Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Moreland

May 3, 2010


On Remand from the United States Supreme Court D.C. No. CR-01-00108-05-BJR.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hug, Circuit Judge



Before: Procter Hug, Jr., M. Margaret McKeown, and William Fletcher, Circuit Judges.


This case comes on remand from the Supreme Court of the United States, which vacated this court's December 12, 2007, judgment, United States v. Moreland, 509 F.3d 1201 (9th Cir. 2007), in light of the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Santos, 128 S.Ct. 2020 (2008). In the present opinion, we reinstate Parts I and II.A-D of our former opinion and revise the remainder in light of Santos and other developments in the law.

We also DENY defendant-appellant Steven Moreland's Contingent Motion for Stay Pending United Supreme Court's Resolution of United States v. Dolan, 571 F.3d 1022 (10th Cir. 2009), cert. granted, 78 U.S.L.W. 3391 (U.S. Jan. 8, 2010) (No. 09-367). Moreland may raise the effect of the upcoming decision in Dolan on remand.


For his participation in a fraudulent pyramid scheme, defendant-appellant Steven Moreland was convicted of mail and wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and money laundering. On remand, the district court imposed a revised sentence of 18 years in prison and ordered Moreland to pay restitution to the victims in the amount of slightly over $36 million. Moreland appeals his conviction on the grounds that he involuntarily waived his right to counsel and received ineffective assistance of counsel, the district court erred in not granting an adequate continuance, the prosecution committed misconduct resulting in a violation of his due process rights, and insufficiency of the evidence. Finally, Moreland appeals the imposition of restitution because the district court failed to comply with the time frame outlined in § 3664(d)(5) of the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act.


Moreland participated in an enormous pyramid scheme that, from November 1997 until May 2000, swindled approximately 2,500 people out of more than $73 million. Many of the victims in this case were of retirement age and invested much or all of their savings in the scheme, which promised astronomical returns. In reality, Moreland and his associates were conducting a massive fraud in which a portion of the funds from later investors were used to pay the promised returns of some earlier investors. Most earlier investors were convinced to roll their fictional returns over into supposed new investment opportunities. The funds not used to repay earlier investors were paid to the operators of the scheme or squandered on unsound financial misadventures.

The federal government finally shut down the scheme on May 10, 2000, by executing search warrants at the home of John Wayne Zidar, the mastermind and leader of the scheme, and the business offices in Washington and Arizona from which the scheme was conducted. On the day of the searches, Moreland fled with his family to Costa Rica, where he planned to stay in order to avoid capture. Although his wife refused to stay in Costa Rica, necessitating his return to the United States, Moreland went back to Costa Rica in August 2000. He took with him all of his documents relating to the scheme in order to prevent the government from obtaining the records. After supposedly discovering the fraudulent nature of the enterprise for the first time while in Costa Rica, Moreland continued transferring money from accounts containing victims' investment funds into his own accounts to pay his salary and personal expenses.

Moreland and his associates were indicted on March 28, 2001. Moreland eventually surrendered on April 3, 2001, in Tyler, Texas, at which time he was arrested. While driving from Dallas to Tyler to surrender, Moreland stopped about half way between in the town of Canton and discarded his laptop computer in a dumpster behind a Dairy Queen near the highway.

At his initial appearance in the Western District of Washington on April 20, 2001, Moreland indicated his desire to represent himself. Upon the prosecution's motion, a magistrate judge conducted a hearing pursuant to Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975), on April 26 to determine whether Moreland should be permitted to waive his right to counsel. The magistrate judge permitted Moreland to represent himself but concluded that standby counsel should assist him. Ralph Hurvitz was then appointed to facilitate Moreland's defense. The district judge conducted a second Faretta hearing on June 5, at the request of the prosecution, at which time she urged Moreland not to represent himself. Nonetheless, the district judge concluded that Moreland had knowingly and intelligently waived his right to counsel and permitted him to continue representing himself. The district judge further directed Hurvitz to continue acting as standby counsel.

In a second superceding indictment issued on January 8, 2002, Moreland was charged with ten counts of mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341, six counts of wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, four counts of promotion money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1), four counts of concealment money laundering involving foreign transfers in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(2), conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, and conspiracy to commit money laundering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h). The second superceding indictment also contained a criminal forfeiture count relating to numerous items of both real and personal property in the possession of the defendants as well as funds seized from bank accounts in the United States, Samoa, Costa Rica, and the Bahamas.

