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Ball v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

November 1, 2019

Ronald Clark Ball, Appellant,
v.
State of Florida, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Escambia County. Thomas V. Dannheisser, Judge.

          Terry P. Roberts of the Law Office of Terry P. Roberts, Tallahassee, for Appellant.

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, and Steven E. Woods, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

          Osterhaus, J.

         Ronald Clark Ball appeals his jury convictions and sentences on four counts of grand theft, two counts of money laundering, two counts of racketeering, and solicitation to tamper with evidence. We affirm.

         I.

         The evidence at trial uncovered details of Mr. Ball's various schemes to swindle others and enrich himself. Mr. Ball met his primary victim, a wealthy widow, at a bar. After impressing her with his experience and knowledge of financial matters, they started dating and Mr. Ball moved into her house. About the same time, this victim became concerned with her financial situation and whether the money she had inherited from her late husband would continue sustaining her. After speaking with a financial advisor who offered a four percent return on her investments, Mr. Ball offered to get the victim a return closer to eighteen percent. Unfortunately, the victim agreed to let Mr. Ball invest some of her money. She wrote him checks totaling over a million dollars and allowed him to invest her insurance policies. Mr. Ball proceeded to move her money around, into and through different corporations and bank and financial accounts that he established. Some accounts the victim authorized and some she didn't. With access to the victim's home, Mr. Ball gained the use of her personal bank records, driver's license, passport, and other financial records, along with her mail and computer.

         At some point along the way, the victim noticed warning signs. For instance, she walked in on Mr. Ball one day while he was manipulating her signature on the computer screen. Indeed, he had a thumb drive containing multiple images of her signature. She eventually found that Mr. Ball had used her money to buy things for himself, such as a BMW, artwork, furniture, expensive clothes, watches, and the like. A fraud examiner was able to trace money from the various accounts to Mr. Ball's personal account. Mr. Ball ultimately spent or lost all of the money. In addition to her money, Mr. Ball used the accounts to commit crimes involving other victims.

         The State charged Mr. Ball with four counts of grand theft, two counts of money laundering, two counts of racketeering, and solicitation to tamper with evidence. A jury later returned guilty verdicts on all counts. And this appeal followed.

         II.

         A comprehensive review of the record demonstrates no merit in the six points raised by Mr. Ball challenging his convictions and sentences. We specifically address, however, Mr. Ball's argument that the two racketeering counts violate the Double Jeopardy Clause. Both the Florida and United States Constitutions contain Double Jeopardy Clauses that protect persons from multiple prosecutions for the same crime. State v. Tuttle, 177 So.3d 1246, 1252 (Fla. 2015). "No person shall be . . . twice put in jeopardy for the same offense." Art. I, § 9, Fla. Const.; U.S. Const. amend. V.; see also Hayes v. State, 803 So.2d 695, 699 (Fla. 2001).

         The question Mr. Ball raises here is whether the State wrongfully chopped one single pattern of crime into two separate criminal counts. That is, did Mr. Ball truly participate in more than one "pattern of racketeering activity" under the Florida Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)? § 895.03(3), Fla. Stat. (prohibiting "any person employed by, or associated with, any enterprise to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in such enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity").[*]

         In cases like this one, Florida courts have evaluated whether more than one pattern of racketeering activity exists using a five-factor, totality-of-the-circumstances test borrowed from federal cases. See Donovan v. State, 572 So.2d 522, 528 (Fla. 5th DCA 1990) (citing United States v. Ruggiero, 754 F.2d 927 (11th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1127 (1985)); see also Gross v. State, 765 So.2d 39, 42 (Fla. 2000) ...


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