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Grunewald v. United States

    Brief Fact Summary. Defendant was convicted of conspiring to defraud the United States. Defendant alleges that the conspiracy was over more than three years from the Government’s prosecution and barred by the statute of limitations.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. After the central criminal purposes of the conspiracy have been attained, a subsequent conspiracy to conceal may not be implied from circumstantial evidence.

    Facts. In 1948 and 1947, two New York firms were under investigation by the Bureau of Internal Revenue. The firms were put in contact with Defendant who through his connections with the Bureau was able to favorable rulings in two tax cases against the firms. Both Defendants and the firms took steps to cover up their acts. A Congressional inquiry ensued and the Defendant was convicted for conspiracy to defraud the United States. Defendant appealed alleging that the prosecution was barred by the 3 year statute of limitations. The Appellate Court affirmed.

    Issue. Whether the statute of limitations bars the Government prosecution for conspiracy.

    Held. Reversed.
    The Government must prove that the conspiracy was subsisted within the statute of limitation sand at least one overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy was performed within the three year statutory period.

    After the central criminal purposes of the conspiracy have been attained, a subsidiary conspiracy to conceal may not be implied from circumstantial evidence.

    A vital distinction must be made between acts of concealment done in furtherance of the main criminal objectives of the conspiracy and acts of concealment done after these central objectives of the conspiracy has been obtained.


    Discussion. The Court ruled that the Government’s argument that the conspiracy involved the acts the Defendant and others to conceal their illegal acts would extend the scope of the conspiracy indefinitely. The Court noted that every conspiracy in its nature is secret. There are acts that would be in furtherance of the conspiracy that would be acts of concealments. However, concealment acts done after the conspiracy objective has been reached cannot be found to be part of the conspiracy.


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