Mail Fraud

A crime in which the perpetrator develops a scheme using the mails to defraud another of money or property. This crime specifically requires the intent to defraud, and is a federal offense governed by section 1341 of title 18 of the U.S. Code. The mail fraud statute was first enacted in 1872 to prohibit illicit mailings with the Postal Service (formerly the Post Office) for the purpose of executing a fraudulent scheme.

Initially, courts strictly followed the mail Fraud statute's language and interpreted it narrowly. The early decisions required a connection between the fraudulent scheme and the misuse of the mails for a violation of the mail fraud statute. Since its enactment, application of the statute has evolved to include dishonest and fraudulent activities with only a tangential relationship to the mails.

Punishment for a conviction under the mail fraud statute is a fine or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both. If, however, the violation affects a financial institution, the punishment is more severe: the statute provides that "the person shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both."

Both the Supreme Court and Congress have consistently broadened the mail fraud statute since its enactment. Prior to a 1909 amendment, a violation of the mail fraud statute required proof, among other requirements, of either opening or intending to open correspondence or communication with another person. In 1909 Congress eliminated this requirement and replaced it with the language that the mails be used "for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice or attempting so to do." This amendment followed the Supreme Court's decision in Durland v. United States, 161 U.S. 306, 16 S. Ct. 508, 40 L. Ed. 709 (1896), which held that the mailing only needed to "assist" in the completion of the fraud. Although this amendment was the last significant change until 1988, the Supreme Court has struggled with the relationship between the mailing element and the execution of the fraud.

The Court's struggle with this relationship is illustrated by two of its decisions: United States v. Maze, 414 U.S. 395, 94 S. Ct. 645, 38 L. Ed. 2d 603 (1974), and Schmuck v. United States, 489 U.S. 705, 109 S. Ct. 1443, 103 L. Ed. 2d 734 (1989). In Maze, the defendant stole his room-mate's credit card and car and signed his room-mate's name to the charge vouchers to obtain food and lodging. The merchants mailed the invoices to a bank in Louisville, Kentucky. The Supreme Court held that this did not fall within the scope of the mail fraud statute because the mailings did not perpetuate the fraud. The Court held that the scheme did not depend on the mailings and that the fraud was completed once the defendant signed the vouchers. The Court refused to interpret the statute as merely a jurisdictional requirement and stated that "Congress could have drafted the mail fraud statute so as to require only that the mails be in fact used as a result of the fraudulent scheme."

However, in Schmuck, the Court did expand the mail fraud statute. In Schmuck, the defendant sold used cars to auto dealers in which he had rolled back the odometers to inflate the vehicles' value. The dealers sent title application forms to the state department of transportation to register the cars after the dealers sold them to individual purchasers. The Court held that the sale of the vehicles depended on the transfer of title and that, although the mailing of the registration may not have contributed directly to the scheme, it was necessary for the passage of title and perpetuation of the scheme.

In recent years Congress has amended the mail fraud statute twice. In 1988 Congress added section 1346, which states that the term "scheme to defraud" includes a scheme to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services. In 1994 Congress expanded the use of the mails to include any parcel that is "sent or delivered by a private or commercial interstate carrier." As a result of these amendments, the mail fraud statute has become a broad act for prosecution of dishonest and fraudulent activities, as long as those crimes involve the mails or an interstate carrier.

Further readings

Mail and Wire Fraud

Our firm has over twenty years  of experience defending people in many different types of federal fraud cases. We have helped clients win or successfully resolve mail and wire fraud charges in federal district courts across the United States.

Read about our firm’s success in federal criminal cases.

To learn more about what happens in a federal criminal case, watch our federal crimes video.

Here are some basic facts about federal mail and wire fraud charges.

Federal criminal law includes separate provisions for mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, accounting fraud, securities fraud, and a host of other types of fraudulent conduct. Virtually any type of business activity may give rise to the potential for fraud. Fraud in heavily regulated industries and in businesses contracting with the government is an especially common source of criminal fraud prosecutions. While companies themselves may be the primary targets of a criminal fraud prosecution, business officers and employees—even in large corporations—are commonly charged individually with fraud violations.

