Before: Sloviter and Greenberg, Circuit Judges , and Pollak, District Judge*fn*
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sloviter, Circuit Judge.
On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
(D.C. Crim. Nos. 95-cr-00681-1, 95-cr-00681-6)
Submitted Pursuant to Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a)
Bardul Taftsiou was convicted in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey of possessing, delivering, passing and conspiring to pass approximately $1 million in counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes. At the same trial, his son James Taftsiou was convicted of dealing and conspiring to pass approximately $1 million in counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes. On appeal, both defendants challenge their convictions and sentences, raising the same issues. For the reasons that follow, we will affirm.
In late 1994, Bardul Taftsiou and his brother Kadri discussed with Mostafa Mahamoud the possibility of obtaining counterfeit United States currency, but ultimately Bardul decided to print his own counterfeit notes with the help of his 33-year old son James. In March and April of 1995, James Taftsiou, using a false identity, purchased an extremely high capability computer for $7,300, a top-of-the- line color printer for $8,000-9,000 and a very large, accurate commercial paper cutter. With this equipment, father and son began printing double-sided full-color counterfeit $100 notes. Several months later, they also began printing counterfeit $50 notes. Both denominations of counterfeit bills were printed with magnetic ink so that they would be accepted by slot machine bill validators in Atlantic City, New Jersey and Las Vegas, Nevada.*fn1
After the printing operations were underway, Bardul gave Mahamoud a bag of counterfeit notes and suggested that he recruit a group of people to go to Atlantic City over Memorial Day weekend to use the notes in casino slot machines. Once in Atlantic City, Mahamoud and the others would insert the notes in various slot machines, play the machine for a short period of time or not at all, hit the "cash out" button and exchange the tokens paid out by the machine for genuine currency. Mahamoud would then bring the genuine currency to Bardul and Kadri Taftsiou in exchange for more counterfeit notes.
On May 28, 1995, during the Memorial Day weekend trip, one of the men in Mahamoud's group successfully passed three of the counterfeit $100 bills to a prostitute, who informed the police when she realized the bills were counterfeit. Thereafter, both genuine and counterfeit notes were found in Mahamoud's room and on his person, some of which matched the bills given to the prostitute.
An additional $55,000 of the Taftsious' counterfeit notes was passed in slot machines in various Atlantic City casinos over the Memorial Day weekend. Secret Service agents testified that they could trace the notes to the Taftsiou group because they had never before encountered notes exactly like those recovered from Mahamoud and the others during the Memorial Day weekend. The notes exhibited several distinct patterns that did not appear anywhere in the Secret Service's nationwide database of recovered counterfeit currency.
In the summer of 1995, James Taftsiou began passing the counterfeit notes in Las Vegas. On the July 4th weekend, James and his friend Bujar Musa were captured on casino surveillance videotapes passing the counterfeit notes in various slot machines. By July 13, 1995, the Secret Service in Las Vegas had received $79,000 of the Taftsious' counterfeit notes.
From June 1 through November 17, 1995, Secret Service agents apprehended fourteen individuals for passing the Taftsious' counterfeit currency in both Atlantic City and Las Vegas and collected over $325,000 of the Taftsious' notes. Those arrested included relatives, friends, friends of relatives and individuals randomly recruited by James Taftsiou to pass the counterfeit notes in the casinos.
Mahamoud began cooperating with the investigating authorities in October of 1995. Bardul and some of his family members were arrested in November 1995 at Tropworld Casino in Atlantic City where they passed counterfeit bills into slot machines while Bardul collected the casino tokens from them and exchanged them for genuine currency. The agents recovered $9,000 in both counterfeit and genuine currency from the arrestees, their car, and the slot machines they had been playing. James Taftsiou was subsequently arrested on February 6, 1996.
Count One of the five-count superseding indictment charged Bardul, James, Nazmije Taftsiou (Bardul's wife), Julie Hasimi (Bardul's daughter) and Ilim Asimi (Julie Hasimi's brother-in-law) with conspiring with each other and seventeen other named co-conspirators plus others known and unknown to buy, sell, exchange, transfer, deliver, pass, utter conceal and keep in their possession approximately $1 million in counterfeit $100 and $50 Federal Reserve Notes in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 472 and 473.*fn2 Bardul and Nazmije Taftsiou, Julie Hasimi and Ilim Asimi were charged in Count Two with passing approximately 17 counterfeit $50 notes with intent to defraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 472 and 2, and in Count Three with possessing and concealing approximately 90 counterfeit $50 notes in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 472 and 2. Count Four charged James Taftsiou with dealing in approximately 60 counterfeited $50 notes in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 473 and 2. Count Five charged Bardul Taftsiou with dealing in approximately 17 counterfeit $50 notes, also in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 473 and 2. Approximately twenty other individuals were charged for related offenses in separate indictments.
Following a seven-week trial, Bardul and James Taftsiou were found guilty on all counts with which they had been charged. Nazmije Taftsiou and Julie Hasimi were acquitted. Bardul was then sentenced to four 51-month terms of imprisonment to be served concurrently, and James was sentenced to two concurrent 54-month terms. Both were ordered to ...