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U.S. v. Cianscewski

filed: January 18, 1990; As Corrected.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE
v.
RICHARD CIANSCEWSKI, APPELLANT



On Appeal From the United States District Court For the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; D.C. Crim. No. 88-277-01.

Becker, Scirica, and Nygaard, Circuit Judges.

Author: Becker

Opinion OF THE COURT

BECKER, Circuit Judge.

This appeal presents several questions arising out of the new federal sentencing guidelines, the most important of which involves the applicability of the criminal livelihood guideline in effect before November 1, 1989 to someone with a high percentage, but low amount, of income that is illicit. We conclude that the guideline is inapplicable to defendants whose yearly profit from crime is less than 2000 times the hourly minimum wage.

In this case, the district court's application of the criminal livelihood guideline enhanced the sentence appellant Richard Cianscewski otherwise would have received under the fraud and deceit guideline. We conclude that the district court correctly calculated the appropriate sentencing range under the fraud and deceit guideline, but misapplied the criminal livelihood enhancement. Accordingly, we will vacate and remand for resentencing.

I. Facts and Procedural History

Richard Cianscewski appeals his sentence of 41 months' imprisonment following conviction of one count of conspiracy,*fn1 three counts of possessing stolen mail,*fn2 and three counts of selling stolen United States treasury checks.*fn3 Cianscewski and his common-law wife were indicted for possessing and selling stolen treasury checks on four separate occasions. She was charged with selling checks worth $3126.45 for $1040 on March 3, 1988. He was charged with selling checks worth $2128.91 for $710 on March 22, 1988; checks worth $2309 for $780 on April 1, 1988; and checks worth $2066.82 for $680 on April 11, 1988.

On each date, Cianscewski or his wife met an undercover government agent in the same McDonald's parking lot to complete the respective sales, which involved a total of twelve checks, seven not counting the checks that she sold on March 3. The Cianscewskis received the checks from a former thief turned government informant. At their joint trial, they each advanced an entrapment defense. A jury acquitted her of the March 3 charges, convicted him of all substantive charges, and convicted both of conspiracy. The face value of all the checks at issue is $9631.18, for which the Cianscewskis received $3210. Excluding the checks Cianscewski's wife sold on March 3, for which no conviction was obtained, the total face value of the remaining checks is $6504.73, for which Cianscewski received $2170.

Cianscewski's offense level was calculated from section 2F1.1 of the Guidelines, which governs fraud and deceit.*fn4 That guideline provides for a base offense level of six, to be increased by two for losses valued between $5000 and $10,000. In calculating the total amount of loss caused by Cianscewski's criminal activity, the district court included the checks sold by Cianscewski's wife on March 3 and valued all the checks at their face amount. As a result, it determined the total amount of loss to be $9631.18 -- near the top of the plus-two range for amount of loss. The district court increased Cianscewski's offense level by two more points because his offenses involved more than minimal planning, see Guidelines § 2F1.1(b) (2) (A), and denied him a two-point reduction for acceptance of responsibility, see id. § 3E1.1. These determinations would have placed Cianscewski's offense level at ten; however, the district court determined that the criminal livelihood provision, which prescribes an offense level of not less than 13, see id. § 4B1.3, was applicable.

Cianscewski unquestionably has a Category VI criminal history, the highest that the guidelines employ.*fn5 A level 13 offense committed by a Category VI criminal yields a sentencing range of 33 to 41 months, see Guidelines § 5A, and the district court imposed a 41-month sentence.

On appeal, Cianscewski challenges (1) the applicability of the criminal livelihood provision; (2) the district court's method for calculating amount of loss; (3) the finding of more than minimal planning; and (4) the rejection of acceptance of responsibility. Each of these claims involves an assertedly incorrect application of the guidelines; thus, we have appellate jurisdiction by virtue of 18 U.S.C. § 3742(a)(2).

II. Criminal Livelihood

The criminal livelihood provision applicable at the time of Cianscewski's ...


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