Recently in White Collar Category

February 6, 2014

United States v. Keita - Credit Card Fraud Defense in D.C.

Recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice indicate that about 10 percent of Americans are targeted by credit card fraud annually. Another 7 percent are targeted for debit or ATM card fraud. In both cases, the median amount reported stolen is about $400.
Our D.C. criminal defense attorneys recognize that while this is a growing crime trend, most of these cases are allegedly perpetuated by small groups of people or individuals. This means that when someone is arrested, they usually face a lengthy list of charges.

Per D.C. Criminal Code 22-3223, credit card fraud is defined as any person who has the intent to defraud and obtains or pays for property or services using a credit card issued to another person without that person's consent. The charge may also apply if the card used has been revoked or cancelled or if the defendant knowingly falsifies or alters a card or represents that he or she is the holder of the card when in fact he or she is not.

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January 4, 2014

U.S. v. Pole - D.C. Theft and Wire Fraud Conviction Remanded on Restitution Issue

A former aide to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy may be successful in getting a restitution reduction following his conviction on five counts of wire fraud and one count of theft. The D.C. Circuit's Court of Appeals dismissed his evidentiary claims, but did remand the case back to the lower court for reconsideration on the issue of restitution.
The aide's D.C. wire fraud arrest and trial in U.S. v. Pole was closely watched by those here in the District, as many staffers in political offices are positioned to make similar errors.

Restitution orders in criminal cases are ordered to compensate the alleged victim for out-of-pocket expenses. So for example, if a person is beaten and robbed, he or she may seek restitution in criminal court for medical expenses and the amount stolen. However, claims for damages such as emotional distress would have be filed in civil court.

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October 17, 2013

D.C. Embezzlement Crimes Require Experienced Defense

Recently, a former boxing champion from D.C. was handed a 2.5 year prison term in connection with his reported embezzlement of $200,000 in government grant money from a youth boxing center.
It was money he reportedly used to feed his gambling habit, among other expenses.

Our D.C. defense attorneys know that oftentimes, instances of embezzlement - particularly involving government money - are going to be handled at the federal level.

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May 3, 2012

Washington D.C. Fraud: Public Official Sentenced

Washington D.C. fraud and embezzlement charges had hounded a former neighborhood commissioner for months. bribe.jpg

As D.C. criminal defense attorneys understand, the former public official will serve 30 days in jail - roughly, one day for each $1,000 he allegedly stole from taxpayer coffers.

William Shelton, the 42-year-old former Ward 5 advisory commissioner, had pleaded guilty back in January to the charges, involving some $29,000 worth of funds. According to prosecutors, he used the district's debit card for about 120 personal transactions. Those purchases included shopping trips to stores like Target and Bloomingdale's, as well as car expenses.

The Washington Post reports that in U.S. District Court, a federal judge ordered that following the jail term, Shelton is to serve 150 days of house arrest, followed by two years of probation. In the course of those two years, Shelton will not be able to accept a job in which he will have access to the business or employer's money, unless he gets prior approval from probation officers.

The prosecutor in the case labeled Shelton a "serial embezzler."

However, most D.C. criminal defense attorneys understand that even if there are multiple incidents of embezzlement - or cases in which a person is accused of stealing money that he or she is entrusted with - you can sometimes argue that they were all part of the same scheme. That can mean he or she can sometimes negotiate to reduce multiple counts of embezzlement down to just one.

Statements sent by anonymous residents in Shelton's ward were read aloud in court. Expressing feelings of "outrage" and "disgust," those comments likely didn't help his case.

Still, prosecutors had been hoping for a much stiffer sentence: six months in jail, followed by three years of probation.

Shelton's D.C. criminal defense attorney, speaking on his client's behalf, said that his clients has repeatedly expressed remorse and shame, and is trying to redeem himself as best he can. His attorney also made note of the fact that his client has been diagnosed with a mental health problem - a type of bipolar disorder - which he said contributed to his actions.

He went on to argue that jail time wasn't necessary, given the immense scrutiny the case has gotten, which meant extreme embarrassment and the reality that getting another job with a felony on his record is going to be extremely difficult.

Those were compelling arguments, though not quite enough to keep Shelton out of jail entirely.

