A 75-year-old man living in South Florida has been accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl who shared the same residence.
A zombie may have been responsible.
Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers believe there could be several elements at play here. Given the man’s age, we could be talking about dementia. We could be talking about a mental infirmity or illness. Given the man’s native origins, we could be talking about a different religious belief system.
This is all speculation, of course, but what this case illustrates so well is a point we regularly try to drive home, and that is this: No defendant – especially one accused of such a serious crime – should offer a statement to criminal investigators without a defense lawyer present.
Even if you are innocent, you must understand that law enforcement investigators are trained interrogators. They know how to manipulate a conversation. They know how to twist your words around. They are skilled in tripping you up. This is why we so often hear about false confessions. Interrogations go on for hours and hours and such intense pressure is applied that before long, an innocent person begins to doubt the truth.
But let’s assume for the sake of argument that you did commit the crime they are alleging, or some lesser degree of it. No matter how clever you are, you will always benefit from consulting with an experienced lawyer because it is our job to formulate defense strategies. Especially here at this law firm, where we are former prosecutors, we are intimately familiar with how these interrogations work. We know the strategies law enforcement officials use, and we don’t allow you to fall prey to them.
When you speak to law enforcement without your lawyer there, you may potentially be significantly limiting your defense strategy options. Even revealing knowledge of seemingly minor details could end up posing a host of challenges for your case.
In this case, the girl reportedly went to her school principal and told him that the defendant had returned to the home after an extended stay in another country, and that she was afraid to return home.
She later told investigators that the defendant would molest her in the bathroom, after everyone else was asleep. In one case, her brother reportedly witnessed such actions.
However, the defendant claimed the children were lying and it was probably a “zombie.”
Even if the children aren’t being truthful, a zombie defense is unlikely to go far with a judge or jury.
He was booked on five counts of sexual assault and lewd behavior, and was being held on $5,000 bond.
If you are arrested, in addition to withholding a statement to investigators and immediately requesting a lawyer, here are some other things to keep in mind:
–Don’t argue with an officer. The investigator may want you to become emotional in order to get you talking.
–Be respectful and polite. Even if you are innocent, being combative will get you nowhere.
–Remember that every single thing you say can be used against you. Stay silent. That is your right. Avail yourself of it.
–Know that you do not have to consent to a search of your vehicle, your home or yourself. That doesn’t mean you can necessarily stop it, particularly if police have a warrant. However, consenting to a search will limit your rights in court with regard to whatever is later found.
–Speak about the situation to no one but your lawyer, and maybe your spouse or close loved one – if you’re lawyer says it’s Ok to do so. Almost anyone can be called as a potential witness against you.
A Russian retail theft ring was reportedly felled in Boca Raton recently, with four women cuffed on charges of retail theft and organized fraud.
Our Palm Beach County shoplifting defense lawyers know that these individuals are facing felony charges, as opposed to misdemeanor petit theft charges, for two main reasons:
–The value of the items stolen (some $32,000 worth of clothing);
–The fact that it was part of an organized crime ring.
Police say the scheme was fairly elaborate. It worked like this:
One woman would enter a high-end clothing retailer the evening before a planned heist. That woman would put a product in a place where there might be little to no camera action, such as a dressing room.
The next morning, the alleged accomplice would enter the dressing room, place the items in a bag lined with tin foil. The purpose of this would be to throw off the store sensors located at the exits.
However, in this case, it appears the loss prevention officer was on to the scheme, as it had been carried out previously. Security apprehended one woman as she attempted to exit the front doors.
Meanwhile, two other women also fled the store, but were cornered in a mall bathroom, where police later arrested them.
A fourth woman was arrested after officers discovered her waiting in a rented vehicle in the parking lot. Inside that vehicle, detectives reportedly found another $15,000 worth of stolen items.
While we tend to think of shoplifting as a fairly small crime, something closely associated with youthful indiscretion, the reality is that more frequently, these cases involve some type of organized criminal activity.
The National Retail Federation reported that last year, 96 percent of stores were affected by organized retail theft. That was a record number, and a 2 percent uptick from a year earlier.
