Family Members May Require Separate Legal Counsel

The wife of a man convicted of running an elaborate Ponzi scheme in South Florida is now facing her own criminal charges, along with the couple’s friend and other associates. diamondring.jpg

Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys understand that in some situations, family members do need to seek their own legal counsel. Frequently, an attorney can only represent one of the accused; to represent more than one could lead to a conflict of interest.

Even if you have not done anything wrong, you may still face allegations or criminal charges. Prosecutors may offer a deal to testify against co-defendants. A defense attorney with only one client involved in the case is in the best position to act in the best interests of that client.

In this case, the original defendant was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison. But it’s what happened after his arrest that got his wife and associates in trouble.

She and others were charged with conspiring to hide more than $1 million in jewelry from federal authorities, which would have otherwise been subject to federal seizure. Among those items squirreled away was a nearly 13-carat yellow diamond.

The wife, her close friend and an attorney all face a single charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which is a felony that could garner up to five years in prison. It can be prosecuted federally, though it is also a crime under Florida Statute 896.101. This statute states it is a crime to knowingly conduct or attempt to conduct a financial transaction knowing that the proceeds are from an unlawful activity with the intent of concealing the source, ownership or control of said proceeds.

Prosecutors allege that the trio attempted to unload the jewelry at a local jewelry store. This also ended up ensnaring two businessmen in criminal allegations, including charges of obstruction of justice and perjury.

These are the more common charges with regard to family and associates of those convicted. Usually, they would arise out of actions taken to protect the accused, such as fudging the facts to investigators or attempting to throw off investigators by providing false information. It’s not uncommon, particularly when you feel panicked and intimidated.

The fact is, you may be able to protect your relatives without implicating yourself by simply not answering questions at all, or doing so only under the supervision of your own attorney.

In this case, the wife has maintained that she was not aware of her husband’s criminal enterprises, and she has never been charged with any type of participation. However, upon his arrest in late 2009, authorities seized the couples homes, luxury cars, cash, jewelry and other items.

Whatever was left was divvied up among bankruptcy attorneys for families of victims.

Authorities now contend that before federal authorities took hold of those assets, a number of individuals were complicit in “stashing” certain jewelry items and attempting to have others sold off. The alleged plan was to then have the original defendant lie about the jewelry.

The newspaper reports that the wife, her friend and the attorney plan to negotiate a plea deal with prosecutors. Assuming they have no prior criminal record, it’s possible they may not receive jail time if they plea to a lesser charge.

If you are charged with a crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.

Additional Resources:
Feds accuse Kim Rothstein of concealing jewelry worth more than $1 million, By Jon Burstein, Sun Sentinel

More Blog Entries:
Florida Gang Crimes Can Lead to Harsher Penalties, July 27, 2012, Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

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