Shelton settled a civil suit with the district back in December, agreeing to pay back the full $30,000. He made an initial installment of $5,000, and has agreed to pay back $200 monthly. So far, his payments have totaled $5,600.

Another D.C. Council member, Harry Thomas Jr., also pleaded guilty in January to theft of public money - some $350,000. He is scheduled to be sentenced this week as well, and could face up to 46 months in federal prison.

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March 21, 2012

D.C. Forgery Charges Alleged Casino

A man is alleged to have forged a $250,000 check - which he cashed - at a casino in a strange case of fraud and forgery.

As of right now, he is still wanted and believed to have fled the country.

Washington D.C. criminal defense attorneys know that forgery and fraud are outlined in DC ST 22-1510. What the law essentially says is this: check fraud over $100 is a felony. You can face thousands of dollars in fines and up to three years in prison. For any amount under $100, it's considered a misdemeanor, for which you'll face a maximum $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail.

Laws can vary from state to state.

This case reportedly involved a Vienna man who cashed the check at a casino in Atlantic City, NJ. According to authorities, the situation is very similar to another case that occurred in 2003.

Here, a 36-year-old reportedly deposited two checks totaling more than $130,000 into a Maryland bank at the end of January. The account that they were deposited into reportedly had less than $100 in it at the time, and was in the name of an incorporated company - of which the suspect is president.

The next day, the suspect went back to the bank and took out several thousand dollars in cash, as well as a cashier's check for a few hundred dollars. Then, that afternoon, he took a version of that check that had been digitally altered to say $250,000 to a casino in Atlantic City. He then cashed it for that amount.

He and his wife have reportedly fled the country, boarding a plane using passports that showed phony names and birth dates, according to police. Authorities did not reveal where that flight was headed, though he was Kurdish Iranian-American.

Two weeks later, investigators searched the suspect's home, taking with them computers, guns and filing cabinets. He worked at a local law office, assisting with immigration cases, according to his co-workers. His biography indicated he had immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager.

Those who worked with him expressed shock an dismay - though it's important to remember, we don't yet have all the facts.

Another strikingly similar case involved an attorney in Vienna who was alleged to have embezzled almost half a million dollars from the firm for which he worked. He then wired half of that to a casino in Atlantic City, cashed it and then took off to Argentina. He was reported to have returned to the U.S. eventually and turned himself into authorities.

These types of cases are typically more complex than the typical theft or simple check forgery, and really require the skill of an experienced Washington D.C. white collar crimes attorney.

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February 3, 2012

Two Metro Employees Charged In Washington D.C. Theft Case

Two transit employees were recently arrested and charged with Washington D.C. theft after authorities allege they stole thousands of dollars in fares, The Washington Post reports.

Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyers recognize that this will be a high profile media case because it involves alleged theft from public funds. Just because a person has been arrested, it doesn't mean they are guilty of the charges.
Theft charges, especially Washington D.C. white collar crimes, can lead to serious prison time. White collar crimes are typically financially motivated crimes that involved fraud or schemes to take money that is placed into a person's control.

In this case, law enforcement is saying, a man and his supervisor devised a scheme where they would make the rounds to collect cash from fare machines. The men allegedly would hide a portion of the money a few hundreds yards from their building. At the end of the day, they would meet up and split the profits.

According to The Washington Post, the two men now face federal charges of conspiracy to commit theft. The two men allegedly have been involved in the scam since 2010, according to court documents. Both face up to five years in a federal prison.

Surveillance video and a confidential informant led to the arrests. The newspaper reports that one of the men used the money to buy lottery tickets, which have won him nearly $63,000 in the last four years.

The news report states that it's unclear how much has been stolen. Prosecutors say they have found $150,000 in "unexplained" money being deposited into one of the man's bank account since 2008. Law enforcement agencies are continuing their investigation.

The men allegedly made arrangements to work on the same shift, on rail lines in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The men allegedly hid bags of cash at a nearby parking lot and the men would show up later, separately, to collect their portions. Investigators used Global Positioning System devices to track their vehicles.

These are major allegations, but they bring up important questions. In cases where law enforcement officers attempt to use confidential informants, there should always be scrutiny of those witnesses. In many cases, the people used by police to make arrests are people who have already been arrested.