Conviction for fraud of any kind typically requires proof that a defendant intentionally deceived another person for the purpose of unlawfully profiting from the other party’s loss. Fraud may involve accepting payment for services without any intention of providing them, accepting payment for goods while intending not to deliver them or to deliver goods materially different than as agreed upon. Fraud against the U.S. government may involve submitting false documents in connection with a government contract or tax return, among other things.

Federal Mail Fraud

Mail fraud is an offense that involves the use of the United States Postal Service to carry out any scheme which seeks to unlawfully acquire money or property. Some common forms of mail fraud include mortgage fraud, insurance fraud, check kiting, Ponzi schemes and pyramid schemes.

Courts have generally held that three elements must be proven to convict a defendant of mail fraud. The first is participation by the defendant in a scheme to defraud. The second is that the defendant used the mail in furtherance of the scheme. Finally, it must be proven that the defendant who participated in the scheme used or caused the use of the mail. This third element is proven when the use of the mail can reasonably be foreseen even if it is not intended. The mailing also does not have to be essential to the scheme. It is enough to prove this final element if the mailing was simply incidental. A conviction for mail fraud can result in a 20 year sentence and fine. If the scheme affects the solvency of a financial institution, a conviction can result in a 30 year prison sentence and a $1,000,000 fine.

Federal law also makes it a separate crime to use a false name when engaged in mail fraud. Specifically, it is unlawful for a person to use, assume, or request to be addressed by a fictitious or false title, name, or address while engaged in mail fraud. It is also unlawful for a person to receive a letter or package addressed to a fictitious or false name or address. A person convicted under this provision can be sentenced to 5 years in prison and receive a fine.

Federal Wire Fraud

Wire fraud relates to the use of electronic communications to carry out a scheme which seeks to unlawfully acquire money or property. Electronic communication usually refers to the use of telephone, fax, or internet. Generally, three elements must be proven in order to convict a defendant of wire fraud. First, it must be established that there was a scheme to defraud. Second, the defendant must have knowingly and willingly participated in the scheme with the intent to defraud. Third, it must be shown that interstate wire communications were used to further the scheme. Those convicted face 20 years imprisonment and a fine. If the scheme involved defrauding a financial institution, a conviction may result in a 30 year sentence and a $1,000,000 fine.

It is important to note that a victim does not need to actually be deprived of property or deceived for a conviction under the mail fraud or wire fraud statutes. Even the intent to deprive a victim of property will support conviction. It also generally does not matter if the property in question is tangible or intangible. Even an intention to deprive a person of his intangible right to control his assets can result in conviction. Each separate instance of wire communication or use of the mail in furtherance of a scheme generally constitutes a separate offense.

Because fraud cases often involve large amounts of highly complex financial and technical information and because proof of intent to defraud is a required element in a fraud prosecution, numerous legal strategies may be successfully used in defending against fraud charges. At the most fundamental level, a successful defense will challenge the basic elements of the government’s case. Unless the government can prove beyond a reasonable doubt every element of the specific types of fraud indicted, there can be no conviction.

The issue of intent is central to the definition of fraud and a defense attorney will typically argue good faith to challenge the government’s claim that a defendant intended to defraud. Good faith can be shown by demonstrating that the defendant acted in accordance with standard industry practices, that he sought legal or financial advice before he acted in reliance on that advice, that he cooperated with any law enforcement investigations, and that he corrected mistakes where he found them.

If a defendant participated in a fraudulent scheme without knowledge of the fraud he is not guilty under the law. Because the government will generally use circumstantial evidence to try to prove intent, if a defendant can show justification for a good faith belief that his actions were legal, it will be difficult for a jury to convict him for fraud.

