Articles Posted in Federal Crime

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Federal authorities have charged the pastor of a Texas megachurch and a Louisiana financial planner with defrauding elderly investors out of more than $1 million.

The two men were charged Friday with six counts of wire fraud and five counts of money laundering, as well as one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has also filed civil charges against the men for the alleged fraud, which occurred from 2013 to 2014.

One man, 64, is the senior pastor of a church Houston, which is described by the SEC as “one of the largest Protestant churches in the U.S.” The Louisian man, 55, is the manager of a financial group in Shreveport.

They’re accused of bilking 29 mostly elderly investors by selling them Chinese bonds issued before the revolution of 1949, saying that their historical value made them “worth tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars” according to a court document from the SEC.

The bonds have no investment value.

The SEC says the bonds have been in default since 1939, and the “current Chinese government refuses to recognize the debt.”

The funds collected were used to pay for personal expenses, including mortgage payments and luxury automobiles.

The DOJ says they allegedly defrauded the investors out of more than $1 million. The SEC places that figure higher, at $3.4 million.

The maximum sentence, if they’re convicted, is 20 years with a $1 million fine, as well as restitution and forfeiture, according to the DOJ.

The crime of money laundering uses financial transactions to conceal the origin of money obtained through illegal activity, to make it appear that the money came from a legitimate source. This is a very serious offense that can carry severe penalties, including steep fines and jail time if you are found guilty.

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A 70-year-old Miami man was convicted of illegally steering state-court defendants to a corrupt clinic, which in turned fraudulently billed Medicare for more than $63 million.

He was sentenced to five years in prison, plus three years of supervised release. And he must pay back a staggering $9.9 million in restitution.

He was found guilty of getting illegal payments from a corrupt clinic called in Miami, which fraudulently billed the Medicare system for more than $63 million.

The man got a flat monthly rate based on the number of patients he referred to the clinic.

In all, the clinic apparently paid him$432,829 over six years, aside from his regular salary as a mental health care worker.

The clients referred to the clinic cost taxpayers between $9.5 million and $25 million in bogus claims between 2006 and 2012.

The man was arrested in June 2017. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and receive healthcare kickbacks.

The federal government has numerous laws in their back pocket in which they can pursue legal actions against those they believe are committing Medicare or healthcare fraud, including the False Claims Act, the Anti-Kickback Statute, the Physician Self-Referral Law, the Exclusion Statute, and the Civil Monetary Penalties Law.

Common claims brought under Medicare fraud include:

  • Overbilling for services provided
  • Unbundling services for higher payouts
  • Upcoding for a higher level of service than that which was actually performed
  • Billing for patients who do not exist
  • Submitting bills for services that were not actually performed

The consequences of a government prosecution against you for Medicare fraud could include the following:

  • Hefty fines
  • Exclusion from all government health care payment programs
  • Further disciplinary actions by other administrative agencies
  • Loss of your professional license
  • Criminal charges and jail time

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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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