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United States v. Cook

September 24, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MARK COOK



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McVerry, J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

Defendant, Mark Cook, and his co-defendant, Jess Babinsack, were indicted by a Grand Jury on January 10, 2007, and charged with one count of conspiracy to pass counterfeit checks at various retail establishments from November 2006 to December 2006, in violation of Title 18, United States Code § 371.

On May 14, 2007, Babinsack pleaded guilty. On September 17 and 18, 2007, the Court held a non-jury trial on the pending charges against Defendant Cook. In defense counsel's closing argument, he acknowledged that the evidence against Babinsack was overwhelming and framed the issue as whether it is reasonable and logical to infer knowledge, agreement and participation in the conspiracy by Cook.

The government presented numerous witnesses: Mary Louise Bopp, Richard Romano, Colleen Doheny, Judy Molinero, David Anderchak, James Ali, William J. Ross, Robert J. Schmidt, James Rozboril, Tim Downing, Daniel Carey White, Jeffrey Heyl, Brian Witherow, Christopher Jacobson, Patricia Babinsack and Jennifer Frain. The government also introduced numerous exhibits, including counterfeit checks and matching receipts from various retailers, and footage from video cameras at those stores. The government also introduced merchandise which was recovered during searches of Cook's truck, Cook's home and Babinsack's home. Defendant Cook did not present any evidence.

At the non-jury trial, both parties were represented by counsel who presented and argued the issues skillfully and effectively. The parties did not accept the Court's invitation to file post-trial briefs. The Court therefore enters its decision pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 23(c). For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that defendant Mark Cook is guilty as charged in the Indictment of the crime of conspiracy, in violation of Title 18, United States Code § 371.

FINDINGS OF FACT

The evidence presented at trial establishes the following:

A. Stipulations

Prior to the start of trial, counsel agreed to the following stipulations:

1. The four financial institutions, Apollo Trust Co., Dollar Bank, National City Bank and PNC Bank, were all involved in interstate commerce.

2. Babinsack's computer was used to make false identification documents.

3. All of the government's exhibits and supplemental exhibits were admitted by stipulation without objection.

B. The Scheme

Agents recovered multiple fake Pennsylvania drivers licenses, in various names, each bearing Jess Babinsack's photograph. Agents recovered Sam's Club membership cards matching names on the fake drivers licenses. Agents also recovered a list that appeared to contain all of the relevant information from various checks, including routing and account numbers. Babinsack had computer equipment, software and check stock that enabled him to prepare counterfeit checks at his home. Babinsack would retain the legitimate routing numbers, but change the account owner information to correspond with one of his fake drivers licenses. Babinsack then, on numerous occasions, went to local retailers, ...


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