Fourth Circuit OK’s Conviction & Sentence in Maryland Bank Fraud Conspiracy

US v. Junaidu Savage (No. 16-4704)

A federal grand jury for the District of Maryland indicted Junaidu Savage for bank fraud conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349 (Count One), and aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A (Counts Two and Three). The Government alleged that Savage and others devised a scheme to defraud Capital One Bank. Savage and a mutual friend, Mumtaz Sadique, recruited Jayad Conteh―a teller at a Capital One branch―to participate in the scheme. At Savage’s direction, Conteh used her position as a teller to access customer account information on the bank’s internal systems, including confidential personal identifiers necessary to make changes to an account, for accounts that contained at least $10,000. She would then send the account information to Savage. At trial, Jayad Conteh testified to several details of the scheme. For example, she described how Savage approached her about the plan, how Savage directed her to access bank accounts, and how she communicated the confidential customer account information to Savage.

Junaidu Savage was convicted by a jury of one count of bank fraud conspiracy and two counts of aggravated identity theft. He now appeals his conviction and sentence on several grounds.

First, he argues that the district court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal based on insufficient evidence of bank fraud conspiracy. The Fourth Circuit rejects this argument, noting the Government’s videotaped evidence of Savage discussing his participation in the scheme with Conteh’s family after she was arrested. In this recording, Savage made statements including, “I could have found myself in the same situation where she is too. Because I was part of it, you understand?”; “[w]e made a big mistake”; and “I will not hesitate to pay for [Conteh’s restitution]. I don’t think I made over $8,000.00 on it but I am not looking at that because I was part of it.”

Second, Savage argues that the district court erred in failing to conduct an in camera review to determine whether material required disclosure under the Jencks Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3500(b), or pursuant to Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). Specifically, Savage refers to the prosecutor’s notes from a pre-trial meeting/interview with Conteh. Savage contends that the district court was required to conduct an in camera review of those notes to determine whether they are subject to disclosure. The Fourth Circuit holds that Savage was not entitled to an in camera review of these materials under either the Jencks Act or Brady, because his claims that the notes might contain Jencks or Brady material was speculative, and thus he had “failed to make a plausible showing that the files contain evidence that is material and favorable to the defense.”

Third, Savage argues that the district court erred by not providing his requested jury instruction on accomplice testimony, and by providing the jury with a written copy of the jury instruction on aiding and abetting liability. First, Savage complains that the jury instruction emphasized that a jury may rely on accomplice testimony without providing the rest of the model instruction warning that such testimony must also be viewed with caution. The Fourth Circuit finds no error, holding that the district court’s charge “substantially covered Savage’s requested instruction because it warned the jury to scrutinize all witness testimony, especially the testimony of biased or hostile witnesses” Additionally, Savage claims error from the district court’s ruling, when it “first declined the jury’s request for a written copy of all jury instructions but then acceded to the jury’s request for a written copy of the aiding and abetting liability instruction.” The Fourth Circuit is not convinced by this argument, noting that “the court has discretion whether and how to respond to the jury’s requests and here, the district court responded to the jury’s request for a written instruction on aiding and abetting by providing that instruction.”

Finally, Savage challenges the district court’s application of the sentencing guidelines, specifically complaining about enhancements for obstruction, loss amount, sophisticated means, and supervisory role. The Fourth Circuit affirms the district court’s ruling regarding each of these enhancements.

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