Appeal from judgments of the District Court, Southern District of New York (Richard Owen, Judge) of conviction for violations of the Hobbs Act, Title 18, United States Code § 1951, and of the Travel Act, § 1952. Held, evidence sufficient, sentences not improper and use of the mail for local delivery of inculpatory matter premises federal jurisdiction of offense.
BEFORE: FEINBERG, Chief Judge, NEWMAN, C.J.J., and POLLACK,*fn* District Judge.
Eugene Riccardelli and Thomas Dimiceli appeal from judgments of conviction entered on January 8, 1986, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York after a six-day jury trial before Richard Owen, Judge. Defendant Riccardelli was convicted on all four counts with which he was charged;*fn1 defendant Dimiceli was convicted on two counts*fn2 and found not guilty on three additional counts. A third co-defendant pleaded guilty to two counts and is not involved on this appeal. On January 10, 1986, Judge Owen sentenced Riccardelli to four years imprisonment on each count, to be served concurrently, and fined Riccardelli $5,000 on Count One, $10,000 on Count Two, and $10,000 on Count Three, for a total fine of $25,000. That same day, Judge Owen sentenced Dimiceli to eighteen months imprisonment on each count, to be served concurrently. We affirm.
Appellants were arrested, along with a number of other electrical contractors and electrical inspectors, as a result of investigations into corruption of New York City public servants employed to perform electrical safety inspections. Appellant Dimiceli was a field-level electrical inspector assigned to Brooklyn. From 1982 through 1984, appellant Riccardelli was the Brookly Borough Manager of electrical inspectors, and thus was Dimiceli's supervisor.
Appellants took bribes from private electrical contractors to facilitate departmental paperwork and to overlook code violations.*fn3 As electrical inspectors, Dimiceli and Riccardelli were entrusted with inspecting electrical installations performed by private electrical contractors to determine whether the work conformed to the New York City Electrical Code. The Code requirements were designed to avoid danger to the public from improper installations that increase the risk of electrical shock or fire.
The only issue of any substance on this appeal is one of statutory construction and concerns whether appellant Riccardelli's repeated and systematic use of the United States mails,*fn4 even though none of these letters were delivered outside of the State in which they were posted, is sufficient to invoke federal jurisdiction under the Travel Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1952 (1982).*fn5 For the reasons stated hereafter, we hold that Congress intended any use of the United States mails to be sufficient to invoke federal jurisdiction under the Travel Act.
From the beginning of the Republic, "the postal service [was] . . . a principal means by which the people of the United States were bound together in loyalty to the central government." G. Cullinan, The United States Postal Service 40 (2d ed. 1973).*fn6 Recognizing this understanding, the Founding Fathers*fn7 expressly granted Congress the power "to establish Post Offices and post Roads." U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 7. Indeed, from the days of President James Monroe through those of President Richard Nixon,*fn8 the Post Office Department was considered a separate executive department, with the Postmaster General being a Cabinet-level officer. G. Cullinan, supra, at 51. Thus, appellant Riccardelli's phrase "intrastate mails" is an oxymoronic juxtaposition. Use of the United States mails, whether to mail a letter across the street or across the nation, historically has been recognized by Congress as use of an exclusively federal instrumentality.
A plain reading of the Travel Act (the "Act") reveals no indication that the mailing referred to therein need be interstate to invoke federal jurisdiction. The Act, Pub. L. No. 87-228, § 1(a), 75 Stat. 498 (1961) (codified, as amended, at 18 U.S.C. § 1952), currently provides that:
§ 1952 Interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises
(a) Whoever travels in interstate or foreign commerce or uses any facility in interstate or foreign commerce, including the mail, with intent to-
(1) distribute the proceeds of any unlawful activity; or
(2) commit any crime of violence to further any ...