Articles Posted in white collar crimes

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is up for re-election in November, at which point he will face now-Democratic challenger former Gov. Charlie Crist in a battle over the top political position in the Sunshine State. Clearly, the Governor has a lot to deliberate and attend to, but our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense attorneys believe he hasn’t devoted enough time to considering changes to existing sentencing laws.
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Gov. Scott is in the midst of touring the state, with campaign stops in cities such as Tampa, Orlando and Miami, in an effort to reaffirm his “stay the course” strategy with regard to the current legal reguirement that prisoners (even non-violent ones) must serve at least 85% of their sentence. Scott promised voters that, if he is re-elected, he will not change his position on the issue.

Scott’s position, highlighted by the fact that he vetoed a bill in 2012 that would have cut prison sentences for non-violent offenders and placed them in drug rehabilitation programs, adds fuel to the raging fire that is our broken prison system.
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The alleged perpetrator was a bit unexpected, but the crime accused was not.
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A clerk of the court for Broward County was recently convicted for committing identity theft. Authorities say she used her job-related computer systems in the misdemeanor and traffic division to gain access to people’s personal information – names, driver’s license numbers, bank accounts, dates of birth, Social Security numbers – which she then sold to another person for cash. That second party then used the information to file phony tax returns submitted for government refund checks.

Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys recognize that South Florida has gained a reputation three years’ running: The No.1 hub of identity theft, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
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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.
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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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White collar crimes are becoming more common in this age of exponentially growing digital technology. Simply put: It’s become easier to carry them out.tieingthenecktie.jpg

Avoiding a conviction, however, is a different story. Law enforcement and prosecutors have become more sophisticated as well, and Broward County criminal defense attorneys know that successful representation in these cases requires a highly-skilled team of knowledgeable legal professionals.

Further, getting it right the first time around is of the utmost importance, because as the case of U.S. v. Wasilweski shows, second chances are hard to come by.

This was a federal case out of Illinois that was decided by the appellate court late last month. It involves a former assistant vice president/assistant manager at a Chase Bank branch in a Chicago suburb. This was an individual who was responsible for overseeing the everyday operations at the bank. Basically, he assigned teller safes and drawers, maintained codes for those safes and drawers and performed audits on those safes and drawers, as well as on cash dispensers. He had a key to the front door and the code to deactivate the alarm on the vault. He closed the bank every night, and he had half of a code that, when combined with one held by another employee, could open the teller cash dispensers.

One afternoon late last summer, the defendant reportedly entered the employee break room, and shut off the bank’s power for a moment, before turning it right back on again. He did the same thing about 1.5 hours later, only he didn’t turn the power back on. Later that evening, as he closed the bank, he also reportedly unplugged the bank’s master power supply boxes. He contacted the corporate office to remotely reset the alarm, but there was still no power at the facility throughout that evening – meaning there was no video surveillance inside the bank during that time.

At 2 a.m., he had returned to the bank. His PIN number was used to deactivate the vault alarm, which also protected the teller cash drawers. At that time, prosecutors say, he was able to heist $41,000 in cash. He then fled, and the next morning boarded a flight to the Dominican Republic.

There, customs officials searched his bag and found nearly $40,000 in U.S. currency. He was arrested, deported to Puerto Rico and then detained by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations. We was returned to Chicago, where he was federally charged with violation of 18 U.S.C. 656, embezzlement. He pleaded guilty last year, and was given six months of imprisonment, followed by three years of probation.

He might not have served anytime at all, but for a sentencing enhancement he received for abuse of trust. It was upon this basis that the prison sentence was challenged. The appellate court found that while such an enhancement would not apply for an ordinary teller or employee, the bank had trusted him with access to large sums of money and he was specifically responsible for keeping that money safe. As such, the appellate court ruled that the enhancement should stand.

There are all kinds of sentencing enhancements that Florida defendants can receive, meaning you will get more time behind bars than you otherwise would. Some of these enhancements include:

–Crimes committed by gang members or for the benefit of a gang;
–Crimes committed while you are on parole or probation;
–Crimes committed by a habitual offender;
–Crimes that resulted in severe injury to a victim.
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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.

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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.
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