Daily Court Reporter - Woman who scammed $360,000 from unemployment agencies loses appeal
Woman who scammed $360,000 from unemployment agencies loses appeal
ANNIE YAMSON, Daily Reporter Staff Writer
The federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals recently rejected arguments from a woman who challenged the prison sentence she received after she pleaded guilty to numerous charges of mail and wire fraud, identity theft and money laundering.
Darnell Nash was sentenced by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to 175 months in prison for a conspiracy that took place between March 2012 and January 2013.
According to court documents, Nash and several accomplices filed fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance in at least six states.
In those states, Nash registered as a fake employer then, she and her coconspirators distributed flyers purporting to offer financial assistance in low-income neighborhoods.
When people called the hotline listed on the flyer, they were asked for their names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers. That information was then used to apply for unemployment benefits.
In all, Nash took in about $360,000 from the state unemployment agencies. Her prison sentence included an enhancement for defrauding vulnerable victims and another enhancement for the sheer number of victims — more than 50.
On appeal, Nash argued that the enhancements were not backed by sufficient evidence.
Judge Raymond Kethledge, writing on behalf of the 6th Circuit court’s three-judge appellate panel, noted that, under the federal sentencing guidelines, vulnerable victims are those who are particularly susceptible to the crime being committed.
He pointed out that Nash specifically targeted low-income neighborhoods with flyers that read, “Many American families are struggling under an increasing number of bills, debts and financial obligations. When you and your family are experiencing this stress, call us. We can help!”
“Nash thus crafted a fraudulent message to which she thought her audience would be particularly susceptible,” Kethledge wrote. “That her scheme netted $360,000 suggests that her audience was as susceptible as Nash thought it would be.”
With regard to the multivictim enhancement, Nash admitted that she fraudulently used more than 50 people’s identities but she argued that they were not necessarily victims because they willingly provided their information.
“But those people did not consent to the use of their information in a mail and wire fraud scheme,” Kethledge wrote. “Suffice it to say that victims of identity theft are victims for purposes of this enhancement.”
Nash’s final argument on appeal was that she should have been granted a downward departure in her calculated sentence because of mitigating circumstances, specifically, her gender dysphoria and her desire to transition from a man to a woman.
“But the district court allowed both Nash and her lawyer to argue at length about Nash’s gender dysphoria at sentencing,” Kethledge wrote. “And the court then explicitly considered and rejected a downward departure.
“The record thus makes clear that the court was aware of its discretion to make a downward departure and chose not to make one.”
With nothing else to review, the court of appeal affirmed the judgment of the district court.
Judge Edmund Sargus sat by designation from the Southern District of Ohio and concurred along with Judge Deborah Cook.
The case is cited United States v. Darnell Nash, case No. 15-3003.
Date Published: June 6, 2016