Chris Roberts faces steep penalties, but 475 years in prison?

Despite claim charges not related to public office, sentence could be stiff

Chris Miller
May 21, 2019 - 11:15 am

Former Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts is free on an unsecured $50,000 bond after pleading not guilty to 29 counts of fraud and tax evasion alleged in a federal indictment. 

Roberts' lawyer says the charges are not related to his clients work on the parish council. Even so, the penalties involved could be huge.

Loyola law professor Dane Ciolino says the government claims Roberts stole a lot of money, and charges he defrauded the IRS out of a lot of money, too. Prison sentences, said Ciolino, are often based on the dollar amounts the government can prove a defendant took.

"He faces a substantial possibility of real jail time," Ciolino explained, "even though he didn't commit these alleged crimes in his official capacity as a council person, he still faces substantial penalties."

But 475 years in prison? That's the reported maximum penalty if the government can prove all the charges against Roberts. Even if it did, Ciolino said it doesn't mean he would be ordered to serve those years back-to-back.

"That grossly overstates his possible exposure by way of a prison sentence," he said.

But make no mistake, warns Ciolino, the penalties are severe, even if Roberts were to be allowed to serve the sentences concurrently.

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