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United States v. Stoica

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

June 5, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREI-CATALIN STOICA, et al., Defendants, And UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
BENIAMIN-FILIP OLOGEANU, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Joseph M. Hood Senior U.S. District Judge.

         The Defendants in the above-captioned criminal actions are all charged for various crimes for their alleged roles in the Alexandria Online Auction Fraud Network (“AOAF”) conspiracy. The United States has moved to consolidate the actions, United States v. Stoica, et al., No. 5:18-CR-081-JMH-MAS [DE 196, Motion to Consolidate], and United States v. Ologeanu, et al., No. 5:19-CR-010-JMH-MAS [DE 105, Motion to Consolidate], pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 13.

         One of the Defendants in the Ologeanu case responded in opposition to the motion to consolidate, arguing that the government failed to meet its burden to demonstrate that consolidation is appropriate in this matter. [DE 107, Ologeanu Response in Opposition]. The government did not reply to the response in opposition and the time for a reply has passed.

         Ultimately, after reviewing the motions, a facial review of the indictments in both actions reveals that all Defendants are charged as members of the same vast conspiracy. Thus, the Defendants could have been charged in a single indictment. As a result, the motion to consolidate in Stoica is GRANTED, the motion to consolidate in Ologeanu is rendered moot by the granting of the motion in Stoica and is DENIED AS MOOT, and the above-captioned matters are CONSOLIDATED pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 13.

         I. Analysis

         Pursuant to Rule 13, consolidation of trial is appropriate in a criminal case “if all offenses and all defendants could have been joined in a single indictment or information.” Fed. R. Crim. 13. Thus, a court may consolidate two criminal actions if the defendants could have been charged in a single indictment under Rule 8. Under Rule 8(b), a single indictment may charge multiple defendants “if they are alleged to have participated in the same act or transaction, or in the same series of acts or transactions, constituting an offense or offenses.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 8(b).

         Joinder of multiple defendants pursuant to Rule 8(b) is appropriate “only if each of the counts of the indictment arises out of the same act or transaction or series of acts or transactions, even if all counts of the indictment include a common defendant.” United States v. Frost, 125 F.3d 346, 389 (6th Cir. 1997). A group of acts or transactions constitutes a series of acts or transactions if they are “logically interrelated.” Id.

         Here, the government's motions leave something to be desired in terms of supportive argumentation. Both motions simply state that since both sets of Defendants have been charged in the AOAF Network scheme that they could have all been charged in the same indictment. [See DE 196 at 2, Pg ID 2205; DE 105 at 2, Pg ID 357]. The government makes little effort to point to specific information in the indictments to support its request for consolidation and fails to address why the Stoica Defendants and Ologeanu Defendants were charged in separate indictments in the first place.

         Still, review of the indictments is instructive. A facial review of the relevant indictments in both cases reveals that the counts against all Defendants arise from the same series of logically interrelated acts and transactions. The Stoica and Ologeanu indictments charge that both sets of Defendants participated in the AOAF Network conspiracy, as part of an alleged uniform and complex online fraud scheme. [See DE 1, Stoica Indictment, at 2-3, Pg ID 2-3; DE 34, Ologeanu Superseding Indictment, at 1-2, Pg ID 121-22].

         Specifically, both indictments allege that the Defendants operated a vast network based principally in Alexandria, Romania, with other locations in Europe and the United States. [DE 1 at 3, Pg ID 3; DE 34 at 2, Pg ID 122]. Additionally, both indictments claim that the AOAF Network used online auction websites, such as eBay, Craigslist, Amazon, and Autotrader, to perpetuate the fraud by posting false online advertisements for goods and services. [DE 1 at 3, Pg ID 3; DE 34 at 2, Pg ID 122]. Furthermore, the indictments assert that the fraud was perpetuated and coordinated by all Defendants in the AOAF Network by requiring victims to make payments using prepaid debit and gift cards. [DE 1 at 3-4, Pg ID 3-4; DE 34 at 2-3, Pg ID 122-23]. Then, the proceeds were allegedly laundered by the AOAF Network by converting the currency to Bitcoin, transferring the Bitcoin to members of the network in Eastern Europe, and then converting the currency back into fiat or government-issued currency. [DE 1 at 3-4, Pg ID 3-4; DE 34 at 2-3, Pg ID 122-23]. Lastly, both indictments describe the alleged roles that each Defendant played in the AOAF Network, address the purpose of the common enterprise, and discuss overt acts of the individual Defendants in furtherance of the conspiracy.

         As such, the Defendants in both actions were involved in a series of logically interrelated acts and transactions in furtherance of one larger conspiracy and, as a result, could have all been charged in the same indictment.

         Ologeanu does not agree. Ologeanu contends that “there is no allegation that the Stoica and Ologeanu defendants were associated or acquainted with each other.” [DE 107 at 3, Pg ID 367]. To the contrary, the government charges that all the Defendants in the above-captioned actions were associated because they participated in the same conspiracy. The fact that these Defendants operated in different physical locations and played different roles in the scheme is of no moment because the indictments contend that they all engaged in the same online conspiracy, using similar means to perpetuate the fraudulent scheme and to launder the illegal proceeds of their efforts. One need not have direct contact with the other co-conspirators or even know the existence of all the co-conspirators in order to participate in the same conspiracy or share the same criminal purpose. See United States v. Rey, 923 F.2d 1217, 1222 (6th Cir. 1991) (“As long as the indictment is valid, contains the elements of the offense, and gives notice to the defendant of the charges against him, it is not essential that a conspirator know all other conspirators.” (emphasis added)).

         Ologeanu's arguments about prejudice are also unpersuasive at this juncture. No. doubt, consolidation of multiple (read many) defendants into one trial may raise or heighten concerns about undue prejudice or irreconcilable differences at trial. Moreover, there are serious concerns about the practicalities of trying all these Defendants in a single criminal trial based on courthouse space alone. Still, the sheer size of the pool of Defendants in this matter does not automatically necessitate a finding that Ologeanu will be prejudiced if tried alongside other Defendants. More important, Ologeanu has failed to point to any specific way in which he may be prejudiced, other than speculative concerns that the jury may use information presented against other Defendants to convict him. But, at present, since this matter is still in discovery, it is unclear how many or which Defendants will eventually proceed to a consolidated jury trial. Ultimately, Ologeanu's concerns are valid and well-taken, but Ologeanu has not demonstrated a substantial likelihood of prejudice at this juncture that will prevent consolidation of these matters.

         Finally, consolidation of these criminal matters will conserve judicial resources and promote efficiency. As the government notes, the United States would use many of the same witnesses and produce much of the same evidence under both indictments. Additionally, trying all these Defendants in one proceeding will preserve the Court's resources seeing as the same ...


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