Articles Posted in Theft

The former rapper known as Vanilla Ice, whose real name is Robert Van Winkle, was arrested in Lantana on Wednesday on suspicion on burglary and grand theft.
According to the Lantana Police Department, burglary and grand theft charges are most likely forthcoming; Van Winkle is suspected of entering a vacant home, at some point between December and this month, and removing items including pieces of furniture, a pool heater and bicycles.

As our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers know, the vacant home did indeed have an owner, one who was displeased with the fact that the former rapper helped himself to the contents of the house.
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The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that no man shall be “compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,” which has been interpreted to mean that individuals retain the right against self-incrimination. Thus, in criminal proceedings or congressional hearings, when asked a question that could implicate the responder in a crime or wrongdoing, said person will often respond, “I plead the 5th,” meaning that they exercise their right not to answer a question that might incriminate them.
Our South Florida criminal defense attorneys know that as society evolves and becomes further inundated with technology, the criminal justice system becomes affected by that evolution. For example, one of the newest fads is to take “selfies,” photographs of onesself typically captured by way of snapping a photo from a smartphone, tablet, or some other handheld device or camera.

Based on multiple recent news reports, it is evident that individuals should be cautious about what information they choose to photograph and send out into the world. While not everything picked up by law enforcement officers can be used as evidence in a court of law, inadvertent tips and the like can certainly be used by police departments to track down a suspect or in determining whether or not to pay attention to the activities of a certain individual.
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Law enforcement officers in Palm Beach County are using a water spray called SmartWater CSI to catch burglars and deter other would-be criminals.
According to the Sun Sentinel, SmartWater CSI is a “high-tech liquid” that is encoded with a forensic fingerprint on put on pieces of property. The liquid can later be seen through an ultraviolet (UV) black light and identified at the SmartWater lab. Despite its tangible benefits, the substance is invisible.

The Palm Beach County Sherrif’s Office has disclosed that it expects the liquid technology to deter burglars and catch those who continue to steal. Still, our South Florida criminal defense lawyers know although this technology can potentially serve a good purpose, its harmful effects should not be ignored.
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The label “criminal defense attorney” implies that such a person is an attorney who defends criminals. Very often it is the case that criminal defense attorneys such as those at Leifert & Leifert are representing innocent individuals who have, through no fault of their own, been dragged into the messy world of criminal justice.
Did you know that Florida resident Carlos Gomez opened up a Wells Fargo bank account through which money was laundered? No? Well, neither did he. And that’s because he didn’t open the account. Back in 2011, Carlos Gomez was yanked out of his house at 5 A.M. and tossed in jail for two weeks, because a major U.S. bank had told investigators that a bank account used for laundering money was opened by Gomez when, in fact, it was not.

Accusations are made all the time, many of which lead to arrests, which are carried-out far too often. According to the FBI, 12,408,899 individuals were arrested in 2011 alone (the last year for which there is data). To put that in perspective, that’s about 4% of the entire U.S. population. Does this mean that 4% of the entire U.S. population should be in jail for committing crimes? No, because many of the people arrested are, in fact, innocent, just like Mr. Gomez. This case should demonstrate that just because someone is accused does not mean they are guilty. Often times, arrests made by law enforcement inflict far more harm than they prevent.
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The Fort Lauderdale couple succeeded in devising a creative retail theft plan that actually worked – at least for a while.
The two, who share an infant together, were able to heist some $36,000 worth of merchandise over the course of 50 transactions at various toy stores.

However, our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys understand that their bond amounts collectively amounted to their total alleged take in the scheme. Their modus operandi allegedly involved the purchase of one or two big-ticket items. A few days later, the two would return to the store, grab those same items off the shelves and then “return” those items for cash, using the original receipts. Many of the original items the couple then resold online.

Their scheme eventually unraveled when security officers, who had caught on to the operation, got law enforcement involved and a search warrant was secured. When the two entered one of the locations in Pembroke Pines, detectives were called and the couple was arrested on charges of grand theft, fraud and burglary.

