Marcin Garbacz was a Catholic priest who embezzled collection monies from several parish churches within his diocese. He was convicted by a federal jury of 60 charges in connection with this scheme, including wire fraud, money laundering, and tax fraud charges. Forty-seven of his wire fraud charges were for depositing the stolen funds, while the three others were for making payments on his credit card with the funds.
Reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence de novo and in the light most favorable to the guilty verdicts, the Eighth Circuit upheld the wire fraud convictions for Garbacz’s deposits. Even though mere deposits of misappropriated cash are not usually considered to be a part of the scheme that acquired the money, in Garbacz’s case they counted because the deposits could reasonably have been seen as a way to “postpone inquiries” about the funds by the other priests he worked with.
The court did find plain error in the District Court’s failure to sua sponte overturn Garbacz’s convictions for wire fraud that were based on his transactions to pay off his credit card. Since the funds were already in his bank account when they were spent in this way, the payments did not help to further hide his crime. Therefore, no reasonable juror could find that the payments assisted in the carrying out of the fraud.
Appeal from the District of South Dakota
Opinion by Gruender, joined by Smith and Kobes
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