United States v. Lequire, No. 11-10066 (9th Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
In this case, an insurance agency had a contract with an insurance company that allowed the agency to commingle collected insurance premiums with its other funds in its general operating account. The government contended that the premiums collected by the agency were the property of the insurance company and held "in trust" by the agency; it alleged that when the funds were not remitted but used for other purposes, they were embezzled by the agency's treasurer, defendant. Defendant was charged with ten counts of embezzlement of insurance premiums in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1033(b)(1) and one count of conspiracy to commit embezzlement. The court held that under long-standing Arizona law, the contract between the agency and the company, which permitted agency commingling, required monthly agency payments whether premiums were collected or not, and created a right of interest on late payments, created a creditor-debtor relationship, not a trust. The agency had contractual and fiduciary duties to the company, but was not a trustee. Because the funds in question were not held "in trust" by the agency as a matter of law, an essential element of embezzlement was lacking. Therefore, the court reversed the denial of defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal.