Monday, July 09, 2018

Vulnerable Victim Enhancement Applies to "Reloader" In Fraud Scam

USv. Shephard: Shephard worked at a call center in Costa Rica that was engaged in a fairly common scam – they’d call people in the United States, tell them they’d won a monetary prize, but then explain that the winner had to pay some money up front to secure their winnings. As particularly relevant to this appeal, Shephard and others involved with the scam would go back to already victimized scammers to seek more money (on the promise of even greater winnings), a process called “reloading.” Shephard eventually pleaded guilty to numerous fraud counts and at sentencing was assessed an enhancement for having taken advantage of vulnerable victims.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the enhancement and Shephard’s sentence. The court noted that reloading “involves targeting people who have already fallen victim to the scheme at least once, if not repeatedly.” Following the lead of other Circuits, the court concluded that “a victim’s decision to wire money in response to the initial fraudulent call is evidence that they are ‘particularly susceptible to the criminal conduct’ and that is why fraudsters then repeatedly target that victim.” The court held that there was “no clear error in the district court’s determination that some victims were particularly vulnerable and that Shephard was aware of the vulnerability” and that it “is why she and her coconspirators purposefully targeted such victims again and again.”

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