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United States v. Bowles

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

May 7, 2014

UNITED STATES, Appellee,
v.
SHARON KAY BOWLES, Defendant, Appellant

Page 36

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS. Hon. William G. Young, U.S. District Judge.

Edward J. McCormick, III for appellant.

Paul G. Levenson, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Carmen M. Ortiz, United States Attorney, and Lori J. Holik, Assistant United States Attorney, were on brief, for appellee.

Before Lynch, Chief Judge, Souter,[*] Associate Justice, and Selya, Circuit Judge.

OPINION

Page 37

SOUTER, Associate Justice.

Sharon Bowles appeals her conviction after jury trial on five counts of theft of government funds, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641. We affirm.

I

Bowles was found guilty of fraudulently collecting a total of $77,379 in federal civil service retirement survivor annuity payments made in 2005 through 2009 and intended for her mother, Ann Bowles. As the surviving spouse of a civil service employee, Ann Bowles had been entitled to a monthly annuity that should have stopped after she died in 2004. After getting notice of her death from the Social Security Administration in January 2005, the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) sent a verification form to Ann Bowles's old mailing address, which had been and remained Sharon Bowles's as well. The form was returned to OPM signed " Ann M. Bowles," with a notation falsely indicating that Ann Bowles was still alive and eligible for the monthly payments. Twice again, in August 2005 and September 2009, the same sequence ensued: OPM sent an address verification form to Sharon Bowles's address, and the form was returned with the false notation that Ann Bowles was a living annuitant. Based on this misinformation, OPM continued to send monthly checks to Ann Bowles, each of which was negotiated with the purported signature endorsement of " Ann M. Bowles" on the back. Some of the checks also bore the spurious signature of Sharon Bowles's deceased father, some included the signature of Sharon Bowles, and some included all three. In September 2007, Sharon Bowles gave Citizens Bank a signed form (including the supposed signature of " Ann M. Bowles" ) with the effect of adding her mother's name as that of a joint owner on her personal bank account. Thereafter, the monthly annuity payments were deposited into this account, at first by paper check and then by electronic transfer.

The jury convicted Bowles on all counts. The district court sentenced her to time served plus 30 days of incarceration and ordered her to pay $77,379 in restitution. Bowles raises four claims of error.

II

She first contends that the district court erred in disallowing her peremptory challenge to a member of the venire and in seating the challenged individual on the jury. We review the district court's finding that counsel's challenge was motivated by the prospective juror's race, in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), for " clear error." United States v. Bergodere, 40 F.3d 512, 516 (1st Cir. 1994).

At voir dire, Bowles's counsel raised a peremptory challenge to strike " Juror Number 5, Ms. Tran." ...


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