Man Runs Nigerian Money Scam, First Circuit Unsympathetic

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on August 03, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Ever heard of the Nigerian money scam? Todd Denson certainly did. He took the idea and ran with it, ending up in jail on counts of mail fraud and wire fraud.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals didn't buy any of his arguments on appeal, however.

Denson was initially emailed by the Nigerian money scammers, who told him that he had inherited $9 million overseas. If he sent over a few thousand to take care of taxes, then he'd be a rich man.

Even after talking to a Secret Service agent, who told him that this was a scam, he still tried to collect money from individuals to send overseas.

To make matters more bizarre, Denson kept the Secret Service agents updated with what he was doing, concocting weird stories and tall tales. Then, he even accidentally tried to scam an undercover Secret Service agent out of $30,000.

Needless to say, he got sent to the slammer for a year, only to come out and continue his old ways before getting sent back to jail.

Denson appealed on the grounds that the jury instructions and sentencing were flawed.

One of those jury instructions was on willful blindness: That the jury could infer knowledge of the act if it believed that Denson had deliberately closed his eyes to obvious facts. He also took issue with the court's instructions on the good faith defense, where a jury could find good faith as a complete defense to the charges.

His arguments on jury instructions got him nowhere with the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

Similarly, his arguments regarding his sentencing failed. He raised several arguments, including the existence of a rare neurological disorder which should have mitigated his sentence.

Though the judge didn't go over every sentencing factor in thorough detail, the sentencing was nevertheless appropriate, the First Circuit held.

"'Brevity' is not the same as 'inattention'" the court said.

And turning a blind eye isn't the same as not knowing, either. The First Circuit upheld the sentence and affirmed the district court's ruling.

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