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Cleveland v. United States

Supreme Court of the United States

October 10, 2000, Argued ; November 7, 2000, Decided

No. 99-804


 [*15]  [**368]  [***226]    JUSTICE GINSBURG delivered the opinion of the Court.

 This case presents the question whether the federal mail fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1341, reaches false statements made in an application for a state license. Section 1341 proscribes use of the mails in furtherance of "any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false [****8]  or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises." Petitioner Carl W. Cleveland and others were prosecuted under this federal measure for making false statements in applying to the Louisiana State Police for permission to operate video poker machines. We conclude that permits or licenses of this order do not qualify as "property" within § 1341's compass. It does not suffice, we clarify, that the object of the fraud may become property in the recipient's hands; for purposes of the mail fraud statute, the thing obtained must be property in the hands of the victim. State and municipal licenses in general, and Louisiana's video poker licenses in particular,  [***227]  we hold, do not rank as "property," for purposes of § 1341, in the hands of the official licensor.

] Louisiana law allows certain businesses to operate video poker machines. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 27:301 to 27:324 (West Supp. 2000). The State itself, however, does not run such machinery. The law requires prospective owners of video poker machines to apply for a license from the State. § 27:306. The licenses are not transferable, § 27:311(G), and must be renewed annually, La. Admin. Code, tit. 42, § 2405(B)(3) (2000). To [****9]  qualify for a license, an applicant must meet suitability requirements designed to ensure that licensees have good character and fiscal integrity. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 27:310 (West Supp. 2000).

In 1992, Fred Goodson and his family formed a limited partnership, Truck Stop Gaming, Ltd. (TSG), in order to participate in the video poker business at their truck  [**369]  stop in Slidell, Louisiana. Cleveland, a New Orleans lawyer, assisted  [*16]  Goodson in preparing TSG's application for a video poker license. The application required TSG to identify its partners and to submit personal financial statements for all partners. It also required TSG to affirm that the listed partners were the sole beneficial owners of the business and that no partner held an interest in the partnership merely as an agent or nominee, or intended to transfer the interest in the future.

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531 U.S. 12 *; 121 S. Ct. 365 **; 148 L. Ed. 2d 221 ***; 2000 U.S. LEXIS 7436 ****; 69 U.S.L.W. 4003; 2000 Cal. Daily Op. Service 8942; 2000 Daily Journal DAR 11849; 2000 Colo. J. C.A.R. 6139; 14 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 3



Disposition: 182 F.3d 296, reversed and remanded.


license, poker, video, mail fraud, renewal, patent, licensees, promises, rights, intangible right, truck stop, defrauded, holder, artifice to defraud, property interest, false statement, representations, racketeering, deprivation, regulations, fraudulent, counts, honest

Criminal Law & Procedure, Fraud Against the Government, Mail Fraud, Elements, Governments, State & Territorial Governments, Licenses, Criminal Offenses, Fraud, General Overview, Business & Corporate Compliance, Governments, Gaming & Lotteries, Evidence, Demonstrative Evidence, Photographs, Visual Formats, Ownership, Conveyances, Patent Law, Infringement Actions, Exclusive Rights, Manufacture, Sale & Use, Patents as Property, Trademark Law, Franchises, Trademark Law, Similarity of Marks, Appearance, Meaning & Sound, Business & Corporate Law, Distributorships & Franchises, Franchise Relationships, Trademark Licensing, Particular Subject Matter, Names, Legislation, Interpretation, Racketeering, Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act, Interpretation, Rule of Lenity