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Mail Fraud News

[Dec 10, 2016] no title by Rudolph Unger

Notable quotes:
"... On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court stunned federal prosecutors when it ruled that the government cannot use the mail-fraud law in cases where victims were deprived not of real property but of ``intangible rights.`` Such intangible rights include the right of the government to accurate information from citizens and the right of citizens to honest government. ..."
Aug 08, 1987 |

The U.S Court of Appeals here Friday overturned the conviction of a Milwaukee lawyer convicted in a money-laundering scheme, for the first time relying on a U.S. Supreme Court decision restricting the use of federal mail-fraud statutes in criminal cases and expanding it to include wire-fraud laws. Federal prosecutors said they were studying the decision. It could apply to some defendants in the Operation Greylord investigation of Cook County Circuit Court corruption and the Operation Incubator investigation of corruption in the Chicago and Cook County governments.

Milwaukee lawyer Stanley P. Gimbel had been found guilty of mail fraud, wire fraud and violating the Currency Transactions Reporting Act enacted to guard against money laundering. The three-judge appeals court panel consisting of Justices Joel Flaum, Richard Posner and Daniel Manion, not only threw out the mail fraud conviction on the basis of the recent Supreme Court ruling. They also applied the ruling to the wire fraud law and overturned Gimbel`s conviction for that offense as well.

The court also overturned Gimbel`s conviction for violating the currency transactions law that requires that the U.S. government be notified of all daily bank transactions involving $10,000 in cash or more. It found that although he deposited and later withdrew more than $100,000 in cash for a client in 1982 and 1983, he did so by making multiple transactions in amounts of less than $10,000.

In extending the new restrictions on mail fraud to wire fraud, the appeals court argued that the two laws always have been interpreted in the same way. The 115-year-old mail-fraud law bars the use of the mails to further a crime. The newer wire-fraud law bars the use of the telephone, telegraph or television to further a crime.

On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court stunned federal prosecutors when it ruled that the government cannot use the mail-fraud law in cases where victims were deprived not of real property but of ``intangible rights.`` Such intangible rights include the right of the government to accurate information from citizens and the right of citizens to honest government.

The appeals court threw out Gimbel`s conviction for mail and wire fraud on grounds that there was no evidence that his unreported bank transactions had deprived the U.S. Treasury of cash or other property.

For the last 15 years, until the Supreme Court imposed restrictions, prosecutors have used the mail- and wire-fraud laws in a variety of official misconduct cases, including Greylord and Incubator.

As a result of the Supreme Court ruling in the case of McNally v. United States, former Judge Reginald Holzer, convicted in the Greylord case, plans to appeal when the U.S. Supreme Court meets in October. Other Greylord defendants also are considering appeals.

Wire fraud has not been used as extensively as mail fraud in corruption cases here. But Morgan Finley, clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court, was indicted in May on wire fraud and other charges in connection with the Incubator investigation.

Finley was accused of taking payoffs to help a company get a city contract to collect unpaid parking fines. A federal grand jury charged that Finley committed wire fraud by holding a televised press conference in which he boosted the firm by criticizing the existing collection system.

In reviewing the Gimbel case, the appeals court noted that in the past the Milwaukee lawyer had represented clients involved in drug dealing. In the case under which he was charged he was dealing with a client who, unknown to him, was an undercover Internal Revenue Service agent.

Evidence at Gimbel`s trial in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee indicated that in 1982 and 1983 he accepted and banked $125,000 provided by the undercover agent. The money was deposited in amounts of less than $10,000.

During the same period Gimbel withdrew $109,890 for the undercover agent. The withdrawals were in 11 cashier`s checks each totaling $9,990, according to the evidence.

The appeals court noted that the federal cash reporting law has been changed so that now a person`s daily cash transactions must be reported if the total exceeds $10,000, no matter how small the individual deposits or withdrawals.

[Dec 10, 2016] FBI - Former Lawyer Sentenced to Prison for Mail Fraud Convictions Involving Scheme to Defraud Elderly Clients

Dec 10, 2016 |
April 27, 2009

District of Columbia (202) 252-6933

WASHINGTON-Former District of Columbia lawyer and Hearing Examiner Reginald Jerome Rogers, 55, of Bowie, Maryland, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts to 57 months of imprisonment stemming from his July 2006 convictions following trial on 13 counts of mail fraud involving a scheme to defraud elderly clients, announced U.S. Attorney Jeffrey L. Taylor and Joseph Persichini, Jr., Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Washington Field Office. Rogers was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release upon completion of his prison sentence and was ordered to pay restitution of $385,000 to the victims of his scheme. The sentence also included an order of forfeiture in the amount of $385,000.

