United States v. Robertson
Annotate this Case
514 U.S. 669 (1995)
OCTOBER TERM, 1994
UNITED STATES v. ROBERTSON
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
No. 94-251. Argued February 27, 1995-Decided May 1, 1995
Respondent Robertson's investment in his Alaska gold mine of the proceeds from his unlawful narcotics activities prompted a federal indictment for violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which makes it a crime for any person to use or invest any income derived from a pattern of racketeering activity in the "acquisition of any interest in, or the establishment or operation of, any enterprise which is engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate ... commerce," 18 U. S. C. § 1962(a). Robertson was convicted on this charge, but the Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the Government had failed to introduce sufficient evidence that the gold mine (the RICO "enterprise") was "engaged in or affect[ed] interstate commerce."
Held: Robertson's gold mine comes within § 1962(a)'s jurisdictional reach.
At trial, the Government proved, inter alia, that Robertson purchased equipment and supplies in California and transported them to Alaska for use in the mine, brought workers from outside Alaska to work in the mine, and transported 15% of the mine's output out of Alaska. These activities assuredly brought the mine within § 1962(a)'s criterion of "an enterprise ... engaged in ... interstate ... commerce." See, e. g., United States v. American Building Maintenance Industries, 422 U. S. 271, 283. Because the proof thus focused on interstate activities rather than intrastate activities having interstate effects, this Court need not decide whether the activities substantially affected interstate commerce under, e. g., Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U. S. 111, 127-128.
15 F.3d 862, reversed.
Miguel A. Estrada argued the cause for the United States.
With him on the briefs were Solicitor General Days, Assistant Attorney General Harris, and Michael R. Dreeben, Acting Deputy Solicitor General.
Glenn Stewart Warren, by appointment of the Court, 513
*Jon May and Ephraim Margolin filed a brief for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as amicus curiae urging affirmance.
Respondent, Juan Paul Robertson, was charged with various narcotics offenses, and with violating § 1962(a) of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U. S. C. § 1961 et seq. (1988 ed. and Supp. V), by investing the proceeds of those unlawful activities in the "acquisition of any interest in, or the establishment or operation of, any enterprise which is engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce." § 1962(a). He was convicted on some of the narcotics counts, and on the RICO count by reason of his investment in a certain gold mine. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the RICO conviction on the ground that the Government had failed to introduce sufficient evidence proving that the gold mine was "engaged in or affect[ed] interstate commerce." 15 F.3d 862, 868 (1994). We granted the United States' petition for certiorari. 513 U. S. 945 (1994).
The facts relevant to the "engaged in or affecting interstate commerce" issue were as follows: Some time in 1985, Robertson entered into a partnership agreement with another man, whereby he agreed to finance a gold mining operation in Alaska. In fulfillment of this obligation, Robertson, who resided in Arizona, made a cash payment of $125,000 for placer gold mining claims near Fairbanks. He paid approximately $100,000 (in cash) for mining equipment and supplies, some of which were purchased in Los Angeles and transported to Alaska for use in the mine. Robertson also hired and paid the expenses for seven out-of-state employees to travel to Alaska to work in the mine. The partnership dissolved during the first mining season, but Robertson continued to operate the mine through 1987 as a sole proprietorship. He again hired a number of employees from outside Alaska to work in the mine. During its operating life, the mine produced between $200,000 and $290,000 worth of gold, most of which was sold to refiners within Alaska, although