DOJ Changes Position on False Statements Prosecutions

The federal government will frequently charge individuals with a violation of 18 USC 1001 for giving a False Statement to a Government Agency.  To be convicted under that section, a person must act “willfully” in making false statements to investigators.  Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has quietly adopted a more defense-friendly position on such prosecutions.  Federal prosecutors are now told that in order to prove a person acted willfully in providing a false statement to a federal agency, they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew that making the statement was unlawful – not just that the statement was false.  This is a material change in the government’s charging decisions that could affect future white collar investigations and prosecutions under Section 1001.

Such prosecutions have ensnared such high-profile defendants as Martha Stewart and former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.  In short, the government must now prove that the statement was false and the person making the false statement knew that making a false statement was unlawful.

 

Palmieri Law Voted Best Law Firm of North Tampa

The Tampa Tribune Reader’s Poll of 2012 has rated Palmieri Law as the Best Law Firm in its Reader’s Poll of 2012. This was a result of countless reader’s voting and confirming the hard work that Lori Doganiero Palmieri and her staff has worked hard to achieve over the last 9 years in private practice.  If you or a loved one is in need of criminal defense representation in state or federal court, why not go to the best – the expert in Criminal Trial Law – Palmieri Law.

Operation Rainmaker: A Tax Fraud Epidemic

Earlier this year, Tampa police detectives realized a decrease in the amount of drug dealers on street corners. Instead of feeling relieved, detectives became worried – this was the first red flag that something was up.

Where was everyone? How were they making money? According to a recent investigation, they were allegedly involved in a money-spinning tax fraud business bringing in $130 million. Instead of putting themselves in danger on street corners, the individuals involved could do this job from the comfort of their own homes; all they needed was a laptop.

As reported by the Seminole Heights Patch, a suspect told Tampa Police Detective Sal Augeri, “Why would I take the risk to sell drugs and get busted when I can put $10,000 on a card and do it all day long from home while the cartoons are on?”

The operation was not sophisticated. The suspects allegedly would log onto sites like Ancestry.com, dig up information on victims (living and deceased) and eventually steal their identity. Another workaround was to buy the information from people who had access to social security numbers (prisons, businesses etc.).

After the information was obtained, the suspect could go to electronic tax filling applications like TurboTax, file a fraudulent claim and have the refund sent somewhere that was untraceable to the individual. Taxpayers soon discovered they could not claim their tax refunds because one had already been filed – this was the second red flag.

The third red flag, and the one that led to the entire investigation, was the fact that police officers were pulling over suspects and finding laptops and Green Dot credit cards.

Making any moves in the investigation was difficult because of the restrictions set by the IRS. The police had to find a way around the obstacles under a federal law that prevents law enforcement from gaining access to tax returns.

Tampa Police Department has joined forces with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Secret Service, the US Postal Inspection Service, the State Attorney’s Office 13th Judicial Circuit and the US Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida. The investigation, named Operation Rainmaker, has resulted “…in $100 million in intercepted taxes, $5 million in recovered taxes and assets, and $25 million in stolen taxes.”

Although we are making progress in the Tampa area, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said, “My gut feeling is that this is happening throughout the United States.” This case is a classic example of why citizens must be vigilant in the protection of their personal identification information, especially for the elderly and their children.

DUI Prosecution Made Easier?

The Intoxilyzer 8000 is the official breath-testing unit used in the State of Florida for suspected drunken drivers. The machine prints out a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) report that is analyzed by a specialist and used as dominant evidence in court.

The Intoxilyzer 8000 is not a cheap piece of machinery and neither is the required expert that must be present in court to testify regarding the validity of the results. A Herald Tribune article stated that prosecutors for years felt their only option was to hire “Matthew Malhiot, a former Florida Department of Law Enforcement employee who charged them $1,200 a day to appear in court.” Facing such a large expense, prosecutors decided they wanted to cut ties with Malhiot and hire current FDLE employees to testify instead.

