In the Central District of California, a woman was sentenced on February 13, 2012 for embezzling more than $1 million from her employer, a Santa Barbara-based gourmet food company. Lisa Sackie, 48, was sentenced by United States District Judge George H. Wu, who also ordered the defendant to pay $1.1 million in restitution to Future Food Brands, the parent company of Santa Barbara Bay Foods.

Sackie pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud in August of 2011, admitting that she wrote company checks to herself and to pay for personal expenses. Sackie pleaded to an information, and subsequently waived her right to a grand jury indictment. Sackie’s decision to plead to an information and waive her right to an indictment likely benefited her in sentencing because she admitted guilt early in the process and saved government resources. In fact, according to her sentencing memorandum and the sentencing guidelines, Sackie was facing a sentencing range of 33 to 41 months. Accordingly, Sackie was sentenced to 33 months in prison, the very bottom of her recommended sentencing range. Although her attorneys’ request for a variance of 33 months of probation was denied, Sackie benefited from cooperating, as reflected in the judge’s determination to sentence her at the bottom of the applicable range.

According to the plea agreement the government agreed to bring no additional charges against the defendant based upon her scheme to defraud her employer. Thus, instead of facing a multitude of fraud counts, Sackie only faced the maximum penalty of two fraud counts. Had Sackie not agreed to a plea agreement early on, the government would have likely convened a grand jury and charged her with a multitude of fraud counts dating as far back as 2004, which is when the government alleges Sackie’s scheme to defraud had begun. Depending on the full extent of the circumstances a defendant faces, it may be prudent to plea early, much like Sackie, and not put the government to its constitutional burden of proving a case.

The author of this blog is Erich Ferrari, an attorney specializing in Federal Criminal Defense matters. If you have any questions please contact him at 202-280-6370 or ferrari@ferrari-legal.com.

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