U.S. v. Smith
A court can hold a criminal defendant jointly and severally liable for the full amount of losses of victims, as opposed to apportioning legal responsibility among co-defendants. The defendant, Natasha Smith, admitted that she used a skimming device at the restaurant where she worked, as part of a conspiracy to steal credit card numbers from restaurant customers. Smith pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit "access device" fraud, in violation of 18 United States Code §1029(b)(2). The District Court sentenced Smith to three years of probation and ordered Smith to pay restitution, jointly and severally with co-defendants, in the amount of $135,888, at the rate of $400 per month. The defendant appealed and argued that the District Court erred when it ordered her to pay restitution for the losses to restaurant customers that were caused by the conduct of her co-defendants, "If the court finds that more than 1 defendant has contributed to the loss of a victim, the court may make each defendant liable for payment of the full amount of restitution or may apportion liability among the defendants to reflect the level of contribution to the victim's loss and economic circumstances of each defendant," pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §3664(h) of the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act. "Because Smith was convicted of a conspiracy to commit access device fraud," wrote the 2nd Circuit, "the district court properly ordered restitution for all losses caused by Smith, as well as by the reasonably foreseeable actions of her coconspirators." Smith did not dispute that she knew co-defendants were taking customers' credit card information. It was reasonably foreseeable that the conspiracy would cause substantial losses. The District Court did not err when it held the defendant responsible for losses that resulted from co-defendants' conduct. The District Court considered the amount of the defendant's contribution and her economic circumstances. It did not abuse its discretion, when it held the defendant jointly and severally liable for the full amount of the victims' losses, as opposed to apportioning legal responsibility among the co-defendants. The 2nd Circuit affirmed the judgment of the District Court, Hall, J.