Criminal Law

Robbery, Extortion, and Blackmail - Basic Economic Offenses

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November 1, 2005GUIDELINES MANUAL§2B3.3

in seriousness, demonstrating the defendant’s preparation or ability to carry out the threatened harm (e.g., an extortionate demand containing a threat to tamper with a consumer product accompanied by a workable plan showing how the product’s tamper-resistant seals could be defeated, or a threat to kidnap a person accompanied by information showing study of that person’s daily routine). Subsection (b)(3)(B) addresses such cases.

7. If the offense involved the threat of death or serious bodily injury to numerous victims (e.g., in the case of a plan to derail a passenger train or poison consumer products), an upward departure may be warranted.

8. If the offense involved organized criminal activity, or a threat to a family member of the victim, an upward departure may be warranted.

Background: The Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1951, prohibits extortion, attempted extortion, and conspiracy to extort. It provides for a maximum term of imprisonment of twenty years. 18 U.S.C. §§ 875-877 prohibit communication of extortionate demands through various means. The maximum penalty under these statutes varies from two to twenty years. Violations of 18 U.S.C. § 875 involve threats or demands transmitted by interstate commerce. Violations of 18 U.S.C. § 876 involve the use of the United States mails to communicate threats, while violations of 18 U.S.C. § 877 involve mailing threatening communications from foreign countries. This guideline also applies to offenses under 18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(7) involving a threat to impair the operation of a "protected computer."

Historical Note:: Effective November 1, 1987. Amended effective November 1, 1989 (see Appendix C, amendments 112, 113, and 303); November 1, 1990 (see Appendix C, amendment 316); November 1, 1991 (see Appendix C, amendment 366); November 1, 1993 (see Appendix C, amendment 479); November 1, 1997 (see Appendix C, amendment 551); November 1, 1998 (see Appendix C, amendment 586); November 1, 2000 (see Appendix C, amendment 601); November 1, 2003 (see Appendix C, amendment 654).

§2B3.3. Blackmail and Similar Forms of Extortion

(a) Base Offense Level: 9

(b) Specific Offense Characteristic

(1) If the greater of the amount obtained or demanded (A) exceeded $2,000 but did not exceed $5,000, increase by 1 level; or (B) exceeded $5,000, increase by the number of levels from the table in §2B1.1 (Theft, Property Destruction, and Fraud) corresponding to that amount.

(c) Cross References

(1) If the offense involved extortion under color of official right, apply §2C1.1 (Offering, Giving, Soliciting, or Receiving a Bribe; Extortion Under Color of Official Right; Fraud Involving the Deprivation of the Intangible Right to Honest Services of Public Officials; Conspiracy to Defraud by Interference with Governmental Functions).

(2) If the offense involved extortion by force or threat of injury or serious damage, apply §2B3.2 (Extortion by Force or Threat of Injury or Serious Damage).

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