Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Articles Posted in Federal Crimes

A hate crime is a criminal act committed against a victim because he or she belongs to a specific, protected group. In addition to the actual victim, hate crimes may pose a threat to society at large. For example, if a Muslim man is attacked for his religious beliefs, it stands to reason that the attacker may pose a threat to other people of the Muslim faith. For this reason, among others, hate crimes carry especially severe penalties in MA and across the nation.

Protected Groups

Although the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to free speech, it does not protect hate crimes. Hateful thoughts and speech are not the same as a hate crime. Posting anti-gay comments on your Facebook page may be protected as free speech, but threatening to kill a man because he’s gay is not free speech, it’s a crime.

You may be charged with a hate crime if you criminally target an individual because of his or her:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Gender
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability

And perception is what counts. If a straight man is beaten up because his attacker thinks he’s gay, the attacker can still be charged with a hate crime even though the victim does not belong to a protected class. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a hate crime.

Categories of Hate Crimes

Hate crimes can be committed against a person or group of people, or against an institution.

  • Institutional target – prohibits the vandalism of protected institutions, such as churches, synagogues, or mosques.
  • Protected group – prohibits threats or violence against individuals because of their membership in a protected group, such as religion, race, or gender.

This does not mean, however, that every crime committed against a person who belongs to a protected group is a hate crime. The crime must be committed because of the victim’s membership in that group. For example, if a Muslim man is beaten up and the attackers take his wallet, it may appear to be a hate crime at first glance. But if there is no evidence that the attackers had any knowledge of the victim’s religion, the robbery would not be a hate crime. As such, proving that a crime is a hate crime can be difficult.

To convict someone of a hate crime, the prosecution must prove that the crime was motivated by the victim’s race, religion, or membership in another protected class or group. To do so, the prosecution will look for evidence of the defendant’s use of racial or other slurs, or other biased or derogatory comments. These may be provided by witnesses, or through the gathering of text messages, emails, or social media posts. If convicted, federal hate crime legislation punishes violent hate crimes with 10 years to life imprisonment. A MA criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with a hate crime. Continue reading

Earlier this month Martin Shkreli, the man who became infamous for jacking up the price of an AIDS medication, was convicted of securities fraud for the mismanagement of investment funds. But even a criminal conviction doesn’t seem to have humbled the 34-year-old pharmaceutical company founder. Shortly after the guilty verdict, Shkreli began a YouTube live stream from his New York apartment. As he held a beer, Shkreli predicted that a prison sentence – if he actually gets one – will be akin to a Club Med trip, where he’ll play sports and Xbox for a few months.

$11 Million Ponzi Scheme

Shkreli is accused of running a Ponzi scheme that cheated investors out of millions. More than $11 million, to be exact. The fraudulent activity allegedly occurred between 2009 and 2014, while Shkreli was CEO of Retrophin, the pharmaceutical company he founded. According to the prosecution, he used Retrophin funds to pay off investors and cover personal debts, while misleading investors as to how well their funds were performing.

“Shkreli misled investors in his self-indulgent scheme,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney. “Today’s conviction shows that those who corrupt the market will ultimately be brought to justice.” A Boston criminal defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with securities fraud or any other crime.

The Most Hated Man in America

Two years ago, Shkreli gained notoriety when he dramatically increased the cost of a lifesaving AIDS medication from $13.50 per pill to $750. Soon after, the Daily Beast called Shkreli the “most hated man in America.” Despite the hate, Shkreli also – disturbingly – gained some fans. He quickly acquired a YouTube following of about 200,000; streaming video of himself playing games in his pajamas and out gallivanting around New York.

In response to his recent conviction, Shkreli had the following to say: ”This could have been a real big setback for my life, but it’s gonna end up being a footnote in my life.” He believes he has no more than a “50-50” chance of ending up behind bars, and that any jail time would likely be short lived. He went on to say – speaking in the third person, “It doesn’t seem like life will change very much for Martin Shkreli, basically ever. I’m one of the richest New Yorkers there is, and after this outcome, it’s going to stay that way.” Despite his social media-bravado, if convicted, Shkreli may face up to 20 years in prison. A MA criminal defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with securities fraud.

Penalties for Securities Fraud

Individuals convicted of securities fraud may face both civil and criminal penalties. These may include:

  • Fines of $10,000 or more
  • Fines of up to $5 million, if insider trading is involved
  • Probation
  • Restitution (money paid to victims, in addition to fines)
  • Incarceration in a federal prison

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Addiction to opioid pain killers has reached epidemic proportions. In fact, some studies estimate that more deaths are caused by opioids, such as oxycodone and OxyContin, than motor vehicle accidents in the United States. The government and law enforcement agencies nationwide are struggling with how to respond to this ever-growing problem. Police are cracking down on illegal possession and distribution, but the process has not been easy. For starters, opioids are legal with a valid prescription. Further, the problem is more likely to be resolved with education and rehabilitation; jail time and criminal penalties often do more harm than good.

