Q: When Will I Get My Money?
A: Probably not for years. Typically there are numerous (sometimes even hundreds or thousands) of victims in fraud cases and payments have to be disbursed to all the victims at the same time. Restitution payments also are dependant on how much financial resources the defendant has at the time of sentencing and whether the defendant has any children or family who are dependant on him/her for income. If the defendant is incarcerated, he/she will be enrolled in the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program which means the inmate must work while he/she is incarcerated. Half of what they earn goes toward restitution, however, prisoners only earn approximately 11 cents per hour and restitution payments are made on a quarterly basis (usually at $25 per quarter). Since restitution has to be paid equally among all victims at the same time, in large victim cases, it is unlikely that victims will receive any restitution while the defendant is in prison.
Q: What Happened To All The Money The Defendant Took From Me?
A: While the U.S. Attorney’s office attempts to seize any assets the defendant has, usually the defendant has spent all the victims’ money to support himself on things like rent, food, car leases, etc. Generally, the defendant does not have bank accounts with the victims’ money in it.
Q: How Is Restitution Collected And Disbursed?
A: While the defendant is in prison, payments are collected by the Bureau of Prisons. As noted above, due to the nature of the collection rate (per quarter) it is unlikely that victims will receive restitution while the defendant is incarcerated. Once the defendant is released from prison, the defendant is usually under a period of supervised release. During the period of supervised release, or if the defendant receives a sentence of probation, the US Probation Office is responsible for collecting restitution from the defendant. The Probation Officer will ensure that the defendant is making monthly restitution payments to the Clerk of the Court. After, the defendant completes his/her period of supervision or probation, the US Attorney’s Office Financial Litigation Unit ensures that the defendant is making monthly restitution payments to the Clerk of the Court. The U.S. Clerk of Court receives payments from the defendant and then will forward payment to the victims. However, as noted above, these payments have to be distributed among all the victims at the same time. Due to the fact that most cases have numerous victims, these payments would be quite small. The Clerk does not issue checks for less than $10 per victim because this is not economically feasible. Therefore, the Clerk will wait until there is a more substantial amount to disburse to victims. The Clerk will NOT send a letter notifying you a payment is coming - you will just receive a check in the mail.
Q: How Long Will The Defendant Have To Make Payments?
A: Restitution judgments are in effect and enforced for 20 years beyond the period of incarceration. The restitution judgment acts as a lien against any property or assets the defendant has or will have in the future. The U.S. Attorney’s Financial Litigation Unit is responsible for enforcing restitution payments after the defendant serves his prison time and completes his supervised release. Therefore, it is important that you keep the U.S. Attorney’s Office informed of any address changes.
Q: What Should I Do To Make Sure I Receive Restitution?
A: Complete the attached form entitled “Assignment of Restitution Form”. Please check one of the choices regarding your desires for restitution. Send address changes and completed forms to:
U.S. Attorney’s Office
138 Delaware Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14202
Attn: Victim Witness Coordinator
For Rochester cases, send to:
100 State Street
Rochester, NY 14614
Attn: Victim/Witness Paralegal
Q: What If I Am The Power Of Attorney Or Legal Guardian For The Victim And Am Receiving The Restitution Notice?
A: You should complete the attached form entitled “Assignment of Restitution Form”. Please check one of the choices regarding your desires for restitution. Make sure you indicate the victim’s name on the form and your relationship to the victim (ex: power of attorney, son, etc). Please be aware that restitution can be made to the victim’s estate if the victim is deceased. All future correspondence and any restitution payments will be sent to you (checks will be in victim’s name).
Q: What If I Receive A Restitution Payment And Then Don’t Get Another One?
A: As stated above, restitution payments tend to be quite small and it takes a long time for there to be enough to send to the victims. Thus, you could receive a payment and not receive another one for another several months or even longer. The defendant may have lost his/her job and can’t make payments temporarily or the defendant may have just stopped making payments which is a violation of the terms of probation or supervised release. However, if you have been receiving payments on a consistent regular basis and then suddenly are not receiving them, you should contact the U.S. Probation Department to determine the reason (but only if you have been receiving payments that suddenly stop). US Probation Office phone is 716-551-4241(Buffalo) or 585-263-6810 (Rochester).
Q: Should I Call To Check On The Restitution Status?
A. Restitution will be disbursed once there is enough to disburse to all victims equally at the same time. As stated above, this process generally takes YEARS and there is nothing our office or the Court or Probation can do to make this process quicker if the defendant is making his regular restitution payments. We can only intervene if the defendant is wilfully failing to make restitution payments.
This is not meant to be harsh but to give victims a realistic view of restitution. It is quite likely that a victim may not receive any or may receive only partial restitution. We will make every effort to hold this defendant accountable. It is your responsibility to keep the U.S. Attorney's Office informed of any change of address in order to receive restitution in the future.