On Thursday, a Sarasota County judge approved the decision to allow state employees to say that the machine is scientifically reliable and that the results are valid. Criminal defense attorneys, especially those who specialize in DUI defense, may find this decision surprising. The expert who analyzes the machine’s data is supposed to be independent and impartial to the trial. Having a state employee (one who often testifies in DUI cases anyways) as the witness who validates the reliability of the Intoxilyzer 8000 could be viewed as a conflict of interest. Although this may save money and make prosecuting easier in DUI cases, the job of the criminal defense lawyermay become more difficult. It will be interesting, however, to see if an argument surrounding this possible conflict of interest emerges as a plausible DUI defense.

If FDLE is going to testify that their own procedures are scientifically valid, where’s the unbiased opinion that court’s should rely on?

Tampa Teen Arrested with Alleged Plans to Surpass Columbine Massacre

“I just did the dumbest thing ever [sic]” was 17-year-old Jared Cano’s Facebook status update hours before he was arrested for allegedly plotting to kill school officials and students with home-made bombs.

What Cano is referring to as “the dumbest thing ever” is unclear, but we do know that immediately after a anonymous tip came in about Cano’s plan, the bomb squad was at his Tampa apartment. It is likely that Cano had shared his plan, and that someone called the police. Some are calling this anonymous tipster a “local hero”.

Cano had a manifesto found by police that detailed his every move and motive. According to an ABC article, his goal was to surpass “the number of students who were killed and injured during the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.” With such serious claims found in Cano’s manifesto, it will be interesting to see what route his criminal defense attorney advises him to take.

With an existing criminal record to begin with, Cano has been accused of threatening to throw, project, place or discharge a destructive device, possession of bomb-making materials, cultivation of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana.

Cano currently sits in juvenile lockup while the state attorney’s office decides whether or not he will be charged as an adult. Given the seriousness of these allegations and the defendant’s age, he will likely face these charges in adult court.

How are you prosecuted for Mortgage Fraud if there is no Federal Statute?

While there is no federal statute that references “mortgage fraud” directly, recent news articles abound on the subject. In four separate cases in South Florida, the U.S. Attorney accuses 27 of mortgage fraud, according to an August 4th article posted on LoanSafe.org. On the same day, an Arizona builder pleads guilty to mortgage fraud, according to KTAR.com and fox news cited that 14 have been charged in a $60 Million mortgage fraud scheme. The list goes on…

Cases involving “mortgage fraud” are typically prosecuted under existing federal statutes involving conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud, false statements to an FDIC-Insured Bank and others. Ancillary offenses, including tax fraud and bankruptcy fraud can also be charged following a “mortgage fraud” investigation. Depending on the number of properties involved and the dollar amount of the loss, penalties vary widely and can involve real estate agents, mortgage brokers, real estate attorneys, title closers, appraisers, and straw buyers. Some of the schemes in the news are fairly elaborate, involving fraudulent mortgage applications, fake W-2s and tax stubs, fraudulent short sells and even arson and insurance fraud.

Sometimes innocent consumers unknowingly fall victim to unscrupulous real estate agents, bankers and brokers and may find that they are under investigation by the government for “mortgage fraud”. When this happens, it is critical to contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney before speaking to the government.

Casey Anthony: A not-so-free woman after all?

We’ve spent months following the Casey Anthony case, and until this past Monday, we didn’t think there would be anything left to write about. Then news broke that Casey Anthony had 72 hours to report back to Orlando to meet her probation officer.

We still don’t know Casey Anthony’s current whereabouts, but if she is ordered to serve probation, she will be required to provide an Orlando address to her probation officer. In most cases, the parolee’s address is public record, but exceptions can be made and given the public’s opinion in this case, that exception may be considered.

Anthony is facing the possibility of probation for check fraud charges that she plead guilty to last year. The confusion lies in whether or not Anthony’s jail time counted towards that probation. Anthony’s criminal lawyer argues yes, but Judge Stan Strickland says no. According to anMSNBC article, “Strickland said at the time he had meant that Anthony — found not guilty of killing her daughter and released in July — should serve the probation order if and when she was freed.”

