Monday, June 14, 2010

False Statement "Material" If It Influences Agency Action

US v. Garcia-Ochoa: Garcia-Ochoa admitted to falsely declaring on I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Forms that he was either a "citizen or national of the United States" or a "lawful permanent resident" on multiple occasions. For his efforts he was indicted and convicted after a bench trial of making false statements under 18 USC 1001 and 1546(a). Garcia-Ochoa argued that his false statements were not material (and thus not illegal) because he was "nonetheless authorized to work in the United States." The district court disagreed, holding that Garcia-Ochoa's false statements were material because they were capable of influencing agency action.

Garcia-Ochoa appealed to the Fourth Circuit, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence due to the lack of materiality of his false statements. The Fourth Circuit disagreed and affirmed his conviction, refusing "to render the I-9 Form a meaningless exercise." The court noted that I-9 Forms are retained by businesses for a period of years, during which they can and are reviewed by various government agencies. "The defendant's misstatements," the court concluded, "were capable of influencing agency action in a number of ways, and by a number of agencies." In addition, one of Garcia-Ochoa's statements actually affected the action of the US Navy, which granted him access to a naval base as part of one of his employments because he was listed as a US citizen.

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