Man, Have I Got a Deal for You

A Nigerian you-won-the-lottery email fraudster can’t use the excuse of bad lawyering to get his 10-year prison sentence reduced, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.

Claudio Uche Dibe was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2012 after he pleaded guilty to 15 counts of fraud using through one of those email and phone scams  in which victims are told falsely they won a lottery or were named in an inheritance and only have to send Dibe fees to receive the money.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his sentence saying the sentencing guidelines do not allow for use of a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel as a ground for reducing a sentence.

Dibe argued that his below-guidelines sentence would have been even lower if his lawyer had been better in his case.

Although the government made several rounds of plea offers and all were rejected.  Shortly before trial, Dibe argued that the best agreement was not adequately explained and so he delayed signing until after the government’s deadline and right before trial.

Instead Dibe pleaded guilty without an agreement and left it to the judge.  The government sought nearly 13 years in prison and $1.1 million in restitution.

U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer sentenced Dibe to 10 years and ordered the $1.1 million in restitution.

The appeals court rejected the contention that his sentence would have been lower but for his lawyer’s lack of clarity about the final plea deal.

Ineffective assistance is not a sentencing factor because it does not fall under the “nature and circumstances of the offense” and does not reflect either the “history or characteristics of the defendant” or the need to “promote respect for the law.”

Case: U.S. v. Dibe, No. 13-50515


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