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United States v. Pileggi, No. 10-5273

Decided: January 2, 2013

On remand from the Court of Appeals for resentencing, the district court entered an amended restitution against George Pileggi, which he appealed. On appeal, the court vacated the district court’s amended restitution order and ordered the district court to reinstate the original restitution order. The court held that the district court had the lacked authority to reconsider the amount of restitution on remand.

From 2003 to 2006, Pileggi and other co-conspirators ran a fraudulent sweepstakes scheme out of Costa Rica. Costa Rican officials extradited Pileggi to the United States on the condition that Pileggi, if convicted, would not spend the rest of his natural life in prison. At trial, Pileggi was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, travel fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, and 22 counts of wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343. At sentencing, the prosecutor told the court that the United States had promised Costa Rica that it would not seek a sentence of more than 50 years. The court then sentenced Pileggi, who was then 48, to exactly 50 years in prison. The court also ordered Pileggi to pay $3,952,985 in restitution. Pileggi appealed his 50 year sentence, arguing that the trial court relied on the government’s misrepresentation concerning the extradition assurances given to Costa Rica. Pileggi did not appeal the restitution order. The Court of Appeals held that the trial court had committed a significant procedural error by entering a “de facto life sentence” in reliance on the government’s false information concerning the promises made to Costa Rica. The court then remanded the case for resentencing. At the resentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a sentence of 25 years and increased Pileggi’s restitution amount to $4,274,078.40. Though the government stated that “it didn’t mind” the restitution figure, the government nevertheless argued that the restitution amount should have been much higher. The trial court kept the restitution figure at $4.2 million but schedules a hearing to reconsider the matter so that the government had time to file amended restitution figures. At the restitution hearing, the government argued that the restitution amount should about $20 million. The district court agreed and increased the restitution figure to $20,726,005.18. In doing so, the district court rejected Pileggi’s argument that it lacked authority to reconsider the restitution amount on remand. Pileggi then filed an appeal challenging the amended restitution order.

On appeal of the amended restitution order, Pileggi argued that the district court lacked authority to reconsider the restitution figure because the Court of Appeals’ mandate remanded the case for the sole purpose of resentencing. The court began its analysis by explaining that the “mandate rule” prohibits lower courts from adjudicating issues that had been expressly or impliedly decided by the appellate court. Based on the mandate rule, court agreed with Pileggi and held that the district court erred in reconsidering the restitution order on remand. The court noted that neither party had raised the restitution issue during the first appeal, and therefore, the district court only had authority to address the length Pileggi’s sentence.

Full Opinion

-Graham Mitchell