US v. Junaidu Savage
PUBLISHED AUTHORED OPINION filed. Originating case number: 8:15-cr-00076-GLR-1. . [16-4704]
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UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Plaintiff - Appellee,
JUNAIDU SALJAN SAVAGE, a/k/a James Kamara,
Defendant - Appellant.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Greenbelt.
George L. Russell, III, District Judge. (8:15-cr-00076-GLR-1)
Argued: December 7, 2017
Decided: March 12, 2018
Before GREGORY, Chief Judge, and KEENAN and FLOYD, Circuit Judges.
Affirmed by published opinion. Judge Floyd wrote the opinion in which Chief Judge
Gregory and Judge Keenan joined.
ARGUED: Alyssa Christine Pont, SHEARMAN & STERLING LLP, Washington, D.C.,
for Appellant. Ray Daniel McKenzie, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES
ATTORNEY, Greenbelt, Maryland, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Philip Urofsky,
SHEARMAN & STERLING LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant. Stephen M.
Schenning, Acting United States Attorney, Thomas P. Windom, Assistant United States
Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Greenbelt, Maryland, for
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FLOYD, Circuit Judge:
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. 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). 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. Finally, Savage challenges the district court’s application of the
sentencing guidelines on several grounds. For the following reasons, we affirm.
Between January and April 2012, Junaidu Savage, Jayad Conteh, and others
devised a scheme to defraud Capital One Bank (“Capital One”). According to the trial
testimony, Savage and a mutual friend, Mumtaz Sadique, recruited 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 or Sadique using her cell phone or by passing hard copies of the
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customer information. Many of these communications were with an iPhone with the
number ending in 7412, which was registered to the mother of one of Savage’s children.
Conteh also answered questions about the accounts via text message. For each account
Conteh provided information about, Savage and his co-conspirators then called Capital
One, changed the contact phone number on the account, and tried to order checks to be
delivered by overnight mail. These calls to Capital One were recorded and introduced
Conteh and Alimamy Jabbie, one of Savage’s close friends, later
identified Savage’s voice on several of these phone calls.
A fraud investigator testified that Conteh accessed at least seven victims’ accounts
on multiple occasions without authorization. The evidence showed that the conspirators
obtained checkbooks for at least one account, and wrote and cashed checks to empty the
victim’s account. The bank eventually detected the scheme, and was able to thwart the
conspirators’ efforts to compromise accounts by requiring customers to provide a
password or physically come into the branch to conduct transactions.
Conteh was arrested in April 2012 and was later convicted by a jury, sentenced to
an aggregate term of 64 months of imprisonment, and ordered to pay $36,000 in
restitution. Following her conviction, Conteh entered into a proffer agreement with the
government to provide information about the conspiracy on the condition that the
information she provided would not be used directly against her. The government met
with Conteh four times as part of this agreement. During this period, Savage spoke to
Conteh, sent her money for a new lawyer, and sent her text messages, including a
message saying, “It was never my intention, I’m sorry” the day she reported to prison.
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In summer 2014, Savage visited Conteh’s family and discussed his
involvement in the fraud; unbeknownst to Savage, this conversation was videotaped. In
this recording, Savage stated:
I was somehow involved and I will not try to exclude myself but it was not
intended for [Conteh] to end up in this situation . . . . [E]ven though this was
a small thing that we did, it has turned out to be something big that we
never imagined. . . . Today I am here but I could have found myself in the
same situation where she is too. Because I was part of it, you
understand? . . . We made a big mistake and we can only look up to God to
see how certain thing [sic] will turn out. . . . I am willing to help as much as
I can. The restitution is $36,000.00 and I will not hesitate to pay for it. 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.
On February 25, 2015, a federal grand jury for the District of Maryland indicted
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). In
March 2016, Conteh and the government changed their proffer agreement to a
cooperation agreement in which the government agreed to move for a reduction of her
sentence if she adhered to their agreement and provided substantial assistance in their
case against Savage in light of the factors set forth in U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1, including
potentially testifying against him. In anticipation of Conteh’s testimony, the government
provided Savage with required disclosures containing potential impeachment evidence
that summarized inconsistent statements Conteh made during their meetings with her.
The inconsistencies concerned matters such as the minimum balance Conteh should look
for when targeting an account and whether Conteh received any money from the scheme.
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On the first day of trial, Savage filed a motion to compel any materials related to
interviews of Conteh or other witnesses which may contain required disclosures under
either the Jencks Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3500(b), or Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).
The court dismissed the motion as moot after finding that only the government attorney’s
personal notes existed, and determining that they did not contain any required
disclosures. At trial, Conteh testified to several details of the scheme. For example, she
described how Savage and Sadique approached her about the plan, how Savage directed
her to access bank accounts, and how she communicated the confidential customer
account information to Savage. The prosecution and defense both questioned Conteh
about her previous inconsistent statements.
