Articles Posted in Federal Crime

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When a criminal conviction is invalidated on appeal, the state is obligated to refund fees, court costs and restitution paid by the defendant, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month.

In Nelson V. Colorado, a violation of due process rights was found under the 14th Amendment. The state’s statute regarding compensation for the exonerated, which allows the retention of conviction-related assessments until the exonerated person proves his or her innocence by clear and convincing evidence in a civil court proceeding.

“Is there a risk of erroneous deprivation of defendant’s’ interest in return of their funds if, as Colorado urges, the Exoneration Act is the exclusive remedy? Indeed yes, for the act conditions refund on defendant’s’ proof of innocence by clear and convincing evidence,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority. “But to get their money back, defendants should not be saddled with any proof burden.”

Two petitioners both had convictions dealing with sexual abuse or attempted sexual abuse of children. One was ordered to pay $8,192.50 in fees, and was acquitted of all charges on appeal. The Colorado Department of Corrections kept $702.10 of that money. The other petitioner had one conviction reversed on direct review, and the others were vacated on post-conviction review. He was ordered to pay $4,413 in fees, and paid the state $1,977.75 after his conviction.

Neither person filed a claim under the state’s Exoneration Act, but both petitioned the court for a refund. The first petitioner’s trial court denied her motion, and the second petitioner’s post-conviction court refunded costs and fees, but not restitution. The Colorado Court of Appeal reversed, but the state supreme court found that since the two did not file a claim under the statute, the trial courts did not have the authority to grant refunds.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the majority. Justice Neil Gorsuch did not participate in the case.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a dissent, arguing that the majority did not address whether petitioners could show “a substantive entitlement” for the money they paid in accordance with their criminal convictions.

“No one disputes that if petitioners had never been convicted, Colorado could not have required them to pay the money at issue. And no one disputes that Colorado cannot require petitioners to pay any additional costs, fees, or restitution now that their convictions have been invalidated,” Thomas wrote. “It does not follow, however, that petitioners have a property right in the money they paid pursuant to their then-valid convictions, which now belongs to the state and the victims under Colorado law.”

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote a concurrence for the judgement, finding that the majority’s treatment of restitution wasn’t “grounded in any historical analysis.” He wrote at length about Mathews v. Eldridge, a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court case that established a three-part balancing test to determine if the government must offer a hearing to a citizen who faces losing his or her property.

“The Court summarily rejects the proposition that ‘equitable considerations’ might militate against a blanket rule requiring the refund of money paid as restitution…but why is this so,” Alito writes. “What if the evidence amply establishes that the defendant injured the victims to whom restitution was paid but the defendant’s conviction is reversed on a ground that would be inapplicable in a civil suit?”

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The Justice Department announced Wednesday it’s charging hundreds of individuals across the country with committing Medicare fraud worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

This is the largest takedown in history, in regards to the number of people charged and the loss amount, according to the Justice Department.

The majority of the cases being prosecuted involve separate fraudulent billings to Medicare, Medicaid or both for treatments that were never provided.

In one case, a Detroit clinic that was actually found to be a front for a narcotics diversion scheme billed Medicare for more than $36 million, the Justice Department said.

The actual numbers:

  • $900 million in false billing
  • $38 million sent from Medicare and Medicaid to one clinic to carry out medically unnecessary treatments
  • $36 million billed to Medicare by a Detroit clinic that was actually a front for a narcotics diversion scheme
  • 1,000 law enforcement personnel involved
  • 301 defendants charged across the United States
  • 61 of those charged are medical professionals
  • 36 federal judicial districts involved
  • 28 of those charged are doctors

A doctor in Texas has been charged with participating in schemes to bill Medicare for “medically unnecessary home health services that were often not provided.”

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A federal corrections officer from Clermont has been sentenced to two years in federal prison after pleading guilty in September to accepting a bribe by a public official.

According to the Department of Justice, the 32-year-old officer used his position as a correctional officer at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Sumter County to smuggle contraband to inmates in exchange for money beginning in January.

The Department of Justice said federal agents monitored a June 18 meeting between the officer and a cooperating witness. During that meeting, the officer allegedly accepted $2,600 for items that he already smuggled into the prison.

Investigators met with the officer, and he apparently admitted he illegally negotiated $7,100 in cash payments in return for smuggling cell phones, prescription pills, tobacco, and other items to federal inmates.

Bribery charges are often highly publicized in the media. These crimes not only capture the public’s attention, but they have the ability to end careers and damage reputations. If convicted, the accused faces severe consequences, including lengthy time behind bars.

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The Justice Department announced new rules recently that would potentially make thousands of federal inmates eligible for presidential grants of clemency, including a requirement that candidates must have served at least 10 years of their sentences and have no history of violence.

The six conditions announced by Deputy Attorney General James Cole, ban inmates with ties to criminal gangs, organized crime groups and drug cartels, and are designed to broaden access to early release for non-violent offenders who were sentenced to long prison terms under mandatory minimum-sentencing policies.