On April 23, 2002, Moreland filed a motion to have a lawyer appointed to represent him. The district court held a hearing on the motion on May 6, 2002, and Hurvitz was appointed to represent him because of his familiarity with the case. The trial was set for June 10, 2002. Hurvitz stated that he wanted additional time to prepare, but Moreland opposed a continuance. The district court granted a continuance of two weeks until June 24, 2002. Hurvitz served as Moreland's counsel during the trial.

On August 14, 2002, after a 34-day trial, a jury found Moreland guilty on three counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, two counts of promotion money laundering, four counts of concealment money laundering involving foreign transfers, and both conspiracy charges. Zidar was also found guilty on all 25 counts on which he was charged and sentenced to 30 years in prison. United States v. Zidar, 178 Fed. Appx. 673, *1 (9th Cir. 2006)

In determining Moreland's sentence, the district court adopted the Sentencing Guidelines calculation set forth in the original Presentence Report. Accordingly, the district court began with a base offense level of 43 and criminal history category I, which resulted in a sentence range of life imprisonment. The district court departed downward three points due to Moreland's mental state, resulting in a base offense level of 40 and a criminal history category of I. The applicable sentence range, under the 1998 edition*fn1 of the U.S. Sentencing Commission Guidelines Manual, was 292-365 months in prison. The district court sentenced Moreland to 292 months in prison, the bottom of the sentencing range, on August 22, 2003. At the prosecution's request, the district court also deferred the issue of restitution pending a determination by a receiver in a related civil case, brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, of the identities of victims and the amounts of their losses. The district court's order explicitly stated that it would "enter a subsequent order identifying the payees and the amount of restitution owed to each payee." Moreland did not object to the district court's deferral of the restitution determination.

Moreland then appealed his conviction and sentence, but not the district court's deferral of restitution, to this court. Following the Supreme Court's decision in Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), a prior panel of this court remanded for resentencing under the now-advisory Sentencing Guidelines on December 14, 2004. The remand order did not address the substantive issues raised in Moreland's appeal.

On remand, the district court ordered the preparation of a Revised Presentence Report. In March 2005, while the Revised Presentence Report was being prepared, the receiver completed its task of identifying victims and the amounts of their losses. The government then submitted its Revised Presentence Report on November 1, 2005. The Revised Presentence Report, which contained the list of victims and losses, recommended that the district court adopt the same Sentencing Guidelines calculation as in the original sentence and order restitution in the amount of $36,031,772.84 pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3663A.

The district court held a sentencing hearing on November 7, 2005, at which time the district court adopted the Sentencing Guidelines range recommended in the Revised Presentence Report and found by clear and convincing evidence the factors on which the recommendation was based. In light of United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), the district court examined the sentencing factors listed in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) and reduced Moreland's sentence to 216 months (18 years) in prison. The district court also imposed $36,031,772.84 in restitution. Moreland appealed his conviction as well as the revised sentence and restitution order on November 10, 2005.


Moreland appeals his conviction by alleging denial of his right to counsel, ineffective assistance of counsel, improper failure of the district court to grant a continuance, prosecutorial misconduct, and insufficiency of the evidence.


[1] First, Moreland argues that he involuntarily waived his right to counsel. The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees that a person brought to trial in federal court "must be afforded the right to the assistance of counsel before he can be validly convicted and punished by imprisonment." Faretta, 422 U.S. at 807. A criminal defendant may waive the right to counsel and represent himself. Id. at 819-20. When a defendant requests to proceed pro se, a district court may only grant the request after determining that the defendant "knowingly and intelligently" waived the right to counsel. Id. at 835. Once a district court has determined that a defendant's waiver of his right to counsel is knowing and intelligent, it may appoint standby or "advisory" counsel to assist the pro se defendant without infringing on his right to self-representation. McKaskle v. Wiggins, 465 U.S. 168, 176-77 (1984). At the same time, a defendant who waives his right to counsel does not have a right to advisory counsel. United States v. Salemo, 81 F.3d 1453, 1460 (9th Cir. 1996); United States v. Kienenberger, 13 F.3d 1354, 1356 (9th Cir. 1994). Generally, the role of standby counsel is vague and undefined, and the defendant must retain control over his case. McKaskle, 465 U.S. at 177-78.

