Law School Case Brief
United States v. Ytem - 255 F.3d 394 (7th Cir. 2001)
To be convicted for willfully filing a false return, the defendant had to be proved to have known (at least if he made an issue of his knowledge) that illegal income is taxable such that his income from embezzlement should have been reported. 26 U.S.C.S. § 7206(1).
Defendant Ronald Magsino Ytem, an accountant who worked in Illinois, embezzled funds of his employer by writing, without authorization, three checks to himself aggregating more than $ 135,000 during a two-month period and depositing them in his personal account in a Maryland bank that happened to have offices only in that state and in Virginia. Ytem was charged with: (1) willful failure to report his embezzled income on his federal income tax return for the year in which he received that income, in violation of 26 U.S.C.S. § 7206(1), and; (2) having transported money obtained by fraud across state lines, in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 2314. After trial in federal district court, Ytem was convicted of both crimes and was sentenced to a total of 27 months in prison. Ytem appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to convict him.
Was the evidence sufficient to support Ytem's convictions?
The appellate court affirmed the district court's judgment. The court rejected Ytem's contention that because no one testified to having seen him mail the checks to Maryland or Virginia, and because he did not admit to mailing them, he could not be proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of having caused them to be transported across state lines. The court ruled that while it was conceivable that Ytem did not cause the checks to end up in Maryland or Virginia, it was so unlikely to be true that in the absence of any evidence in support of it (and there was none, the court observed) a rational jury would be entirely justified in dismissing the probability of its being true as minute in relation to the probability that Ytem himself caused the checks to end up where they did. As to the conviction for filing a false return, the court ruled that the circumstantial evidence that Ytem knew the illegal income was taxable was convincing, and the absence of direct evidence was no bar to the conviction. Although it was possible Ytem thought illegal income was not taxable, it was too remote a possibility to compel an acquittal, at least in the absence of any evidence that might make it plausible.
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