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United States v. Ortega

June 12, 1975

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE
v.
CESAR A. ORTEGA, RICHARD L. VENTOLA, RICHARD L. VENTOLA, APPELLANT



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY (D.C. No. 74-134 Criminal)

Author: Weis

Before: SEITZ, Chief Judge, and ROSENN and WEIS, Circuit Judges.

Opinion OF THE COURT

WEIS, Circuit Judge.

In the jurisprudence of childhood, "finders keepers, losers weepers" is accepted as dogma. The federal kidnapping act, however, takes a somewhat different approach and makes the possession of money with knowledge that it was delivered as ransom a criminal offense. In this appeal we sustain defendant's conviction under that Act despite his contention that, since he intercepted the money before it reached the kidnappers, the ransom had not been "delivered" as the statute requires.

After seizing eight-year old John Calzadilla on March 6, 1974, the boy's kidnappers demanded $50,000 in ransom money from his father. Mr. Calzadilla borrowed the money and drove his car from New York to New Jersey where he threw a bag containing the cash from a small bridge. He thought that this was the location designated by the kidnappers in a series of telephone calls, but it turned out to be the wrong bridge. When the father returned home, he was surprised to receive another call from the kidnappers complaining that they could not find the ransom. Calzadilla went back to the bridge, but his attempts to retrieve the package were unsuccessful. The boy was released unharmed on March 8, 1974, but when the kidnappers were captured a short time thereafter, they did not have the ransom.

Ultimately, it was learned that defendant Ventola and a co-employee named Ortega were working in a railroad yard under the bridge and that they had found the bag which Calzadilla had tossed. The two men divided the money and maintained secrecy about their find.

In an effort to locate the ransom money, the F.B.I. questioned defendant Ventola and the other defendant, Ortega, in addition to six other railroad employees who had been near the bridge on the night the money disappeared. The agents disclosed to all of the men that they were seeking the ransom, and thus the identity of the owner and the events preceding the find became known to Ventola. Later, each workman appeared before a grand jury which was also investigating the incident. Ventola had earlier denied any knowledge of the whereabouts of the money in response to the F.B.I. inquiry, and he continued to do so when he appeared before the grand jury on March 19, 1974.

On April 9, 1974, a friend of Ventola told the F.B.I. that the defendant, some days previously, had said that he had the money. When confronted with this statement, Ventola admitted his complicity and named Ortega as a participant in the affair.

In due course, defendant was convicted of possession of ransom money (18 U.S.C. § 1202) and of making false statements before a grand jury (18 U.S.C. § 1623). He was sentenced to two concurrent terms of six months.*fn1

Ventola contends that his testimony before the grand jury should have been suppressed because he was not given the complete Miranda warnings. He asserts that, since he and the other seven workmen were the targets of the grand jury investigation, due process required that he be given the appropriate notification of his rights.

Before the testimony commenced, the assistant United States Attorney had advised Ventola that:

1. He had the right to remain silent;

2. he did not have to say anything to the ...


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