Florida Statute 812.014 describes theft as the action of knowingly obtaining, using or trying to obtain or use another person’s property with the intent to deprive another of rights to that property and appropriate the property as her own, even though he or she is not entitled to do so.
Penalties for this crime depend on the type of item stolen, the value of that item, from whom it was stolen and whether you caused any property damage in carrying out the act.
For example, if you steal a motor vehicle or a firearm, the offense will be a felony. If you cause ore than $1,000 in property damage in the course of committing a theft, you’ll be facing a felony of the first-degree. If you stole emergency medical equipment or law enforcement equipment or if it was valued at more than $20,000 but less than $100,000, you’ll be charged with a second-degree felony.
The law even goes into such detail for theft of items like:
–Large shipments of fruit;
But no matter what, if you are working with an organized crime ring, as opposed to on your own, you will face additional penalties.
These charges must be taken seriously.
It wasn’t long ago that the vast underground network of pain pill distribution from Florida to nearby states was dubbed the “Flamingo Express.”
Federal agents have been working hard to crack down, arresting doctors and pharmacists with copious pain prescription rolls, busting so-called pill mills and pursuing suspected street distributors.
Now, our Hollywood drug crimes defense attorneys understand that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has set its sights on the shipping companies. In particular, the agency is gunning for accountability from UPS and FedEx.
Specifically, the DEA is targeting orders of prescription drugs filled by online pharmacies, suggesting that the carriers have a responsibility to screen packages and alert federal officials of potential problems. The DEA says both firms have knowingly shipped illegally-prescribed drugs over the course of the last decade, and have failed to take any decisive action to prevent these shipments.
However, the two firms have had vastly different responses to these probes.
On the one hand, UPS agreed to forfeit $40 million it had previously collected for shipments from online pharmacies. It also settled on the implementation of a corporate compliance program, which essentially amounted to barring online pharmacies from using its services.
FedEx, however, has pushed back – hard. The shipping company said that the kind of controls that the DEA is talking about implementing are not only absurd, they are “disturbing.” For starters, such action has the potential to threaten the privacy of its customers, said one spokesperson.
The representative further noted that shipping carriers are not law enforcement. They aren’t trained to detect which pills are illegal and which aren’t, and doing so would be a time-consuming and costly undertaking.
This investigation is only the latest in a host of those brought by the DEA against doctor’s offices or companies that distribute or sell prescription pain medications, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.
In another of these cases, the DEA is squaring off with Walgreens in a criminal federal D.C. courtroom, claiming that the firm’s South Florida distribution center has been filling orders for high volumes of prescription painkillers without conducting any kind of internal inquiry about those orders. The firm’s distribution center, based in Jupiter, is the top distributor of oxycodone and oxycodone products in the state.
In one case, the DEA reportedly discovered more than 3,200 bottles of oxycodone had been distributed over a 40-day period, despite the fact that the town where the pharmacy was located had just 3,000 residents.
Walgreens has said it is cooperating with the DEA.
Last year, a federal judge in D.C. upheld a similar action from the DEA against a different distribution center in Lakeland.
Even Google hasn’t been exempt from the DEA’s focus. Last year, the company forked over $500 million in a criminal case, after the U.S. Justice Department had alleged it had knowingly run advertisements from illegal online pharmacies that were based out of the country, but catering to U.S. consumers.
Really, the question comes down to what extent legitimate companies can be held accountable for customer activities.
The only thing that is for certain at this point is that the DEA is not losing steam on this track.
Illegal possession and trafficking of prescription drugs are serious offenses that can carry long-term prison sentences. If you are arrested, consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer before offering any statement to law enforcement.
The latest in a string of massage parlor arrests happened recently in Hallandale Beach, where three women were arrested on charges of prostitution, earning money from prostitution and practicing health care without a license.
Our Broward criminal defense lawyers know that while prostitution is generally a misdemeanor offense – which means you aren’t automatically afforded an attorney – many law enforcement agencies are going after these crimes as felonies by attempting to spin them as instances of human trafficking.
It was on this basis back in January that officials with the Florida State Massage Therapy Association teamed up with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. The goal is specifically to shut down so called “Oriental massage” parlors in which those practicing massage therapy aren’t actually licensed. At some of these locations it’s believe women, mostly Chinese nationals, have been held against their will and forced to engage in sex acts with clients.
