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US v. Pfaff, No. 09-1702

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By FindLaw Staff on August 30, 2010 11:13 AM

In US v. Pfaff, No. 09-1702, a tax evasion prosecution, the court vacated the fine imposed on one defendant, holding that the district court plainly erred in imposing a fine, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. section 3571(d), based on the court's finding that defendant caused a certain pecuniary loss, when that fine exceeded the maximum fine that would have been permitted absent the finding.

As the court wrote:  "Defendants-Appellants Robert Pfaff, Raymond J. Ruble, and John Larson appeal from judgments of conviction, and Larson from his sentence, entered in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Kaplan, J.). Following a ten-week jury trial, Appellants were convicted of tax evasion for designing, implementing, and marketing fraudulent tax shelters. In a separate summary order filed today, we AFFIRM the Appellants' convictions as well as Larson's term of imprisonment, the only term challenged on appeal. Here, we address a single question: whether the district court plainly erred by fining Larson $6 million, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3571(d), based on the court's finding that Larson caused a pecuniary loss in excess of $100 million, when the maximum fine absent such a finding would have been $3 million, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3571(b)(3). We hold that the district court's fine violated Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and that it constituted plain error. Therefore, we VACATE and REMAND for the district court to reconsider Larson's fine."

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