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United States v. Donine

filed: February 3, 1993.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MICHAEL T. DONINE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. CR-92-0014-ER-1. Edward Rafeedie, District Judge, Presiding.

Before: James R. Browning, Cecil F. Poole, and John T. Noonan, Jr., Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Noonan.

Author: Noonan

NOONAN, Circuit Judge:

Michael Donine pleaded guilty to four counts of mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341 and 2(b). He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, 3 years of supervised release, a fine of $5,000, and restitution of $24,898. He appeals his sentence. We affirm.

PROCEEDINGS

Between December 1985 and October 1987 Donine was employed as a stockbroker by Paine Webber in Los Angeles, California. Between October 1987 and March 1989 he worked in the same capacity for Prudential-Bache (Pru-Bache) in Oxnard, California. Between March 1989 and June 1989 he was employed as a financial consultant for Shearson Lehman Hutton in Ventura, California. He was terminated from this position on June 12, 1989 after a customer had complained about an unauthorized check drawn on the customer's account. On July 27, 1989 Donine was indicted on eleven counts of mail fraud in connection with one Paine Webber account, four Shearson Lehman Hutton accounts, and six Pru-Bache accounts handled by him.

On January 13, 1992, when he appeared in court for post-indictment arraignment, Donine informed the pretrial services office that he had no prior arrests.

On March 9, 1992 Donine entered into a plea agreement with the United States Attorney. By its terms he agreed to plead guilty to Counts One, Two, Three, and Four of the indictment, all charging mail fraud in connection with Pru-Bache accounts. The government agreed to dismiss the remaining seven counts, to recommend a 2 point reduction for acceptance of responsibility, to recommend that an increase in Donine's offense level based on the amount of loss should be governed by U.S.S.G. § 2F1.1(b)(1)(F), and that his criminal history category was I. The agreement specified that otherwise there were "no agreements between you and this office as to the calculation of your guideline range." The agreement also declared that in the federal system sentencing was "solely within the discretion of the Court," upon whom the government's recommendation was not binding.

Donine admitted that he had run up gambling debts in November of over $50,000. To cover them he began to draw checks on customers' accounts, forging letters of authorization. The checks he mailed to his own bank accounts. As to only one account, that of Angelo and Mara Stroe, did Donine offer a different explanation. The $6898 taken from this account, he said, represented profits from unauthorized day trading by him which he parked temporarily in the Stroes' account before withdrawing it for his own benefit.

The presentence report was prepared in April 1992. Running a criminal history check on the defendant, the probation officer discovered that Donine had been arrested in 1990 for the theft of four dress shirts from Nordstroms in Glendale, California and convicted of this crime on January 28, 1991, and that he had also been arrested in 1990 for the theft of a shirt from Bullock's in Los Angeles and convicted of this crime on October 11, 1990. Fines were assessed for both crimes. Donine failed to pay them. At the time of the probation report's preparation bench warrants were outstanding for him in both cases. The presentence report accordingly recommended a two level enhancement because of Donine's obstruction of Justice by his "material falsehood" about his arrests and convictions.

The presentence report also recommended a two level enhancement for Donine's abuse of his position of trust as a stockbroker. The report recommended no enhancement for his role in the offense.

At the sentencing hearing the district court accepted Donine's story that the $6898 taken from the Stroes' account represented parked profits, and concluded that because Pru-Bache bore the risk of loss for the unauthorized trades Donine was "basically stealing, in view of the court, from his employer." The court, after taking testimony, found that Donine had provided materially false information to a probation officer about his arrests and convictions. The court enhanced the sentence further for Donine's abuse of his clients' trust and for crimes requiring more than minimal planning. The court gave the sentence set out above.

Donine appeals, attacking the three enhancements for abuse of trust, more than minimal planning, and obstruction of Justice and also challenging the amount of loss that the ...


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