Savage moved for a judgment of acquittal at the close of the government’s case
and at the close of evidence; the district court denied both motions.
requested a specific jury instruction on accomplice testimony, which the district court
declined to provide. The jury then requested and was provided a written copy of the jury
instruction on aiding and abetting liability, which was charged in connection with the
aggravated identity theft counts. The jury subsequently convicted Savage on all counts.
Savage then moved for a new trial, which the district court also denied.
At the sentencing hearing, the district court sentenced Savage to a withinGuidelines sentence of a total of 87 months of imprisonment―51 months as to Count
One for bank fraud conspiracy, and a mandatory consecutive 24 months each for Counts
Two and Three for aggravated identity theft, of which 12 months were to run
concurrently. Savage was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered
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to pay restitution of $36,400, $300 in special assessments, and forfeiture of substitute
property. This appeal followed.
We first address Savage’s contention that the district court erred in denying his
motion for judgment of acquittal based on insufficient evidence of bank fraud conspiracy.
We review the denial of a motion for judgment of acquittal de novo. United States v.
Gillion, 704 F.3d 284, 294 (4th Cir. 2012). “We will uphold the verdict if, viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the government, it is supported by substantial
evidence,” which is “evidence that a reasonable finder of fact could accept as adequate
and sufficient to support a conclusion of a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Id. at 294 (internal quotation marks & citations omitted). “A defendant who brings a
sufficiency challenge bears a heavy burden, as appellate reversal on grounds of
insufficient evidence is confined to cases where the prosecution’s failure is clear.”
United States v. Clarke, 842 F.3d 288, 297 (4th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks,
citations & alterations omitted).
Savage asserts that there is insufficient evidence that he took any participatory
action in the bank fraud conspiracy such that a rational factfinder could conclude that he
was a knowing and willing participant in the scheme. We disagree. When considering
the evidence in the totality, we conclude that there was sufficient evidence to convict
Savage of the charges against him.
“[T]he law in this Circuit is well settled that
uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice may be sufficient to sustain a conviction.”
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United States v. Manbeck, 744 F.2d 360, 392 (4th Cir. 1984). “[O]n appeal, we are not
entitled to assess witness credibility, and we assume that the jury resolved any conflicting
evidence in the prosecution’s favor.” United States v. Taylor, 659 F.3d 339, 343 (4th Cir.
2011) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Conteh, a co-conspirator, testified as to
Savage’s involvement in the conspiracy and the steps he took to plan and carry out the
scheme. Conteh also provided direct testimony that the phone number used in connection
with the scheme—the number ending in 7412—belonged to “Jay,” which was what she
Additionally, she testified it was Savage’s voice on the
recorded Capital One phone calls. This testimony was further supported by the testimony
of Alimamy Jabbie, one of Savage’s close friends, who testified that the voice on the
Capital One recordings sounded like Savage’s, although he was “not too sure for a
hundred percent . . . .” J.A. 822–23. The jury heard Conteh’s testimony, along with any
alleged inconsistencies, and decided that her testimony was credible. Thus, Conteh’s
testimony alone is sufficient to support his conviction.
The government, however, also introduced videotape 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.” J.A. 139.
Savage argues that this evidence is insufficient because his statements never explicitly
reference the bank fraud conspiracy or his participation in it. However, in reviewing the
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denial of a motion for judgment of acquittal, “[w]e ‘consider circumstantial as well as
direct evidence, and allow the government the benefit of all reasonable inferences from
the facts proven to those sought to be established,’ and we assume that the jury resolved
all contradictions in the testimony in favor of the Government.”
United States v.
Pettiford, 337 F. App’x 352, 355 (4th Cir. 2009) (first quoting United States v. Tresvant,
677 F.2d 1018, 1021 (4th Cir. 1982); and then citing United States v. Brooks, 524 F.3d
549, 563 (4th Cir. 2008)). This video evidence allowed the jury to make the reasonable
inference that Savage was referring to the bank fraud scheme and his participation in it.
Consequently, we conclude that Savage’s conviction was supported by substantial
evidence and that the district court did not err in denying his motion for judgment of
We now turn to Savage’s contention that the district court erred in failing to
conduct an in camera review to determine whether the material gathered by the
government in its meeting with Conteh, recorded in the prosecutor’s personal notes, was
subject to required disclosure under either the Jencks Act or Brady. Under the Jencks
Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3500(b), on a motion by the defendant, the government is required to
produce any “statement” of the witness related to the witness’s testimony that is in the
Pursuant to Brady, it is a due process violation for the
government to suppress evidence that is material and favorable to the defendant. Brady,
373 U.S. at 87. Savage specifically asserts that the district court was required to review
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the government attorney’s personal notes from the prosecution’s meetings with Conteh in
camera to determine whether Conteh made any additional inconsistent statements that
would qualify as required disclosures and could be used to further impeach her testimony.