According to the evidence at trial, in July 2006, Rogers practiced law from his home office in Bowie, Maryland and handled the financial affairs of elderly clients and their estates in the Washington area. He designated several elderly women clients as his "priority" clients for whom he not only performed legal work, but also did household chores such as grocery shopping and running errands for these clients. By performing these household chores, the defendant gained his clients' trust and induced them to turn over control of their finances to him as their fiduciary. After obtaining control over the clients' financial assets, the defendant unlawfully diverted money from their accounts for his own personal gain without their knowledge and consent. Rogers also transferred funds between the elderly clients' accounts to conceal his diversions, and concealed his scheme by making false statements to elderly clients regarding the status of their funds and property.

In announcing today's sentence, U.S. Attorney Taylor and Assistant Director Persichini praised the work of the FBI special agents who investigated the case. They also commended U.S. Attorney's Office Legal Assistants Lisa Robinson and Teesha Tobias, IT Specialist Jeannie Latimore-Brown, Victim/Witness Program Specialist Maria Shumar, former Auditor Nicholas Novak, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Griffith, Diane Lucas and Virginia Cheatham.

This content has been reproduced from its original source .

[Dec 06, 2016] New York attorney convicted of 9 counts of mail fraud ICE

Notable quotes:
"... Cvjeticanin faces a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the counts on which he was convicted. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 25, 2015. ..."
Dec 06, 2016 |
06/30/2015 TRENTON, N.J. - A New York attorney was convicted Monday in federal court on numerous counts of mail fraud for his role in a scheme to defraud two international companies by billing them for services that were never provided.

This conviction resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with the assistance of the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service (DSS).

Marijan Cvjeticanin, 50, of St. James, New York, was convicted of nine counts of mail fraud following a one-week trial.

According to court documents, from Sept. 1996 to Sept. 2012, Cvjeticanin worked for Wildes & Weinberg P.C., a New York law firm specializing in immigration law, first as a paralegal and then as an attorney.

Among other clients, the firm represented Automatic Data Processing Inc. (ADP) and Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc. (Broadridge) in connection with various immigration law matters. Cvjeticanin was the case manager handling day-to-day tasks, such as preparing Department of Labor certifications and applications for permanent residency for certain foreign workers of those companies employed in the United States on a temporary basis.

The application process required ADP and Broadridge to place job advertisements in the cities where the relevant position was located, to demonstrate that there were no qualified United States citizens available to fill that position. Wildes & Weinberg arranged for an independent advertising agency to contract with ADP and Broadridge to place the advertisements. At some point prior to 2010, Cvjeticanin caused ADP and Broadridge to replace the independent advertising agency with Flowerson Holdings Inc.

Unbeknownst to Wildes & Weinberg, ADP, or Broadridge, Cvjeticanin was the owner and principal of Flowerson. From that point until September 2012, Flowerson purportedly handled all of the certification advertisement obligations for ADP and Broadridge. In reality, Cvjeticanin did not place the the advertisements as required and instead pocketed the money paid by ADP and Broadridge.

In September 2012, Wildes & Weinberg learned through a routine audit of employee email accounts that Cvjeticanin owned and controlled Flowerson, which he had never disclosed, and fired him. The subsequent investigation revealed that between 2010 and September 2012, ADP and Broadridge collectively paid Flowerson approximately $579,000 for advertisements relating to permanent residency applications. Virtually all of the invoices that Flowerson submitted to ADP and Broadridge included charges for advertisements purportedly placed in popular magazines and newspapers.

The investigation also revealed that from time to time, the government would conduct audits of labor certifications and would request additional information from the filer, including copies of the print advertisements that had been placed. Because Cvjeticanin had not placed most of the print advertisements, he was unable to provide the copies. Cvjeticanin took out advertisements after he received notice of the audit. Cvjeticanin then fraudulently superimposed those advertisements on a newspaper from another date and made a photocopy, which he submitted to the government. The photocopied submissions purported to show that the relevant advertisements had been placed on the appropriate dates.

