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United States v. Stone

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

August 2, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
CHARISE SHANELL STONE, a/k/a Charise Stone Crumbly, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: March 24, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Alexandria. Claude M. Hilton, Senior District Judge. (1:14-cr-00127-CMH-1)

         ARGUED:

          Alan Hideto Yamamoto, Alexandria, Virginia, for Appellant.

          Elissa Hart-Mahan, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Caroline D. Ciraolo, Acting Assistant Attorney General, S. Robert Lyons, Acting Chief, Criminal Appeals & Tax Enforcement Policy Section, Gregory Victor Davis, Tax Division, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

          Before WILKINSON, KING, and AGEE, Circuit Judges.

         Affirmed by published opinion. Judge Agee wrote the opinion, in which Judge Wilkinson and Judge King joined.

          AGEE, Circuit Judge

         Charise Shanell Stone was indicted for orchestrating a scheme to defraud mortgage companies. During trial, Stone made a motion for recusal based on the district court's ownership of stock in some of the companies, which the court denied. After she was convicted, the district court sentenced Stone to sixty months' imprisonment and ordered her to pay approximately $2.3 million in restitution. Stone appeals the district court's restitution calculation, determination of loss for purposes of sentencing, and denial of her motion for recusal. We affirm the district court for the reasons stated below.

         I.

         In April 2014, a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia indicted Stone for conspiracy to commit wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349, wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, false statements in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1014, fictitious obligations in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 514, obstructing and impeding the due administration of internal revenue laws in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7212, and failure to file an individual tax return in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7203. As represented in the indictment, Stone convinced financially distressed homeowners to engage her services as a real estate agent to negotiate "short sales" with the mortgage holders on behalf of those homeowners. In such a short sale, a real estate agent finds a buyer for a mortgaged home at a price less than the balance owed on the mortgage and then negotiates with the mortgage holder for the holder to accept the sale price as satisfaction of the mortgage.

          In this case, Stone fraudulently reported short sale prices to the mortgage holders in lower amounts than the sale proceeds that she actually received. She initially transferred ownership in the properties to herself, her husband, or one of her controlled entities and reported the sales to the mortgage companies, concealing these fraudulent transactions from both the homeowners and mortgage holders. Stone then quickly resold the properties, or "flipped" them, to predetermined buyers for more than the amounts she paid to the mortgage companies from the original short sales, again concealing these actions from the homeowners, buyers, and lenders. Stone also collected commissions and other fees on the sales as the real estate agent, although she was not licensed to sell real estate.

         At trial, Stone filed a largely unintelligible motion for recusal, [1] providing the following grounds:

1.Defendant [sic] rights to due process have been violated, in light of the Court's performance and quest for defense to waive rights.
2.A conflict of interest. The Court has unconsentually [sic] appointed unwarranted counsel, to which alleged defendant's estate respectfully declines the 'offer' to contract thereto. Affirmative.
Further, be it known, as the Court is the arbitrator, to which alleged defendant has no 'beneficial ties', the same sits in consort with the accuser(s).
Therefore, let the record show, the hands of Hilton, Claude dba Judge Claude M. Hilton are in fact 'unclean'. Affirmative.
3. The Court has willfully dishonored the 'Constitutional Challenge' as set forth in Law and is HEREBY requested to ...

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