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Ocasio v. United States: The Supreme Court’s Sudden Expansion of Conspiracy Liability (And Why Bribe-Taking Foreign Officials Should Take Note)


Michael F. Dearington


December 1, 2017

Last year, the United States Supreme Court decided a Hobbs Act conspiracy case that could significantly expand the bounds of the general federal conspiracy statute. In Ocasio v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 1423 (2016), the Court held that, under “age-old principles of conspiracy law,” a police officer could conspire with shop owners to extort those very same shop owners in violation of the Hobbs Act. The corollary is that a shop owner can, in theory, conspire to extort himself. If a shop owner can conspire to extort himself as a matter of law, why can’t a bribe-taking foreign official conspire to bribe himself in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”)? This Article posits that, under Ocasio’s flawed holding, and contrary to the oft-cited Fifth Circuit decision, United States v. Castle, 925 F.2d 831 (5th Cir. 1991) (per curiam), he probably can.