A federal appellate court has reinstated two convictions against a Heuvelton man found guilty at trial of falsifying records while working as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent at the Alexandria Bay Port of Entry.
Todd L. Tyo, was found guilty in December 2012 in U.S. District Court, Utica, of two counts of falsifying records after being accused in an indictment of embezzling more than $1,000 from March to August 2011 while inspecting commercial trucks coming into the United States from Canada while working as a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent.
However, in a decision issued in March 2013, Judge David N. Hurd ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support the verdict that came after a six-day trial. The jury found that Tyo kept entry fees of $10.75 for two trucks, but Judge Hurd said the jury should not have found that he “knowingly and willfully” did so.
“In fact, the evidence to establish that Tyo kept those two trucks’ entry fees ‘for himself’ was so speculative as to be almost, if not completely, nonexistent,” the judge wrote in his decision.
He said the evidence that Tyo falsified records with the intent to steal money was inconsistent with its acquitting him of other counts that he embezzled money. He said the jury’s reliance on the fact that Tyo recorded two “no sales” in his records was not enough to support a criminal conviction of wrongdoing.
“Otherwise, any accidental, inadvertent, mistaken or innocent reason for pressing the ‘No Sale’ button after receiving a $10.75 entry fee would be a federal crime. That cannot be,” Judge Hurd wrote. “In fact, the evidence demonstrated that such acts occurred on a daily basis at the Alexandria Bay Port of Entry by various truck attendants. As described by one witness, it was a very ‘sloppy’ operation.”
The judge said there was no evidence to support that any money was missing, much less that Tyo took any. He acquitted Tyo of the two convictions and dismissed the indictment.
Federal prosecutors appealed the dismissal in September and, in a decision rendered July 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, New York City, disagreed with Judge Hurd’s ruling and reinstated the convictions.
“We have reviewed the record and conclude that there is sufficient circumstantial evidence for a reasonable jury to have concluded that Tyo in fact stole money on those dates and that his false statements were made to conceal that material fact,” the three-judge circuit panel wrote in its decision.
The panel reversed Judge Hurd’s judgment of acquittal, reinstating the convictions and sending the matter back to District Court for further proceedings. No proceedings have been scheduled as of Thursday.