United States v. Banks

10 F.3d 1044 (4th Cir. 1993)



One may be a member of a conspiracy without knowing its full scope, or all its members, and without taking part in the full range of its activities or over the whole period of its existence. Critically, it is not necessary to proof of a conspiracy that it have a discrete, identifiable organizational structure; the requisite agreement to act in concert need not result in any such formal structure, indeed frequently, in contemporary drug conspiracies, contemplates and results in only a loosely-knit association of members linked only by their mutual interest in sustaining the overall enterprise of catering to the ultimate demands of a particular drug consumption market. 


Appellants, William Kenneth Banks, Garry Copeland, Fernando Cmubo Blow, Bruce Elliott Boone, and Samuel Collins, were convicted and sentenced for conspiracy to distribute heroin, cocaine, and crack cocaine and for various related substantive offenses. In consolidated appeals, appellants challenged their convictions, asserting, among other things, that the evidence was insufficient to establish a conspiracy between them. The appellants also asserted that because they were economic competitors, there was no large-scale conspiracy by and between them. 


Was the trial court correct in holding that there was a conspiracy?




The appellate court affirmed appellants' convictions, rejecting their contention that because they were economic competitors, there was no large-scale conspiracy by and between them. The court ruled that the more important consideration than the fact of economic competition between various participants in an overall endeavor to feed and profit from the appetites of the ultimate consumers in such a market was whether the various participants had to know from the nature of the contraband and the vastness and regularity of their own dealings that the illegal efforts of others were required to make their own dealings possible. The appellate court concluded that there was sufficient evidence that appellants were so aware, and that they demonstrated a substantial level of commitment to the conspiracy.

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