United States v. Stephanie Anor, No. 17-15608 (February 20, 2019), UNPUBLISHED
The Court vacated the defendant’s sentence after the sentencing court erred in attributing the conspiracy’s entire intended loss amount to the defendant. While the defendant was part of a broader fraudulent tax-return scheme, there was insufficient evidence that that she knew the extent of the scheme or agreed to participate in the scheme beyond her own fraudulent conduct.
Sentencing Guidelines/Loss Amount – District court erred by holding defendant responsible for the entire intended loss amount caused by her co-defendant’s tax preparing company, through which she filed fraudulent tax returns, absent evidence that she knew about the scope of the company’s fraudulent activity and that she knowingly participated in it beyond filing her own false returns.
Stephanie Anor was sentenced to 36 months of imprisonment for a wire fraud offense after the sentencing court increased her offense level by 18 based on an intended loss amount of $3,796,317.
On appeal, the Court reversed, holding that the district court had erroneously held Anor accountable for losses outside of her individual conduct and which were not foreseeably caused by her participation in the jointly undertaken criminal activity.
Anor had worked for her co-defendant’s tax preparation company in furtherance of their income-tax-fraud scheme, which involved filing fraudulent income-tax returns, some of which contained personally identifiable information of identity-theft victims.
Anor argued on appeal that the district court improperly held Anor accountable for the entire intended loss amount that was claimed as tax refunds by her co-defendant’s company. Anor had only personally prepared 92 of the 1,500 returns filed through the company, which only added up to $385,000 in returns.
The Court held that the district court had failed to first determine the scope of the criminal activity Anor agreed to jointly undertake. The Court noted that a defendant’s agreement to perform a function within a broader operation to perform a particular act in that operation does not “does not amount to acquiescence in the acts of the criminal enterprise as a whole.”
Here, there was insufficient evidence from the record that Anor knew the scale of the conspiracy of which she was a part and it was insufficient that she knew the company had a “a lot” of clients. There was no evidence that Anor was involved in any of the tax returns beyond those she prepared, that she was aware the company hired other tax preparers, that she recruited additional clients to further the scheme, or that she received any of the profits of the broader scheme. Anor was simply hired “to do a discrete job, and that job was but a part of the overall conspiracy.”
It was insufficient that Anor agreed to prepare false tax returns and it was insufficient that she “knew or should have known that there was a broader conspiracy.” Absent evidence that she intentionally and knowingly agreed to participate in that broader conspiracy, the sentencing court erred in holding her responsible for all of the losses from that conspiracy.
Appeal from the Southern District of Florida
Per Curiam Opinion by Rosenbaum, Newsom, and J. Carnes