United States v. Millender, No. 18-4784 (4th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
This criminal case stemmed from Defendant Terry and Brenda Millender's involvement in the Victorious Life Church. The district court granted Brenda's motion for a judgment of acquittal based on insufficient evidence to support her convictions for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The district court also conditionally ordered a new trial. The government appealed.
The Fourth Circuit dismissed Terry's cross-appeal after his death and remanded the judgment against Terry to the district court for further proceedings. The court reversed the judgment of acquittal as to Brenda's convictions and held that the district court erred in concluding that no reasonable juror could find that Brenda knew of the fraud perpetrated by Micro-Enterprise and Kingdom Commodities; the district court relied on this ground alone to override the jury's guilty verdict as to two counts of wire-fraud conspiracy and two counts of money-laundering conspiracy; a reasonable jury could find that the Millenders not only spent the money but also tried to conceal its nature; and no more is required to sustain the jury's verdict on the three substantive counts of money laundering. The court also vacated the grant of a new trial where, on the record, the court cannot see whether the district court appreciated the limits on its discretion in making the decision. The court remanded for further proceedings.