Monday, February 07, 2011

U.S. v. Lichtenberg (9th Cir. - Jan. 27, 2011)

An elderly client from Louisiana hires Andrew Lichtenberg, an attorney in Hawaii, to sell her interest in a piece of property on Kauai.  The client gives Lichtenberg $1800 and explicit instructions about what to do with the proceeds -- he trys to get her express power of attorney, but she's had a bad experience in this regard, and refuses to give it.

Lichtenberg sells the property, wires $375,000 to his client trust account, and promptly (1) wires $100,000 to a bank account in Indonesia, where his wife and family live, and (2) buys two $100,000 cashier's checks, made out to himself.  He then gets the proceeds from the cashier's checks, closes his law practice, gets a fake passport, and flees to Indonesia, which lacks an extradition treaty with the U.S.

He's eventually caught, and when he is, he screams and screams that he can't be validly extradited.  But he is, and after the jury convicts him, they calculate his guideline range as between 70 to 87 months.  But the district judge tells everyone that she's thinking about departing upwards, and is pondering 138 months (almost a dozen years).  After lots of stuff happens, including a successful appeal to the Ninth Circuit challenging his sentence of 126 months, he ultimately ends up getting resentenced to 112 months, at which point Lichtenberg again appeals.

The Ninth Circuit affirms.  Thankfully, in my view. 

Here's a great case for departing upwards, in my view.  Sleazy lawyer preying on elderly victim, brazenly stealing money with no pretense whatsoever and then fleeing the country, thinking he'll get away with it.  Couldn't be happier to see the extra several years in prison.