- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2001

The U.S. Sentencing Commission has called for increased penalties for high-dollar fraud offenders, sexual predators and drug smugglers who deal in Ecstasy and methamphetamine as sanctions that will go into effect in November absent action by Congress.
The commission also voted for stiffer penalties for those convicted of money laundering, agreeing to link underlying criminal conduct to the sentencing process.
The new guidelines were made public yesterday.
Commissioners said they placed a priority on economic crimes, with the commission passing new amendments to consolidate existing guidelines on theft, fraud, tax offenses and property destruction to increase the penalties for high-dollar frauds or thefts and to reduce unwarranted sentencing disparity.
"The economic crime amendments result from several years of extensive research conducted by the Sentencing Commission in which the experience of countless professionals was consulted," said commission Chairman Judge Diana E. Murphy. "Because approximately 20 percent of all federal defendants are subject to these economic guidelines, it was especially important that we address this area."
In approving the new package of amendments involving economic crimes, the commission conducted numerous interviews with public officials, and gathered testimony from expert witnesses.
Under the new guidelines, a person convicted in a $500,000 investment fraud would be subject to a sentence as high as 63 months compared to a sentence as low as 27 months under the old guidelines.
The commission, in taking action to stiffen the penalties for money laundering, agreed to link the underlying criminal misconduct that generated the laundered funds. Commission officials noted, for example, that a money launderer convicted of laundering $94,000 from the sale of 5 kilograms of cocaine would now received a sentence of 151 to 188 months compared to the old guideline numbers of 63 to 78 months.
The commission also adopted guidelines related to the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, voting to increase the penalties in any case in which the defendant engaged in a "pattern of activity involving the sexual abuse or exploitation of a minor."
The new guidelines, according to the commission, target high-risk sex offenders who are convicted of sexual abuses and have a prior felony conviction for sexual abuse.
In response to the Ecstasy Anti-proliferation Act of 2000, the commission voted for a permanent amendment that would increase the guideline sentence for trafficking Ecstasy a party drug that has become very popular among young users. The new amendment increases the sentence for trafficking 800 pills by 300 percent from 15 months to five years. It increases the penalty for selling 8,000 pills from 41 months to 10 years.
"The commission shares Congress concern about the serious threat posed by the illegal importation, trafficking and use of Ecstasy and the danger this drug poses to the youth of America," said Judge Murphy. "For this reason, the commission has made responding to the directives contained in the Ecstasy Anti-Proliferation Act one of its highest priorities."
The commission also adopted an amendment that "more appropriately targets" felons who unlawfully enter the country, amended the sentencing guidelines for counterfeiting and enhanced the penalties involving acts of domestic terrorism.
An independent agency, the commission was organized in 1985 to develop a national sentencing policy for federal courts. Its sentencing guidelines structure the courts sentencing discretion to ensure that similar offenders who commit similar offenses receive similar sentences.
The commission must send its amendments to Congress by May 1. They take effect Nov. 1 unless Congress passes legislation disapproving them.

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