County District Court No. 13CR1193 Honorable Michael P.
Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, Ethan E. Zweig,
Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for
LLC, Mark G. Walta, Denver, Colorado, for
1 A jury convicted defendant, Caleb Charles Butler, of
violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act (COCCA),
sections 18-17-101 to -109, C.R.S. 2016, and of money
laundering in violation of section 18-5-309, C.R.S. 2016, for
his role in an operation that bought and sold
illegally-obtained gift and merchandise cards (return cards),
as well as stolen goods. Defendant asserts that his
convictions must be reversed because there is insufficient
evidence to support his two money laundering convictions and
because the elemental jury instruction for money laundering
was incomplete. He further asserts that the COCCA conviction
cannot stand if there is insufficient evidence to support
either of the two money laundering convictions that served as
predicate acts for that conviction.
2 As a matter of first impression in Colorado, we address the
required showing for a conviction of money laundering under
section 18-5-309. We then conclude that there was sufficient
evidence to support defendant's convictions for money
laundering and that the trial court did not commit plain
error in instructing the jury on these charges. Accordingly,
we affirm defendant's convictions.
3 Defendant worked as the assistant manager of Just
Computers, a Colorado Springs store owned by Clayton Schaner.
Schaner was accused of various crimes in connection with Just
Computers, but defendant was tried separately from Schaner.
We recognize that Schaner's conviction is currently on
appeal in this court. See People v. Schaner,
appeal docketed, No. 14CA0963 (Colo. App.). We
comment only on the evidence presented in defendant's
trial, and nothing in this opinion is meant as a judgment or
commentary on whether the prosecution met its burden of proof
in Schaner's trial.
4 In late 2012, police received a tip from a confidential
informant that Schaner, through Just Computers, was
purchasing stolen items from individuals referred to as
"boosters" and then reselling the items. The
boosters would steal items from retail stores and either
directly sell the items to Schaner or return the items to the
store in exchange for a return card, which someone at Just
Computers would purchase. Schaner would then post the items
and return cards for sale on eBay or Plastic Jungle - both
Internet-based commerce platforms (e-commerce websites).
5 Defendant was the assistant manager in charge of the front
part of the store. That part of the store operated as a
legitimate computer repair business, although employees
working in the front of the store sometimes bought return
cards and sold non-computer merchandise. Schaner generally
operated out of a small room located behind the front of the
store. That back room was generally where the boosters would
bring the return cards and merchandise.
6 Although Schaner was principally responsible for the
operation of buying and selling the return cards and
merchandise, defendant assisted in the transactions by
purchasing return cards, checking the value of the cards,
storing and shipping the cards and merchandise, and creating
Internet posts advertising the sale of the cards and
merchandise. Schaner transferred large sums of money to his
employees, including defendant, and defendant made frequent
trips to an automated teller machine (ATM) to retrieve cash
that he gave back to Schaner.
7 With the help of a confidential informant, Detective Jason
Blanscet was introduced as a booster to Schaner at Just
Computers. Over the next three months, Detective Blanscet
made multiple trips to Just Computers and sold a number of
items to Schaner, including razor blades, a DeWalt power
drill, and Home Depot gift cards. Schaner negotiated prices
with and paid Detective Blanscet for the items and return
cards. During the transactions, Detective Blanscet used
language indicating that he had stolen the items from stores
or that the return cards were in exchange for stolen items.
8 The Police arrested defendant, Schaner, and three others
involved in the operation. The court severed the trial and
tried defendant and two others together, but it tried Schaner
and another employee separately. Defendant was charged with
one count of violating COCCA, two counts of theft by
receiving, three counts of money laundering, and five counts
of computer crimes. The jury convicted him of two counts of
money laundering relating to the razor blades and the DeWalt
power drill, and a violation of COCCA based on the two
predicate acts of money laundering. Defendant was acquitted
of the other charges.
Sufficiency of the Evidence of Money Laundering
9 Defendant contends that there was insufficient evidence to
support his two convictions of money laundering. We disagree.
Standards of Review
10 We review de novo whether the evidence before the jury was
sufficient both in quantity and quality to sustain a
conviction. Clark v. People, 232 P.3d 1287, 1291
(Colo. 2010). We must determine "whether the relevant
evidence, both direct and circumstantial, when viewed as a
whole and in the light most favorable to the prosecution, is
substantial and sufficient to support a conclusion by a
reasonable mind that the defendant is guilty of the charge
beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. (quoting
People v. Bennett, 183 Colo. 125, 130, 515 P.2d 466,
11 We must give the People the benefit of every reasonable
inference that may be drawn from the evidence. Id.
at 1292. The determination of the credibility of witnesses
rests solely within the province of the jury. People v.
Sprouse, 983 P.2d 771, 778 (Colo. 1999). We may not
serve as a thirteenth juror, and accordingly, we cannot
determine what weight should be given to various pieces of
evidence or resolve conflicts in the evidence. Id.
12 We review statutory provisions de novo. Shelby Res.,
LLC v. Wells Fargo Bank, 160 P.3d 387, 389 (Colo.App.
2007). In interpreting a statute, our primary goals are to
discern and give effect to the General Assembly's intent.
Krol v. CF & I Steel, 2013 COA 32, ¶ 15. We
look first to the statutory language, giving the words and
phrases used therein their plain and ordinary meanings.
Id. We read the language in the dual contexts of the
statute as a whole and the comprehensive statutory scheme,
giving consistent, harmonious, and sensible effect to all of
the statute's language. Id. After doing this, if
we determine that the statute is not ambiguous, we enforce it
as written and do not resort to other rules of statutory
13 The People charged defendant under a complicity theory.
Therefore, the jury could find him guilty if he (1) aided,
abetted, advised, or encouraged Schaner to commit money
laundering, and (2) acted with (a) the intent to aid, abet,
advise, or encourage Schaner to engage in money laundering;
and (b) an awareness of the circumstances attending
Schaner's money laundering, including the required mental
state for commission of the offense. See §
18-1-603, C.R.S. 2016; People v. Childress, 2015 CO
65M, ¶ 34.
14 In determining whether defendant acted as a complicitor to
money laundering, we must consider whether there was
sufficient evidence presented in this trial for a reasonable
juror to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that money
laundering was committed. See People v. Wheeler, 772
P.2d 101 (Colo. 1989); People v. Theus-Roberts, 2015
COA 32, ¶ 35; see also People v. Scheidt, 182
Colo. 374, 382, 513 P.2d 446, 450-51 (1973) (prosecution
allowed to introduce otherwise inadmissible evidence at the
complicitor-defendant's trial for the limited purpose of
establishing the guilt of the principal).
15 Because interpretation of the money laundering statute is
a matter of first impression, we begin by addressing the
required elements to sustain a conviction under section
16 The relevant portion of Colorado's money laundering
statute states as follows:
(1) A person commits money laundering if he or she:
(a) Conducts or attempts to conduct a financial transaction
that involves money or any other thing of value that he or
she knows or believes to be the proceeds, in any form, of a
(I) With the intent to promote the commission of a criminal
(II) With knowledge or a belief that the transaction is
designed in ...