June 24, 2009
7th Circuit Upholds Mass Market Sentencing Enhancement for Internet Auction Fraud
The Seventh Circuit on Monday affirmed the enhanced sentencing of Jeffrey Heckel for mail fraud by using the Internet to conduct mass marketing. Heckel conducted Internet auctions for items, cashed checks by winning bidders, and sent inferior items from those advertised. Heckel claimed that only five people were defrauded, and that only one person, the winner, can be defrauded in an auction. The Court analyzed the sentencing guidelines (§ 2B1.1(b)(2)(A)(ii)) and concluded that they support the enhancement because of the number of people the scheme could reach irrespective of the number that were victimized. Recognizing that Internet auctions can attract a potentially large number of competitive bids which drive up the price of an item was enough to justify the enhancement. The opinion is U.S. v. Jeffrey Heckel, (No. 07 CR 41, June 22, 2009). The oral arguments are also available as an mp3 file here.
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