The phrase “Palm Beach white collar crime” may bring to mind images of a business executive, puffing away on a cigar in a high rise office suite.
But our Palm Beach County criminal defense attorneys know that white collar crime can actually take on a myriad of different forms. More than a dozen recent arrests on charges of fraud and money laundering illustrate this point.
According to reports from the News Channel 5, authorities have arrested 15 people – with 7 more suspects sought – in a public fraud sting known as “Operation Leap Fraud.”
The individuals caught up in the operation are accused of defrauding the government of millions of dollars by using false information to obtain benefits offered by public housing and food stamp programs.
It doesn’t appear from the news reports that the individuals arrested were necessarily working together. Rather, they are accused of committing individual acts of fraud.
One important aspect that an experienced criminal defense attorney should explore in these cases is whether the accused even realized they were committing a crime. A lot of this may ultimately come down to misunderstandings of the system, in which case the attorney can fight for potentially lowered or dropped charges.
For example, one case allegedly involved a landlord from Lake Worth who took his tenant’s monthly $800 government food subsidy as rent compensation. It is possible that the landlord did not realize this was illegal. Perhaps he was simply trying to help out a tenant who couldn’t otherwise afford a roof over his or her head – a very real problem for a growing number of people in this economy.
Another suspect from West Palm Beach is a 35-year-old mother who reportedly filed false information about a family member who was receiving benefits through her. Reportedly, her 15-year-old son is facing three murder with a firearm charges, making him ineligible to receive benefits. Another woman is accused of not disclosing all of the people who lived at her public housing residence. But again, how were officials able to discern what was active fraud and what may have been honest mistakes? This is something that defense attorneys for these individuals will need to sort out.
Other individuals netted in this round of arrests are accused of mortgage fraud, or essentially providing false information about debt in order to secure housing loans for people so they could ensure they would turn a profit.
Authorities say this is the third installment of the operation, and they expect several more will follow. All total, authorities say the fraud uncovered in this operation amounted to more than $960,000. That was all little by little, with theft amounts generally ranging between $800 to $100,000. Some are facing prison sentences surpassing 80 years – essentially, life behind bars.
Given the fact that law enforcement boasted about these arrest at joint press conferences, it’s clear they had hoped to be praised for their efforts. However, it will be interesting to see the depth of proof and how these cases actually play out in the courtroom.
If you are arrested in Palm Beach County or elsewhere in South Florida, contact Leifert & Leifert at 954-523-9600 or 561-988-8000 for a free consultation.