Debra Antonitis, a 45-year-old North Attleboro woman, has been charged with mail fraud and wire fraud for allegedly stealing more than $100,000 from the Wrentham Co-Operative Bank where she previously worked, the Boston Globe reported Thursday.
Prosecutors claim that between April 2006 and and January 2012, Antonitis made fraudulent transfers by faking withdrawals from customer accounts and transferring the money to her own account. The government also alleges that Antonitis created false entries in records to make it appear that the customers had made the withdrawals. Antonitis allegedly made 143 fraudulent transfers totaling $112,385. She is facing three counts of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud.
Federal prosecutors love to bring mail and wire fraud charges, and Antonitis will need an experienced federal criminal defense attorney on her side. Former federal prosecutor Jed Rakoff wrote the following in a Duquesne law review article:
To federal prosecutors of white collar crime, the mail fraud statute is our Stradivarius, our Colt 45, our Louisville Slugger, our Cuisinart-our true love. We may flirt with RICO…and call the conspiracy law “darling,” but we always come home to the virtues of [the mail fraud statute], with its simplicity, adaptability, and comfortable familiarity. It understands us and, like many a foolish spouse, we like to think we understand it.
As Rakoff notes, part of the reason prosecutors are so fond of mail and wire fraud is the simplicity of these offenses. Both come down to two basic elements, although there are sub-elements: (1) a scheme to defraud; and (2) use of mail or use of interstate wire communications to further the scheme. Another reason prosecutors find these statutes so attractive is that they are amorphous and allow the government to prosecute a huge range of conduct, even activity that doesn’t necessarily fall under the traditional umbrella of “fraud.” The government does not have to prove that the mailing or wiring contained fraudulent information or that a defendant personally mailed or wired the item in question, as long as the defendant”caused” the mailing or wiring. The government also likes these offenses because the unit of prosecution for the purposes of charging is each mailing or wiring. Therefore, the government can bring a separate count for each mailing or wiring, even if there was just one scheme.
Antonitis should speak with a Massachusetts criminal lawyer who has experience in the federal courts and understands the complexities of federal criminal practice, one with a thorough understanding of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. Since 2005, the Guidelines have been advisory only, but judges often follow the guidelines or deviate from them at the government’s request. This is probably due in part to the fact that most federal district court judges were appointed since 1987, when the Guidelines went into effect, and are just familiar with that regime. Judges might also stick to the guidelines for fear of reversal. Some believe that judges had their hands tied by the guidelines for so long that they’re afraid too many downward departures will prompt Congress to restrain their discretion again. In any event, a skilled attorney should aggressively work to both build a strong defense and to minimize Antonitis’ Guidelines exposure.
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