The state of Florida requires that massage therapists have some 500 hours of experience and applying for a license is contingent upon passing a state board examination. The entire process costs between $10,000 and $20,000.
In the last several months, the task force has received more than five dozen reports of massage parlors that were either illegally operated or that were promoting prostitution.
But it’s not just unlicensed facilities that are getting caught up. In the course of these investigations, the board has revoked about 20 massage licenses, while another 55 have been voluntarily surrendered.
From a defense standpoint, the approach would be different, depending on which party we were defending. For someone accused of prostitution, we might argue that such action was not undertaken willfully and that this individual was a victim more than anything else.
A first-time prostitution offense carries a 60-day jail term, though most of our prostitution clients don’t end up serving anywhere near that. If we can prove that our client was a human trafficking victim, the charges could be dropped entirely.
However, with the defense of a massage parlor owner, more resources and an aggressive approach would be required, particularly if the individual is charged with human trafficking.
Florida Statute 796.045 holds that any person who knowingly recruits, harbors, entices, transports or obtains a person with the knowledge that coercion, fraud or force will be used to cause that individual to engage in prostitution, will be found guilty of a second-degree felony, which is punishable by 15 years in prison per count. That charge is bumped up to a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison, if the individual procured is 14 or younger.
In the most recent case, the trio of women arrested were in their 30s and 40s. The arrest followed a sting operation involving two undercover officers.
In the first instance, the undercover officer entered the business early last month and was told to go into a back room, disrobe and lie on the massage table. He was given a massage on his back for about a half an hour before being instructed to turn over. Within a few minutes, he reported, the female masseuse offered to perform a sex act on him. He asked how much it would cost and she replied the cost was “a good tip.” He then said next time and the session quickly ended.
The next time, about three weeks later another officer paid $70 for an hour-long massage. The same reported scenario unfolded.
The arrests were initiated about a week later.
There is little question that the defendant was cheated.
However, our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers understand that what started out as an unpaid debt of a few hundred dollars quickly dissolved into death threats against those in the law enforcement community.
The defendant might never have been caught either, had he not been stopped for a simple speeding ticket.
Sometimes it’s like that, and cases often come down to chance. What defendants must not leave to chance is their legal defense.
In this case, the defendant is facing up to 50 years in a federal prison. A thorough and experienced attorney will be critical to winning him the best shot at freedom.
According to media reports, the defendant loaned $750 to a stripper. We don’t know much about why that loan was made, but we do know that the dancer did not appear in a hurry to pay it back. Eventually, he was paid – $7.50 and a visit by the dancer’s boyfriend, who warned the defendant was best to simply leave her alone, or threatened that he would suffer physical injury.
The defendant reported this incident to police. But no action was taken.
Enraged, the defendant mailed out letters to a Palm Beach judge, sheriff’s deputy and prosecutor at both their work and home addresses. Each correspondence contained threats and intimidating language – and they were made to seem as if the dancer’s boyfriend had sent them, by stating their families would be harmed if charges against the boyfriend were not dropped.
The details of the letters were graphic. They described shootings, explosives and mutilation of body parts.
Police questioned the dancer’s boyfriend, who denied writing the letters, but did reveal to police his ongoing trouble with the defendant.
Still, there wasn’t any solid proof he had written them.
Then, the defendant got a speeding ticket. In short order, the police chief of that agency, his wife and the neighbor of the officer who stopped him – all received similar written death threats in the mail.
Detectives later searched the defendant’s home computer, and found a number of the letters stored in files there.
Defense lawyers aren’t denying that he wrote the letters. Their contention at this point, however, is that he has no criminal record and he never had any intention to carry out the acts he described. It was pointed out that when authorities searched his home, they found no guns, knives, explosives or other weapons that might indicate he was serious about any of it.
A psychologist for the defense argued that the defendant presented a low risk of future violence. Still, the U.S. Magistrate determined that he should be held without bond, based on the severity of the threats and the specific nature of the timing described in some of them.
There were reportedly 10 threatening letters sent out in all. The defendant faces a maximum of five years and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count.
Florida Criminal Lawyers