Up to 13 percent of the federal prison system’s 216,000 inmates have served 10 years or more, but not all would qualify for consideration, based largely on their criminal histories.

Eligibility requirements include:

  • Inmates whose sentences would be substantially lower if convicted of the same offenses today because of changes to the sentencing structure.
  • Inmates who have demonstrated good conduct in prison.
  • Inmates with no history of violence before or during their term of imprisonment.

“Let there be no mistake, this clemency initiative should not be understood to minimize the seriousness of our federal criminal law,” the deputy attorney general said. “Our prosecutors and law enforcement agents worked diligently and honorably to collect evidence and charge these defendants and then fairly and effectively obtained their convictions. … However, some of them, simply because of the operation of sentencing laws on the books at the time, received substantial sentences that are disproportionate to what they would receive today.”

Cole said most eligible applicants would probably be drug offenders, other offenders could qualify if they meet the new requirements, including so-called career criminals.

Recently, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to reduce sentencing guideline levels applicable to most federal drug offenders.

The commission estimated that 70 percent of federal drug trafficking defendants would qualify for the change, and their sentences would decrease an average of 11 months, or 17 percent, from 62 months to 51.

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A resident of Hazlet, New Jersey was recently surprised with an unexpected delivery showed up addressed to a person who does not live there. The surprise was 50 pounds of marijuana, to be exact.

Police in the town responded to the situation and found about $100,000 worth of pot in the boxes, according to reports.

With the hopes of finding who the package was really intended for, they posted photos of the haul on their Facebook page Thursday, writing: “If you were expecting these packages and would like to claim them, please come to Police Headquarters. In the meantime our detectives will be working with County, State, and Federal Law Enforcement agencies to locate the owner of this property.”

At Whittel & Melton, our Florida Drug Crimes Defense Lawyers fight for the rights of those facing any kind of charge involving marijuana. If your are facing drug charges, we can help guide you through this stressful time. We will challenge any of the prosecution’s allegations and will fight aggressively to suppress all illegally obtained evidence.

We will work tirelessly to have your charges reduced or dropped. Call us today at 866-608-5529 or contact us online to set up a free consultation.

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A grow house was busted in Seminole County Tuesday and resulted in the arrests of five suspects from Miami.

The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office City-County Investigative Bureau reported that a deputy patrolling the 800 block of Winona Drive in Geneva smelled a very strong odor of marijuana coming from a home.

The CCIB obtained a search warrant and deputies allegedly found a large-scale marijuana grow operation with 49 mature plants and a large amount of harvested marijuana.

Investigators claim the majority of the plants averaged four feet in height and were located in the garage of the house and smaller plants were found in a bedroom.

Agents estimate the grow house had the potential to generate over $880,000 worth of marijuana annually, according to reports.

Five suspects from Miami were arrested and charged with trafficking over 25 pounds of marijuana.

All five suspects are being held without bond at the John E. Polk Correctional Facility.

Grow house cases usually involve large-scale operations, multiple suspects and can span across county and even state lines. If you are facing drug manufacturing or cultivation charges, you undoubtedly need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Our Florida Drug Crimes Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are strong advocates for those accused of both state and federal drug crimes. As former prosecutors, we know how to identify weaknesses in the state’s case and explain why those weaknesses require a dismissal or at least a reduction in the charges.

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A federal jury found a 40-year-old Windermere man guilty of 11 counts of wire fraud and 4 counts of filing a false tax-related document.

He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud count and up to 3 years’ imprisonment for each false document charge.

The man’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 19, 2015. He was indicted on April 9, 2015.

According to the evidence presented at trial, from 2006 through 2012, the accused was employed as the personal assistant to an NBA basketball player, who has since retired from professional basketball. During calendar years 2008 through 2011, the man apparently stole approximately $2,188,170 from the ball player by making unauthorized online banking money transfers from one of his bank accounts into three different bank accounts that the man controlled. The man spent these funds on his own personal expenses, including mortgage payments for his home in Windermere, and the purchase of a Ferrari and a Range Rover.

The man also filed false joint income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service for each of these years. In these tax returns, he and his wife never reported more than $60,000 in gross income, when in fact their joint income was significantly greater due to the money the man stole from the former basketball player.

This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, with assistance from the United States Secret Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Andrew C. Searle.

Wire fraud can range in criminal acts, including fraudulent schemes for phishing emails, sending electronic checks or money to banks, or communications over the Internet or telephone.

The essential elements of wire fraud include the following:

  • The defendant intentionally devised or participated in a scheme to defraud another out of money
  • The defendant did so with the intent to defraud
  • It was foreseeable that interstate wire communication would be used
  • That interstate wire communication was used

The term “interstate wire communications” is broad, and refers to any type of transmission by wire, radio, or television communication, including, but not limited to, writings, signs, pictures, faxes, or sounds used in interstate or foreign commerce.