“Whether, and to what extent, the material sought must be produced are questions of fact
to be decided by the district court and will not be overturned unless clearly erroneous.”
United States v. Boyd, 53 F.3d 631, 634 (4th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted); see also
United States v. King, 628 F.3d 693, 702 (4th Cir. 2011) (“In reviewing the district
court’s denial of [a] Brady motion, we review its legal conclusions de novo and its factual
findings for clear error.” (citation omitted)). We conclude that the district court did not
The Jencks Act provides that on a motion by the defendant after a witness for the
government has testified on direct examination, the district court must order the
government to “produce any statement (as hereinafter defined) of the witness in the
possession of the United States which relates to the subject matter as to which the witness
has testified.” 18 U.S.C. § 3500(b). In pertinent part, the Jencks Act defines “statement”
to include both “a written statement made by said witness and signed or otherwise
adopted or approved by him,” § 3500(e)(1), and “a substantially verbatim recital of an
oral statement made by said witness and recorded contemporaneously,” § 3500(e)(2).
The district court is required to conduct an independent inquiry of the materials to
determine whether the material must be disclosed. Boyd, 53 F.3d at 634. However,
“[d]istrict courts have ‘substantial latitude’ in deciding what this inquiry will entail.” Id.
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(quoting United States v. Smith, 31 F.3d 1294, 1301 (4th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513
U.S. 1181 (1995)). “[A] defendant must provide some foundation for his Jencks Act
request before the district court is required to make an in camera inspection.”
(citation omitted). “Such a foundation, typically established through cross examination
of the witness whose statement the defendant is attempting to obtain, requires the
defendant to specify with reasonable particularity that material which may be a Jencks
Act statement exists.” Id. (citation omitted).
Relatedly, in Brady v. Maryland, the Supreme Court held that “suppression by the
prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where
the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment . . . .” 373 U.S. at 87. To prove a
Brady violation, a defendant must show that non-disclosed evidence was favorable to the
defendant, material, and that the prosecution had the evidence and failed to disclose it.
Moore v. Illinois, 408 U.S. 786, 794–95 (1972). Evidence is “material” if “there is a
reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed to the defense, the result of
the proceeding would have been different.” United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 682
(1985) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Before a court must conduct an in camera review to determine whether there is a
Brady violation, “a defendant must make a ‘plausible showing’ that the Government’s
files contain information that ‘would be both material and favorable to his defense.’ ”
United States v. Colton, 38 F. App’x 119, 124 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Love v. Johnson,
57 F.3d 1305, 1313 (4th Cir. 1995)). “[M]ere speculation that the information may be
helpful is insufficient to justify an in camera review.” United States v. Gilchrist, 119 F.
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App’x 485, 491 (4th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). In making this showing, a defendant
must “identify the requested confidential material with some degree of specificity.” Id.
(quoting United States v. Trevino, 89 F.3d 187, 189 (4th Cir. 1996)); see also King, 628
F.3d at 703 (stating that although the defendant is not always required to “make a
particular showing of the exact information sought and how it is material and favorable”
before becoming entitled to an in camera review, this Court requires “some plausible
showing that exculpatory material exists” (internal quotation marks omitted)).
In sum, an in camera review is only required under the Jencks Act if the defendant
provides a proper foundation for the request, and is only required under Brady if the
defendant makes a plausible showing that the files contain evidence that is material and
favorable to the defense.
We now turn to our analysis of whether the district court erred by not undertaking
an in camera review of the prosecutor’s notes. Savage asserts that he believes Conteh
made additional inconsistent statements that could be used to further impeach her
testimony, based on the inconsistent statements the government already disclosed. We
conclude, however, that Savage did not meet his burden under either the Jencks Act or
Brady to require the court to conduct an in camera review of the materials.
When making his motion to compel production, Savage did not even attempt to
argue that a Jencks Act statement existed or that the defense was entitled to view the
prosecutor’s personal notes, he “just wanted for the record to request anything in writing
that is contemporaneous evidence of that interview.” J.A. 231; see also J.A. 232 (“I don’t
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have any authority for work product to request [the prosecutor’s notes].”). Savage did
not question Conteh on cross-examination about whether she reviewed these notes or
adopted any statements contained within, and has not made any representations that
Conteh adopted or approved any part of these notes. Similarly, Savage has not made any
representation that the notes include a “substantially verbatim recital” of Conteh’s
He also has not made assertions about what additional inconsistent
statements exist―only that they might exist and any additional inconsistencies would be
material as impeachment evidence.
This is insufficient to provide the required
foundation under the Jencks Act to require the court to conduct an in camera review.
