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United States v. Gu

United States District Court, D. Vermont

February 2, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
ALISON GU, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS FOR JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL AND FOR A NEW TRIAL (DOC. 193)

          CHRISTINA REISS, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the court are Defendant Alison Gu's motions for a judgment of acquittal and for a new trial. Defendant was charged in the Superseding Indictment with three Counts: Count One: bank fraud; Count Two: knowingly making a false statement in an application for a passport; and Count Three: aggravated identity theft. On November 7, 2017, a jury convicted Defendant of all three Counts. Defendant moved for a directed verdict of acquittal at the close of the government's case-in-chief and renewed that motion at the close of all evidence. Both motions were denied.

         Pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c), Defendant seeks a judgment of acquittal notwithstanding the verdict, arguing that the government's evidence at trial was insufficient to support her conviction. In the alternative, Defendant moves for a new trial under Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a) on the same basis. The government opposes both motions.

         The government is represented by Assistant United States Attorneys Michael P. Drescher and Kevin Doyle. Defendant is represented by Paul A. Goldberger, Esq., Paul S. Volk, Esq., and Stacey Van Maiden, Esq.[1]

         I. Factual and Procedural Background.

         Over the course of six days of trial, the government called thirty witnesses and introduced 105 exhibits. In the light most favorable to the government, the evidence established that Defendant committed bank fraud by submitting loan applications to financial institutions which contained materially false information, including the false identities of the loan applicants, false banking records, false appraisals, and false information regarding outstanding financial obligations, annual income, and a past bankruptcy petition, and the pendency of other loan applications. The following identities were employed as part of the scheme: Ally Koo, Ai J. Chen, Ai Jen Chen, Ai Chen, and Jing Shao. The purpose of the fraudulent scheme was to obtain financing for the purchase of certain real estate located at 7 Edith Place, Cheshire, Connecticut; 389 Read Farm Road, East Dorset, Vermont; 385 Cedar Avenue, Cocoa Beach, Florida; 184 South Sea Avenue, Unit 1, Yarmouth, Massachusetts; and 2406 Riverside Farms Road, Austin, Texas.

         Numerous witnesses called by the government testified that financial institutions would not extend credit to a person whose identity they did not know. For example, Karen Malek from Emigrant Mortgage Company testified that knowledge of the identity of the loan applicant allows the lender to assess the applicant's ability to repay the loan. In her testimony, Defendant admitted that she had filed for bankruptcy protection under her real name, creating a credit risk of which financial institutions would be unaware if Defendant used a false identity in applying for loans.

         In support of the passport fraud and aggravated identity theft Counts, the government called Manuel Pacheco, a passport officer employed by the United States passport office in St. Albans, Vermont on March 27, 2015. Mr. Pacheco testified that he had an approximately one-hour long interaction with an individual who submitted an application for a United States passport under the name of Ally Lynn Koo while also providing a false social security card, a false Johnson State College identification card, and a fraudulent New Hampshire driver's license with the name Ally Koo, but bearing Defendant's photograph. Each of these supporting items was later discovered in Defendant's Cheshire, Connecticut residence. Both the New Hampshire driver's license and social security card were obtained with forged Montgomery County Probate Court orders. Items related to these forgeries were also found in Defendant's house.

         After reviewing the application and supporting documents, Mr. Pacheco asked the individual applicant to complete a supplemental questionnaire to further verify her identity. Upon completing and returning the supplemental questionnaire to Mr. Pacheco, the individual stated that she wanted to withdraw her application, and Mr. Pachego returned her supporting documents. The government presented video footage from the passport office's security camera which depicted this interaction. It further introduced the submitted passport application, which included Defendant's photograph, on behalf of applicant Ally Koo.

         Defendant testified and called three witnesses. In the course of her testimony, she admitted that she and her partner, Matthew Abel, acquired four properties with their own money, but in someone else's name. Regarding the purchase of property in Cocoa Beach, Florida, for example, she testified:

Q So you admit that you purchased the house at 385 Cedar Avenue in Cocoa Beach, Florida? You admitted that earlier, right?
A I did not use my name to purchase the house, but I used the money that's mine to purchase the house, so -

(Doc. 202-1 at 92.)

         Defendant further admitted purchasing the East Dorset, Vermont; Yarmouth, Massachusetts; and Austin, Texas properties that were the subject of the loan applications at issue in the case:

Q Did you purchase 385 Cedar Avenue, Cocoa Beach, ...

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