Florida Court Discusses Sentences in White-Collar Crime Cases

Although white-collar crimes do not typically cause bodily harm, the courts nonetheless punish people convicted of such offenses harshly. While the courts generally must comply with sentencing guidelines when issuing sentences, the guidelines allow for significant latitude, and as long as a sentence is not deemed unreasonable, it will likely be upheld, as demonstrated in a recent Florida case. If you are accused of committing a white-collar crime, it is wise to consult a Clearwater white-collar crime defense attorney to discuss your case.

Factual Background and Procedural History

It is alleged that in 2015, the defendant faced federal charges, including four counts of making false statements on a loan application and one count of aggravated identity theft. In 2016, he was convicted on all counts and sentenced to 30 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release with a restitution order. The defendant’s supervised release conditions included truthfully answering the probation officer’s inquiries and providing requested financial information. After violating these conditions, a petition for a warrant was filed in November 2021.

It is reported that the defendant subsequently defendant faced a new charge for making false statements on a monthly financial report. Despite an initial rejected guilty plea, a second plea colloquy ensued, resulting in an accepted guilty plea. The presentence investigation report calculated the defendant’s guideline range as zero to six months, and at sentencing, he argued for leniency, presenting testimony regarding his employment. Nevertheless, the court sentenced the defendant to 28 months, comprising 18 months for the new charge and 10 months for the supervised release violation, citing concerns about his history of dishonesty. The defendant appealed.

Determining the Reasonableness of a Sentence

The court addressed two key issues on appeal. Firstly, the defendant argued that his conviction for making false statements violated double jeopardy. The court applied plain error review and rejected this claim, emphasizing that revocation of supervised release due to a subsequent offense is not considered punishment for the initial offense under double jeopardy principles.

Secondly, the defendant contested the substantive reasonableness of his 18-month sentence for the false statements violation. The court rejected this argument, however, finding that the trial court had appropriately considered the sentencing factors and had valid reasons for imposing an upward variance.

The court noted that the trial court had considered the defendant’s history of untruthfulness, the need for both specific and general deterrence, and the protection of the public. It emphasized that the court’s decision was grounded in the defendant’s commission of a new offense involving dishonesty, which followed a prior conviction for fraud and identity theft. The court held that the district court’s consideration of the defendant’s history was a permissible factor, and the sentence was crafted to address the seriousness of his conduct.

Additionally, the court highlighted that the trial court’s decision to impose an upward variance was supported by its belief that the guidelines did not adequately reflect the severity of the defendant’s behavior and his history of dishonesty. The court acknowledged that a trial court has the discretion to attach great weight to a specific factor, and in this case, the emphasis on the defendant’s history of dishonesty was reasonable. As such, the court affirmed the defendant’s sentence.

Meet with a Seasoned Clearwater Attorney

People convicted of making false statements and other white-collar offenses may face significant penalties, but there are often defenses they can assert to avoid a guilty verdict. If you are accused of a white-collar crime, it is smart to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. The seasoned Clearwater white-collar crime defense attorneys of Hanlon Law can advise you of your rights and aid you in seeking the best outcome available. You can contact Hanlon Law by using our online form or by calling us at 727-897-5413 to set up a conference.

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