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April 28, 2014

Feds in NYC corruption sentencing argue 105 and 80 years necessary for white-collar defendants

An interesting white-collar sentencing scheduled for today in Manhattan is previewed in this New York Times article last week which ran under the headline "Decades in Prison Sought for CityTime Scheme." Here are the details that prompt the title of this post:

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have asked a judge to impose sentences of 105 years, 80 years and up to 40 years on three men who the government has said became “unbelievably rich” in connection with New York City’s scandal-marred payroll modernization project known as CityTime.

The three men were convicted in a federal corruption trial last fall in Federal District Court and are scheduled to be sentenced on Monday. T he cost of the CityTime project was originally budgeted at $63 million but exploded to about $700 million, with almost all of the more than $600 million that New York City paid to its prime contractor, Science Applications International Corporation, or S.A.I.C., tainted by fraud, a federal indictment charged.

“The CityTime fraud, kickback and money laundering scheme that these defendants orchestrated, managed and operated represents one of the worst, if not the worst, financial crimes against the city,” the office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, said in a memo filed on Sunday night recommending the sentences, which it said were appropriate under the advisory sentencing guidelines.  “The need for general deterrence supports severe sentences in this case,” the office added.

The government asked the judge, George B. Daniels, to sentence Gerard Denault, 52, who was S.A.I.C.’s project manager on CityTime, to 105 years in prison.  “He used his significant talents to abuse his executive position at S.A.I.C. to an extreme degree,” two prosecutors, Howard S. Master and Andrew D. Goldstein, wrote.  “Testimony at trial from witness after witness reflected that he used his power and his intellect to intimidate and sideline anyone at S.A.I.C who stood in the way of his criminal scheme.”

Mr. Denault’s lawyer, Barry A. Bohrer, said his only comment on the government’s request was “not one that is printable.”  He has requested a five-year sentence for his client.

Mr. Bharara’s office said in the memo that another defendant, Mark Mazer, 50, a former consultant to the city’s Office of Payroll Administration, had “abused his power as the city’s project manager to line his own pockets to a breathtaking degree rarely seen in any fraud or kickback case,” taking about $30 million over five years.  The prosecutors’ office asked that he be sentenced to 80 years.

Mr. Mazer’s lawyer, Gerald L. Shargel, who is seeking a five-year sentence for his client, said in a phone interview on Monday that it was the government’s request that was “breathtaking,” and that such sentences “should be reserved for the worst offenders among us.” Mr. Shargel said that the large amounts of money in the case had helped to inflate the recommended sentences.  “Just because the guidelines give the prosecutors the authority to argue for this sentence, it doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do,” Mr. Shargel said. “What do you give a murderer — 160 years?”

Without knowing all the facts of these cases, I cannot comment on whether these fraud defendants are really among the truly "worst of the worst" of white-collar criminals.  But I can comment that federal prosecutors, at least in this case, seem to not be really committed to helping the district judge here determine what sentence would truly be "sufficient but not greater than necessary" to achieve federal sentencing goals under 18 USC 3553(a).

Given that it would be remarkable if the defendants here would be able to live even half as many years in prison as the prosecutors are urging, it is obviously ludicrous to assert that a 105-year sentence is not greater than necessary for a 52-year-old defendant.  But it seems that a representative of the US government is going to stand up in to federal court today and make such a ludicrous sentencing claim.

UPDATE: The headline of this AP article about the now-completed sentencings in this matter reports the basic outcome: "NYC payroll scandal defendants each get 20 years."

April 28, 2014 at 08:22 AM | Permalink

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Comments

First, I find that any sentence going beyond any normal life expectency only serves to bring ridicule to the justice.

Second, any sentences over ten years for white-collar crime is excessive - forfeiture of part of their estates would be better than such astronomical sentences - and were only set so that the lefties don't scream to class justice when an armed robber or a drug dealer were sentenced to long sentence

Posted by: visitor | Apr 28, 2014 11:54:09 AM

With that $600 million the state could have constructed safety improvements to the highways to save dozens of lives. A theft of this magnitude is tantamount to mass murder, and should be punished as such.

Posted by: Boffin | Apr 28, 2014 12:17:25 PM

I have no idea what the appropriate sentence here is, but I find it shocking that the government and defense attorney could be so far off. Usually, you have some idea what a Judge would give and tailor your arguments accordingly.

I have a problem with such long non-life sentences because of their patent absurdity (does the DOJ really care if one gets 80 instead of 105?). But there's still the big issue of whether this is an effective LWOP case or a five year case.

Posted by: Erik M | Apr 28, 2014 4:40:16 PM

I agree. I am sorry but anything past "I sentence you to prison for the rest of your natural life" is just showboating and stupidity.

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 28, 2014 6:04:31 PM

Which comes back to the point that at a certain score in the guideline calculations it should simply become LWOP. That would require a statutory change though. Even if argument for 50 years were to sound silly I don't think arguing for LWOP would.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Apr 28, 2014 6:07:27 PM

very true Soronel. these idiotic sentences that are longer than the individual can possible live to complete just show how stupid our gov't has become.

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 29, 2014 12:13:18 AM

Our politicians and other officials get off Scott free. It's a matter of public perception and outrage, whereas assault, murder, and sex crimes get less time.

Posted by: alex | Apr 30, 2014 2:32:24 AM

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