Berry Bishop, the Hot Springs insurance agent who also had offices in Prescott and Arkadelphia, is scheduled to be sentenced in U.S. District Court in Hot Springs on Friday morning.
And federal prosecutors want him to do “serious” prison time for the crimes he has acknowledged, even though he’s in his late 60s and even though not all of his victims suffered financial losses.
In a sentencing memorandum, U.S. Attorney Dak Keys and Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wulff argue that Bishop deserves to have the book thrown at him. They seem to be responding to disputes over the findings of a presentence report submitted by the U.S. Probation Office, but those reports are routinely filed under seal.
Bishop was 67 when he pleaded guilty in December to a single count of bank fraud, but he acknowledged a bunch of misdeeds that totaled more than $4 million.
As the prosecutors point out, he misrepresented the value of stock collateral to Citizens Bank of Batesville, used clients’ names and personal information to apply for numerous unauthorized loans from the Bank of Prescott, and stole premiums paid to his agency (including more than $230,000 in premium paid by Southern Bancorp of Arkadelphia) that should have been forwarded to the insurance carriers he represented.
Because of these “complicated and convoluted transactions,” Keys and Wulff wrote, Bishop’s crimes meet the federal definition of “sophisticated means,” and that means a longer sentencing guideline.
The prosecutors also want U.S. District Judge Susan O. Hickey to declare that Bishop abused a position of public or private trust to commit his crimes, both by using his access to clients’ personal information when he took out the fraudulent loans and by stealing premiums with which he had been entrusted by clients and carriers.
Abusing a position of trust can also “enhance” a defendant’s sentence.
According to the feds, Bishop and his Hot Springs attorney, Tylar C.M. Tapp III, want Judge Hickey to recognize only six victims of his crime — the three banks, one insurance carrier (United Fire & Casualty) and two clients identified only by their initials.
But the prosecutors say there are at least four more clients whose identities were misappropriated and signatures forged in order to take out fraudulent loans, even though they weren’t stuck with them.
Ten victims rather than six means another enhancement to Bishop’s guideline sentence range.
Finally, Keys and Wulff are not interested in leniency because Bishop is an aging professional with no previous criminal record.
“It is likely self-evident,” the prosecutors sermonized, “but in most cases of white collar crime only those without a felonious criminal history are able to ascend to those positions of trust that provide them access to these amounts of funds. It is only the white collar defendant without a felonious criminal history who is able to stay in these positions for years and years while escaping detection.”
What’s more, they said, “A 20 year-old who steals 4 million dollars and a 60 year-old who steals 4 million dollars, each with no criminal record, should be treated similarly …”
If the prosecutors get all the enhancements they are seeking, Bishop’s guideline sentence would be eight to 10 years in federal prison, where inmates typically serve almost 90% of their sentences. Judge Hickey, however, has the final word.