(CN) - The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether the government must prove that a defendant intended to defraud a bank in every conviction for federal bank fraud.
It took up the appeal of Kevin Loughrin, who hatched a scheme to steal checks from people's mail, alter them and use them to buy things at Target. He would then return the items for cash.
Loughrin was charged with six counts of bank fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft and one count of possession of stolen mail.
Before trial, he proposed an instruction requiring the jury to find that he had intended to defraud a bank in order to convict. The trial judge rejected his proposal, saying the 10th Circuit did not require such a finding.
The jury convicted Loughrin on all counts, and the 10th Circuit affirmed.
The Denver-based appeals court said the law does not require the government to prove the fraud was intentionally directed at the bank. For example, the court said, someone could defraud a bank "by obtaining money from a bank while intending to defraud someone else" - retail stores, in Loughrin's case.
Loughrin argued that under such an interpretation, any defendant whose scheme involves a bank's assets could be liable for bank fraud.
"We recognize that our interpretation ... may cast a wide net for bank fraud liability, but it is dictated by the plain language of the statute and our prior precedent," the 10th Circuit wrote.
It said it was bound by those earlier cases unless the Supreme Court intervened.
The high court did just that, and will likely hear the case in March.
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