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United States v. Myers

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

April 14, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Ronald Bruce Myers, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: October 18, 2016

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan at Grand Rapids. No. 1:14-cr-00172-Robert Holmes Bell, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Kenneth P. Tableman, KENNETH P. TABLEMAN, P.C., Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Jennifer L. McManus, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Kenneth P. Tableman, KENNETH P. TABLEMAN, P.C., Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Appellant.

          Jennifer L. McManus, Michael A. MacDonald, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Appellee.

          Before: MERRITT, ROGERS, and KETHLEDGE, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          ROGERS, Circuit Judge.

         Ronald Myers is a serial thief of motor homes. During his latest spree of thefts, Myers stole at least eight motor homes and then sold them to unsuspecting dealers, posing as their legitimate owner by using clone titles. A jury convicted him of multiple counts of interstate transportation of stolen vehicles, money laundering, and related conspiracies, and he was sentenced to 360 months' imprisonment. On appeal, Myers challenges his money-laundering convictions, arguing that the district in which he stole the motor homes was not the proper venue for his money-laundering convictions, because he sold the homes outside of that district. That challenge fails, both as a statutory argument and as a constitutional argument. Proper venue lay in the trial district under the plain text of the money-laundering statute because Myers was properly charged with his interstate thefts in the district and because Myers participated in removing the theft's proceeds out of the district. Venue was constitutionally permissible because Myers partially committed concealment money laundering in the trial district by there obtaining possession of the theft's unlawful proceeds, which he would launder elsewhere. Myers's other appellate arguments-alleging multiplicitous charging, improper denial of self-representation, and erroneous sentencing-also fail.

         I.

         Ronald Myers was born on November 11, 1958. Using about 105 other names, eleven other dates of birth, and eleven other social security numbers / employer identification numbers, [1]Myers has devoted his life to stealing. His criminal record begins at age 12, when he was charged with shoplifting; he was committed to a Utah prison at age 16 for stealing a car; and, all told, he accumulated about 47 arrests as a juvenile. As an adult, in 1977, and under the name David Lawrence Herdrich, Myers was convicted of stealing a car in Florida after posing as a hitchhiker, and served a year in jail. In 1982, and under the name Alan Brooks, Myers was convicted of burglarizing a motor home parked at a ski resort, and spent another year in jail. In 1983, under the name Michael Howley, Myers was convicted in Kentucky of theft by deception for filing five refund applications for traveler checks, and was sentenced to five years' imprisonment. Myers escaped from the Kentucky prison after just a few months, and in 1987, under the name Richard David Parker, Myers was convicted of conspiring to possess and pass counterfeit Federal Reserve notes, and was transferred to Kentucky to serve the remaining Kentucky sentence.

         Sometime in the late 1980s, Myers began focusing his criminal activities on stealing motor homes. In 1988, he was convicted in Georgia of interstate transportation of counterfeit motor home titles, and was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. He was paroled early in 1996. In 1998, he was convicted in Mississippi of conspiring to transport stolen motor homes, and was sentenced to 44 months' imprisonment. In 2004, he was arrested once again, was later convicted of interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, and was sentenced to 60 months' imprisonment. Myers has also been jailed repeatedly for violating his parole.

         Myers met Walter Nunley, his main coconspirator in this round of thefts, in the early 1990s while they were both imprisoned in Kentucky. In September 2011, when Myers was released after being imprisoned for violating his parole, Nunley picked Myers up at the prison, and the pair went straight to work on stealing motor homes. By the time they were arrested, they had stolen at least eight motor homes across the United States.

         Myers and Nunley stole and profited from motor homes using the same general method. Myers would first identify target motor homes online and contact their owners to obtain the motor homes' vehicle identification numbers (VINs), ostensibly to conduct a Carfax search on them. Myers would then forge Virginia titles for the targeted motor homes using their VINs. Using the forged Virginia titles, Myers would next apply for a clone title from either Mississippi or Illinois, as neither state verified that the out-of-state title-here, the forged Virginia title-was real. Myers and Nunley would then steal the targeted motor homes using master keys that they obtained online, pose as legitimate owners of the stolen motor homes using the clone titles from Mississippi or Illinois, and sell the motor homes to unsuspecting dealers.

         Myers and Nunley applied that method to steal three motor homes in the Western District of Michigan. They stole a 2006 Country Coach Rembrant in Holland, Michigan, a 2004 Newmar Essex in Kent County, Michigan, and a 2005 Holiday Rambler also in Kent County, Michigan. From other places, Myers and Nunley stole at least five more motor homes.

         The criminal partnership unraveled, however, and in March 2013, Nunley began cooperating with an FBI agent who was already investigating their crimes. In a related case, Nunley was convicted of multiple counts of interstate transportation of stolen vehicles, money-laundering conspiracy, and other related counts. He was sentenced to 188 months' imprisonment and ordered to pay about $1.45 million in restitution.

         The superseding indictment charged Myers with seven counts. The first count charged the overarching conspiracy to steal motor homes, transport them across state lines, and sell them, all in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. The next three counts accused Myers of transporting each of the three motor homes stolen from Michigan and in interstate commerce in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2312. The fifth count accused Myers of money-laundering conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h). The final two counts accused Myers of substantive concealment money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956 for selling the stolen motor homes by posing as their legitimate owner and for retrieving the sale money in cash.

         Myers filed a number of motions before trial. He first moved to represent himself. The district court held a hearing on the motion. During the hearing, as the district court probed Myers's understanding of the risks of representing himself, Myers repeatedly interrupted. When the government objected to Myers's self-representation because Myers had indicated, during his recorded prison calls, that he wanted to represent himself to drag out the trial and to cost the government as much money as possible, Myers admitted to the court: "I said if the government is going to make a mountain out of a molehill, I'll make it Mt. Everest"; "what I'm going to do is put the government's case to challenge, which is going to cost a lot of money."[2] Myers also continued to interrupt the court. The district court therefore denied Myers's motion to represent himself, explaining:

[W]hat I'm concerned about in this case is it's going to get rolling and you're just going to go on and interrupt people, interrupt the government. You're going to interrupt me. You've interrupted me already several times, and we're going to have difficulty seeing that your presumption of innocence is held first in this matter and that the government - let the record reflect this gentleman is shaking his head.
I'm going to deny your motion. I don't think I can - I don't think I can control you if you're representing yourself.

         Myers responded that he "intend[ed] to interlocutory appeal immediately." The district court instructed Myers's counsel to continue to represent Myers and asked Myers to "understand" that his "role is to assist her." Myers retorted, "No, sir, Your Honor, " "Have a nice day, " and tried to walk away from the court. Myers later moved again to represent himself, "apologiz[ing]" for the interruptions and "assur[ing]" the court that "this will not happen again, " but the court denied the motion once again, expressing its lack of "inclin[ation] to credit his assurances based on his demonstrated conduct during the last court proceeding." Myers then filed an interlocutory appeal of that denial and also moved to stay the district court's proceedings. We dismissed that appeal because there was no final judgment to review.

         Myers also filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in this court to require the district court judge to ...


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