Creative though their plans were, such operations are not unique, according to local, state and federal officials. This is why authorities have announced the formation of a retail task force, centralized in South Florida. A recent country-wide survey by the National Retail Federation revealed that retail theft losses in America amount to some $30 billion annually. The Miami metropolitan area ranks fourth in the U.S. for organized retail theft activity.

The task force, which will involve local, state and federal investigators, will be homing in on larger-scale, organized theft operations. Still, we suspect the number of smaller cases will spike as well, with store security and other staffers being hyper-vigilant on the issue.

Another higher-stakes shoplifting case was reported recently in Fort Lauderdale at a box chain electronics store, where officials say a pair of individuals broke in by cutting a hole in a side wall of a neighboring business. Surveillance cameras show the two ransacking the display cases, making off with some $90,000 worth of equipment. Officials believe that is linked to an earlier report of a similar theft at the same store, though at a different location, back in April. Officials are also exploring whether there could be a link between this and a similar rash of retail burglaries in Largo.

Theft is defined in Florida Statute 812.014 as knowingly obtaining or using – or trying to obtain or use – someone else’s property with the intent to deprive them of said property either temporarily or permanently. The severity of the charge depends on how much was allegedly stolen.

Taking of property valued at under $300 is going to be considered petty theft. Anything above that but less than $20,000 is going to be deemed a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Between $20,000 and $100,000, it’s going to be a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years. Anything above $100,000, and you could be looking at as much as 30 years in prison.

All of this doesn’t even delve into the fact that such burglaries are often charged in connection with other crimes, such as burglary or fraud.

While there is a tendency to think of shoplifting as a relatively minor crime, the fact is, having a conviction for such an offense on your record is likely to significantly impact your future employment options, among other things.

Simply pleading guilty is almost never the best answer.
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It seemed for a while that copper thefts in South Florida may have tapered off.
Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys know that at the bottom of the housing market, after the bubble burst, the real estate landscape was littered with vacant homes, many of which were left abandoned and unsecured, leaving them vulnerable to copper mining. This was exacerbated by the fact that the price of copper began to soar, starting in 2004.

The problem was universal across the country, as evidenced by a 2010 report issued by the U.S. Department of Energy, which had detailed legislative and law enforcement measures taken to curb the problem.

But it was particularly bad in Florida, which was central to the housing market crisis.

It has trended downward in the last several years, as the price of copper has also declined, as has the wealth of opportunity with fewer vacant, unsecured homes to which potential thieves have access.

However, a recent incident out of Davie illustrates the practice isn’t dead.

According to the Sun Sentinel, a 52-year-old man was arrested on charges of burglary, grand theft and battery, as well as several other unrelated charges.

The incident occurred at an electric company, where the defendant used to be employed.

The company owner said there had been three prior break-ins at the site within the past 30 days. He suspected a former employee was involved, but he had no proof.

So on a recent Monday night, he decided to stay on the property overnight, to see if he could catch the responsible parties.

The owner said he was awakened around 3:30 a.m. to the sound of someone hopping over the fence. He noted the suspect’s pickup truck outside the lot, and he quickly ran over and punctured the tires so that the individual would not be able to escape.

A few moments later, the owner said he saw the defendant attempting to climb over the fence with a large spool of copper wiring. The owner raced over to the edge of the fence and attempted to keep the defendant inside the yard by striking him with a stick through the holes of the fence. At one point, the defendant reportedly kicked the owner in the chest, causing him to fall to the ground.

The defendant did eventually make it to his vehicle. However, he soon was stranded, as his tires were flattened. Police arrived on the scene soon after and held him there until the owner of the company identified him.

The defendant gave a statement to the police, saying that while he had kicked the owner, he had never actually entered the yard.

Even at this point, it would appear the evidence favors the owner. Add to that then the fact that there was also surveillance video, which reportedly showed the defendant hopping the fence to the inside of the yard, grabbing a spool of copper wire from the back of the truck and tussling with the owner before he made it to his truck.

