‘Chop shop’ operator’s convictions upheld by 7th Circuit

August 4, 2016

An Indianapolis man who ran a modern-day “chop shop” in which he stole cars, altered identification numbers and resold them was unable to convince the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that his convictions and sentence require reversal.

George Robey was arrested Dec. 6, 2011, and indicted by a grand jury on 25 counts on Feb. 23, 2012. He made an initial appearance on March 1, 2012, but his trial did not start until Feb. 10, 2015, due to 10 ends-of-justice continuances requested by Robey, requesting new counsel twice, a psychological examination and entering and withdrawing a plea agreement. The government also was granted one ends-of-justice continuance.

Two months before trial, the government moved and was granted dismissal of 19 of the 25 counts, leaving the six that Robey was convicted of: four counts of trafficking in vehicles with altered VINs and two counts of making, uttering and possessing counterfeit state securities.

His presentence investigation report included 10 other vehicles Robey also was accused of stealing, creating false documents for, and then selling. This increased his offense level by 14. He was sentenced to 110 months in prison and three years of supervised release.

Robey argued on appeal that he did not receive a speedy trial in violation of the Speedy Trial Act and the Sixth Amendment; the court erred in allowing the government to amend the indictment by dropping 19 charges; and the court erred at sentencing by ruling the theft of the 10 other vehicles constituted relevant conduct.

As far as the speedy trial issues, the 7th Circuit noted that when taking into account the ends-of-justices granted between his arrest and indictment, there are only 13 days on the speedy trial clock, so there is no violation there. And of the 1,076 days that elapsed between his initial appearance and the start of his trial, most of the time is excludable due to the time he was negotiating a plea agreement, and his 10 ends-of-justice continuances. In addition, he changed lawyers twice and was uncooperative with his attorneys, Judge Michael Kanne noted.

U.S. Supreme Court precedent, United States v. Miller, 471 130, 145 (1985) allows for the court to amend the indictment and withdraw charges without resubmitting it to a grand or petit jury, the 7th Circuit held.

And with regards to his sentence, the District Court did not commit clear error because the evidence at trial and sentencing support a finding of a “common scheme or plan,” because there were multiple commonalities that substantially connected the charged and uncharged vehicles, Kanne wrote, including a common modus operandi. Thus there was no error in finding the 10 uncharged vehicles constituted relevant conduct.

The case is United States of America v. George E. Robey, 15-2172.


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