Most people who become addicted to opioid pain killers start with a legal prescription. Opioids are often given after painful surgical procedures that require long-term recovery, such as hip replacements and back surgeries. But even lesser injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, may be treated with opioid pain killers. The ease with which some doctors prescribe these highly-addictive drugs, and the drug manufacturers’ eagerness to fill those prescriptions, is at the center of a national debate. In response, the Justice Department has recently formed the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit. The unit will focus on “investigating and prosecuting health care fraud related to prescription opioids, including pill mill schemes and pharmacies that unlawfully divert or dispense prescription opioids for illegitimate purposes.”

Some Doctors Write More Monthly Opioid Prescriptions Than Entire Hospitals

During an investigation into a criminal or civil matter, witnesses may be subpoenaed to court to supply evidence, such as documents and DNA, and to testify against defendants and report crimes. In some cases, obtaining witness testimonies and evidence is easy. In other cases, witnesses are reluctant to comply. If you’ve been subpoenaed, do you have to comply?

What is a Subpoena?

A subpoena is a document that orders a person to provide testimony during an investigation. In addition to appearing before the investigative body, the individual may also be required to produce documents and other evidence relevant to the case. Subpoenas are not typically issued to willing witnesses who are enthusiastic to come forward; they are generally reserved for those who initially refuse to appear. Ignoring or disobeying the orders within a subpoena may result in civil or criminal penalties. A Boston criminal defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been subpoenaed.

Once again, the Trump administration has brought some lesser-known legal situations into the spotlight. Take retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, for example. The president’s former national security adviser is caught in the middle of two investigations into the campaign’s Russian ties leading into the 2016 election. As Flynn is not particularly eager to testify, a subpoena was issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee. But Flynn declined the request. Is that allowed?

Can I Plead the Fifth?

The Fifth Amendment of the constitution protects individuals against self-incrimination by preventing any person from being compelled to provide evidence that is likely to be incriminating in a subsequent criminal case. Flynn invoked these rights in the above case by pleading the Fifth. But this right is not absolute. A person can only plead the Fifth with regard to testimonial evidence, as opposed to identifying evidence, such as DNA and fingerprints. Further, only individuals can plead the Fifth; corporations don’t have this right. This is why Flynn’s businesses are being served with subpoenas, requesting documents related to the ongoing investigation.

What is Contempt of Court?

Contempt of court is the act of being disobedient or discourteous to a court of law in a way that defies its authority. If charged with contempt, you may face criminal penalties. A MA defense lawyer can help you determine if you are at risk of being charged with contempt.

If pleading the Fifth is a privilege, how can I be charged with contempt of court for invoking that privilege? There are certain situations in which the privilege against self-incrimination can be waived. For example, a defendant in a criminal case can plead the Fifth, but if he or she chooses to testify, the privilege has been waived and the defendant can be cross-examined. In another example, if a witness refuses to testify after being given immunity (prevents testimony from being used against the witness in the future), he or she can be held in contempt of court. Most charges of contempt involve jail time and further penalties. Continue reading

In December, 2016, Massachusetts joined the growing list of states who have passed the  legalization of recreational marijuana. As in the other states, recreational use is still illegal at the federal level, but the Department of Justice has been fairly hands-off, up until now. The Trump administration may increase federal enforcement of these laws, creating an uncertain future for recreational marijuana use in MA. If after reading this post you are still unsure about how these potential changes may impact you, consult with a Boston criminal defense attorney.

In a recent White House press conference, spokesperson Sean Spicer said the new administration is likely to play a bigger role in the enforcement of federal marijuana regulations. “I do believe you’ll see greater enforcement of it,” said Spicer. “Because again there’s a big difference between the medical use … that’s very different than the recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into.” He then went on to link marijuana use to opioid addiction:

“I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country the last thing that we should be doing is encouraging people, there’s still a federal law that we need to abide by in terms of … when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature.”

Federal Law Trumps State Law

These statements from the White House, along with the appointment of the new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions (an outspoken opponent of legalization) may indicate less leniency for recreational pot smokers in the coming months. When federal and state laws are in conflict, federal law takes the cake. As a Schedule 1 drug under federal law, marijuana possession and sales are still illegal at the federal level. A MA drug defense lawyer can help you determine if you’re at risk of criminal penalties.

Of course, cracking down on recreational pot use in states that have legalized it would be highly unpopular. Quinnipiac University recently conducted a survey and found that more than 70 percent of Americans do not agree with federal enforcement in states that have legalized recreational and medical marijuana. This may bode well for the future of federal enforcement, but only time will tell. Spicer failed to provide details about what an enforcement would actually look like. More optimistic folks hope that it will focus on illegal exportation to other states. “The biggest crackdown we may see is on the increase of cannabis being illegally exported out of recreational states,” said Nate Bradley, of the California Cannabis Industry Association. Let’s hope he’s right. Continue reading

Last week, police announced the seizure of 83 guns, with 10,000 rounds of ammo and a Nazi helmet from the house of a Massachusetts man. Robert Ivarson, 49, of Lexington, is facing civil rights and harassment charges for allegedly littering the driveway of a black family with banana peels. Following the discovery of the weapons arsenal, Ivarson is facing 13 new charges. In addition to the guns and ammo, law enforcement also found 50 pounds of black powder in the man’s residence.