The video shows a man using some type of gray cloth to cover the lower portion of his face. A similar gray cloth was discovered in the back seat of the defendant’s truck.

That’s a heavy burden of proof for the defense to overcome, and it was likely made worse by the defendant giving a statement to police. We can not stress enough here in this blog how critical it is to practice your right to remain silent and request an attorney.

We don’t know the exact value of the copper taken in this case, but judging by the fact that he is charged with grand theft, we can assume that the property was worth at least $300. Typically, this is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

However, per Florida Statute 812.014, if the individual commits grand theft and also either uses a motor vehicle to assist in the offense and therefore damages the real property of another person or simply by virtue of the crime causes damage in excess of $1,000, he or she may then be charged with a first-degree felony. That is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
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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:
–Stop signs;
–Fire extinguishers;
–Large shipments of fruit;
–Farming animals;
–Anhydrous ammonia;
–Controlled substances.

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.
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The grainy, black-and-white surveillance video captured by a camera at a Fort Lauderdale condo complex appears to show two motorcycles being brazenly stolen from the parking lot – a crime police say is becoming increasingly common. motorbike.jpg

Just a week earlier, a motorcycle shop was broken into around 4 in the morning, a pickup truck driven through the front window and then loaded up with four bikes. An hour before that, another shop in Miami was robbed of two dirt bikes in the same way.

The reason our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers have taken note is because these types of crimes (seemingly victimless, as insurance companies often cover the losses) carry stiff penalties for anyone convicted. And while heisting the bikes has historically been incredibly easy, getting away with it is getting much harder, due to GPS technology that alerts owners when the vehicle has been moved.

In fact, North Miami police recently reported that it was a GPS device on a single bike that led them to a so-called “chop shop” that was being operated inside a home residence. There, officers say motorcycle parts from approximately 100 or so stolen bikes were stacked up to the ceiling. That was Nov. 30, and it was believed to be one of the largest such operations ever uncovered in South Florida. Two men were arrested in connection with the operation, and more arrests could be pending.

In another case, bikes were reportedly being stolen from South Florida streets and then smuggled onto container shops and sent to buyers in the Caribbean, where such vehicles are often more common than cars.

In that situation, investigators honed in on a middle man during a year-long investigation kicked off by a tipster. Lower-level thieves reportedly called this individual after they had stolen a motorcycle. The middleman would then find a buyer, pay a few thousand dollars – give or take – for the bike and then personally deliver it to the buyer. He was making roughly $500 per deal. A former mechanic, he also took orders from buyers, many of whom were ordering newer bikes that retail for upward of $25,000. It took six law enforcement teams to take the team down. Six individuals were arrested on charges such as racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering and dealing in stolen property.

Florida Statute 812.014 governs theft crimes. Theft of any motor vehicle is typically charged as a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison. If you are found to be operating within a larger operation, you could be looking at conspiracy or racketeering charges, and possibly even federal prosecution. Most defendants when arrested in these cases have no idea how gravely serious it is. It is absolutely critical to obtain an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible following arrest.

Especially if you are operating within a larger organization, it often comes down to who can strike a deal faster. You don’t want to be the last man (or woman) out.
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Three Fort Lauderdale men were reportedly arrested on the other coast, accused of committing organized burglary with ties to a nationwide identity theft ring. purse.jpg

Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers understand that authorities have dubbed these defendants members of a group called the “Felony Lane gang,” and have indicated connections between those arrested and multiple other identity-theft defendants based out of Fort Lauderdale.

It’s not clear whether these individuals were part of an actual gang, or whether that’s simply what authorities have chosen to call them, based on the similarity of their alleged crimes. That will be an important distinction for defense attorneys to focus on as the case moves forward, because Florida crimes committed for the furtherance of a gang result in stiffer penalties, per Florida Statute 874.04.

