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UNITED STATES v. BRONOWSKI

November 28, 1983

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ROBERT MICHAEL BRONOWSKI and THOMAS THEODORE SALANY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SIMMONS

 On March 10, 1983, United States Postal Inspectors received a telephone call from Catherine Corletto who indicated that the defendant Thomas Salany, her nephew, was engaged in the trafficking of stolen United States Treasury checks. Corletto stated that in her absence Salany had come to her residence on March 1, 1983, with three Treasury checks which had been stolen from the Trafford, Pennsylvania area, in an attempt to persuade her to drive him to the bank to negotiate the checks. Corletto's statements were corroborated through another aunt of Salany's, identified as Daisy Smeltz, who informed Postal Inspector Donald Rood that Salany had telephoned Corletto's residence to secure transportation to the bank, but that Corletto was not home to receive Salany's call. Corletto further indicated that Salany stated that he would call her on the first of the following month and, if there were stolen checks available, he would work out a deal with her to split the proceeds received from the negotiation of the checks.

 Postal Inspector Rood knew that Corletto had a prior record of stealing Treasury checks and was in fact presently under suspicion for the same activity. Previously, in November of 1982, and again in February of 1983, Corletto had been interviewed by the Postal Inspectors regarding her possible involvement in the theft and negotiation of Treasury checks. When questioned about her motives for providing information regarding Salany's alleged activities, Corletto in essence noted that it was because Salany was using the proceeds received from the stolen checks to support a bad narcotics habit.

 On March 14, 1983, Postal Inspector Rood contacted Corletto, who indicated that she had spoken with Salany on March 11, 1983. Corletto stated that Salany had asked her whether she wanted to negotiate stolen checks on April 1, 1983, and informed her that he had stolen and passed three Treasury checks the month before.

 On March 18, 1983, Postal Inspector Rood again contacted Corletto. Corletto indicated that Salany had asked her to bring a vehicle and meet him at the Trafford Bridge on April 1, 1983. Further telephone conversations repeated the plan to negotiate stolen checks on April 1, 1983. On March 21, 1983, Postal Inspector Rood was informed by Corletto that on occasions Salany negotiated stolen checks at the Super Duper Market.

 On April 1, 1983, the Postal Inspectors met with Corletto at the Wall Fire Department in Wall, Pennsylvania. At that time, Corletto was equipped with an electronic tape recorder and her automobile was equipped with an electronic transmitter. Thereafter, Corletto drove to Trafford, Pennsylvania and picked up Salany as prearranged. Although Salany stated that he had no checks at that time, he indicated that he had information as to where he could purchase stolen checks, but informed Corletto that he needed money to purchase the checks.

 That entire afternoon Salany and Corletto drove around the Monongahela Valley area, but there was no evidence of trafficking in stolen checks or other illegal activity. However, during this time, Corletto and Salany discussed various forms of criminal activity relating to the theft and negotiation of checks. On several occasions Salany asked Corletto for money.

 Salany persuaded Corletto to give him money to allegedly purchase a check. Corletto was never repaid and there was no evidence that the money Salany borrowed from Corletto was used to purchase a stolen check. On April 1, 1983, Corletto and Salany went to no mailboxes nor received any stolen checks while under constant surveillance by the Postal Inspectors. Salany was eventually dropped off by Corletto at his home, indicating that someone was going to bring him some stolen checks. Further surveillance of Salany that day, however, proved fruitless.

 On April 13, 1983, Postal Inspector Rood was informed by Corletto that Salany was still planning to deal in stolen Treasury checks. On April 25, Corletto informed Postal Inspector Rood that Salany was planning to steal checks from the same persons that he had stolen from on March 3, 1983, and that he would telephone her at 10:00 a.m. on May 3, 1983, so that she could drive him to cash the stolen checks.

 On May 3, 1983, Postal Inspectors arrived at Corletto's residence at 8:00 a.m. An electronic tape recorder was installed on Corletto's telephone and one was installed in her automobile; no transmitter, however, was installed. By 11:00 a.m. Salany had not called Corletto as planned, so Corletto drove to Salany's residence and picked Salany up.

 Corletto's vehicle was under observation at various points throughout the day. Eventually, the vehicle was observed with an unknown male occupant who was subsequently identified by Corletto as the defendant Robert Bronowski. At 1:15 p.m. Corletto telephoned the Office of the Postal Inspector and spoke with Inspector Trainor and indicated that she, Salany and Bronowski were going to the Wilkshire Poultry Farm to steal checks. This message was relayed to Inspector Rood and to the surveillance team -- Inspectors Leverone and Clinton. The surveillance team was dispatched to the Wilkshire Poultry Farm area where they observed the Corletto vehicle parked near roadside residential mailboxes.

 At 2:15 p.m. Corletto again telephoned the Office of the Postal Inspectors and spoke to Inspector Trainor. Corletto informed Inspector Trainor that Salany had stolen a check and that they were going to the Mellon Bank in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania to negotiate it. Corletto also advised Trainor that the name of the payee on the check was "Kenneth Gaston," that the check had been stolen from McKee Road, and that it was a green government check. This information was relayed to Inspector Rood and the surveillance team.


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