Savage has also failed to make a plausible showing that the files contain evidence
that is material and favorable to the defense to require an in camera inspection under
Brady. Savage argues that he can assume the government attorney’s notes contain other
inconsistencies in Conteh’s testimony because of the inconsistencies already disclosed
and because of the government’s admissions that there were “inconsistencies all the way
through” their meetings with Conteh, J.A. 229, and that “other things were discussed” in
the meetings, Appellant’s Br. 35. He also argues that additional impeachment evidence
“could have reasonably undermined the jury’s view of [Conteh’s] credibility and thus
very likely the result of the trial.” Appellant’s Br. 35. This is pure speculation lacking
any specificity, and is insufficient to support a finding of materiality under Brady or to
require an in camera review. Additionally, these personal notes were used to create the
summaries of Conteh’s inconsistent statements that were disclosed to Savage. These
summaries, along with the disclosure letters, were heavily relied on during Savage’s
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cross-examination of Conteh. Thus, Savage has not made a plausible showing that not
having the government attorney’s actual notes prevented the defense from effectively
cross-examining Conteh or otherwise materially impacting Savage’s defense.
Consequently, we hold that Savage was not entitled to an in camera review of
these materials under either the Jencks Act or Brady. Because we conclude that the
district court was not required to conduct an in camera review of the government
attorney’s notes, and because we give the court substantial latitude in deciding how to
conduct the inquiry into whether disclosures are required, we also hold that the district
court did not clearly err in failing to conduct a more thorough inquiry into whether
disclosures were required under either the Jencks Act or Brady.
Next, we turn to Savage’s argument 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. We reject each
argument in turn.
Savage argues that the district court abused its discretion by providing the part of
the model jury instruction emphasizing 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. We disagree.
We review both “the decision to give (or not to give) a jury instruction and the
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content of an instruction . . . for abuse of discretion.” United States v. Russell, 971 F.2d
1098, 1107 (4th Cir. 1992). When jury instructions are challenged on appeal, the key
issue is “whether, taken as a whole, the instruction fairly states the controlling law.”
United States v. Cobb, 905 F.2d 784, 789 (4th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). “A district
court’s refusal to provide an instruction requested by a defendant constitutes reversible
error only if the instruction: (1) was correct; (2) was not substantially covered by the
court’s charge to the jury; and (3) dealt with some point in the trial so important, that
failure to give the requested instruction seriously impaired the defendant’s ability to
conduct his defense.” United States v. Lewis, 53 F.3d 29, 32 (4th Cir. 1995) (internal
quotation marks & citations omitted).
Savage requested that the following part of the model instruction be included in
the court’s jury instruction on accomplice testimony: “However, it is also the case that
accomplice testimony is of such nature that it must be scrutinized with great care and
viewed with particular caution when you decide how much of that testimony to believe.”
Appellant’s Br. 37 (quoting 1-7 Modern Federal Jury Instructions―Criminal, ¶7.01,
Instruction 7-5 (Matthew Bender ed., 2016)). In relevant part, the jury was instructed
regarding accomplice testimony and witness credibility as follows:
You should bear in mind that a witness who has entered into such
agreement has an interest in the case different than ordinary witnesses. A
witness who realizes that she may be able to obtain her own freedom or
receive a lighter sentence by giving testimony favorable to the prosecution
has a motive to testify falsely. Therefore, you must examine her testimony
with caution and weigh it with great care.
If, after scrutinizing her testimony, you decide to accept it, you may give it
whatever weight, if any, you find that it deserves.
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. . . .
If you believe that the witness was motivated by hopes of personal gain,
was the motive one which would cause her to lie, or was it one which would
cause her to tell the truth?
. . . .
You in turn may accept the testimony of such a witness. You are instructed
that you may convict a defendant on the basis of this testimony alone if it
convinces you of the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
. . . .
In weighing the testimony of witnesses, you should consider his or her
relationship to the government or to the defendant, his or her interest, if
any, in the outcome of the case . . . .
. . . .
It is legitimate for an attorney to seek to discredit or impeach a witness by,
among other things, demonstrating that all or part of the witness’s
testimony is materially false. Likewise, an attorney may seek to impeach a
witness by demonstrating that the witness made a prior inconsistent
statement. This is done by showing that before trial, the witness made a
statement that is inconsistent with or contradicts the witness’s trial
If you find that a witness has been impeached, you must decide what
impact, if any, the impeachment has on the believability of the witness’s
testimony. The believability of the witness is for you and for you alone to
. . . .
In a trial, evidence that a witness is biased or prejudiced or hostile towards
a defendant requires the jury to view that witness’s testimony with caution,
to weigh it with great care, and to subject it to close and searching
J.A. 880–83, 917, 918 (emphases added). Savage contends that the instruction provided
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was insufficient because it related “only to witnesses with plea agreements and general
witnesses, neither of which squarely applied to Ms. Conteh.” Reply Br. 15.
Savage’s attempts to distinguish accomplice witnesses from all witnesses is
unavailing. We conclude that the district court substantially covered Savage’s requested
instruction because it warned the jury to scrutinize all witness testimony, especially the
testimony of biased or hostile witnesses, and specifically instructed the jury that it could
take prior inconsistent statements into account when considering witness credibility.
