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Federal Fraud Schemes and Vulnerable Victims in Texas

 Posted on March 08, 2024 in Uncategorized

TX defense lawyerIn federal criminal cases, the charges can usually be enhanced if the victim or victims are particularly vulnerable to becoming the victims of crime. In federal fraud schemes, this most frequently applies when the elderly are deliberately targeted. The vulnerable victim enhancement can result in harsher penalties, like a longer prison sentence or a steeper fine. Understanding when this enhancement actually applies can be difficult. The simple fact that one of the individuals who responded to, for example, a wire fraud scheme that involved numerous targets, is elderly, or has mental disabilities is usually not enough for this enhancement to factor in, although the prosecution will probably argue that it is. If you are facing federal prosecution for any type of fraud, it is important to work with a skilled Dallas, TX, federal fraud lawyer.

Understanding the Vulnerable Victim Enhancement

It is very common for many of the victims in a typical mail fraud or wire fraud scheme to be elderly or have developmental disabilities. However, for this enhancement to apply, the defendant must have known or been in a position where they should have known about the victim’s vulnerability. We will use several examples to illustrate what this means.

First, assume a defendant sent out 5,000 letters posing as the IRS and threatening arrest if money was not paid immediately. More than two-thirds of the people who sent money were over 70 years old. If the letters were sent to randomly chosen targets whose age the defendant did not know rather than to elderly people in particular, the vulnerable victim enhancement would probably not apply. The defendant did not target the elderly.

Next, assume the same scenario as in the first example, except that the defendant sent these letters out exclusively to nursing home residents. Here, the vulnerable victim enhancement would probably apply. The defendant intentionally preyed on elderly people, believing that they would be more likely to fall for the scheme.

In the final example, consider a defendant who claimed they had a product that could cure cancer among other non-existent health benefits. In this example drawn from the United States Sentencing Commission’s website, the enhancement would apply. Even if a cancer sufferer is younger and of average intelligence, they can be considered a vulnerable victim due to both the physical impact of cancer and the emotional desperation that serious illness can bring.

There are some cases where it is less clear whether the enhancement applies, and your attorney will need to put forth a strong defense to prevent your sentence from being increased.

Contact a Dallas, TX, Federal Criminal Fraud Lawyer 

Spencer & Associates is highly knowledgeable about vulnerable victim enhancement and other sentencing issues. Our dedicated team of Dallas County, TX, federal criminal defense attorneys will work to give you the best defense possible. Contact us at 214-385-8500 for a complimentary consultation.

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