Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Generalized Findings Not Enough to Support Enhancements, Restitution

US v. Llamas: Llamas was involved in a telephone "sweepstakes" scam run out of Costa Rica. Initially recruited into the operation to serve as one of the telemarketers contacting "winners," he eventually became a "room boss" and "office manager" at the call center in Costa Rica. Shortly before the whole operation came unravelled (a caller called a "judicial officer" - oops!), Llamas left the operation. Llamas pled guilty, without a plea agreement, to 63 charges stemming from the scheme, including conspiracy, mail fraud, and money laundering. He was sentenced to 132 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of more than $4 million.

On appeal, Llamas challenged both the calculation of his advisory Guideline range and his order of restitution. His first Guideline argument was that the district court erred by increasing his offense level because of the vulnerable nature of the victims of the scheme. The Fourth Circuit agreed, holding that the district court made only generalized findings that Llamas should have known about the particular characteristics of two victims who testified at sentencing. Those general findings were not sufficient to support the enhancement. Llamas's second Guideline argument was that he was not a manager or supervisor of the scheme and should not have received an enhancement as such. The Fourth Circuit disagreed, holding that the evidence supported that he had a supervisory role. As to restitution, Llamas argued that the district court erred by holding him jointly and severably liable for all of the scheme's $4-plus million dollar loss. The Fourth Circuit agreed, noting that the district court included losses not just from the call center where Llamas worked, but all other similar centers in Costa Rica. Llamas's sentence was thus vacated and his case remanded for further proceedings.

Congrats to the FPD office in Western NC on the win!

No comments: