Thanh-Viet “Jeremy” Cao received the longest white collar crime term ever handed down by the Federal District Court for the Southern District of California: 30 years in prison.
This case was a rather extreme situation, as described by U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy, who said, “Defendant Cao is a financial predator who will stop at nothing to cheat his victims out of their life savings. He continues to show no remorse for his actions, which destroyed the finances of many innocent and hard-working people.”
Not Merely a Ponzi Scheme
According to court filings, Cao threatened business associates with violence, including threats of death. He had also allegedly threatened to torture and kill a business partner and his family.
Cao told the business partner that “the family” had previously “chopped up” a baby in front of the baby’s parents, and then killed the baby’s mother.
“When law enforcement and the federal judiciary stepped in to stop his fraud, Cao retaliated by trying to ruin their finances through the filing of false liens,” she said. Cao allegedly filed false liens against federal and state prosecutors, as well as the judges presiding over his court cases.
While most individuals facing white collar crime charges will not have a story like Cao’s – or a similar sentence – it appears that white collar crime sentences have been increasing across the board. There is a never-ending procession of white collar crime cases in the media, which only highlights the continual attention state and federal prosecutors have given to identifying and prosecuting while collar crime.
Complexity of White Collar Sentences
White collar offenses are usually variations of theft or fraud. Because there are many variables at play, estimating a sentence can be difficult.
Section 186.11 of California’s Penal Code, succinctly entitled “Multiple felonies involving fraud or embezzlement; sentence enhancement; fines; restitution; preservation and levy of defendant’s property” is 3,968 words long.
The federal sentencing guideline for economic offenses is likewise complex. It is applicable to more than 300 federal criminal statutes. It is made up of more than 16 specific offense characteristics and cross-references, 19 application notes, and 40 amendments – more than any other federal sentencing guideline.
The Cao case points to another characteristic of white-collar offenses; those charged can range from predatory (like Cao) to inadvertent, where the person charged did not realize the behavior he or she was engaged in was criminal.
Because of the complexity of white collar crime sentences, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as you suspect that you are under investigation for a white collar crime.