Therefore, we hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to
provide Savage’s requested instruction on accomplice testimony.
Savage also argues that the district court abused its discretion by providing a “onesided and suggestive partial instruction to the jury,” thereby causing prejudice, 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.
Appellant’s Br. 41. We disagree.
We review challenges to jury instructions for abuse of discretion. United States v.
Smith, 62 F.3d 641, 646 (4th Cir. 1995). “The particular words chosen, like the decision
whether to issue any clarification at all, are left to the sound discretion of the district
court.” Id. “[T]he district court’s duty is simply to respond to the jury’s apparent source
of confusion fairly and accurately without creating prejudice.” Id. (citing United States v.
United Med. & Surgical Supply Corp., 989 F.2d 1390, 1407 (4th Cir. 1993)).
During deliberations, the jury asked the district court to provide a written set of
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jury instructions. After the court stated that it was not its practice to provide written
instructions and that it was not comfortable providing its copy, which included the
judge’s interlineations, the jury requested that the district court provide the written
instruction on aiding and abetting, which was charged in connection with the aggravated
identity theft counts. The district court provided this requested written instruction to the
jury, without any interlineations.
Savage argues that providing only the aiding and abetting instruction prejudiced
him by emphasizing this basis of conviction without taking measures to dilute any undue
suggestiveness. This argument is unavailing. 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. See
United States v. Ehrlich, 902 F.2d 327, 330 (5th Cir. 1990) (“A trial court generally may
limit a supplemental charge to the specific instruction requested by the jury. As we have
said before, there is no error if the trial judge in supplemental instructions charges exactly
as he was requested.” (internal quotation marks omitted)); see also Smith, 62 F.3d at 646
(rejecting defendant’s claims that supplemental instructions offered on a conspiracy
charge were confusing, imbalanced, and prejudicial by stating that the instruction “was a
fair and accurate statement of the law” and that defendant’s challenge must fail because
he “was not legally entitled to anything more”). Additionally, the jury had previously
been instructed that they were “to consider all of [the] instructions as a whole” and
“regard each instruction in light of all of the others,” providing an additional safeguard
against any prejudice. J.A. 907. We therefore hold that the district court did not abuse its
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discretion in providing the jury a written instruction on aiding and abetting.
Finally, we turn to Savage’s arguments that the district court erred in applying the
We review a sentence imposed by a district court for
reasonableness, applying a deferential abuse of discretion standard. Gall v. United States,
552 U.S. 38, 51 (2007). When reviewing a district court’s application of a sentencing
guideline, we review factual findings for clear error and legal conclusions de novo.
United States v. Manigan, 592 F.3d 621, 626 (4th Cir. 2010). Under the clear error
standard, we will only reverse if “left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake
has been committed.” Anderson v. Bessemer City, 470 U.S. 564, 573 (1985) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
First, Savage argues that the district court erroneously applied a 2-level sentencing
enhancement for obstruction of justice.
The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual
(“U.S.S.G.”) § 3C1.1 (U.S. Sentencing Comm’n 2016) provides for a 2-level
enhancement when a defendant “willfully obstructed or impeded, or attempted to obstruct
or impede, the administration of justice with respect to the investigation, prosecution, or
sentencing of the instant offense of conviction . . . .” The enhancement applies when a
defendant “provid[es] materially false information to a judge or magistrate judge” or “to
a probation officer in respect to a presentence or other investigation for the court.”
U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1 cmt. n.4(F), (H).
Before applying a sentencing enhancement for
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obstruction of justice, the court must find by a preponderance that the defendant: “(1)
gave false testimony; (2) concerning a material matter; (3) with the willful intent to
deceive (rather than as a result of confusion, mistake, or faulty memory).” United States
v. Jones, 308 F.3d 425, 428 n.2 (4th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted); see also United Sates
v. Dunnigan, 507 U.S. 87, 94 (1993). Information is “material” when, “if believed,
would tend to influence or affect the issue under determination.” U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1 cmt.
n.6. “In order to have acted willfully within the meaning of this guideline, a defendant
must consciously act with the purpose of obstructing justice.” United States v. Romulus,
949 F.2d 713, 717 (4th Cir. 1991) (internal quotation marks omitted).
The sentencing court also “must specifically identify the perjurious statements and
make a finding either as to each element of perjury or ‘that encompasses all of the factual
predicates for a finding of perjury.’ ” United States v. Akinkoye, 185 F.3d 192, 205 (4th
Cir. 1999) (quoting United States v. Gordon, 61 F.3d 263, 270 (4th Cir. 1995)); see also
Dunnigan, 507 U.S. at 95 (providing an example of acceptable specificity when the court
stated that “the defendant was untruthful at trial with respect to material matters,” and
that this untruthfulness was “designed to substantially affect the outcome of the case”).
