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.
Rejecting that argument on appeal, the district court said the defendant’s role in the scheme wasn’t exactly minor. “[He] admitted in his plea agreement (1) that he alone had signatory authority for two of the three bank accounts that were used to defraud the government of more than $250,000, (2) that the conspiracy involved at least fifty-one fraudulent transactions, and (3) that he was responsible for determining both the total value of the stolen checks and the fee to pay the co-conspirator who stole the checks,” the court observed. As a result, the court said the judge was justified in sentencing the defendant at the higher end of the range provided under federal sentencing guidelines.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced defense lawyer. Clearwater public assistance fraud lawyer Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727)-897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.
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