

The five appellants ("defendants") appeal their conviction by a jury of participation in a conspiracy to transport counterfeit securities in interstate commerce. Several other individuals pleaded guilty.

These defendants were convicted on the count in the indictment which alleged that they and others conspired*fn1 to commit violations of 18 U.S.C. ยงยง 2314 and 2315 by possessing, receiving and transporting in interstate commerce counterfeit General Motors Acceptance Corporation bonds. They were alleged to have engaged in the overt acts of photographing, printing and counterfeiting 3,000 twenty-one year 5% 1980 GMAC bonds each in the amount of $1,000. Such acts allegedly took place between August 1, 1961 and December 20, 1961 at the Mattia Printing Company ("Company") plant in Newark, New Jersey. It was also charged that defendants acted as "representatives" and "employees" of the Company.

The Government established at the trial that Leo Segal*fn2 was one of certain individuals who retained a Florida attorney during the first week of January, 1962 to negotiate a $250,000 loan with a Florida bank to be secured by $300,000 worth of GMAC bonds. After submitting the serial numbers and the bonds at the Bank's request, Segal later advised the attorney he had found another source for the loan and withdrew the bonds. Shortly thereafter two of the non-appealing defendants were arrested in New Jersey with some of the counterfeit bonds in their possession. After further investigation indictments were obtained and thereafter these defendants were brought to trial and convicted.

Since the principal contention of these defendants is that the Government produced insufficient evidence to sustain these convictions it is necessary to delineate at length pertinent portions of the protracted testimony. This is particularly important in conspiracy cases. The "facts" must of course be evaluated in the light of the jury's guilty verdict.

The Company operated an established general printing business in Newark, New Jersey. Romeo Mattia was the owner. He was tried and acquitted. His son Joseph was manager. He was convicted and is one of the defendants here. The Company employed about thirteen persons full time including three of these defendants: viz., Raio, who was a printing press operator; Mancinelli, who was an offset pressman; and Perna, who was print shop foreman. The fifth defendant here is Natale, who was not a regular employee of the Company. He had full time employment as foreman of the negative plate department of another printing establishment. On a sporadic basis when the Company needed extra help or was busy he would work for it in the evenings after regular working hours and on weekends. On these occasions Natale mainly did photographic work, which is a step in the photo offset process. At such times he was paid the going overtime rate of pay, about $5.00 per hour. His income from the Company for all of 1961 was $300.

The fact that the bonds here involved were counterfeit was fully established. One of the crucial issues at the trial was whether the counterfeit bonds were made at the Company's plant. The record discloses that the Government's evidence strongly justified a jury finding that the counterfeit bonds were printed at the Company's plant. The Company's bookkeeper (Adler) so testified in the Government's case. Also, by way of example only, a questioned documents examiner for the F.B.I. testified that the serial numbers of a sampling of the seized bonds were printed by identified numbering machines which were delivered to a Company representative on December 12, 1961. One of the identified machines was seized by the F.B.I. at the Company's plant incidental to the arrest of the Mattias. Moreover, a thumbprint of one of these defendants Mancinelli, was found on one of the seized bonds. It was also shown that the particular bond could not have been handled by him in connection with the investigation.

We next consider whether the Government properly "linked" these defendants with the printing of the bonds. The key Government testimony as proof of the alleged overt acts came from Adler. He was employed by the Company as a bookkeeper during the period when the counterfeit bonds were printed, i.e., between August and December 1961. Defendants attacked Adler's character at the trial. While relevant, it merely went to the weight to be given his testimony, particularly in view of the other evidence adduced by the Government.

Adler testified that while working evenings in late September of 1961 he would have occasion to go to the rear of the print shop to discuss estimates with Joseph Mattia who was working with the defendants Raio and Perna. He said he heard them discussing "how they were going to go about making the bonds, the printing of the bonds." Adler said he saw Raio and Natale stripping, or laying out, the bond material which was to be photographed. He said Raio was doing the photography work and Natale was making the negatives. Adler testified that the actual printing of the bonds on the offset machines commenced in the latter part of November 1961. In this connection he said that defendant Mancinelli operated the offset press while Perna ran the numbering press. He stated further that the Mattias were present while these runs were being made. These operations at first were only in evenings but later also took place during the day.

We think the Government's evidence clearly justified a finding by the jury that all of these defendants worked on some one or more stages leading to the printing of the bonds.

We next consider whether the Government's evidence properly justified a finding that these defendants were aware that they were engaged in a counterfeiting operation. Such a showing was needed to satisfy the necessary element that they had a conscious purpose to further the conspiracy.

The defendant, Joseph Mattia, who managed the plant, was identified by Adler as the man who handled the contact with Segal, the individual who attempted to use the counterfeit bonds to secure a loan. Joseph Mattia on occasion brought the GMAC bond negatives in from the plant to show Segal. It was Joseph Mattia who instructed Adler to misfile the invoices for the paper used in printing the bonds. After an investigative visit of the F.B.I. agents in early 1962 he issued a threat to certain of these defendants and Adler that dire consequences would result if anyone talked about the ...

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