The district court conducted two separate Faretta hearings in this case and, after each hearing, concluded that More-land's requested waiver was both knowing and intelligent. The district court also appointed standby counsel to assist Moreland. Moreland argues on appeal, however, that his waiver of his right to counsel was conditioned on assurances from the district court regarding the level of assistance he could expect to receive from standby counsel. Those assurances were not satisfied, according to Moreland, because standby counsel did not provide as much assistance as Moreland expected. For that reason, Moreland argues that his waiver of his right to counsel was not voluntary.*fn2

The validity of a Faretta waiver is a mixed question of law and fact reviewed de novo. United States v. Erskine, 355 F.3d 1161, 1166 (9th Cir. 2004).

[2] The record undermines Moreland's assertion that his waiver was conditioned on specific assurances from the district court regarding the level of participation he could expect from standby counsel. During the second Faretta hearing, which the prosecution requested after learning that Moreland was receiving assistance with his case from Donald Mueller, a former co-participant in the pyramid scheme who was not licensed to practice law and who was scheduled to appear as a witness on Moreland's behalf, the district judge engaged in a lengthy discussion with Moreland, ensuring that he understood the charges against him and the disadvantages of representing himself. Indeed, the district judge "strongly urge[d]" Moreland to obtain counsel. Nevertheless, Moreland insisted on representing himself. The district judge concluded that his waiver was voluntary and directed Hurvitz to continue serving as standby counsel. In continuing Hurvitz's participation as standby counsel, the district judge did not promise any specific degree of assistance. Rather, the district judge explicitly noted that the role of standby counsel was undefined. As the district judge explained: "So his position in this case to a large extent is determined by your position in the case. . . . It's hard to tell now what's going to happen. Cases develop often with a life of their own. . . . But what his role is to a large extent will be determined on how you use him." The district judge went on to make clear that Moreland and Hurvitz would have to "play this by ear." That explanation of the role of standby counsel was not specific. Thus, contrary to Moreland's contention, the district court made no assurances upon which he could have reasonably conditioned his waiver of counsel.

Furthermore, if Moreland did not believe that standby counsel was living up to his expectations, he had ample opportunity to waive his right to self-representation and request the district court to appoint full counsel. In fact, after the second Faretta hearing, Moreland began complaining about Hurvitz's representation almost immediately. Among other things, Moreland accused Hurvitz of refusing to familiarize himself with the case, review the evidence, assist with discovery, and "offer any assistance beyond filing a few motions." In September 2001, Moreland requested to have Hurvitz replaced by "non-representational counsel"-that is, Mueller. The district judge denied Moreland's request, stating that although the role of standby counsel is "vague and undefined, the court instructed Hurvitz to fill that role as appropriately as possible under the circumstances." The district judge further stated that "it was the court's understanding during the Faretta hearing that Moreland expected little more from Hurvitz than fulfillment of basic administrative responsibilities." The district judge further explained that "based on representations from Moreland that he wishes to represent himself, Hurvitz is prohibited from contributing beyond a basic level to Moreland's case, for risk of encroaching on Moreland's Faretta rights." The district court went on to state that "More-land is requesting, and Hurvitz is resisting, more participation than courts creating the standby counsel role anticipated." Consequently, the district court clearly informed Moreland well in advance of trial what he could and could not expect from standby counsel. If Moreland's waiver of his right to counsel was truly conditioned on his expectation that Hurvitz would play a larger role in his defense, he could have withdrawn his waiver and asked the district court to appoint full counsel at that time. He did not do so.

Instead of waiving his right to self-representation, Moreland filed additional pleadings in October and December 2001, in which he suggested that the district court was unlawfully preventing Mueller from representing him. The district court again admonished Moreland that Mueller would not be permitted to represent him. The district court also informed Moreland that, unless he was willing to allow Hurvitz to represent him, he was not entitled to greater assistance than Hurvitz was already providing. Again, Moreland declined to waive his right to self-representation and have full counsel appointed. Despite Moreland's ostensible disappointment with Hurvitz's performance as standby counsel, Moreland did not withdraw his waiver and request that counsel be appointed to represent him until April 23, 2002.

[3] At no point did the district court lead Moreland to believe that he would receive substantial assistance with his case from standby counsel. Thus, Moreland's waiver of his right to counsel was knowing and intelligent.


[4] Second, Moreland claims that he was denied effective assistance of counsel. "[A]s a general rule, we do not review challenges to the effectiveness of defense counsel on direct appeal." United States v. Jeronimo, 398 F.3d 1149, 1155 (9th Cir. 2005). Rather, we prefer to review ineffective assistance of counsel claims in habeas corpus proceedings under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. United States v. Alferahin, 433 F.3d 1148, 1160 n.6 (9th Cir. 2006). We may consider such claims on direct appeal, however, where "the record on appeal is sufficiently developed to permit determination of the issue." Id.

