Shapiro Arato Obtains Second Circuit Ruling Vacating Sentence in “Gifting Tables” Case

On April 13, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated the sentences of our client Jill Platt and her co-defendant, Donna Bello, and expressed “significant doubts” that the fraud loss amounts used by the District Court, which were the primary driver of the sentences, were correctly calculated. Ms. Platt and Ms. Bello were convicted of tax and wire fraud offenses arising from their participation in “gifting tables,” women’s social groups that contained a financial element in which hundreds of women in Connecticut participated. Ms. Platt and Ms. Bello were sentenced to amounts allegedly caused by other participants in the gifting tables. In vacating this sentence, the Court held that the district court committed procedural error by failing to make particularized findings necessary to include the loss caused by these other participants. Under the Second Circuit’s precedent in United States v. Studley, 57 F.3d 569 (2d Cir. 1995), a district court may sentence a defendant based on the acts and omissions of co-conspirators only if it makes a particularized finding of the scope of the criminal activity agreed upon by the defendant and a particularized finding that the relevant conduct by co-conspirators was foreseeable to the defendant. The Court held that in sentencing Ms. Platt and Ms. Bello, the district court failed to make these particularized findings. In addition, the Court noted that it had “significant doubts” that all of the other participants whose loss was included in the fraud loss for Ms. Platt’s and Ms. Bello’s sentences were properly considered co-conspirators.

Alexandra A.E. Shapiro argued the appeal, and Chetan A. Patil co-authored the briefs. Information about our successful argument for bail pending appeal can be found here.

The opinion in United States v. Platt can be found here.

Copies of the briefs can be found here and here.