Ivarson faces multiple counts of possession of a firearm without a license, possession of ammunition without a license, and possession of a large-capacity feeding device. He also faces one count of being an armed career criminal. According to investigators, Ivarson was under video surveillance at the time of the banana incident. He allegedly threw the peels onto the victim’s property on three consecutive days. According to CBS, Ivarson is currently on house arrest, facing hate crime charges. He will be arraigned for the weapons charges this week. If you’ve been charged with any type of criminal offense, contact a Boston defense attorney today.

Hate Crimes

According to Massachusetts state Attorney General Maura Healey, there has been an increase in reports of harassment of minorities, immigrants, and Muslims since the election. In response, Healey created a hotline for MA residents to report hate crimes.  “This is just about making sure that people understand that we’re going to protect their rights, we’re going to work to protect their safety, and there is no place for  bias-motivated threats, harassment or violence anywhere here in Massachusetts,” said Healey.

Hate Crime Punishment

So, what is the punishment for a hate crime in Massachusetts? And what constitutes a hate crime? Generally speaking, a hate crime is a traditional crime that is motivated by a bias toward a person who is a member of a protected group. For example, throwing a rock threw a random window is a crime, but not a hate crime. If, however, the rock is thrown into the window because the occupant is black, gay, Muslim, or a member of another protected group, it is probably a hate crime.

In the state of MA, there are three elements to a hate crime:

  • Underlying crime: This can be property damage, assault, or battery.
  • Intent: The act must not have been an accident. Rather, the offender must have acted to intimidate or threaten the victim.
  • Victim’s protected status: Protected status includes race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or gender identity.

Generally speaking, hate crimes are prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office. In some cases, however, the defendant may be prosecuted civilly instead of criminally, or in addition to criminal charges. If you’ve been charged with any type of crime, contact a Boston criminal defense lawyer today. Continue reading

In my last blog, we discussed the case of two gentlemen who were taken into custody at Logan Airport and are facing heavy drug charges. They were arraigned in state court,

The cases are unlikely to stay there, though.

While they are currently in district court, they are likely to be indicted and prosecuted either in state superior court or federal district court.

Or, at least one of them is.

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 We have discussed a number of cases during which law enforcement is paying a great deal of attention on what is going on in the country’s airports. No, not simply for cases of potential terrorists.

The last one, this weekend, involved trafficking.

Narcotics trafficking.

On Saturday, the authorities say that two Pennsylvania men tried smuggling six kilograms of cocaine through Logan International Airport by stuffing bricks of the drug into the lining of their bags. This made the lining unusually heavy, according to police, which made the bag suspicious.

Ezra Mendez, 19, and Erick Domingues-Santos, 25, both of Allentown, Pa., and hereinafter collectively, the “Defendants”, were set to appear in East Boston District Court yesterday to face charges of trafficking in cocaine and conspiring to violate drug laws.

The Defendants, arriving on a flight from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Saturday morning, tried passing through customs 10 minutes apart, each carrying a black roller bag, according to state police according to the Boston Herald

When airport workers noticed an “abnormality” in the bags during the screening process, they emptied the totes, which had a thicker bottom liner than usual and felt “unusually heavy,” state police said.

This undoubtedly raised suspicions even higher given that “false bottom” bags are a common way by which contraband is often secreted.

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At the end of last week, the United States Attorney’s office issued a press release. The posting of it, as we have discussed in the past, as recently as last week, is apparently deemed necessary in LawenforcementLand to let us know that they are doing their job and arresting people.

Whether those people turn out to be guilty, of course, is another issue. In the meantime, of course, they will be presumed innocent…and assumed guilty.

To be fair, though, the federal prosecutor’s office generally gets the convictions that they are after.

As I recall, this was released around the same time I was getting posts on my IPhone that they were trying to find some gang member who apparently had escaped from federal custody. Yes, that would be the same office.

But I digress.

According to the release, two gentlemen from Cambridge were among 56 alleged “MS-13” gang members, leaders and associates who were taken into custody by law enforcement Friday morning.
Erick Argueta Larios, aka “Lobo,” 31, and Herzzon Sandoval, aka “Casper,” 34, both of Cambridge, had been indicted on federal racketeering conspiracy charges.
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A Stoughton gent, I think we will soon hear, had a wacky sense of humor Unfortunately, it was not shared by those around him. In fact, what he apparently found clever was something that most of us find rather disturbing.

As a result, Mr. Anthony Rae, 24 and hereinafter, the “Defendant”, is a current involuntary guest of the United States Government. He has been arrested for sending bizarre bomb threats to various locations. According to the United States Attorney’s office, these included various academic institutions.

The Defendant was not exactly the picture of stealth according to the prosecution. They say that he hacked into his mother’s email and sent some of them from there.

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