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United States v. Chafin

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

October 28, 2015, Decided

No. 14-10160


 [*1266]  DUBINA, Circuit Judge:

Richard Chafin appeals his convictions for federal-program embezzlement, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666, and for obstructing justice by hindering the communication of information about a potential federal offense to federal officials, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(3). After reviewing the record, reading the parties' briefs, and having the benefit of oral argument, we affirm Chafin's embezzlement conviction, vacate his § 1512(b)(3) conviction, and remand to the district court for further [**2]  proceedings consistent with his opinion.

In 2009, a federal grand jury indicted Chafin on one count of federal-program embezzlement and one count of obstructing a federal investigation. He pleaded not guilty and waived his right to trial by jury. During a two-day bench trial in May 2010, the government presented evidence of the following.

Chafin served as the Sheriff of Brooks County, Georgia for almost 20 years. In 2007 and 2008, his last two years in office, 225 checks totaling $65,730 were drawn on the jail commissary account and made payable to and cashed by him. During this period, both a clerk and an administrative assistant in the sheriff's department asked him about the checks. He told them that the funds were to pay an unnamed confidential informant. But according to five employees of convenience stores near the sheriff's department, Chafin frequently came into their stores, cashed checks from the jail commissary account, and used the money to buy lottery tickets.

In both 2007 and 2008, Brooks County received federal funds in excess of $10,000.  [*1267]  Indeed, over fiscal year 2007 (October 2006 through September 2007), the county received $33,897 in federal funds, and it received [**3]  the same amount over the next fiscal year. These funds were part of a grant from the Office for Victims of Crime, which Congress created to disburse funds under the Victims of Crimes Act, and they were used to cover some of the personnel and operating costs associated with the witness-advocate position in the sheriff's department. According to Robert Thornton, the state official who oversaw these grants' disbursement, at least $25,000 of the witness advocate's salary each year was paid from these funds. Thornton also estimated that during the 2007 and 2008 calendar years Brooks County received $42,000 and $25,000, respectively.

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808 F.3d 1263 *; 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 18744 **; 25 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 1737

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff—Appellee, versus RICHARD A. CHAFIN, Defendant—Appellant.

Subsequent History: US Supreme Court certiorari denied by Chafin v. United States, 194 L. Ed. 2d 370, 2016 U.S. LEXIS 1833 (U.S., 2016)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. D.C. Docket No. 7:09-cr-00018-WLS-TQL-1.

United States v. Chafin, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 190148 (M.D. Ga., Dec. 2, 2013)

Disposition: AFFIRMED in part, VACATED in part, and REMANDED.


salary, district court, funds, federal funds, bona fide, embezzlement, federal-funds, threshold, legislative history, commissary, jail, usual course of business, informant, covered entity, federal-program, ambiguity, vacate, federal program, benefits, checks, reasonable likelihood, statutory scheme, unambiguous, purposes, rights

Criminal Law & Procedure, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, General Overview, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Proof Beyond Reasonable Doubt, Sufficiency of Evidence, Trials, Motions for Acquittal, Plain Error, Definition of Plain Error, Judicial Discretion, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Theft & Related Offenses, Embezzlement, Elements, Criminal Offenses, Obstruction of Administration of Justice, Courts, Judicial Precedent