United States v. Maze

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Maze
LOCATION: Bureau of Indian Affairs

DOCKET NO.: 72-1168
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 414 US 395 (1974)
ARGUED: Nov 13, 1973 / Nov 14, 1973
DECIDED: Jan 08, 1974

ADVOCATES:
Jewel S. Lafontant - Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States
William T. Warner - by appointment by the Court, for the respondent

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United States v. Maze

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 13, 1973 in United States v. Maze
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 14, 1973 in United States v. Maze

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 08, 1974 in United States v. Maze

Warren E. Burger:

The judgments and opinion of the Court in number 72-1168, United States against Maze will be announced by Mr. Justice Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

This case involves the question of whether the credit card fraud perpetuated by Thomas Maze, the respondent here, was within the prohibition of the terms of the federal mail fraud statute.

In the early spring of 1971, Maze forsook the jury climate of the Ohio valley where he lived and went on a trip to the Sun Bell, by presenting a Bank America card which he had purloined from his roommate.

Maze obtained food and lodging at various motels located in California, Florida, and Louisiana.

Upon his return to Louisville, he was indicted for four counts of violation of the federal mail fraud statute.

He was charged with devising a scheme to defraud the Louisville Bank, which had issued the Bank America card, his roommate Meredith, and the several merchants from whom he had obtained goods and services.

The only mailings involved were those by the merchants who had furnished respondent Maze with goods and services.

They later mailed the sale slips to the Louisville Bank for collection.

Maze was found guilty by a jury in the District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, but on appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, that conviction was reversed.

The critical question is whether these mailings by merchants may be said to have been for the purpose of executing respondent’s scheme?

The Mail fraud statute has had a long and illustrious history in this Court and has done the yeoman service in the prevention of fraud.

It has been applied by the Court to corporate looters in neighboring Maryland to conman in Georgia and to Gigolos in the sun drenched deserts of New Mexico.

By giving all these prior precedents full value, we are unable to take the additional step which the Government would have us take here.

We agree with the Court of Appeals that respondent Maze’s scheme had reached fruition when he checked out of the motels to which he had presented the card.

And the subsequent mailings by the merchants and motel owners cannot be said to be for the purpose of executing his scheme.

We, therefore, affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The Chief Justice has filed a dissenting opinion in which Mr. Justice White joins.

Mr. Justice White has filed a dissenting opinion in which the Chief Justice Mr. Justice Brennan and Mr. Justice Blackmun join.