United States v. Powell, No. 12-1500 (10th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
In 2006, United States Postal Inspectors learned Crosby Powell had deposited checks stolen from the United States mail into his accounts at TCF Bank, UMB Bank, and Wells Fargo. An investigation revealed Powell had altered payee information or forged endorsements on some of the stolen checks. The United States obtained a superseding indictment charging Powell with eleven counts of uttering or possessing forged checks, and seventeen counts of possessing stolen mail. At trial, the government sought to prove the forged checks were “of an organization” by presenting evidence that each bank into which the forged checks were deposited was a federally insured bank operating in interstate commerce. The jury convicted Powell on the first eleven counts set out in the indictment. In his appeal to the Tenth Circuit, Powell raised three challenges to his convictions, all of which were raised for the first time on appeal, all of which were raised on the same premise: at no point during his possession or utterance of the forged checks were the checks "of" the banks into which they were deposited. The Tenth Circuit agreed that the forged checks were not "of" the depository banks. Because Powell did not raise his arguments before the district court, however, he was not entitled to relief unless he could "successfully run the gauntlet created by our rigorous plain-error standard of review." The Court found that Powell could not satisfy this burden as to all counts of conviction. Accordingly, the Court: (1) affirmed Powell’s convictions as to Counts 10, 13, and 20; and (2) remanded the case to the district court so it could vacate the remaining convictions and take any other necessary actions.