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United States v. Chalker

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 28, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JOAN WOODS CHALKER,

MEMORANDUM

R. BARCLAY SURRICK, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is Defendant Joan Woods Chalker's Motion to Sever (ECF No. 127). For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

On January 22, 2013, a federal grand jury returned a sixty-seven count Superseding Indictment against Dorothy June Brown, Joan Woods Chalker, Michael A. Slade, Jr., Courteney L. Knight, and Anthony Smoot. (Superseding Indictment ("Indictment"), ECF No. 47.)[2] These charges arise out of an alleged scheme perpetrated by Brown to defraud three separate charter schools out of over $6.7 million.

The first fifty-two counts of the Indictment charge Brown and Defendant with wire fraud in connection with the scheme to defraud the charter schools. Specifically, Brown is charged in Counts 1 through 14, and Counts 38 through 41 with defrauding Agora Cyber Charter School ("Agora"), and in Counts 42 through 50 of defrauding Laboratory Charter School of Communication and Languages ("Laboratory").[3]

In Counts 15 through 37, Brown and Defendant are both charged with devising a scheme to defraud Planet Abacus.[4] From June 2007 through April 2011, Brown and Defendant allegedly used AcademicQuest LLC ("AcademicQuest"), a private educational management organization owned and operated by Brown, to defraud Planet Abacus out of approximately $705, 561.62. (Counts 15-37 ¶¶ 25-26.) In order to obtain these funds, Brown falsely represented that the Planet Abacus Board of Trustees had entered into a management contract with Planet Abacus. ( Id. at ¶ 27.) In reality, the Board had never approved a contract between Planet Abacus and AcademicQuest. ( Id. ) In order to perpetuate the scheme, Brown, Defendant, and others created fraudulent management contracts, board resolutions, and board meeting minutes. ( Id. at ¶ 28-30.)

In addition, Brown and Defendant are charged in Counts 51 through 52 with devising a scheme to defraud Laboratory Charter School and the School District of Philadelphia.[5] From April 2009 through May 2009, Brown and Defendant misappropriated approximately $214, 095.34 from funds belonging to Laboratory, under the false pretenses that Brown and Defendant were owed money based on accumulated vacation and sick days. (Counts 51-52 ¶¶ 3-4.) In reality, neither Brown nor Defendant were entitled to those funds. ( Id. at ¶ 4.) In order to conceal the fraud, Brown and Defendant fabricated documents regarding Laboratory's leave policies making it appear as though they were entitled to the money. ( Id. at ¶ 6.)

All of Defendants are charged in Count 53 with conspiracy to obstruct justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. In addition, Brown is charged in ten substantive counts of obstruction of justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2) (Counts 61-62) and 18 U.S.C. § 1519 (Counts 54-59, 63, 65), and one count of witness tampering, in violation of 18 U.S.C § 1512(b)(3) (Count 67). Defendant is charged in seven substantive counts of obstruction of justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C § 1512(c)(2) (Counts 61-62) and 18 U.S.C. § 1519 (Counts 55-57, 65-66).

On July 29, 2013, Defendant filed a Motion to Sever. (Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 127.) The Government filed its response on August 13, 2013. (Gov't's Resp., ECF No. 131.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 8

"Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 8 governs joinder of offenses and joinder of defendants." Irizarry, 341 F.3d at 287. Rule 8 provides in relevant part:

(a) Joinder of Offenses. The indictment or information may charge a defendant in separate counts with 2 or more offenses if the offenses charged-whether felonies or misdemeanors or both-are of the same or similar character, or are based on the same act or transaction, or are connected with or constitute parts of a common scheme or plan.
(b) Joinder of Defendants. The indictment or information may charge 2 or more defendants if they are alleged to have participated in the same act or transaction, or in the same series of acts or transactions, constituting an offense or offenses. The defendants may be charged in one or more ...

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