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United States v. Fahnbulleh

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

June 13, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE
v.
MORRIS B. FAHNBULLEH, APPELLANT

Argued: October 16, 2013.

Page 471

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 472

Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (No. 1:09-cr-00359-1), (No. 1:09-cr-00359-3).

Barbara E. Kittay, appointed by the court, argued the cause and filed the briefs for appellant Morris B. Fahnbulleh.

Charles B. Wayne, appointed by the court, argued the cause and filed the briefs for appellant Joe O. Bondo.

David P. Saybolt, Assistant U.S. Attorney, argued the cause for appellee. With him on the brief were Ronald C. Machen, Jr., U.S. Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman and Elizabeth H. Danello, Assistant U.S. Attorneys.

Before: GARLAND, Chief Judge, SRINIVASAN, Circuit Judge, and SENTELLE, Senior Circuit Judge. Opinion for the Court filed by Senior Circuit Judge SENTELLE.

OPINION

Page 473

Sentelle, Senior Circuit Judge:

Joe Bondo and Morris Fahnbulleh were charged with and convicted of several counts of fraud in connection with their work on a humanitarian aid program in Africa funded by an agency of the United States government. They seek reversal of their conviction, or failing that, vacation of their sentences, alleging various errors made by the district court in the trial proceedings. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

Page 474

BACKGROUND

The United States Agency for International Development (" USAID" ) initiated a food aid program, known as a Food-for-Work program, for the African country of Liberia. Under the program, Liberian communities would provide labor to perform community projects such as digging wells and repairing roads, and laborers would receive food for their services. To implement the program, the USAID contracted with humanitarian organization Catholic Relief Services (" CRS" ). CRS in turn subcontracted with another humanitarian organization, World Vision, which administered the program in three counties in Liberia through its federated organization, World Vision International (hereinafter collectively referred to as " World Vision" ). Appellants Morris Fahnbulleh and Joe Bondo worked for World Vision on the USAID subcontract from 2005 to 2007. Bondo was a food monitor and Food-for-Work officer, and Fahnbulleh was the World Vision commodities manager in Liberia.

In 2009 Bondo and Fahnbulleh were arrested and charged with fraud allegedly committed on the Liberia Food-for-Work program. In particular, they were each charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States (18 U.S.C. § § 371, 2), one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud (18 U.S.C. § § 1349, 2), four counts of mail fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(1)), two counts of wire fraud (18 U.S.C. § § 1343, 2), and four counts of false claims (18 U.S.C. § § 287, 2). Bondo was further charged with two counts of witness tampering (18 U.S.C. § 1512 (b)(1)). Fahnbulleh and Bondo were tried together by a jury. Fahnbulleh was convicted on all counts, while Bondo was acquitted on the conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud count, but convicted on the other charges. Both were sentenced by the district court to 142 months imprisonment.

Bondo and Fahnbulleh now appeal their convictions and sentences.

DISCUSSION

Between them, Bondo and Fahnbulleh make five main arguments on appeal: 1) they were denied a speedy trial; 2) the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and venue; 3) the district court erred by admitting two government exhibits into evidence; 4) the district court erred in denying a motion by Bondo for a mistrial; and 5) the district court improperly calculated Fahnbulleh's and Bondo's sentencing guidelines range. We discuss each argument below.

A. Speedy Trial

After investigating allegations that fraud had been committed by World Vision employees during the Liberia Food-for-Work program, federal authorities arrested Fahnbulleh and Bondo. Bondo was held for approximately seven months and Fahnbulleh approximately five months before being indicted. Both Bondo and Fahnbulleh argue that their cases should have been dismissed under the Speedy Trial Act (" STA" ), 18 U.S.C. § 3161 et seq .

Appellants correctly point out that 18 U.S.C. ยง 3161(b) requires that " [a]ny information or indictment charging an individual with the commission of an offense shall be filed within thirty days from the date on which such individual was arrested . . . ." However, the STA provides for exclusion of certain periods from this 30 day limit. At the time of Bondo's and Fahnbulleh's arrests (two months apart) in mid-2009, the government filed motions seeking ...


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