White collar crimes aren’t always associated with long prison sentences which are traditionally reserved for violent crimes such as rape or murder.
But increasingly prosecutors are using federal sentencing guidelines to put more non-violent offenders behind bars for long periods, Forbes magazine reported in a recent feature.
The article looked at the conviction of Christian M. Allmendinger, 39, of Houston, who was convicted in 2011 by a federal jury today for his role in a $100 million fraud scheme with more than 800 victims across the United States and Canada.
Allmendinger received a life sentence over his handling of A&O, a company set up in Houston. Recently he learned his sentencing appeal had failed.
He’s not the only white collar offender to be meted out a tough sentence.
This trend was illustrated last year with the jailing of Texas banker R. Allen Stanford, which led to inevitable comparisons with Bernie Madoff and Enron in the annals of white collar crime.
Stanford was sentenced to 110 years in jail in a Houston courtroom. The financier, who lived a lavish lifestyle, was convicted of defrauding billions of dollars from investors in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history. He was sentenced to 110 years in jail.
Typically in federal fraud cases prosecutors will seek heavy sentences. In this case they asked for the maximum sentence of 230 years. Defense attorneys wanted 10 years, but later said they weren’t surprised as the judge handed down the 110 year sentence, KHOU News reported.
Writing in the New York Times Peter J. Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University, said: “Even in the less notorious cases, the prison terms for financial crimes have been moving higher, raising questions whether sentences once reserved for violent criminal are appropriate for white collar defendants.”
As criminal defense attorneys we specialize in representing individuals and businesses charged with various types of complex fraud and white collar offenses in federal court.
Few are as high profile as the case of R. Allen Stanford and Christian M. Allmendinger, although most white collar and fraud charges in federal court result in multi-count indictments.
The guidelines for sentencing that are used in federal court cases take into account the amount of loss that is alleged to have occurred in determining whether a prison sentence is warranted upon the conviction for a fraud or white collar offense. A fraud loss as low as $30,000 could result in a prison sentence for a person convicted at trial of a fraud or white collar offense even if the defendant has no previous criminal record. All of the evidence suggests the penalties are becoming increasingly harsh for these kinds of crimes.