Cvjeticanin faces a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the counts on which he was convicted. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 25, 2015.

[Dec 06, 2016] Vitaly Borker - Wikipedia

Dec 06, 2016 |
On May 12, 2011, Borker pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in Manhattan to two counts of interstate communication of threats , [8] one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud . After several procedural deferrals, sentencing was scheduled for May 10, 2012. At the sentencing, Borker's attorney insisted that Borker never threatened customers with rape or murder despite claims by numerous individuals that he did. The judge postponed the sentencing, saying he wanted to hear testimony from the dozens of victims who reported being threatened with violence. Although federal guidelines recommend a sentence of roughly three years in prison, the judge said he might impose a more severe sentence, stating "I think these are very relevant facts, and if I find them credible, it's going to affect the sentence in a way that's going to be significant". [5] [9]

Immediately after hearing from the first five victim witnesses on July 11, 2012, the judge called their testimony about threats "highly credible" and ordered Borker jailed without bail. The testimony detailed threats of murder, rape and, in one instance, slicing off a woman's legs. The threats were made after customers canceled eyeglass orders or credit card transactions. More witnesses were scheduled to testify the following week. [6]

On September 6, 2012, Borker was sentenced to four years in federal prison and ordered to pay nearly $1,000,000 in fines and restitution. [1]

Brian Dunning (author) - Wikipedia

Dunning co-founded Buylink, a business-to-business service provider, in 1996, and served at the company until 2002. He later became eBay 's second biggest affiliate marketer ; he has since been convicted of wire fraud through a cookie stuffing scheme. In August 2014, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release for the company obtaining between $200,000 and $400,000 through wire fraud. [2]

[Dec 06, 2016] LaRouche Convicted Of Mail Fraud

Notable quotes:
"... By Caryle Murphy ..."
Dec 06, 2016 |
    LaRouche Convicted Of Mail Fraud
By Caryle Murphy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 17, 1988; Page A01

Federal jury in Alexandria convicted political extremist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. and six associates yesterday of conspiracy and mail fraud in his group's solicitation of $34 million in loans since 1983.

LaRouche, a four-time presidential candidate who has promoted his controversial ideas internationally for almost 20 years, was also convicted of conspiring to hide his personal income since 1979, the last year he filed a federal tax return.

"I'm amazed, absolutely amazed," LaRouche said shortly after the jury left the courtroom. The 66-year-old political leader, who called his indictment last October "a piece of garbage," had stared impassively at the panel as its verdict was read out.

The essence of the government's case was that LaRouche, who founded the National Caucus of Labor Committees in the late 1960s, and his staff solicited loans with false assurances to potential lenders and showed "reckless disregard" of the facts by failing to mention the organization's already severe financial difficulties.

The jury's findings, reached after a little more than 11 hours of deliberation, is a major blow to LaRouche's Leesburg-based organization and marks the first criminal conviction for its leader. He faces a possible maximum penalty of 65 years in prison and $3.2 million in fines at sentencing, set for Jan. 27 by U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr.

LaRouche is also facing a retrial, due to begin in February in federal court in Boston, on a charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

"We're gratified. We think it was the proper verdict," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kent Robinson. He and fellow prosecutor John Markham said they believed the key to the jury's verdict was the "strong testimony" by lenders, many of them elderly retirees, who had lost thousands of dollars in loans to LaRouche that were never repaid.

"We only wish we could get their money back," said Markham. "That's the true tragedy here. Their dreams went up in smoke."

In addition to LaRouche, who was found guilty on 11 mail fraud counts, his chief fund-raiser, William Wertz, was convicted on 10 mail fraud counts; his legal adviser, Edward Spannaus, on nine counts; fund-raisers Michael Billington and Dennis Small, on three counts, and Paul Greenberg and Joyce Rubinstein, on two counts.

All were found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

In a news conference last night, LaRouche denied any wrongdoing, called his conviction "an all-out frame-up by a state and federal task force," and charged that the federal government intended to take not just his freedom but his life.

