American Bar Association
Media Alerts
Media Alerts - United States v. Catone -- Fourth Circuit
Decrease font size
Increase font size
November 3, 2014
  United States v. Catone -- Fourth Circuit
Headline: Loss Amount Recount--Worker's Comp Fraud Conviction Vacated and Remanded for Lesser Sentence and Restitution

Area of Law: Criminal Law, Constitutional Law (Sixth Amendment)

Issues Presented: (1) Whether a felony conviction under 18 U.S.C § 1920 requires a jury finding that the offense led to more than $1,000 in "falsely obtained" benefits; (2) whether absence of such a jury finding was harmless error; and (3) whether the district court erred in its determination of the loss amount when applying a loss-amount sentencing enhancement to defendant's base offense level and restitution order.

Brief Summary: Joseph Catone, a former U.S. Postal Service Worker, received payments under the Federal Employees Compensation Act for injuries he incurred while driving for extended periods of time. Each year, Mr. Catone had to verify his eligibility for the worker's comp benefits by disclosing any payments he received for work he performed. During the 2008-2009 term, Mr. Catone did not disclose that he received $635 for custodial services. A jury convicted Mr. Catone of violating 18 U.S.C. § 1920 by making a fraudulent statement (failing to disclose the $635) in connection with the application for receipt of compensation under a federal program. The district court sentenced Mr. Catone to sixteen months' imprisonment, and imposed a restitution order for $106,411.83.

On appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Mr. Catone challenged his conviction, sentence, and restitution. First, the court held that Mr. Catone's felony conviction violated his Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury because the jury made no finding that the amount Mr. Catone fraudulently obtained exceeded $1,000. Following the Supreme Court's reasoning in Apprendi v. New Jersey and Alleyne v. United States, the court explained that the loss amount is an element of the offense requiring jury determination because the specific amount of loss increases the statutory maximum offense from a misdemeanor (punishable by one year in prison) to a felony (punishable by a five-year maximum sentence). In so holding, the Fourth Circuit adopted the Eleventh Circuit's interpretation of § 1920, and rejected alternative interpretations advanced by the Second, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits.

Second, the court held that the absence of the jury finding was not harmless because there was not "overwhelming evidence" establishing that Mr. Catone fraudulently obtained over $1,000. The court therefore vacated his conviction and directed the district court to impose a misdemeanor conviction on remand. The court finally found that the district court applied an improper analysis when calculating the loss amount for purposes of sentence enhancements and restitution. The Fourth Circuit directed the district court on remand to resentence Mr. Catone without any offense level enhancements for loss amount, and vacated and remanded the restitution order to be recalculated using the correct loss-amount formula.

To read the full text of this opinion, please click here.

Panel: Chief Judge Traxler, and Judges Keenan and Floyd

Argument Date: 5/14/2014

Date of Issued Opinion: 10/15/2014

Docket Number: No. 13-4663

Decided: Affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded by published opinion.

Case Alert Author: Rebecca Berger

Counsel: Joshua B. Carpenter, FEDERAL DEFENDERS OF WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA, INC., Asheville, North Carolina, for Appellant. William Michael Miller, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Charlotte, North Carolina, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Ross Hall Richardson, Acting Executive Director, FEDERAL DEFENDERS OF WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA, INC., Charlotte, North Carolina, for Appellant. Anne M. Tompkins, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Charlotte, North Carolina, for Appellee.

Author of Opinion: Judge Floyd

Case Alert Supervisor: Professor Renée M. Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 11/03/2014 12:35 PM     4th Circuit  

FuseTalk Enterprise Edition - © 1999-2018 FuseTalk Inc. All rights reserved.

Discussion Board Usage Agreement

Back to Top