Federal authorities charged Hugo Sergio Mejia in a two-count information. To minimize exposure to a lengthy sentence, Hugo agreed to plead guilty to white-collar crimes. The federal sentencing guidelines suggested an appropriate sanction would span somewhere between 57 and 71 months in federal prison.

Considering Hugo’s acceptance of responsibility and mitigation efforts, the U.S. Probation Officer that completed Hugo’s PSR recommended a below-guideline sentence of 50 months. Impressed with Hugo’s work, the Assistant U.S. Attorney that prosecuted Hugo recommended an even lower term, of 46 months.

Yet when the Honorable Judge Cormac Carney met Hugo in the sentencing hearing at the federal courthouse in Orange County today, he imposed a term of 36 months.

How did Hugo influence proceedings to get such a positive outcome?

It all began with his research. He started searching online to learn more about steps he could take to work toward a lower sentence. That research led him to our YouTube channels, where we offer more than 1,000 videos about preparing for better outcomes at sentencing and in prison. Hugo then visited our website at WhiteCollarAdvice.com, and he downloaded a free copy of Lessons from Prison, a book that describes what I learned by going through the system. Hugo then scheduled a call with our team.

When I spoke with Hugo, he said, “I made bad decisions. I need a plan. I do not want this experience to define my life. I want to be productive in federal prison and do everything within my power to get the lowest sentence possible.”

Hugo then began working with our team members. He worked with Brad Rouse and Lawrence Hartman. He also worked with my partner Michael Santos and me.

After a grand jury returned a criminal indictment, Hugo he hired a lawyer who claimed to specialize in “cryptocurrency fraud and specifically Bitcoin.” That claim turned out to be spurious.

Rather than continue wasting resources with a lawyer that ostensibly specialized in crypto cases, Hugo began working with a very capable federal public defender. Hugo understood that mitigation would begin with the efforts he made to explain:

1. The influences that led to his breaking the law,
2. His plans to make amends and create a new record as a law-abiding citizen,
3. Reasons why he would never return to a courtroom as a defendant,
4. What he learned from this experience.

Hugo chose not “to luck” his way into a shorter sentence, and he certainly didn’t leave everything in the hands of his attorney. Instead, he chose to prepare.

For example, he worked hard to understand nuances of the probation interview. Those preparations influenced a below-guideline sentencing recommendation from the probation officer.

He worked closely with our team to write his personal narrative. Both the Judge and prosecuting attorney referenced Hugo’s personal narrative. In telling his story, the Court recognized Hugo as being “genuine” and “worthy of a downward departure.”

By preparing himself well, Hugo succeeded in getting character-reference letters from nine people that knew him well. The letters those people wrote helped the judge see that despite his legal quagmire, they considered him to be a man of good character, and they would stand behind him.

Our team appreciates opportunities to work with people like Hugo. Through our collaborations, we get to help people restore confidence and work toward the best possible outcome at sentencing, through prison, and upon release at the soonest possible time.

Justin Paperny