"The purpose of this frame-up is not is not to send me to prison. It's to kill me," LaRouche told reporters. "In prison it's fairly easy to kill me . . . . If this sentence goes through, I'm dead."

LaRouche admitted that some of the people who lent his organizations money lost it, but said: "Everybody knew exactly what they were walking into. They were supporting a political movement with a very risky kind of loan. If the government hadn't shut the organization down, these loans would have been reduced . . . . The government took their money."

LaRouche said that unless Bryan sets aside his conviction he would appeal.

The verdict followed a four-week trial in which the LaRouche organization was exposed to rare public scrutiny. Several of the 51 witnesses were current LaRouche followers who testified for the government under immunity from prosecution.

In addition to the false assurances, the prosecution also contended that the defendants had a policy of not repaying loans, solicited at higher than market interest rates and with promises to repay in a year. In many cases, evidence showed, lenders were urged to forgive loans when they came due.

While lenders were being told there were no "discretionary" funds to repay their loans, the group spent $4.2 million on real estate in Virginia and thousands more on "improvements" for LaRouche's 200-acre Leesburg estate, according to testimony. The improvements included a $97,000 pond, swimming pool and horse riding ring.

Nine lenders, who said they were attracted by what was described as LaRouche's "war on drugs," testified that they gave a total of $661,300 to the organization and were repaid only about $10,000. Those loans are "just a very small portion of unrepaid borrowing" by the group, prosecutor Markham told the jury in his closing argument.

Of the $4 million collected for LaRouche's 1984 presidential campaign, only half was repaid, and by early 1987, $25 million of the $30 million collected for noncampaign purposes had not been repaid, according to testimony.

The LaRouche organization had relatively stable income, mainly due to contributions and sales of its publications, from 1981 to 1983, evidence showed. Revenue shot up in 1984 as LaRouche, again running for president, pushed his troops to meet higher quotas on loans.

At the trial, the defendants denied there was a policy not to repay loans and said they were solicited in good faith.

Loans were not repaid, the defense team said, because revenue was not as great as expected from the group's business ventures and because of financial ineptitude. "If they'd had a good office manager this might not have happened," said defense attorney Kenly Webster.

Defense witnesses also testified that the group was under siege from enemies waging "financial warfare" against LaRouche. Contributions and business revenue fell drastically in 1986 due to a raid on the Leesburg headquarters by federal investigators and negative media coverage after two LaRouche candidates won places in the Illinois Democratic primary in March 1986, the defense said.

In any event, defense witnesses said, when repayments became a problem, the organization imposed a loan ceiling and set up a repayment plan, budgeting $80,000 a week for paying off lenders in 1985. However, this target was not always met, they testified.

LaRouche's tax conviction stemmed from what Robinson called his attempts to "hide how much money he made" by having his companies pay his personal expenses.

According to testimony, LaRouche, who maintains he received numerous death threats because of his antidrug efforts and critical stand against the Soviet Union, lived in "safe houses" paid for by his organization and ate food provided by it. Personal items such as wine, clothing and haircuts were paid for out of an account earmarked for "security," testimony showed.

LaRouche's attorney, Odin Anderson, said his client had not filed returns because he had no income.

The defense attorneys, who had complained to Bryan on the first day of trial that they were not ready to go forward, nevertheless presented a vigorous defense against the charges.

"Given the constraints imposed" by Bryan on information the defense sought to introduce, the judge "gave us an extremely fair hearing," Anderson said. Bryan barred the defense from going into details about alleged "infiltration {or} financial warfare" against the LaRouche organization by the federal government.

Most of the defense lawyers took the tack in court that the defendants were being prosecuted because of their political ideas.

Jury foreman Buster Horton said last night that the "evidence collectively" led to the convictions, but the testimony of the nine lenders "was one of the major considerations. There was a lot of money lost."

Horton, of Lakeridge, Va., said the jury "all agreed {LaRouche} was not on trial for his political beliefs. We did not convict him for that. He was convicted for those 13 counts he was on trial for."

Staff writer Kent Jenkins Jr. contributed to this report.

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