They agree to plea deals with less prison time or fewer sanctions. In exchange, they are willing to testify to anything the government wants them to say. When your testimony is bought with your liberty, you may be more than willing to help the people in power.

White collar crimes often are complex schemes that have gone on for years and years. But authorities often don't have all the facts when they make arrests. Often, they are studying records for years to determine if they have enough evidence to file charges. Sometimes, they do. Other times, however, they fall short of an acceptable standard. That may not stop them from filing charges, however.

Fight these charges if you are ensnared in some kind of Washington D.C. white collar crime. Don't allow the government to use its power to soil your name. These charges are complicated and require a strong defense.

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June 21, 2011

Washington, DC Police Officer Charged with White Collar Crime

writing_check.jpgAccording to a recent story in the Washington Post, Metropolitan Police (MPD) Sgt. Aisha Hackley was arrested on white collar charges after allegedly sealing $43,000 from an 85 year-old woman she met during a fraud investigation involving a lottery scam. According to reports, Hackley deposited 10 checks from the alleged victim's bank account. Specifically, Hackley was charged with theft.

As a Washington, DC white collar defense attorney, I tend to get contacted by people who been accused of stealing large amounts money. These cases usually result in a felony theft charge or a felony fraud charge. In the District of Columbia, theft is classified as either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the amount of money involved. If the property is valued at $1,000 or more, this is a first degree felony DC theft charge punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. If the value of the stolen property is less than $1, 000, this is a second degree theft charge which is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. What people typically think of as embezzlement will normally be charged as either fraud or theft in Washington, DC.

One of the ways in which white collar crimes are different from violent felonies is that the suspect is often aware of the investigation before any charges are actually filed. Whether you been questioned by an auditor, employer, or the police, it is important to consider hiring an attorney to represent you sooner rather than later. There are steps that can be taken to help that may keep you from spending any significant amount of time in a jail or other pre-trial holding cell such as the Central Cell Block (CCB). It may also be possible in some circumstances to speak with the prosecutor before any charges are formally filed to learn what is going to happen.

June 8, 2011

On Unemployment Fraud in Washington, DC

money_fan.jpgOne of the more common white collar crime cases I am seeing in Washington, DC involves receiving unemployment benefits from DC Department of Employment Services (DOES) during a time that you are alleged to have been earning other sources of income. The basic scenario is often the same. You are unemployed and apply for unemployment benefits on the DOES website. At some point, you get a job or are receiving income from another source. Rather than terminating your unemployment benefits, you are alleged to have continued filing weekly claims and receiving your unemployment benefits.

Many people in this situation think that if the government ever finds out, they will have to pay a fine. Here is what can really happen to you. After some time of collecting unemployment benefits while working, DOES will send you an audit notice if they discover this problem. By this time, they will have probably spoken to your employer and attached proof of this to the audit notice. At this point you should contact a Washington, DC white collar defense attorney. You should never make a false statement on the audit notice, but you also don't want to admit to anything. Your lawyer can help with this. Depending on the amount, DOES will refer the case to the Office of the Inspector General for DC who will turn the case over the US Attorney and either felony or misdemeanor fraud charges may be brought against you.

It is very important for you to have an attorney to assist you so that you have a better chance of staying out of jail and getting on with the rest of your life.

December 22, 2010

Washington, DC Firefighter Faces Criminal Fraud Charges for Alleged Theft from DCFD

545391_first_aid_kit.jpgAccording to a recent story in the Washington Post, DCFD employee, Natalie Overton-Williams, has been arrested on felony fraud charges for allegedly stealing $3,160 from the District of Columbia government. The US Attorney's Office (USAO) claims that when Overton-Williams contracted CPR training to several non-profit organizations as part of her job duties, she created fraudulent invoices on official letterhead requesting that all checks be made payable to her and not the Washington, DC government. According to the USAO, she deposited these checks in her own account until one of the non-profits called her supervisors to question this practice. An investigation was conducted by the D.C. Office of the Inspector General, during which Overton-Williams supposedly admitted receiving the checks for teaching CPR classes for her business, "Basic Life Support Services," and that she taught all classes after-hours in her own time.

