Federal Fraud Sentencing Guidelines

Here are the general sentencing guidelines that apply to fraud cases in federal court. Most federal fraud cases will have these sentencing guidelines apply to them.

Some of them are a little complicated - especially the definition of loss. If you aren't sure what the right way to read these is, the commentary can give you some guidance. You can find it here.

There are more specific fraud guidelines that apply in more specific cases.

§2B1.1.     Larceny, Embezzlement, and Other Forms of Theft; Offenses Involving Stolen Property; Property Damage or Destruction; Fraud and Deceit; Forgery; Offenses Involving Altered or Counterfeit Instruments Other than Counterfeit Bearer Obligations of the United States

(a)       Base Offense Level:

(1)       7, if (A) the defendant was convicted of an offense referenced to this guideline; and (B) that offense of conviction has a statutory maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years or more; or

(2)       6, otherwise.

(b)      Specific Offense Characteristics

(1)       If the loss exceeded $5,000, increase the offense level as follows:

Loss (Apply the Greatest)  Increase in Level



(A) $5,000 or less no increase
(B) More than $5,000 add 2
(C) More than $10,000 add 4
(D)  More than $30,000 add 6
(E) More than $70,000 add 8
(F) More than $120,000 add 10
(G)  More than $200,000 add 12
(H) More than $400,000 add 14
(I) More than $1,000,000 add 16
(J)  More than $2,500,000 add 18
(K) More than $7,000,000 add 20
(L) More than $20,000,000 add 22
(M) More than $50,000,000 add 24
(N) More than $100,000,000 add 26
(O) More than $200,000,000 add 28
(P)  More than $400,000,000 add 30.

(2)       (Apply the greatest) If the offense–

(A)       (i) involved 10 or more victims; or (ii) was committed through mass-marketing, increase by 2 levels;

(B)       involved 50 or more victims, increase by 4 levels; or

(C)       involved 250 or more victims, increase by 6 levels.

(3)       If the offense involved a theft from the person of another, increase by 2 levels.

(4)       If the offense involved receiving stolen property, and the defendant was a person in the business of receiving and selling stolen property, increase by 2 levels.

(5)       If the offense involved misappropriation of a trade secret and the defendant knew or intended that the offense would benefit a foreign government, foreign instrumentality, or foreign agent, increase by 2 levels.

(6)       If the offense involved theft of, damage to, destruction of, or trafficking in, property from a national cemetery or veterans' memorial, increase by 2 levels.

(7)       If (A) the defendant was convicted of an offense under 18 U.S.C. § 1037; and (B) the offense involved obtaining electronic mail addresses through improper means, increase by 2 levels.

(8)       If (A) the defendant was convicted of a Federal health care offense involving a Government health care program; and (B) the loss under subsection (b)(1) to the Government health care program was (i) more than $1,000,000, increase by 2 levels; (ii) more than $7,000,000, increase by 3 levels; or (iii) more than $20,000,000, increase by 4 levels.

(9)       If the offense involved (A) a misrepresentation that the defendant was acting on behalf of a charitable, educational, religious, or political organization, or a government agency; (B) a misrepresentation or other fraudulent action during the course of a bankruptcy proceeding; (C) a violation of any prior, specific judicial or administrative order, injunction, decree, or process not addressed elsewhere in the guidelines; or (D) a misrepresentation to a consumer in connection with obtaining, providing, or furnishing financial assistance for an institution of higher education, increase by 2 levels.  If the resulting offense level is less than level 10, increase to level 10.

(10)     If (A) the defendant relocated, or participated in relocating, a fraudulent scheme to another jurisdiction to evade law enforcement or regulatory officials; (B) a substantial part of a fraudulent scheme was committed from outside the United States; or (C) the offense otherwise involved sophisticated means, increase by 2 levels.  If the resulting offense level is less than level 12, increase to level 12.

(11)     If the offense involved (A) the possession or use of any (i) device-making equipment, or (ii) authentication feature; (B) the production or trafficking of any (i) unauthorized access device or counterfeit access device, or (ii) authentication feature; or (C)(i) the unauthorized transfer or use of any means of identification unlawfully to produce or obtain any other means of identification, or (ii) the possession of 5 or more means of identification that unlawfully were produced from, or obtained by the use of, another means of identification, increase by 2 levels.  If the resulting offense level is less than level 12, increase to level 12.