“[C]lose calls should be resolved ‘in favor of extending deference to the trial court[s]’
where they hold the institutional advantage.” United States v. Andrews, 808 F.3d 964,
969 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting Miller v. Fenton, 474 U.S 104, 114 (1985)).
Savage argues that the district court did not find the materiality of the perjurious
testimony with sufficient specificity, and that it erred in finding that the statements were
willful and material. We disagree. Savage’s alleged perjurious statements were made
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during his interviews with pretrial services and were introduced in his pretrial detention
hearing, which included a determination of whether Savage presented a risk of flight or
nonappearance such that pretrial release should be denied. The district court found that
Savage “misrepresented and lied to Pretrial Services about his address, about where he
lived, possessing and presenting state licensing documents that were false, and about his
international travel.” J.A. 2420. Specifically, the record indicates that Savage stated that
he lives in Maryland without mentioning his Ohio address or residency (as indicated by
his Ohio driver’s license); did not mention that he possessed an Ohio driver’s license that
had the name Junaidu Savage and his picture and address on it when another driver’s
license with the name Junaidu Savage and an address on the same street had a picture of
his friend, and that his friend’s license was issued before the one in Savage’s possession;
and concealed his international travel to Sierra Leone where he has family and assets. At
the sentencing hearing, the district court stated, “I think that there was no confusion or
mistake” as to each lie, J.A. 2421, and also stated that these findings were “the basis of
why he is being held right now, because of the material misrepresentations,” J.A. 2418.
The district court also described how each lie contributed to the assessment of pretrial
Although broad, these statements satisfy the requirement for the district court to
specifically identify the perjurious statements and make a finding that encompasses all
factual elements of perjury. Compare United States v. Smith, 681 F. App’x 205, 210 (4th
Cir. 2017) (“While the district court’s factual findings were somewhat abbreviated, we
believe the court’s statements, when considered together and in context, sufficiently
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‘encompass all of the factual predicates for a finding of perjury.’ ” (quoting Dunnigan,
507 U.S. at 95)), with Smith, 62 F.3d at 647 (holding that the court failed to make the
required findings of perjury when it only stated “Well, I will deny the objection to the
increase for obstruction of justice”).
With no procedural error in stating the findings, we review the findings
themselves for clear error. Here, the district court did not clearly err in finding that
Savage’s possession and presentment of a false driver’s license was perjurious,
warranting an obstruction of justice sentencing enhancement. Savage has not presented
any evidence to challenge the district court’s findings that his driver’s license was a false
identity, and that he presented it with the willful intent to deceive. Additionally, there is
no doubt that a defendant presenting false identification is material to whether the
defendant is a flight risk and should be denied pretrial release.
Consequently, we hold that the district court did not err in applying the 2-level
sentencing enhancement for obstruction of justice. As only one perjurious statement is
necessary to apply this sentencing enhancement, we decline to address the other alleged
perjurious statements regarding Savage’s residency, address, and international travel.
Savage next argues that the district court erroneously applied a 10-level sentencing
enhancement based on the amount of loss.
U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1(b)(1) provides that a
sentencing court is obliged to calculate the offense level for a defendant convicted of a
crime involving fraud or deceit on the basis of the amount of loss resulting from the
scheme. See Elliott v. United States, 332 F.3d 753, 767 (4th Cir. 2003). Loss amount “is
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the greater of actual loss or intended loss.” U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1(b) cmt. n.3(A). “Intended
loss” is “the pecuniary harm that the defendant purposely sought to inflict,” including
“intended pecuniary harm that would have been impossible or unlikely to occur . . . .”
U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1(b) cmt. n.3(A)(ii); see also United States v. Miller, 316 F.3d 495, 502
(4th Cir. 2003). The amount of loss is a factual determination, and a sentencing court
need only make a “reasonable estimate of loss, given the available information,” as
supported by a preponderance of the evidence.
Miller, 316 F.3d at 503 (internal
quotation marks omitted); see also U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1(b) cmt. n.3(C) (stating that the court
“need only make a reasonable estimate of the loss” that is “based on available
information”). We review the district court’s legal interpretation of the term “loss” under
the sentencing guidelines de novo, Miller, 316 F.3d at 498, and review the calculation
and amount of loss for clear error, United States v. Castner, 50 F.3d 1267, 1274 (4th Cir.
Here, the district court found that the loss was approximately $186,000, based on a
calculation of the total funds in each of the seven intended victims’ accounts at the time
Conteh first accessed the account information in the Capital One system. The district
court applied a 10-level sentencing enhancement based on its finding that the loss
calculation exceeded $150,000 but was less than $250,000. This was the same loss
calculation used to sentence co-conspirator Conteh.
