It’s All About (Re)location: Interpreting the Federal Sentencing Enhancement for Relocating a Fraudulent Scheme
Section 2B1.1(b)(10) of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual increases the recommended sentencing ranges for defendants who make fraudulent schemes harder to uncover. In particular, subsection (A) of this Guideline—the relocation enhancement—increases a defendant’s recommended sentence if she “relocated, or participated in relocating, a fraudulent scheme to another jurisdiction to evade law enforcement or regulatory officials.” This provision raises the question: Where is a fraudulent scheme located? The question might have a straightforward answer in cases that involve few defendants and few fraudulent acts. But federal circuit courts have split over how to apply this enhancement to schemes that span multiple jurisdictions at once, exacerbating a preexisting disagreement about the level of intent required by the relocation enhancement.
This Comment argues that courts can resolve these problems by limiting the applicability of the relocation enhancement. Specifically, courts should apply the relocation enhancement only to cases where the defendant committed an act of deception in one jurisdiction, grew suspicious of a specific law enforcement investigation into her actions, fled the jurisdiction because of that investigation, and then committed the same deceptive act in a new jurisdiction. This reading draws support from interpretive canons, Sentencing Commission guidance, and existing literature on the deterrent effect of sentencing enhancements. This reading also encourages courts to make greater use of another provision in § 2B1.1(b)(10)—the sophisticated-means enhancement—to address the problems posed by multijurisdictional fraud schemes.