[5] In this appeal, Moreland makes four arguments in support of his ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim: (1) trial counsel failed to investigate Moreland's mental health, (2) trial counsel failed to request an adequate continuance, (3) trial counsel failed to object to the district court's limitation of Moreland's direct examination, and (4) trial counsel failed to object to questions regarding the veracity of witnesses on cross-examination and to the prosecution's statements during closing arguments regarding Moreland's veracity. But the record is not sufficiently developed to permit determination of the issues. For example, defense counsel has not had an opportunity to explain his actions. See United States v. Laughlin, 933 F.2d 786, 789 (9th Cir. 1991). The record is also undeveloped with regard to Moreland's purported mental health defense, as the government has not conducted its own psychological evaluation. Without that evaluation, we are unable to determine whether prejudice resulted from trial counsel's failure to investigate. Id. Accordingly, we decline to consider Moreland's ineffective assistance of counsel claims on direct appeal, but he may pursue those claims in collateral proceedings. Jeronimo, 398 F.3d at 1156.


Third, Moreland contends that the district court erred in failing to grant an adequate continuance. Here, the district court granted a two-week continuance over Moreland's objection. But Moreland argues that the district court should have sua sponte granted a lengthier continuance to allow his trial counsel adequate time to prepare. A district court's decision to grant or deny a continuance is reviewed for abuse of discretion, even where a defendant fails to make a formal motion for a continuance. United States v. Nguyen, 262 F.3d 998, 1002 (9th Cir. 2001). There is no abuse of discretion unless the denial was "arbitrary or unreasonable." United States v. Wills, 88 F.3d 704, 711 (9th Cir. 1996).

[6] The district court did not abuse its discretion in granting only a two-week continuance, however, because the need for a continuance was Moreland's fault. See United States v. Fowlie, 24 F.3d 1059, 1069 (9th Cir. 1994). The district court repeatedly advised Moreland to withdraw his waiver of counsel and accept representation. For example, the district judge told Moreland "[i]f you exclude Mr. Hurvitz early on, then turn to him later, he's going to be severely handicapped, in ways he wouldn't be if he were your attorney right from the beginning." But Moreland insisted on relying on Mueller, a co-participant in the criminal enterprise and an unlicensed lawyer, as legal counsel. Moreland did not request representation until two months before trial. When Moreland finally did accept counsel, he opposed his trial counsel's expressed desire for a continuance and prevented trial counsel from requesting more time to prepare. He even opposed the two-week continuance granted sua sponte by the district court. Consequently, Moreland was clearly to blame both for the delay and for the district court not granting a longer continuance. The district court's decision to grant only a two-week continuance, when Moreland objected to any continuance, was not "arbitrary or unreasonable"; therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion.


Fourth, Moreland argues that his due process rights were violated because the government committed prosecutorial misconduct by questioning Moreland about the veracity of two prosecution witnesses during cross-examination and by casting doubt upon Moreland's veracity during closing arguments. Moreland did not object at trial. "We review claims of prosecutorial misconduct for plain error when a defendant failed to object at trial." United States v. Washington, 462 F.3d 1124, 1136 (9th Cir. 2006); see Fed. R. Crim. P. 52(b). Under the plain error standard, relief is not warranted unless there has been: (1) "error," (2) that was "plain," (3) that affected "substantial rights," and (4) that "seriously affected the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of the judicial proceedings." United States v. Recio, 371 F.3d 1093, 1100 (9th Cir. 2004).


[7] Moreland first asserts that his due process rights were violated when the prosecution asked him to testify regarding whether two government witnesses lied during their testimony. It is improper for a prosecutor to question a defendant regarding the veracity of a government witness. United States v. Combs, 379 F.3d 564, 572 (9th Cir. 2004); see also United States v. Sanchez-Lima, 161 F.3d 545, 548 (9th Cir. 1998) (holding that testimony regarding witness' credibility is prohibited unless it is admissible as character evidence). In this case, the prosecutor twice asked Moreland about the veracity of government witnesses during his cross-examination. The first instance involved Juan Alvarez, a Costa Rican attorney with whom Moreland left all of his documentation regarding the criminal enterprise. Alvarez testified that he never had an attorney-client relationship with Moreland, whereas Moreland claimed Alvarez was his lawyer. The prosecutor asked Moreland to testify regarding Alvarez's veracity on this point:

Q: You're telling us he was your lawyer?

A: Yes, he was.

Q: You heard his testimony. He said he had no client relationship with you.

A: That was his ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.