Petition for Rehearing Denied November 4, 2019
Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals, Court
of Appeals Case No. 14CA986.
for Petitioner: Walta LLC, Mark G. Walta, Denver, Colorado
for Respondent: Philip J. Weiser, Attorney General, John T.
Lee, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado
In early 2013, an undercover officer sold Clayton Schaner a
series of ostensibly stolen goods as part of an investigation
into whether Schaner was using his computer repair store,
Just Computers, as a front to buy and resell stolen items on
e-commerce websites. At the time, Caleb Charles Butler was
the stores assistant manager. Investigators discovered that
Schaner made near-daily transfers of money to Butler from his
e-commerce sites, and Butler then withdrew cash and gave it
to Schaner. Schaner and Butler were both arrested. Schaner
was charged with a number of offenses, among them money
laundering. Butler was charged with, and ultimately convicted
of, two counts of money laundering for aiding and abetting
Schaner in two specific laundering transactions.
The court of appeals affirmed Butlers convictions, holding
that there was sufficient evidence for a juror to conclude
reasonable doubt that Butler was complicit in Schaners
overall money laundering operation. People v.
Butler, 2017 COA 98, __ P.3d __. The jury, however, did
not convict Butler of complicity in a "money laundering
operation," but rather of laundering the proceeds from
two specific transactions. Moreover, Colorados money
laundering statute, section 18-5-309, C.R.S. (2019), speaks
of liability for "a transaction," not an operation.
We therefore conclude that the court of appeals was incorrect
to the extent that it suggested that Butlers participation
in the overall operation was sufficient, without evidence as
to the specific acts charged, to establish his complicitor
liability for these convictions. Nonetheless, based on the
record, we conclude that there is sufficient evidence to
establish Butlers complicity in laundering the proceeds from
the two specifically charged transactions. We therefore
uphold Butlers convictions.
I. Facts and Procedural History
In late 2012, police received a tip from a confidential
informant that Schaner, through Just Computers, was
purchasing and reselling stolen goods. Investigators learned
that so-called "boosters" would steal items from
retail stores and either sell them directly to Schaner or
return them, without a receipt, for merchandise return cards
that they would sell to Schaner. Schaner would then re-sell
the cards and merchandise on Internet e-commerce platforms.
Schaner typically transacted with these boosters out of a
small room located in the back of Just Computers, both during
and after store hours. This room could be accessed from
either the front of the store or a side door leading directly
into Schaners office.
During store hours, Butler ran the front counter of Just
Computers as its assistant manager. But in addition to
repairing computers and selling computer parts to legitimate
customers, Butler assisted Schaners backroom transactions in
a variety of ways. Among other things, Butler sometimes
purchased, with Schaners cash, merchandise cards brought to
the front of Just Computers by alleged boosters. He also
received near-daily PayPal money transfers from Schaner,
which he then withdrew in cash and returned to Schaner.
Schaner transferred about $181,000 from Just Computers
PayPal account to Butler over the course of Butlers two-year
employment with the store. During that same time, Butler
withdrew approximately $166,000 in cash from ATMs.
In early 2013, an undercover officer investigating Just
Computers made a series of controlled sales of ostensibly
stolen merchandise and illicitly obtained cards to Schaner.
Two of these sales formed the basis for the money laundering
charges at issue here.
First, on the morning of January 29, 2013, Butler brought
Schaner cash he had withdrawn from an ATM. Later that day,
Detective Blanscet came to Schaners back office and sold
Schaner four packs of Gillette Fusion razor blades that he
indicated he had stolen. The blades were listed on eBay
through the Just Computers account on January 31. That day,
an individual working with the police repurchased the blades
and verified that they were the same items sold to Schaner.
The money from the sale went to Schaners PayPal account, and
Schaner transferred money from that account to Butler the
Second, on the morning of February 13, 2013, Butler again
brought Schaner cash from Butlers bank account. Detective
Blanscet again entered Schaners back office, this time to
sell Schaner a purportedly stolen DeWalt Rotary Hammer Drill.
Butler came into the back office during the course of that
transaction and saw Blanscet, from whom he himself had
earlier purchased an ostensibly stolen Best Buy gift card.
Schaner listed the drill on eBay on February 15. Like the
blades, the drill was repurchased and verified by