United States Sentencing Commission Releases Report on Criminal History of Federal Economic Crime Offenders

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The United States Sentencing Commission published a report providing an in-depth look at the criminal history of federal economic crime offenders. The report was comprised of previously-gathered data from two projects conducted by the United States Sentencing Commission. The newest report gives a detailed look at the criminal history of economic crime offenders, including number, type, and severity of prior crimes. What follows is a discussion of the most notable findings from the report.

The report used criminal history information for economic crime offenders sentenced in 2016 and economic crime data for offenders sentenced in 2017 under §2B1.1. Both reports demonstrated that economic crime offenders had less severe criminal histories compared to federal defendants overall, with 46% having no prior conviction and the majority of economic crime offenders (69.9%) being assigned to CHC I, the lowest criminal history category.

One notable finding of the report was that federal economic offenders did not necessarily have a significant criminal history of economic crimes. While about 54% of all economic crime offenders were found to have had at least one prior conviction in their criminal background, economic defenses were not the predominant type of convictions found in these criminal histories. In fact, 71.1% of previous convictions were for counterfeit and forgery, representing the dominant type of conviction in economic offenders’ criminal history. Followed closely behind, 70.4% of prior convictions were for identity theft, 68.7% for credit card fraud, and 68.6% for financial institution fraud.

Only 14% of federal economic crime offenders had previous economic offense convictions with no other type of conviction, to the exclusion of other convictions. Most types of prior convictions for “other” crimes were for crimes such as Driving Under the Influence and public order.

Another significant finding was the differing severity of criminal histories for each type of economic crime. For example, the most serious criminal histories were associated with the economic crimes of identity theft, credit card fraud, mail-related fraud, and counterfeit and forgery. In contrast, less serious criminal histories were associated with the crimes of computer-related fraud offenders and government procurement. In fact, of the economic crime offenders sentenced for computer-related fraud, 95.1% were assigned to the lowest criminal history category, compared to only 51.5% of credit card offenders.

This report indicates that economic crime offenders tend to have varied, but less severe, criminal histories compared to federal defendants overall, making it difficult to predict the likelihood of committing future economic crimes. However, a more serious criminal history may be related to the kind of economic crime committed, with those engaged in credit card fraud, identity theft, and other similar crimes more likely to have criminal histories than those engaged in computer-related fraud and government procurement.

The biggest takeaway from this report is that economic crime offenders come from varying backgrounds, both non-criminal and criminal, with varying types of prior offenses that are not economic in nature.  This indicates that economic offenses are not just reserved for those of a certain background or criminal history.


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