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Two men pleaded guilty Thursday to importing more than 24 pounds of the main ingredient in the street drug flakka from China to Broward County.

Federal authorities arrested a 25-year-old Orlando man and a 21-year-old Clermont man in June after they allegedly attempted to pick up packages from a shipping and mailbox store in Hollywood.

Homeland Security Investigations agents claim the packages contained the key ingredient for making the synthetic stimulant, which often causes hallucinations and psychosis.

The packages were apparently addressed to fake names and were intercepted while being shipped to commercial mailboxes in Weston and Hollywood, according to authorities.

The men apparently ordered large amounts of the drug to be shipped from labs in China and the conspiracy occurred from January to early June, according to the plea agreement.

According to reports, the men paid cash for mailbox services and used fake identities when they picked up the shipments.

At a federal court hearing in West Palm Beach, both men pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to import the drug ingredient.

The charge carries a maximum punishment of 20 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine.

The drug has been linked to several deaths in South Florida as well as many incidents of bizarre behavior.

Federal law makes it a crime to traffic drugs. Drug trafficking charges involves bringing an illegal substance from another place within the United States to another. Special consequences apply to the importation of drugs-bringing drugs from outside the United States into the country.

The penalties for violating federal drug importation laws depends on several factors- the drug involved, the quantities seized, whether use of the drug caused serious bodily injury or death and whether the person convicted has any previous drug-related convictions. Regardless of the circumstances, all the penalties are quite severe. A first conviction for a just a small quantity of a controlled substance, where no injury or death results, carries a minimum of 10 years in prison and a hefty fine.

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A registered sex offender in Gainesville has been charged with possession of child pornography after police allege he had many illegal images on his cellphone. According to an arrest report, an investigation is also underway into whether he had sex with a child.

The 23-year-old man was charged with possessing photographs of sexual performances by children, a Gainesville Police Department report states.

The photographs allegedly show a child who appears to be prepubescent having sex with a man. Other alleged photos of a sexual nature involving children were also found.

The arrest report claims that the man admitted to downloading and viewing the other images of a sexual nature.

Police were apparently alerted to the man through calls to authorities regarding his downloading images and having urges for sex with a boy, according to a dispatch log.

During a police interview, the man allegedly confessed that he had sex with an unidentified 9-year-old, the report states. That case is currently under investigation.

Records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show the man was convicted in 2010 of lewd and lascivious battery on a victim under the age of 16 and lewd and lascivious molestation on a victim under the age of 12. The cases were in Levy County.

Either state or federal authorities can prosecute child pornography cases, however, in recent years, the majority of cases involving child porn have been brought in federal courts. Federal sentencing guidelines are much more severe than similar prosecutions in state courts. The prosecution of federal child pornography and other types of sex crime cases has significantly increased in the past decade, with 86 cases in 1995 to 1,769 cases in 2013.

Prosecutors in federal child pornography cases are quite aggressive, seeking years in prison for even the mere possession of illegal pictures. State cases tend to end in probation or shorter jail terms, but federal child porn offenses carry mandatory minimum sentences. In order to avoid the harsh consequences of a conviction, it is essential to not speak to police or prosecutors about your case without first seeking the advice of a criminal defense lawyer who has experience handling child pornography cases. Even if you are under investigation for child porn charges, you are still presumed innocent until proven guilty, but your case must be handled very carefully in order to achieve a favorable outcome.

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Alachua County sheriff’s deputies arrested a mother Sunday night after they allegedly found a home inhabited by a toddler that was full of ingredients used to cook methamphetamine.

The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office was called to a residence in the Hidden Oaks Mobile Home Park around 10 p.m., where they claim they found the front door open and a 2-year-old boy toddling about.

Deputies said a woman identified herself as the boy’s grandmother. They allege she appeared disoriented and told deputies she knew nothing of the reported disturbance.

The woman was not aware she was the only one there to watch the child, according to police.

A short time later, deputies allege a woman arrived and told deputies she was the boy’s mother. Deputies claim the 41-year-old mom also appeared disoriented and said she knew nothing of a disturbance.

Deputies searched the home for anyone else who may have called, and claim they found a trash bag filled with ingredients and tools used to cook methamphetamine using what is called the “one-pot” method.

The woman was charged with trafficking methamphetamine and possession of the drug with intent to distribute. She was booked into the Alachua County jail early Monday morning and was still awaiting a bond hearing.

Alachua County court records show Cannon was convicted in 2013 on a petty theft charge.

The boy is in relatives’ care and undergoing medical treatments monitored by the Florida Department of Children and Families, according to police.

DCF has launched its own investigation.

Meth manufacturing charges are very serious. Additionally, the presence of children can only increase the penalties you may face. After being charged with trafficking methamphetamine you need to seek legal help immediately. In order to provide you with the most effective defense of these charges, a criminal defense lawyer must understand the different methods used to make methamphetamine, including one-pot, shake and bake, anhydrous, and others, as well as the proper procedure law enforcement must follow at the scene.

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