Alan Ellis is well regarded as "THE" Federal Sentencing guru among those of us who spend time in federal court. An article he co-authored with John Steer and Mark Allenbaugh appears in the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Magazine entitled At A Loss For Justice, Federal Sentencing For Economic Offenses. A copy can be obtained from the author here. If you are a lawyer who ventures into the guidelines arena with white collar clients, read the article. If you are a person facing fraud charges, read the article!
Generally, our friends in the Ponzi and stock scheme business have brought a little heat to fraud offenses. The government has modified the guidelines to "equalize" punishment for white collar and non-white collar theft and fraud offenses in light of Bernie Madoff and Bernie Ebbers and the like. The net effect is that white collar crimes are now likely to bring a bigger sentence than before.
In Idaho as in most other federal districts, fraud and other white collar crimes seem to net greater time in confinement than they did in the past. For that reason the preparation of these cases requires some serious consideration of how the "loss" will be calculated for the defendant, but more importantly, consideration of how best to achieve a more complete picture of the defendant so that the sentence achieves the § 3553(a) objectives. That means that we have to look beyond the numbers on the grid and place our client in the best light possible so that the amount of the fraud is less important in the complete picture.
Federal fraud cases are a challenge. My best advice here is to hire the very best criminal defense attorney you can afford, and always look for actual experience in this complex area of the law.