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The Daily

Fraud Sentencing Guidelines Changed to Go Easier on "Least Culpable Offenders"

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Apr 10, 2015
GavelThe U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent judicial branch agency that establishes sentencing guidelines for federal court, voted to change current practice towards fraud sentences to account for harm to victims, individual culpability, and the offender's intent. Federal courts, when sentencing those convicted of fraud, are now directed to consider the harm done to victims, on top of the number, to ensure that "where even one victim suffered a substantial financial harm, the offender would receive an increased sentence." Judges will also take individual intent into account when determining fraud sentences.

However, the courts also voted to recognize that not everyone is necessarily an equal participant in a fraud: under the new guidelines, courts would also consider the degree to which someone took part in the scheme, keeping in mind that those who acted as a "minor or minimal participant in an offense" could receive a reduced sentence. 

This change is intended to encourage courts to ensure that the least culpable offenders, such as those who have no proprietary interest in fraud, to receive a sentence commensurate with their own culpability without reducing sentences for leaders and organizers,” said Chief Judge Patti B. Saris, chair of the Commission.