Washington, DC criminal lawyers, who defend theft, embezzlement, and other white collar charges often face prosecutors who believe they have enough evidence to get an easy win and are quick to make statements to the press--which serves to get the public angry and aids them in getting the defendant to plead guilty. A look at the comments sections of the Washington Post website shows dozens of posts about how guilty she is. While it may seem to a defendant that all hope is lost, it is important to remember that an arrest is not a conviction. There is a lot of time between your first appearance in court and a criminal trial. Public outrage will die down as people move on to whatever sound bite next grabs their attention and this story will be forgotten.

To a defendant charged with a theft crime in the Washington, DC area, this "story" may never be forgotten. Being convicted of a white collar crime can follow you for the rest of your life. It is important to have a defense attorney who will review all the facts and conduct a proper investigation that allows the defendant's side of the story to be heard. There may be a perfectly legitimate explanation for what happened. It may turn out that she acted unethically by using department letterhead to gain business but this does not necessarily make it a white collar crime. We will probably never hear about the eventual outcome of this case because after the shock value is lost, we are talking about the alleged theft of $3,160 from a department that reported $15.4 million in spending for this fiscal year.

November 25, 2010

A White Collar Defense Approach (Part Two)

754431_in_business.jpg In last post, I discussed some of the history and legal theory behind the crime of Theft. At this point you may be wondering how this works in the real world. Here is an example. If you hire an architect to design a house, she may require that you pay her half of her fee before she starts working. It is your intention that she will complete the plans and you will pay her the other half of the money. But what if she keeps the money and never provides the plans? Do you take her to civil court for breach of contract if has she committed one of the many possible white collar crimes? The answer depends on whether she had the specific intent to steal the money. If she intended to do the job but couldn't complete it because she was sick, for example, then she may have breached the contract but didn't have the intent to steal, so she is not guilty of theft. If she took the money with the intent of keeping it and not doing the work, then she has committed a crime.

For that reason, it is the job of a Washington, DC white collar criminal defense attorney to examine the evidence and challenge the government in their attempt to prove this necessary element of the case beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, it is not a classic "who done it" but rather a question of whether any crime was actually committed.

November 23, 2010

Washington, DC School Official Charged with Stealing $2.4 Million from Special Education Grants : A White Collar Defense Approach (Part One)

1302091_tower_bridge.jpgAccording to an in-depth report by Spenser S. Hsu in the Washington Post, Charles I. Emor, founder of a Washington, DC, school for disabled boys, has been charged with stealing $2.4 million from special education grants. He is alleged to have spent the money on cars, jewelry, and other personal property. Emor, who is already incarcerated for an unrelated computer theft from the school system, now faces 37 criminal counts including theft, money laundering, interstate transportation of stolen property, and mail, wire and first degree fraud.

Washington, DC white collar defense attorneys routinely handle cases involving alleged theft of government property. These cases are very different than dealing with violent crimes such as assault, or traffic offenses like drunk driving. One of the major distinctions is that white collar crimes often involve someone who was trusted to handle the property. Another difference is that there is usually a pretty clear paper trail of any theft that occurred. This puts the client at a major disadvantage from the moment they are charged. This does not mean there is no valid defense to white collar charges; it simply means that you must take a different approach.

Based on my experience, it is necessary to focus on whether the client had any intent to permanently take the property. The modern legal concept of theft dates back to British Common Law which stated that theft is the trespassory (non permissive) taking of the property of another with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. This basically means that at the time the defendant took the property, he or she had no permission and had the intent to never give it back. This seems pretty clear when a person takes a candy bar from CVS and runs out of the store. It is a bit more tricky in the case of white collar crime, because the defendant has been given permission to hold the property. The law has addressed this and said the permission ends at the moment the defendant specifically intends to keep the property for their own use. If they didn't specifically intend to the steal the property, then no crime has occurred.

