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Ocasio v. United States

Supreme Court of the United States

October 6, 2015, Argued; May 2, 2016, Decided

No. 14-361

Opinion

 [*1427]  Justice Alito delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner Samuel Ocasio, a former officer in the Baltimore Police Department, participated in a kickback scheme with the owners of a local auto repair shop. When petitioner and other Baltimore officers reported to the scene of an auto accident, they persuaded [***4]  the owners of damaged cars to have their vehicles towed to the repair shop, and in exchange for this service the officers received payments from the shopowners. Petitioner was convicted of obtaining money from the shopowners under color of official right, in violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. §1951, and of conspiring to violate the Hobbs Act, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §371. He now challenges his conspiracy conviction, contending that, as a matter of law, he cannot be convicted of conspiring with the shopowners to obtain money from  [**524]  them under color of official right. We reject this argument because it is contrary to age-old principles of conspiracy law.

Hernan Alexis Moreno Mejia (known as Moreno) and Edwin Javier Mejia (known as Mejia) are brothers who co-owned and operated the Majestic Auto Repair Shop (Majestic). In 2008, Majestic was struggling to attract customers, so Moreno and Mejia made a deal with a Baltimore police officer, Jhonn Corona. In exchange for kickbacks, Officer Corona would refer motorists whose cars were damaged in accidents to Majestic for towing and repairs. Officer Corona then spread the word to other members of the force, and eventually as many as 60 other officers sent damaged cars [***5]  to Majestic in exchange for payments of $150 to $300 per referral.

Petitioner began to participate in this scheme in 2009. On several occasions from 2009 to 2011, he convinced accident victims to have their cars towed to Majestic. Often, before sending a car to Majestic, petitioner called Moreno from the scene of an accident to ensure that the make and model of the car, the extent of the damage, and the car’s insurance coverage would allow the shopowners to turn a profit on the repairs. After directing a vehicle to Majestic, petitioner would call Moreno and request his payment.

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136 S. Ct. 1423 *; 194 L. Ed. 2d 520 **; 2016 U.S. LEXIS 2932 ***; 84 U.S.L.W. 4245; 26 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 116

SAMUEL OCASIO, Petitioner v. UNITED STATES

Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.

Prior History:  [***1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT

United States v. Ocasio, 750 F.3d 399, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 8028 (4th Cir. Md., 2014)

Disposition: 750 F. 3d 399, affirmed.

CORE TERMS

conspiracy, conspire, extortion, bribe, woman, transported, convicted, commit, color of official right, principles, public official, Mann Act, law of conspiracy, conspiratorial, substantive offense, acquiescence, bribery, obtain money, payor, conspiracy to commit, commit extortion, conspiracy statute, shopowners, entity, extortionist, incapable, agreeing, endeavor, conspiracy conviction, indictment

Criminal Law & Procedure, Abuse of Public Office, Illegal Gratuities, Elements, Extortion, Hobbs Act, Inchoate Crimes, Conspiracy, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Rule of Lenity