Plea deals are an important tool for anyone facing criminal charges in Florida. These arrangements often allow you to avoid long, drawn-out court battles. They also give you the chance in many cases to lessen the impact of a conviction on you and your family. When considering these deals, however, judges still have some leeway to decide how the person involved in the deal will be punished for the crime. As a recent case out of Central Florida shows, one of the factors that federal judges consider in Florida white collar crime cases is the nature of the person’s role in the crime.
The defendant was arrested in 2013 and charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, stemming from his alleged involvement in a tax refund and Social Security check theft scheme. Workers at two Tampa post offices gave the checks to a man who then turned the checks over to the defendant to forge signatures on them, according to the court. The other man paced the checks in individual envelopes, the court said, and put them in the mailbox outside the defendant’s home in Dade City. The defendant deposited some $260,000 worth of stolen checks into three bank accounts. The theft victims ranged in age and location, but several lived in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties.
The defendant eventually reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors, in which he admitted to being involved in the conspiracy and was sentenced to 24 to 30 months in jail. The judge, as part of the sentencing, took into account that the defendant had accepted responsibility for the conspiracy and did not have a previous criminal record. He later appealed the conviction, however, arguing that the judge also should have further reduced his sentence because he had a “minor role” in the conspiracy.