This case in particular stems from a vehicle burglary in Naples. Media reports indicate that the alleged victim parked her vehicle at a local veterinarian’s office and walked inside, leaving her purse behind. That’s when officials say one of the three men grabbed her purse from her unlocked vehicle and sped off.

The three were stopped by police a short time later and arrested.

That act alone would be considered burglary under Florida Statute 810.02. Burglary is defined as simply entering a home, business, structure or vehicle with the intent to commit an offense. So prosecutors don’t have to show that you necessarily took anything or did anything other than enter without permission with the intent of committing a crime.

Police seem to have evidence in this case of actual theft, as investigators found not only the woman’s stolen purse in the suspects’ vehicle, but also wigs, other “burglary tools,” stolen identification and bank addresses punched into the GPS.

Investigators are saying that the greater goal of this group is not so much a purse snatching here or there, but rather an organized effort of identity theft. Authorities say the wigs were intended to disguise the individuals as they entered the bank drive thru.

Individuals of this same operation have reportedly been arrested in Lincoln, Nebraska for nearly identical crimes.

It’s not clear in exactly what way these individuals are connected to one another, aside from the type of crimes they allegedly committed. However, if investigators could prove it was all part of a greater plan to benefit one operation, then gang penalty enhancements could be applied. It does not appear that has been done so far.

A gang enhancement is essentially the imposition of increased penalties for anyone who commits an offense in furtherance of a criminal gang.

So for example, a second-degree misdemeanor can actually be bumped up to a first-degree misdemeanor if prosecutors can show your actions were on behalf of the gang. If you’ve been charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, gang enhancements raise the charge to a third-degree felony. Same goes for every crime associated with a gang, all the way up to a first-degree felony. These are serious felonies that are already punishable by 30 years in prison. With a gang enhancement, you could be sentenced to life behind bars.

The RICO Act is another option under federal law. Used mostly in organized crime cases, the act permits for enhancement penalties, including civil forfeiture.
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A 37-year-old man was arrested in connection with the January 18 theft of a $6,500 watch from the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, CBS News is reporting.

Theft charges in Fort Lauderdale typically aren’t slap-on-the-wrist offenses. In fact, grand theft in Florida is punishable as a felony. Prosecutors can charge someone either with a first-degree, second-degree or third-degree felony.
That means that the possible prison sentence for a conviction can range from up to five years, to up to 15 years or up to 30 years or more. These are serious penalties for a charge of theft without any violence. As Florida Statutes 812.014 points out, grand theft charges depend on many factors.

Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers realize that police officers will attempt to file the most damaging charge they can against a suspect, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can prove it. When talking about theft charges, one must consider the value of the product.

According to the law, these charges hinge heavily on what the stolen goods are worth. If the stolen property is worth less, the suspect may face the third-degree felony version of grand theft. If it is high-dollar, the person could be looking at a first-degree felony.

But proving the value is a whole other thing. If the goods stolen are brand new, that’s one thing. But if they are used, in poor shape or have been affected by outside factors that could impact the value, which in turn could impact the charge.

And since determining the value is critical in cases like these, this could be a point of contention. Prosecutors must be able to clearly show how much a piece of stolen property is worth in order to prove the charge they are filing. If they can’t prove it, the person should be acquitted.

In this case, according to the news report, the man was caught on video surveillance at the airport last month. On the video, it shows a man walking through a security checkpoint and putting back on his shoes and other things.

As he’s putting things in his pockets and a laptop back into his bag, he looks down and sees a watch that is in the bin in front of his. He grabs the watch, puts it in his backpack and walks away. Earlier news reports stated that after the man walked away from the checkpoint, authorities were no longer able to capture him on camera.

The CBS News report states that sheriff’s deputies looking through hours of video surveillance attempting to find the man’s image on tape. They said they were able to confirm the man’s identity as a 37-year-old who lives in Sunny Isles. They told the news media the man also lives on Long Island.

Detectives went to several houses the man owns and when he opened the door, he alleged was wearing the watch on his wrist. Detectives arrested him and charged him with grand theft.
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