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In federal court, a convicted offender may be ordered to reimburse victims for financial losses incurred due to the offender's crime. This reimbursement is called "restitution," and it may be ordered for lost income, property damage, counseling, medical expenses, funeral costs or other financial costs directly related to the crime.

Some financial losses are not eligible for restitution, such as state or federal taxes, interest, penalties or fines; expenses for private legal representation relating to personal or business legal issues raised by the crime; fees for tax advisors, accountants, or other professionals; and legal expenses for the civil recovery of financial losses. Losses for "pain & suffering" are also not eligible for restitution.

To determine the amount of restitution to be ordered, the U.S. Probation Office gathers financial loss information from the investigative agent(s), the AUSA and victims prior to sentencing. Often this information is obtained by having the victims complete a "Victim Impact Statement." If you would like to complete a victim impact statement, please contact the Victim-Witness Program staff. A court may also decline to order restitution if it finds that determining restitution in a case is too complex.

At sentencing, the judge then enters an "Order for Restitution," directing the offender to reimburse victims for some or all of the offense-related financial losses. Compliance with the Order of Restitution automatically becomes a condition of the offender's probation or supervised release. However, even before the offender is released from prison, he or she is encouraged to begin repaying restitution by participating in the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program. Through this program, a percentage of the inmate's prison wages is applied to his or her restitution obligations.

Even if restitution is ordered, how likely is it I will receive any money?

The U.S. Attorney's Office Financial Litigation Unit (FLU) is charged with enforcing orders of restitution, and monitors efforts in enforcing a Judgment if defendant assets or income are identified. FLU will pursue various means to enforce restitution, as its resources permit, on behalf of identified victims for 20 years from the filing date of the Judgment, plus the time period of actual incarceration, or until death of the defendant. In addition, while a defendant is under the supervision of a probation officer, that probation officer will also monitor and ensure appropriate restitution is paid, where possible.

Realistically, however, the chance of full recovery is very low. Many defendants have already spent the money that they stole, and will not have sufficient assets to repay their victims. Many defendants owe very large amounts of restitution to a large number of victims. In federal cases, restitution in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars is not unusual. While defendants may make partial payments toward the full restitution owed, it is rare that defendants are able to fully pay the entire restitution amount owed.

What else can I do about my financial loss?

Some losses are tax deductible. Because tax laws are complicated and our office cannot offer tax advice, consult a qualified tax advisor or the Internal Revenue Service to see if your losses qualify.

If you believe the fraud perpetrator has assets, you may be able to recover some losses through a civil lawsuit. Contact your state or local bar association for the names of attorneys who specialize in this area of law to determine if your case is appropriate for civil action.

What can I do to address financial or credit problems?

If your losses were severe and you are unable to meet your financial obligations, or if your identity was stolen as part of the crime, your credit rating may be affected. Consider some of these options:

  • Contact your creditors immediately. Creditors will often work with you to reduce or modify your payments.
  • Consult a nonprofit consumer credit counseling service, which may be able to negotiate new payment arrangements or consolidate or reduce payments or interest.
  • Contact your local or national credit reporting agencies about your victimization.

National Credit Reporting Agencies

Equifax Credit Information Services
Consumer Fraud Division
P.O. Box 105069
Atlanta, GA 30348
(800) 525-6285

National Consumer Assistance
P.O. Box 1017
Allen, TX 75013
(888) 397-3742

Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834
(800) 680-7289

To report the fraudulent use of your checks:

Check Rite (800) 766-2748
Equifax-Telecredit (800) 437-5120
NPC (800) 526-5380
Tele-Check (800) 366-2425
Chex Systems (800) 328-5121

Updated February 10, 2015

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