When Marlin Moore signed for a package, he didn't use his real name. For that moment, he was a guy named "Kevin Jones."
The authorities had earlier intercepted the package—drugs, of course—and set up a controlled delivery to find out who wanted a shipment of more than 500 grams of powder cocaine. The letter carrier was actually a Postal Service inspector. The cocaine had been replaced with flour. And investigators had slipped a tracking device in the package.
Moore showed up at the house in Northwest Washington as the package was being delivered.
In addition to various drug crimes, Moore was charged with making a false statement for signing a fake name. At trial, he admitted using a made-up name. He was convicted on three charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison—a term that included a five-year stint for the false statement. On appeal, he challenged the false-statements charge.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit July 27 unanimously upheld the false-statements conviction, holding that the fake name was, indeed, “materially false” and could have affected the ability of the government to track packages.
In April, an assistant federal public defender, Sandra Roland, argued for Moore that his use of a false name had no power to influence the Postal Service. The investigator who delivered the package did not ask Moore for his name or for identification. The package was addressed to a “Karen White.”
Roland did not find a single case where the government charged a person with making a false statement for using a fake name to accept a package from the postal service.
"The law books are replete, however, with cases in which people used fake names to sign for packages during controlled deliveries but were not charged" with making a false statement, Roland said in court papers in March.
The D.C. Circuit panel—Judges Douglas Ginsburg, David Tatel and Brett Kavanaugh—said the fake name was material because it could have impeded the government’s trafficking investigation.
Moore was arrested at the residence where the package was delivered, the court noted. “Had Moore not returned, his having given a false name could have prevented the Postal Service from identifying and locating him in pursuit of its investigation,” Ginsburg wrote.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Chasson argued for the government in the D.C. Circuit.