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United States v. Ayesh, No. 11-4266

Decided: December 18, 2012

The Fourth Circuit affirmed Ayesh’s convictions of two counts of theft of public money in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 641 and one count of committing acts affecting a personal financing interest in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 208(a).  Ayesh challenged the district court’s extraterritorial jurisdiction over him, denial of his motion to suppress post-arrest statements, and the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain his convictions.

Ayesh, a resident of Jordan, was hired by the U.S. Department of State to work as the shipping and custom supervisor of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.  While working there, Ayesh devised a scheme to divert United States funds to his wife’s bank account in Jordan.  U.S. officials suspected Ayesh’s wrongdoing and arranged for him to come to the United States on the pretext of attending a training seminar.  Ayesh was then arrested at Dulles International Airport and questioned by FBI agents.  After about five hours of questioning, Ayesh confessed.

The Fourth Circuit found no error with the extraterritorial jurisdiction exercised over Ayesh.  Congressional intent to exercise overseas jurisdiction can be inferred from the nature of the offenses criminalized by 18 U.S.C. §§ 208(a) and 641.  The extraterritorial application of these statutes also comported with international law and due process.  The Fourth Circuit upheld the district court’s denial of Ayesh’s motion to suppress his post-arrest statements.  While Ayesh claimed his statements were involuntary or coerced after traveling for nineteen hours without sleep or food, the Fourth Circuit found that Ayesh was offered food which he refused, signed his rights away, and never appeared to be or stated that he was tired, confused, or not thinking clearly.  Under the totality of the circumstances, the Fourth Circuit found that Ayesh’s statements were freely and voluntarily given.  The Fourth Circuit also rejected Ayesh’s claim that there was insufficient evidence to sustain his convictions.  Ayesh challenged his conviction of theft of public money because the government actually received the specified goods and services.  However, this does not negate Ayesh’s criminal intent to deprive the United States of the use or benefit of the money.

Full Opinion

-Jenna Hendricks