United States Sentencing Commission Adopts New Guidelines for Federal Fraud Cases
On April 9, 2015, the U.S. Sentencing Commission adopted amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines for various federal crimes to address concerns that the guidelines do not suitably account for:
- harm to victims
- individual culpability
- offender’s intent
Purpose of Amendments
With respect to fraud cases, while the amendments maintained the sentencing commission’s underlying principle that the amount of loss involved in the offense should form a significant basis of the sentencing, they also:
- provide more weight to an offender’s intent and role within a fraud scheme, and
- focus on the substantial financial harm rather than the sheer number of victims.
Notable amendments to fraud sentencing include:
- Shifted emphasis from severely punishing those who caused many victims small monetary loses to severely punishing those who caused even one victim “substantial” financial harm. “Substantial” includes victims who are forced to file for bankruptcy or had to make substantial changes to their employment or living arrangements due to their losses.
- Refocused economic crime penalties toward the offender’s individual intent. The court will look at the offender’s “intended loss” – pecuniary harm “the [offender] purposely sought to inflict” even if impossible or the offender was unsuccessful.
- Offenders who were minor or minimal participants in an offense (e.g. do not have a proprietary interest in the criminal activity but are simply being paid to perform a certain task) are eligible to receive reduced sentences. The sentencing commission explained the amendment is intended for courts to ensure that the least culpable offenders receive a sentence in proportion with their own culpability without reducing sentences to the leaders and organizers of the fraud scheme.
Contact a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
If Congress does not act to disprove the amendments, the new federal sentencing guidelines will be effective November 1, 2015. For additional information regarding the amendments adopted by the sentencing commission and how it could affect you if you have been charged with fraud in federal court, contact a federal criminal defense attorney from The Law Office of Frederick L. Sosinsky at (212) 285-2270.