November 19, 2010

United States Attorney's Office Dismisses Charges Against Washington, DC Based FBI Agents Accused of Submitting False Medical Reports to Hide Steroid Use

69131_syringe_and_drug_bottle.jpgAccording to a Washington Post article, three Washington, DC based FBI Special Agents and one investigative analyst were charged with the white collar crime of submitting false statements on fitness evaluations which are government documents attested to as being true. The agents are alleged to have enlisted the help of the analyst to get false diagnoses of conditions such as adult dwarfism and pituitary gland defects so that they would be prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This HRT consisted of steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) which is commonly used to treat such conditions. On September 15, 2010, the defendants were formally charged with submitting false statements in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

The United States Attorney's Office (USAO) was given until November 1, 2010 to present the case to a grand jury and obtain indictments. Based on the limited information released, it seems that the grand jury did not return any indictments and the government had all charges dismissed. A spokesperson for the USAO has stated that an investigation is ongoing but did not give any reasons for the dismissal. There has also been no word if there has been any action taken by the FBI with regard to employment status of the agents and investigator.

Washington, DC white collar defense attorneys often handle cases in which their clients are accused of falsifying government documents. It is very rare for the government to agree to an outright dismissal before an indictment. In a felony case, Due Process requires that the prosecutor introduce evidence to a grand jury who will determine if there is enough probable cause to go forward and formally charge the defendant with the felony. If a grand jury believes there is sufficient probable cause, they will return a "true bill" of Indictment against the defendant. If they do not find probable cause, they will return "no bill" of indictment. While this sounds like a fair process, it is quite far from it. The prosecutor is not required to introduce any evidence that shows that the defendant is innocent and can introduce evidence, such as hearsay, that would be not be allowed at trial. It is perfectly acceptable for the Washington, DC Assistant United States Attorney to have one untrustworthy person testify in a grand jury hearing and not tell the grand jury that there are 49 other people who will swear the defendant is innocent. The prosecutors can basically indict anyone they want.

Criminal defense attorneys often say that the government can indict a ham sandwich if they want. With that being said, it makes you wonder why the government would dismiss white collar crimes and not seek an indictment, when there appeared to be documented evidence like the signed falsified reports, false medical diagnoses, and the prescriptions for steroids and HGH.

October 20, 2010

Release the Kraken: Virginia Man Sentenced to Four Years in Prison for Recording and Selling Pirated Copies of "Clash of the Titans"

525701_dirty_shattered_cd.jpgAccording to a statement by the US Attorney's Office, Brad Newell pleaded guilty to Copyright Infringement and Distribution of a Pirated Recording of a motion picture. US Customs and Immigration Enforcement agents discovered over 1500 copies of pirated movies and nearly $30,000 in cash and recording equipment. Newell called his illegal enterprise "Burn Central" and had a partner, Nicholas Skamagos, and one employee, Kiah Fields. The court sentenced Fields to five months and Skamagos to six months for their roles in the pirating operation.

It is interesting that the average person wouldn't even consider stealing so much as a candy bar from CVS yet has no problem with downloading thousands of dollars worth of pirated software, music and movies. The good news for the average person is that the government doesn't usually go after purchasers of pirated or counterfeit goods and instead focuses its efforts on the manufacturers and distributors.

I have worked on cases involving millions of dollars worth of counterfeit designer goods, watches, CDs, and sports apparel. It is typical for corporations to hire private investigators to locate counterfeit versions of their products and inform the police. There is a good chance that this is how Burn Central was discovered.

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October 4, 2010

Washington, DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services Employee Pleaded Guilty to Sealing Unemployment Benefits

1185031_pile_of_money.jpgBenevenuto Bullock, a Washington, DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) employee, pleaded guilty to stealing $7,956 in unemployment benefits by claiming he was unemployed while he was actually working for DYRS. The judge sentenced Bullock to 90 days in jail but suspended the sentence so he will not have to serve time if he complies with the terms of his probation for two years. That includes repaying the amount he stole from the District of Columbia.

Many people are confused about how unemployment works or believe they can take advantage of some loophole and "beat the system." For example, a former client suggested that if he only gets paid once a month for the work he does throughout the month, then he is only technically employed one week a month and can claim unemployment benefits the rest of the month. This is not legal. The District of Columbia Department of Unemployment Services specifically states that income is earned when the work is performed regardless of when you actually get paid.

In case you are wondering why a DC criminal defense attorney is explaining of the rules of unemployment compensation, it is because my office handles white collar crime cases, and white collar crimes often require an understanding of many other types of law. White collar defendants are also sometimes very different from other types of defendants. Many white collar clients may fully admit to their actions but cannot understand why their conduct was illegal. They may have even taken the time to research the law before they engaged in the potentially criminal actions.

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