On Tuesday, Cheney Mason filed a motion to disqualify Judge Strickland. Today, the judge has recused himself and the matter has been reassigned to Chief Judge Belvin Perry, the judge who presided over Anthony’s first-degree murder trial.

We will see whether Casey Anthony will be required by Judge Perry to return to Orlando to serve probation and whether she will abide by the court’s order. If a bench warrant issues for her arrest for failing to return to Orlando, the fever to locate her will be heightened. Media and law enforcement from across the country will seek to capture her arrest and return her to Florida. The public spectacle surrounding Casey Anthony will surely continue.

Manuel Valle’s Criminal Defense Attorney Successful in Staying Execution Over Drug Concerns

On Monday July 25, 2011 the Florida Supreme court determined that Manuel Valle, convicted of killing a police officer, had valid concerns regarding the new death penalty drug. As a result, Valle’s death sentence has been postponed until September 1.  In general, an inmate’s concerns elsewhere have not put a stop to executions.

According to an article published by Reuters, the Supreme Court determined that “[Valle] has raised a factual dispute, not conclusively refuted as to whether the use of pentobarbital in Florida’s lethal injection protocol will subject him to a ‘substantial risk of serious harm.’”

What is the difference between pentobarbital and sodium thiopental(the drug previously used)?

Not much except that Pentobarbital is often used to euthanize animals. The reason many correctional facilities are using the drug is because there is a shortage of sodium thiopental and it will not be made by U.S. manufacturers any more.

Valle’s lawyer’s argued that pentobarbital will subject him to substantial harm. It isn’t uncommon in recent days that a criminal defense attorney will argue the risk of harm to postpone a sentence.

Drug Offenses- What you should know.

Drug offenses are both Federal and State statutes. If you have left Florida or your state of residence and get charged with possession, you could be charged with a US Federal statute.

In the drug offense video below, Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyer Lori D. Palmieri states that the most recent, serious drug related crime is the possession of controlled substances.

“As we sit here in 2011, the primary focus of law enforcement is the distribution and possession of controlled substances that are prescription drugs.”

But that is obviously not the only type of drug that constitutes for a drug offense. Any type of drug from crack-cocaine to marijuana will land you a drug charge.

Penalties for drug offenses will be determined by any of the following factors:

  • – Quantity of the drug?
  • – Was it simple possession?
  • – Was it possession with intent to sell, distribute, and/or deliver?
  • – Were there weapons involved?

Drug cases are very fact specific. If evidence is wrongfully obtained or there were problems with the search and seizure, the possibility to move the court in motion of suppress is there. Generally, the case will go away.

A conviction of any drug offense can result in the loss of your Florida drivers license and the length of suspension depends on the specific factors of the crime. A qualified attorney will know what can be done to avoid or minimize the loss of a license.

 

I’ve Violated My Probation- Now What?

Unfortunately, there are many ways one can violate probation or community control (house arrest).

When you are under either probation or house arrest, you are placed under demands that limit your freedom including confinement to your home, weekly meetings with a probation officer, random drug tests etc,. (full list of probation violations )

Probation is given either in replace of jail time or following jail time. During this time period it is important to demonstrate to the courts that you are staying out of trouble.

Generally, people violate their probation the follow two ways:

1.) you are charged with a new crime, or

2.) You are given a ‘Technical Violation.’

House arrest is similar to probation, the only difference being that you are confined to your home unless instructed by the courts. Simply put, if you are not home you are violating house arrest.

If you violate your probation or house arrest, it is important to contact a Board Certified criminal defense lawyer to guide you through the next step.

After the violation, your probation officer will issue a warrant for your arrest. At this time officials have the right to arrest you at any given time or you could opt for self arrest. There is generally NO BOND for probation violators but law offices like Palmieri Law can expedite the bond hearing to reduce the time spent in jail.

If you do violate your probation or house arrest sanction, the most important thing you can do is contact a criminal defense lawyer. If you are in the Tampa area, Board Certified criminal defense lawyer Lori D. Palmieri has over 18 years experience with probation violation.

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