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United States v. Sardariani

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

June 19, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
HENRIK SARDARIANI, Defendant-Appellant

Argued and Submitted, Pasadena, California: January 7, 2014.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. 2:10-cr-01343-VAP-1. Virginia A. Phillips, District Judge, Presiding.

Jerald Brainin, Law Offices of Jerald Brainin, Los Angeles, California, for Defendant-Appellant.

Ranee A. Katzenstein, Assistant United States Attorney, Los Angeles, California, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before: Stephen Reinhardt and Richard R. Clifton, Circuit Judges, and Jennifer A. Dorsey, District Judge.[*] Opinion by Judge Clifton.

OPINION

Page 1119

CLIFTON, Circuit Judge:

Defendant Henrik Sardariani appeals his sentence of 120 months imposed as a result of a guilty plea conviction for conspiring to commit wire fraud and other offenses. We affirm. In doing so, we hold tat a notary seal can be an " authentication feature" under 18 U.S.C. § 1028, and that the district court, in calculating the advisory guidelines range in this case, correctly applied an enhancement for use of an authentication feature under Sentencing Guidelines § 2B1.1(b)(11)(A)(ii) (formerly § 2B1.1(b)(10)(B)(ii)).[1]

I. Background

Beginning in 2007, Sardariani, along with several co-conspirators, developed and executed a scheme to procure multiple loans from various private lenders by falsely pledging as collateral properties he did not own. The properties included: (1) a house in Burbank, California, previously owned by Sardariani but subsequently sold in a foreclosure sale; (2) a house in Glendale,

Page 1120

California, previously owned by Sardariani but subsequently transferred to a sham entity under his control; and (3) a house in Sherman Oaks, California, which Sardariani induced another to purchase and then fraudulently transferred to the sham entity. Sardariani and his co-conspirators worked to conceal the truth and lull the victims into a false sense that their money was safe before absconding with the loan proceeds. The total amount stolen in this way was $5,450,000. Sardariani eventually pled guilty to charges of conspiring to commit wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and transactional money laundering (18 U.S.C. § 371); wire fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1343); and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions (18 U.S.C. § 1957).

Among the many falsified documents relating to the fraudulent scheme were a grant deed purportedly transferring the Sherman Oaks property from another person to Sardariani's company, SLK, and a reconveyance of an outstanding deed of trust securing a prior lender's loan on the Burbank property. These two documents were recorded bearing both forged signatures and forged notary seals. At sentencing, the district court found that Sardariani " used the notary seals and the notary commission numbers that he cut and pasted" to further the commission of the crime. In calculating the appropriate range under the advisory Sentencing Guidelines, the court ...


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