Friday, October 4, 2019

Eleventh Circuit Remands for Better Restitution Calculation (10/5/19)

In United States v. Sheffield, ___ F.3d ___ (11th Cir. 2019), here, the Court remanded to the district court for a more precise calculation of restitution imposed on a tax preparer falsely claiming tax credits of $1,000 per return.  Basically, the Court held that the calculation was easy -- $1,000 times the number of returns.  Hence, there was no excuse for any estimation or duplication (which there apparently was, as even admitted by the Government).

In this regard, the Court of Appeals observed:
The Supreme Court, citing a 2018 publication by the Government Accounting Office, recently noted that approximately 90% of restitution orders in criminal cases are uncollectible. See Lagos v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 1684, 1689 (2018). As the district court surmised, it is highly unlikely that Ms. Sheffield and her co-defendants will be able to satisfy a restitution obligation of over $3 million. 
At oral argument, Ms. Sheffield asserted that the duplicate entries totaled $136,000. The government, for its part, stated that the duplicate entries amounted to only $31,000. If Ms. Sheffield is correct about the extent of the duplication error in the spreadsheet, that error amounts to a mere .04% of the government’s proposed total of $3,461,638. So one may wonder why it is that we are reversing a multimillion dollar restitution order when the result on remand is likely to be approximately the same and payment (at least full payment) is unlikely. The reason is a simple one. Ms. Sheffield has the “right not to be sentenced on the basis of inaccurate or unreliable information,” United States v. Giltner, 889 F.2d 1004, 1008 (11th Cir. 1989), and is not required to pay restitution she is not responsible for.

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