United States v. McDonald

The Facts

There was a conspiracy scheme to purchase and finance a $2 million condominium through a series of fraudulent financial transactions. The defendant, Jane McDonald, was a member of the conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She also has committed actual mail fraud.   Her co-conspirator and boyfriend was a major orchestrator of the fraudulent financial transactions.

Procedural History

Verdict of the initial trial court was affirmed by the US Court of Appeals.


In conspiracy and fraud cases, perpetrators role can be acts and omissions in furtherance of jointly undertaken criminal activity with other accomplices. Suspect can culpable if in his/her deviant behavior it is reasonably foreseeable that he/she willfully and knowingly acted in the same course of conduct or common scheme as the offense of conviction [U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 1B1.3(a)(1)-(2)].

“A minor participant is one who is less culpable than most other participants, but whose role could not be described as minimal… A minimal participant is one who lacks of knowledge or understanding of the scope and structure of the enterprise and of the activities of others”. [U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 3B1.2, cmt., applications n. 4 and 5].

Defendant who pleads downward adjustment of the sentence always bears the burden of proving his/her mitigating role in the crime. There must be a preponderance of the evidence. However, a defendant cannot prove that she was in minor role in the crime by pointing to a broader criminal conspiracy for which he/she would not be held accountable.

The Issue

Whether appellant has played minor role in conspiracy to commit wire fraud and/or mail fraud, and actual mail fraud.

The Holding/Reasoning

The appellate court argued that the scope of co-defendant’s culpable conduct did not limit her accountability. It was stated that the district court did not err by comparing her actions to the conduct of her co-defendants; she was not entitled to a role reduction simply on account of co-conspirator’s greater role in the broader criminal scheme. “Defendant admitted as part of her guilty plea to engaging in a number of false and fraudulent transactions, without which she and her boyfriend would not have been able to secure the loan at issue in the case”.

Comments are closed.