Savage argues that the district court erred in calculating the amount of intended
loss in two ways: (1) in interpreting “loss” to include the balances in bank accounts for
which the conspirators failed to get checkbooks; and (2) in using the account balances
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from the date on which Conteh first accessed each account’s information, instead of using
the date on which Savage “possessed” access to each account by obtaining a checkbook.
The district court did not err in including the balances in bank accounts for which
the conspirators failed to get checkbooks in its calculation of intended loss because a lack
of success in an attempted fraud scheme does not preclude a court from including the
intended loss from the failed attempts in its calculation. This is especially true when, as
here, the conspirators had already taken steps to steal from these specific victims, and
their efforts were thwarted by a third party―here, when Capital One discovered the fraud
and prevented the conspirators from obtaining checkbooks to these accounts. See United
States v. Anderson, 532 F. App’x 373, 380 n.2 (4th Cir. 2013) (including losses that were
avoided when the IRS identified the fraudulent activity and stopped the tax refunds from
being issued to the defendant); United States v. Kalili, 100 F. App’x 903, 906 (4th Cir.
2004) (upholding inclusion of intended losses when the bank detected the fraudulent
checks and the checks were never deposited). Thus, under these facts, the district court
did not err in including the balance from the accounts that Savage and his co-conspirators
unsuccessfully attempted to access in its loss calculation.
The district court also did not clearly err in using the account balances from the
date Conteh first accessed the accounts to calculate intended loss. The sentencing court
need only make a “reasonable estimate of loss, given the available information.” Miller,
316 F.3d at 503. “We need not determine whether the district court’s estimate was the
most reasonable; rather, we need only determine whether the method used to calculate the
Pg: 24 of 29
amount of loss . . . bears some reasonable relation to the actual or intended harm of the
United States v. Minor, 831 F.3d 601, 607 (5th Cir. 2016) (emphasis in
original) (internal quotation marks omitted) (holding that it was reasonable for the court
to calculate intended loss by determining the average actual loss of accounts breached
and multiplying by the total number of accounts defendant intended to access). We
conclude that it was reasonable to calculate intended losses based on the account balance
on the date the account was accessed and selected for victimization, and the date the
process to obtain a checkbook for that account began. Consequently, we hold that the
district court did not err in applying the 10-level sentencing enhancement for the loss
Savage also argues that the district court erred in applying a 2-level sentencing
enhancement based on use of sophisticated means. “Whether a defendant’s conduct
involved sophisticated means is a factual inquiry that we review for clear error.” United
States v. White, 850 F.3d 667, 675 (4th Cir. 2017) (citation omitted).
§ 2B1.1(b)(10)(C) provides for a 2-level enhancement when “the offense otherwise
involved sophisticated means and the defendant intentionally engaged in or caused the
conduct constituting sophisticated means . . . .”
Each of the defendant’s individual
actions need not be sophisticated to warrant the enhancement, and “a defendant need not
utilize the most complex means possible to conceal his fraudulent activities in order for
the court to find that he used sophisticated means.” United States v. Jinwright, 683 F.3d
471, 486 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted); see also United States v. Jackson, 346 F.3d
Pg: 25 of 29
22, 25 (2d Cir. 2003) (“[T]he total scheme was sophisticated in the way all the steps were
linked together so that [the defendant] could perceive and exploit different vulnerabilities
in different systems in a coordinated way.” (citation omitted)).
enhancement can only be applied when there is proof of complexity beyond the
“minimum conduct required to establish a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1344 in its simplest
form.” United States v. Adepoju, 756 F.3d 250, 257 (4th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation
Savage argues that the district court clearly erred in applying the sophisticated
means enhancement because there was only evidence of Savage using one phone in
furtherance of the conspiracy, and that the other evidence indicated the scheme was
merely the minimum conduct required for bank fraud conspiracy, and thus cannot be the
basis for the conviction. * We disagree. The government presented evidence that Savage
hid assets, hid transactions, hid his own name, had phones registered in multiple states
(none in his name), directed actions of several other conspirators, used insider
information provided by a co-conspirator bank employee, and used that information in
coordinated steps to circumvent the bank’s fraud countermeasures and take over the
Savage relies heavily on this Court’s opinion in Adepoju to argue that the Court
found clear error in applying a use of sophisticated means enhancement for more
sophisticated means than the facts in this case. See Adepoju, 756 F.3d 250. Savage’s
reliance on Adepoju is misplaced. Although Adepoju did involve multiple phones,
identity theft, and a would-be insider at a bank, Savage’s scheme is more complex.
Savage took several steps to conceal his own identity and distance himself from the
scheme, including using a phone registered to someone else and using at least two check
runners. In his videotaped conversation with Conteh’s mother, Savage also admitted to
either storing money in Africa or having the means to disguise the source of his money.
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victims’ accounts to conceal and execute the scheme—far more than is required for a
bank fraud conspiracy conviction. See 2A Kevin F. O’Malley, Jay E. Grenig & Hon.
