Michigan Court Of Appeals Affirms Racketeering Conviction

On October 20, 2015, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed in a criminal case a woman's racketeering conviction that stemmed from her defrauding innocent customers of their money when she promised to obtain mortgage modifications for them but provided no services in return.

In People v Raisbeck, Docket No. 321722, the Michigan Court of Appeals addressed several issues following a jury trial in a racketeering case, including:

  1. whether the prosecution presented sufficient evidence to the jury at trial to convict defendant of the crime of racketeering;
  2. whether the trial court erred when it refused to give defendant credit for time already served in jail before trial when the court sentenced defendant for her racketeering conviction; and
  3. whether the trial court erred in ordering defendant to pay over $23,000.00 in restitution to the victims of her crimes.

The Court first recited the facts of the case:

In the summer of 2010, Special Agent John C. Mulvaney headed an investigation into Mobile Modification, Inc. (MMI), a business incorporated by Raisbeck in 2008. MMI operated from a location in Fennville. For a fee, MMI promised to obtain mortgage modifications for its customers. Mulvaney’s investigation began after several complaints were received that MMI would collect its fees, but provide nothing to its customers. On July 27, 2010, Raisbeck was arrested on misdemeanor charges and presented with a search warrant for the premises where the business operated. Raisbeck allowed agents to search the premises. Through this search, agents discovered 195 customer files. After reviewing these files, it did not appear that a single modification had been successfully completed.

Raisbeck was initially prosecuted in Allegan County in case numbers 10-10719-FH and 10-10720-FH. These cases concerned six victims. Ultimately, Raisbeck was convicted of two counts of false pretenses over $1,000 but less than $20,000. She was also convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit false pretenses. While preparing for this first trial, Mulvaney became aware of additional victims of MMI. After these initial cases concluded, Special Agent Pete Ackerly took over the investigation. Ackerly identified several additional victims. In January, 2012, Raisbeck was charged with racketeering in case number 12-107853-FH, the case from which the instant appeal arises. After a lengthy trial, on September 6, 2013, a jury convicted Raisbeck of one count of racketeering. Through a special verdict form, the jury concluded that Raisbeck defrauded nine individual victims of a total of $7,752.4 . . . .

The Court's analysis of whether the prosecution presented sufficient evidence at trial to the jury to convict defendant of racketeering followed:

Raisbeck first argues that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support her racketeering conviction. We disagree. “A challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence in a jury trial is reviewed de novo, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, to determine whether the trier of fact could have found that the essential elements of the crime were proved beyond a reasonable doubt.”

As this Court has explained:

[I]n order to find defendant guilty of racketeering, the jury needed to find beyond a reasonable doubt that: (1) an enterprise existed, (2) defendant was employed by or associated with the enterprise, (3) defendant knowingly conducted or participated, directly or indirectly, in the affairs of the enterprise, (4) through a pattern of racketeering activity that consisted of the commission of at least two racketeering offenses that (a) had the same or substantially similar purpose, result, participant, victim, or method of commission, or were otherwise interrelated by distinguishing characteristics and are not isolated acts, (b) amounted to or posed a threat of continued criminal activity, and (c) were committed for financial gain . . . .

To establish a pattern of racketeering activity, the prosecutor relied, in part, on Raisbeck’s prior false pretenses convictions. Raisbeck argues that because the prosecutor only presented a single judgment of sentence, which did not establish the precise dates she committed these prior offenses, the prosecutor failed to establish the third statutory element above. The essence of her argument is that to satisfy this element, the crimes must have been committed on separate dates, and without evidence of these specific dates, her conviction cannot stand. Raisbeck is incorrect. Nothing in the statutory definition of a “pattern of racketeering activity” requires that the predicate criminal acts that form the basis of a racketeering conviction occur on different dates. The statute simply requires that the last criminal act occur within ten years of the prior criminal act, excluding the time during which a defendant is imprisoned. The criminal acts at issue in this case all occurred within a period of less than ten years. Moreover, even excluding her prior false pretenses convictions, Raisbeck’s racketeering conviction would be supported by the jury’s conclusion that she defrauded nine additional victims. Raisbeck’s argument lacks merit.

Raisbeck also argues that the prosecutor did not present sufficient evidence to establish that she engaged in “racketeering” as that term is defined. “Racketeering” is defined, in relevant part, as committing or conspiring to commit “[a] felony violation of [MCL 750.]218, concerning false pretenses.” Raisbeck argues that because no one individual transaction exceeded the $1,000 threshold stated in MCL 750.218(4)(a), there exists no evidence that she committed a felony violation of MCL 750.218. She argues that a prosecutor cannot aggregate separate incidents to satisfy the monetary threshold of MCL 750.218(4)(a). Raisbeck is incorrect. To satisfy the monetary threshold stated in MCL 750.218(4)(a), a prosecutor may aggregate separate but related incidents that occur within twelve months. The prosecutor did so, aggregating 18 separate acts into five violations of MCL 750.218(4)(a). Raisbeck does not dispute that the separate incidents occurred within twelve months, or that, as aggregated, these violations satisfy the $1,000 threshold. Accordingly, Raisbeck’s argument lacks merit . . . .