Eleventh Circuit value of interstate transport forged securities


In United States v. James Brown, the defendant was convicted of mail fraud and transporting forged securities in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2314, which makes it illegal to knowingly transport in interstate commerce stolen/fraudulent securities or money “of the value of $5,000 or more.”

As a matter of first impression, the Eleventh Circuit addressed whether the “value” element of 18 U.S.C. § 2314 is satisfied by the amount payable as written on the face of the instrument even if the instrument itself was cancelled and, therefore, worthless before it was transported. The court of appeals rejected Brown’s argument that value should be interpreted to mean “actual worth,” holding that the meaning of value under the statute was the value listed on the face of the instrument, whether or not the instrument itself had any actual value or worth.

In its reasoning, the Eleventh Circuit turned to 18 U.S.C. § 2311, which defines value as “face, par, or market value, whichever is greatest.” Although “face” is not expressly defined in the statute, the court turned to its plain meaning: the value listed on the face of the instrument. The court relied on the Fifth Circuit’s interpretation of this statute in United States v. Onyiego (holding that forged airplane tickets with a face value of over $5000 satisfied the value element of 18 U.S.C. § 2314 even though the tickets themselves were “made up” and actually worth nothing).