United States v. Brandon Jones (2nd Cir. July 2020)

The Federal Docket

False or Fictitious Government Documents – Under 18 U.S.C. § 514, a defendant can be convicted for using either false instruments or fictitious instruments.

False or Fictitious Government Documents/Sufficiency of the Evidence – Evidence that a defendant used inauthentic government documents, made false representations about his employment by the government, and paid for cars and apartments with fake purchase orders is sufficient to uphold a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 514.

Brandon Jones was convicted of several counts of wire fraud and one count use of fictitious government documents under 18 U.S.C. §§ 514(a)(2) based on his use of counterfeit government transportation requests and purchase orders. Jones was sentenced to fifty months’ imprisonment. Jones appealed his § 514 conviction, arguing there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction and that the statute only applies to fake documents, not counterfeit version of real documents.

The Court disagreed, holding that under the plain meaning of § 514, “false or fictitious” instruments refers to two distinct categories of documents: “wholly contrived types of documents or instruments and fake versions of existing documents or instruments.” The Court held that both a false instrument and a fictitious instrument can support a conviction.

The Court also held that there was sufficient evidence to support Jones’s conviction. The Court noted that “Jones passed inauthentic [Governmental Transportation Requests] and purchase orders,” “represented that he worked for a fictitious entity associated with the United Nations,” and “rented cars and apartments that were paid for with fake purchase orders.”

Appeal from the Southern District of New York

Opinion by Pooler, joined by Lynch and Menashi

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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