William C. Lee, Federal Jury Practice and Instructions § 47:11 (6th ed. 2018) (providing
a pattern jury instruction for bank fraud conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 1344 requiring that
(1) the defendant knowingly executed a scheme or artifice to defraud a financial
institution, or knowingly executed a scheme to obtain the money, funds, or property
owned by or under the control of a financial institution, by means of material false or
fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises; (2) the defendant did so with the intent
to defraud; and (3) the financial institution was a federally insured or chartered bank). As
the district court stated, “It was not the most complex fraud scheme, but certainly I
believe that it was sophisticated enough that the Government has met its burden of
proof . . . .” J.A. 2411. The evidence, taken together, compels us to conclude that the
district court did not clearly err in applying the 2-level sentencing enhancement based on
use of sophisticated means.
Next, Savage asserts that the district court erroneously applied a 3-level sentencing
enhancement based on his role in the offense as a manager or supervisor. U.S.S.G.
§ 3B1.1(b) provides a 3-level enhancement “[i]f a defendant was a manager or
supervisor . . . and the criminal activity involved five or more participants or was
otherwise extensive . . . .” “Factors the court should consider include the exercise of
decision making authority, the nature of participation in the commission of the offense,
the recruitment of accomplices, the claimed right to a larger share of the fruits of the
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crime, the degree of participation in planning or organizing the offense, the nature and
scope of the illegal activity, and the degree of control and authority exercised over
others.” U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1 cmt. n.4. This Court has explained that “the enhancement is
justified if the defendant managed or supervised the activities of at least one other person
in a scheme that involved five or more participants.” United States v. Bartley, 230 F.3d
667, 673 (4th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted).
Savage argues that there is no evidence in the record to support finding that he was
a manager or supervisor; he does not challenge the district court’s finding that five or
more participants were involved.
At a minimum, however, the trial evidence
demonstrates that Savage helped recruit Conteh, directed her efforts in the scheme, and
delivered proceeds from the fraud to her. This alone is sufficient to support finding that
Savage managed or supervised the activities of at least one person. It is also uncontested
that the scheme involved five or more participants; Savage and Sadique planned the
scheme, Conteh accessed the customer accounts, and at least two other individuals
redeemed fraudulent checks at Capital One locations. Therefore, we hold that the district
court did not clearly err in applying a 3-level sentencing enhancement for Savage’s role
as a manager or supervisor.
Finally, Savage asserts that the district court abused its discretion by requiring part
of Savage’s sentences to run consecutively. Savage was convicted on Counts Two and
Three of aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A. Section 1028A
carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years. 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1), (b)(2).
Pg: 28 of 29
Section 1028A(b)(4) provides that:
a term of imprisonment imposed on a person for a violation of this section
may, in the discretion of the court, run concurrently, in whole or in part,
only with another term of imprisonment that is imposed by the court at the
same time on that person for an additional violation of this section . . . .
In determining whether multiple counts of § 1028A should run concurrently with or
consecutively to each other, the court should consider factors including the “nature and
seriousness of the underlying offenses,” U.S.S.G. § 5G1.2 cmt. n.2(B)(i), and “[w]hether
the purposes of sentencing set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(2) are better achieved by
imposing a concurrent or a consecutive sentence,” U.S.S.G. § 5G1.2 cmt. n.2(B)(iii). The
purposes of sentencing enumerated in § 3553(a)(2) include “to reflect the seriousness of
the offense, to promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the
offense” and “to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct . . . .”
§ 3553(a)(2)(A), (B).
The district court determined that 12 months of the mandatory 24-month sentence
for Savage’s conviction on Count Three for aggravated identity theft should run
consecutive to the mandatory 24-month sentence imposed on Count Two for aggravated
identity theft, resulting in a combined 36-month sentence on these two counts.
Savage argues that the district court necessarily erred in determining that part of
the sentence should run consecutively because it erred in applying the sentencing
enhancements discussed above.
Because we now uphold each of the challenged
sentencing enhancements, however, Savage’s argument collapses. Additionally, even if
we had concluded that the district court erred in applying any of these challenged
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sentencing enhancements, there is no indication that the district court abused its
discretion because it specifically identified its reasons for providing a partial-consecutive
sentence, and many of these reasons were unrelated to the sentencing enhancements. For
example, in considering the § 3553(a)(2) factors, the district court noted that the
government had not sought the maximum sentence, that “[t]he nature and circumstances
of the offense are serious,” that Savage “was a leader, an organizer of a significant and
fraudulent criminal group,” that the crime compromised the victims’ credit and
confidence in our banking system and security, and that Savage and defendants like him
need to be deterred from engaging in this kind of fraudulent conduct. JA. 2441–44.
Therefore, we hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion by requiring that part
of the sentences for Counts Two and Three run consecutively.
For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the district court is hereby
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