United States v. Sandra Bart

United States Court of Appeals For the Eighth Circuit ___________________________ No. 17-1236 ___________________________ United States of America lllllllllllllllllllll Plaintiff - Appellee v. Sandra Lee Bart lllllllllllllllllllll Defendant - Appellant ____________ Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - St. Paul ____________ Submitted: December 14, 2017 Filed: April 24, 2018 ____________ Before WOLLMAN, LOKEN, and MURPHY, Circuit Judges. ____________ MURPHY, Circuit Judge. After a five day trial, a jury found Sandra Bart guilty of conspiracy to commit visa fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 371; conspiracy to commit fraud in foreign labor contracting, 18 U.S.C. § 1349; and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1349. Bart's convictions arise from her role in a scheme to bring seasonal workers to the United States through federal work visa programs and then require them to pay a recruitment fee, travel costs, and kickbacks on their wages. Bart appeals, claiming that the jury verdict was not supported by sufficient evidence and that the district court abused its discretion by denying her motions for an evidentiary hearing and new trial based on juror misconduct. We affirm. I. Sandra Bart operated Horizon Lawn Management ("Horizon"), a lawn care company located in Ohio. She began hiring through the federal H-2A and H-2B work visa programs in 2002 or 2003. These programs allow certain American employers to hire foreign workers to meet their seasonal labor needs if the employer demonstrates both that domestic workers are unavailable and that employing foreign workers will not depress domestic labor wages. The Department of Labor ("DOL"), the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"), and the Department of State ("DOS") all oversee the H-visa programs and require employers to certify their compliance with program standards before approving employer participation. To participate in the H-2A program, an employer must certify the following to DOL and DHS under penalty of perjury: that it did not require compensation from prospective workers as a condition of employment, that it will pay transportation costs to bring the workers to the United States, that it will pay to house the workers in the United States, and that it will pay the wage rate set annually by DOL.1 Bart and Wilian Cabrera, a former H-2B worker from the Dominican Republic, formed Labor Listo in 2008. This organization sought to connect American employers with Dominican workers by means of the H-visa system. Bart and Cabrera agreed that Cabrera would recruit workers while Bart would recruit farmers. They 1 Beginning in January 2009, employers were required to certify their compliance with these standards under penalty of perjury. A DOL investigator testified at trial, however, that the listed prohibitions have been in effect for decades. All certifications relevant in this case were filed between 2010 and 2015. -2- also agreed to charge prospective Dominican employees an initial fee of $500. From that they planned to deduct their legitimate costs, such as consulate fees and those for internet usage, and divide the remainder between them. Bart recorded an early version ...

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