Heard: October 4, 2018.
cases were tried before Joshua I. Wall, J. The Supreme
Judicial Court granted an application for direct appellate
Alexandra H. Deal for the defendant.
A. Mallard, Assistant District Attorney, for the
Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Gaziano, Lowy, Budd, Cypher,
& Kafker, JJ.
defendant, Shea Braune, was convicted of receiving stolen
property and money laundering after she and her girlfriend,
Romi Kimell, used over $300, 000 in cash that Kimell had
stolen from her mother and stepfather to fund a lavish
lifestyle. In an ill-fated attempt to cover their tracks,
Kimell gave a substantial amount of the stolen cash to
Braune, who deposited it into her checking account through a
series of transactions, each under $10, 000, later claiming
to have received the money in an inheritance. A subset of
these deposits forms the basis for Braune's money
laundering conviction. On appeal, Braune argues that the
evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to establish
"concealment" money laundering, in violation of G.
L. c. 267A, § 2 (2) (ii) (A), where she openly deposited
the money into her checking account using her own name.
Because we conclude that the evidence was sufficient for a
rational jury to conclude that Braune's deposits were
designed, in whole or in part, to conceal the nature,
location, source, ownership, or control of the stolen funds,
the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth,
the jury could have found the following facts. In the fall of
2013, when the victims, James and Janice Welling,
went to stay at their Florida home for the winter, they left
over $300, 000 in cash (packaged in stacks of fifty and one
hundred dollar bills), along with a few items of Janice's
jewelry, in a box that was taped shut and stored in a locked
closet in the master bedroom of their North Andover
home.The only other person who knew about
the box was Janice's daughter, Kimell.
had enjoyed a close relationship with her mother and James,
who was Kimell's stepfather, and the Wellings had
provided significant financial support to Kimell throughout
her life. However, the relationship had soured shortly before
the time in question. While the Wellings were in Florida,
Kimell began to remove cash from the box in the Wellings'
master closet. Kimell provided some of the cash to Braune.
Braune then made a series of deposits into her checking
account, each under $10, 000,  using the stolen money.
certain point, Kimell took the remaining contents of the box
and replaced them with a duffel bag full of copy paper,
resealing the box and restoring it to its place in the
closet.Kimell informed her mother that she and
Braune were moving to California and that Braune had received
a large inheritance. During and after the move to California,
Braune's pattern of making successive, large cash
deposits -- each under $10, 000 --continued, as did a pattern
of lavish spending by Kimell and Braune.
Wellings did not discover that the cash and jewelry were
missing until October 2014, and did not immediately report
the incident to police. Instead, they confronted Kimell about
the missing money, and when she denied any involvement, they
hired a private investigator to look into the matter.
of 2015, Kimell filed a petition for bankruptcy in a Federal
bankruptcy court in California. James intervened in that
proceeding, and his attorney deposed Kimell and Braune. In
their sworn deposition testimony, which was later entered as
an exhibit in the criminal trial in Massachusetts, Kimell and
Braune reiterated their claim that Braune had used money from
an inheritance to support their lavish
after the defendant filed the petition for bankruptcy, the
Massachusetts State police worked with law enforcement
officials in California to execute a search of the home that
Braune and Kimell shared in San Diego. Among other things,
the police recovered, from Kimell's bedroom, jewelry
matching that which Janice had reported missing; and from the
closet in Braune's bedroom, a total of $130, 110 in
United States currency, stored in a backpack and a cardboard
box and packaged mainly in stacks of fifty and one hundred
dollar bills, consistent with James's description of the
assessing the sufficiency of the evidence, we ask
"whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most
favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of
fact could have found the essential elements of the crime
beyond a reasonable doubt" (emphasis in original).
Commonwealth v. Latimore, 378
Mass. 671, 677 (1979), quoting Jackson v.
Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979). Circumstantial
evidence may be sufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable
doubt, Commonwealth v. Grandison,
433 Mass. 135, 141 (2001), and the inferences drawn from such
evidence "need not be necessary and inescapable, only
reasonable and possible." Commonwealth
v. Goddard, 476 Mass. 443, 449 (2017), quoting
Commonwealth v. Jones, 432 Mass.
623, 628 (2000).
Massachusetts money laundering statute, G. L. c. 267A, §
2, provides in relevant part:
"Whoever knowingly . . . (2) engages in a transaction
involving a monetary instrument or other property known to be
derived from criminal activity . . . (ii) knowing that the
transaction is designed in whole or in part either to: (A)
conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership
or control of the property derived from criminal activity; or
(B) avoid a [Federal or State] ...