United States v. Ragland, No. 10-3311 (10th Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
Defendant Maurice Ragland was sentenced to 168 months in prison for his role in a mortgage fraud operation. He challenged his sentence as substantively unreasonable. From January 2002 to January 2004, Defendant participated in a mortgage fraud conspiracy through an appraisal business called TERM Appraisers. Defendant's role in the conspiracy consisted of providing fraudulent appraisals that manipulated values of comparable properties and falsely attributed features to homes being appraised. In addition to the false appraisals, TERM associates stole the identities of licensed appraisers and forged their signatures and license numbers on appraisals. TERM associates also created false identities and license numbers for nonexistent appraisers and used those identities to prepare the fraudulent appraisals. At sentencing, the court imposed a 16-level enhancement for a loss between $1 million and $2.5 million, and determined the proper Guidelines range to be 151 to 188 months' imprisonment. Defendant sought a variance, arguing that the Guidelines calculations did not reflect his allegedly minor role in the conspiracy. The district court refused his request, concluding that Defendant played a critical role in the conspiracy because the inflated appraisals were essential to the fraudulent mortgage loans. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit found that Defendant's perception that he should have received a shorter sentence did not rebut the presumption that his sentence was substantively reasonable. Accordingly, the Court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in calculating Defendant's sentence.