(12)     If the offense involved conduct described in 18 U.S.C. § 1040, increase by 2 levels.  If the resulting offense level is less than level 12, increase to level 12.

(13)     If the offense involved an organized scheme to steal or to receive stolen (A) vehicles or vehicle parts; or (B) goods or chattels that are part of a cargo shipment, increase by 2 levels.  If the resulting offense level is less than level 14, increase to level 14.

(14)     If the offense involved (A) the conscious or reckless risk of death or serious bodily injury; or (B) possession of a dangerous weapon (including a firearm) in connection with the offense, increase by 2 levels.  If the resulting offense level is less than level 14, increase to level 14.

(15)     (Apply the greater) If–

(A)       the defendant derived more than $1,000,000 in gross receipts from one or more financial institutions as a result of the offense, increase by 2 levels; or

(B)       the offense (i) substantially jeopardized the safety and soundness of a financial institution; (ii) substantially endangered the solvency or financial security of an organization that, at any time during the offense, (I) was a publicly traded company; or (II) had 1,000 or more employees; or (iii) substantially endangered the solvency or financial security of 100 or more victims, increase by 4 levels.

(C)       The cumulative adjustments from application of both subsections (b)(2) and (b)(15)(B) shall not exceed 8 levels, except as provided in subdivision (D).

(D)       If the resulting offense level determined under subdivision (A) or (B) is less than level 24, increase to level 24.

(16)     If (A) the defendant was convicted of an offense under 18 U.S.C. § 1030, and the offense involved an intent to obtain personal information, or (B) the offense involved the unauthorized public dissemination of personal information, increase by 2 levels.

(17)     (A)       (Apply the greatest) If the defendant was convicted of an offense under:

(i)       18 U.S.C. § 1030, and the offense involved a computer system used to maintain or operate a critical infrastructure, or used by or for a government entity in furtherance of the administration of justice, national defense, or national security, increase by 2 levels.

(ii)      18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(5)(A), increase by 4 levels.

(iii)     18 U.S.C. § 1030, and the offense caused a substantial disruption of a critical infrastructure, increase by 6 levels.

(B)       If subdivision (A)(iii) applies, and the offense level is less than level 24, increase to level 24.

(18)     If the offense involved–

(A)       a violation of securities law and, at the time of the offense, the defendant was (i) an officer or a director of a publicly traded company; (ii) a registered broker or dealer, or a person associated with a broker or dealer; or (iii) an investment adviser, or a person associated with an investment adviser; or

(B)       a violation of commodities law and, at the time of the offense, the defendant was (i) an officer or a director of a futures commission merchant or an introducing broker; (ii) a commodities trading advisor; or (iii) a commodity pool operator,

increase by 4 levels.

(c)       Cross References

(1)       If (A) a firearm, destructive device, explosive material, or controlled substance was taken, or the taking of any such item was an object of the offense; or (B) the stolen property received, transported, transferred, transmitted, or possessed was a firearm, destructive device, explosive material, or controlled substance, apply §2D1.1 (Unlawful Manufacturing, Importing, Exporting, or Trafficking (Including Possession with Intent to Commit These Offenses); Attempt or Conspiracy), §2D2.1 (Unlawful Possession; Attempt or Conspiracy), §2K1.3 (Unlawful Receipt, Possession, or Transportation of Explosive Materials; Prohibited Transactions Involving Explosive Materials), or §2K2.1 (Unlawful Receipt, Possession, or Transportation of Firearms or Ammunition; Prohibited Transactions Involving Firearms or Ammunition), as appropriate.

(2)       If the offense involved arson, or property damage by use of explosives, apply §2K1.4 (Arson; Property Damage by Use of Explosives), if the resulting offense level is greater than that determined above.

(3)       If (A) neither subdivision (1) nor (2) of this subsection applies; (B) the defendant was convicted under a statute proscribing false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations generally (e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 1001, § 1341, § 1342, or § 1343); and (C) the conduct set forth in the count of conviction establishes an offense specifically covered by another guideline in Chapter Two (Offense Conduct), apply that other guideline.

(4)       If the offense involved a cultural heritage resource or a paleontological resource, apply §2B1.5 (Theft of, Damage to, or Destruction of, Cultural Heritage Resources or Paleontological Resources; Unlawful Sale, Purchase, Exchange, Transportation, or Receipt of Cultural Heritage Resources or Paleontological Resources), if the resulting offense level is greater than that determined above.


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