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United States v. White

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

March 9, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
SAUNDRA LUCILLE WHITE, a/k/a Lucille Parrish-White, a/k/a L. Saundra White, a/k/a L. Saundra Parrish White, a/k/a Lucille S. White, a/k/a Lucille P. White, a/k/a Lucille Parrish, a/k/a Saundra L. Parrish, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: January 25, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Greenbelt. Paul W. Grimm, District Judge. (8:13-cr-00436-PWG-1)


          Alex Christian Gesch, GIBSON, DUNN & CRUTCHER LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant.

          James I. Pearce, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          James Wyda, Federal Public Defender, Baltimore, Maryland, Meghan S. Skelton, Appellate Attorney, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Greenbelt, Maryland; Mark A. Perry, GIBSON, DUNN & CRUTCHER LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant.

          Leslie R. Caldwell, Assistant Attorney General, Sung-Hee Suh, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C.; Rod J. Rosenstein, United States Attorney, Baltimore, Maryland, Sujit Raman, Chief of Appeals, Thomas P. Windom, Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Greenbelt, Maryland, for Appellee.

          Before DUNCAN and KEENAN, Circuit Judges, and DAVIS, Senior Circuit Judge.

          Affirmed published opinion. Judge Duncan wrote the opinion, in which Judge Keenan and Senior Judge Davis joined.


         Defendant-Appellant Saundra Lucille White ("White") appeals her convictions for mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. White contends that she should have received a hearing under Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978), to challenge the veracity of the affidavit supporting a search warrant authorizing a search of her residence. White also appeals the reasonableness of her sentence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         I. A.

         On December 26, 2009, Christal Millner suffered a severe stroke leaving her unable to walk, talk, or drive for the remainder of her life. Pamela Hiler, Millner's cousin, took responsibility for Millner's care. In March 2010, hospital staff advised Hiler to seek guardianship of Millner in order to make health care and other decisions on Millner's behalf. Hiler, a counselor, reached out to White for assistance. White and Hiler had attended the same church for many years and Hiler recalled that White was an attorney. White graduated from Texas Southern University School of Law in 1983 and obtained a Master of Law in Taxation from Georgetown University in 1989. Hiler retained White on March 24, 2010 and received temporary and then permanent guardianship over Millner.

         As part of the guardianship process, Hiler and White inventoried Millner's assets. These included Millner's condominium in Silver Spring, Maryland, a 1993 Volvo, and three Bank of America accounts totaling over $130, 000. Millner also had access to her deceased mother's assets, including bank accounts totaling $352, 000, approximately $400, 000 in savings bonds, and a house. Hiler set about trying to organize Millner's personal affairs and gave White a key to Millner's condo.

         Almost immediately after Hiler retained White, White began a scheme to defraud Hiler and Millner. In April 2010, White impersonated Millner to apply for a duplicate license in Millner's name at a Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration ("MVA") location. White used Millner's birth certificate and forged Millner's signature on the application. Because White did not look like the prior photographs of Millner in the MVA database, the MVA confiscated the license. Undeterred, White obtained a counterfeit university identification with White's picture and Millner's name.

         In June 2010, White created a Maryland entity called Intel Realty Financial Services ("IRFS"). White opened a bank account for IRFS at Wachovia Bank, listing Millner as IRFS's CEO, owner, and president. The registered address of the bank account was a P.O. Box that White had previously opened. Using the fake university identification and Millner's vehicle registration, White then rented another P.O. Box in Millner's name from UPS. White authorized Millner and IRFS to receive mail from the UPS box.

         Shortly thereafter, Millner received the first of many tax deficiency notices. Because Millner was bedridden in a medical facility, Hiler routinely went to Millner's condo to retrieve the mail. In June 2010, Hiler opened a letter addressed to Millner and Millner's mother purportedly from the "IRS, Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service." J.A. 1163. The letter referred to an "Offer Compromised Agreement" between Millner and the IRS and requested remittance of $158, 500 to IRFS. J.A. 1165. It warned that the office would "file an immediate lien on any and all of" Millner's assets unless the agency received "full and complete payment" by June 19, 2010. J.A. 1165. Hiler asked White, her attorney, to call the number on the notice to ascertain whether it was legitimate and to confirm that Millner actually owed the money. After assuring Hiler that she had looked into the matter and Millner did owe the money, White told Hiler to send the checks on Millner's behalf. Hiler purchased cashier's checks drawn on Millner's account and sent them to IRFS. From June 2010 until early 2013, Millner continued to receive similar tax notices and Hiler continued to send IRFS money from Millner's accounts. Even after Millner died in January 2011, the tax notices continued.

         By the end of 2012, the IRFS payments had depleted Millner's assets. Hiler then received a notice addressed to her stating that she, as Millner's personal representative, was responsible for paying the taxes. In addition, Hiler received a voicemail from an unidentified caller purporting to be "an official collector for" the IRS and the "State of Maryland Department of Revenue."[1] J.A. 2354. The caller instructed Hiler or her attorney to contact the office that day and left a return number. When Hiler consulted White as to these notices, White confirmed that Hiler was responsible for paying the taxes and advised that she borrow money to do so. Having sent IRFS approximately $800, 000 at this point, Hiler became suspicious. She consulted another attorney, Craig Ellis, who told Hiler that the notices were "absolutely crazy" because an estate representative generally is not liable for the debts of the estate. J.A. 1360. Ellis, now also suspicious, did a quick internet search of White. He found out that, unbeknown to Hiler, White had been disbarred in Washington, D.C. and Maryland since 2011 and was not currently licensed to practice law.


         Ellis contacted the Fraud Section of the Anne Arundel County, Maryland Police Department, which sparked a state and federal investigation of White's conduct. Law enforcement learned that after Hiler wrote checks to IRFS, White deposited the checks into the IRFS bank account. White then forged Millner's names on checks out of the IRFS account to ...

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