Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, September 09, 2013

Edwards: Restitution affirmed in part, reversed in part

In U.S. v. Edwards, No. 11-15953 (Sept. 6, 2013), the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the restitution ordered to be paid by a defendant convicted of fraudulently soliciting funds from investors by promising astronomical returns and the using the funds for extravagant personal expenses. The Court rejected the argument that the district court erred by failing to take account of Edwards’ financial resources, pointing out that under the Mandatory Victims Recovery Act (MVRA) the district court is require to grant the full amount of restitution. The Court rejected the argument that he should not have been required to pay restitution for a separate real estate investment transaction unrelated to the scheme charged in the indictment. The Court noted that when the crime of conviction involves a “scheme, conspiracy, or pattern of criminal activity as an element of the offense, the court may order restitution for acts of related conduct for which the defendant was not convicted.” Here, the district court could conclude that the real estate transaction was a “related scheme,” because “the schemes involved the same modus operandi and participants. The Court also rejected the argument that restitution should not have been ordered restitution to victims in counts that were dismissed at trial. The Court noted, again, that the lack of a conviction does not preclude restitution. Because the record showed that victims of two dismissed counts were harmed by Edwards, the Court affirmed the restitution as to these two. Finally, the Court agreed that there was insufficient evidence to support restitution for four victims. These alleged victims were not mentioned in the Presentence Report, and the government never mentioned them to Edwards. As a result of these procedural mistakes, Edwards first learned of the victims when the district court entered a restitution order. Because the government admitted on appeal that there was no evidence to support restitution for these victims, the Court found that the district court clearly erred in awarding restitution to these victims. Using its broad discretion on appeal to fashion an appropriate remedy, and noting that if it did not remand the individuals would be denied the possibility of restitution through no fault of their own, the Court remanded the case for the district court to hold a hearing on whether these individuals are entitled to restitution.