Articles Posted in Federal Crimes

A California man has become the second affluent parent to be sentenced to serve jail time in relation to a wide-reaching fraud case involving college admissions. Devin Sloane, CEO of a Los Angeles water and wastewater treatment facility, was sentenced to serve four months, plus two years of supervised release, complete 500 hours of community service and pay a $95,000 fine in federal court in Boston on Sept. 24. He originally plead guilty to his charges in May.

Sloane is the second parent, the first being actress Felicity Huffman – who received a two-week prison sentence earlier in September – to be convicted of making fraudulent claims to a high-profile university as part of a scheme to get their children accepted into the school. A third parent, a Chinese foreign national, was also indicted on the same day of Sloane’s sentencing for allegedly paying $400,000 to get her son admitted into UCLA as a soccer recruit, despite never playing the sport competitively.

In Sloane’s case, not only did he knowingly defraud the University of Southern California (USC), he also lied to government officials at the IRS and directly conspired with the scheme’s admitted mastermind, William Singer, who is also awaiting trial. In total, there are 52 current defendants charged in connection with the college admissions scandal.

The Sloane case demonstrates another example of a wealthy parent utilizing outright fraud to trick a university into granting admission to their child. Sloane, according to federal prosecutors, took multiple steps to fraud USC into believing that his son was an aspiring water polo star, despite his son never playing the sport. He went so far as to purchase water polo equipment online, staged a fake photoshoot of his son playing the sport in their family pool, and then went so far as to hire a graphic design team to alter the photos to make it appear as though he were playing competitively.

The brazenness of Sloane’s case goes farther, as he paid $250,000 in a direct bribe to compromised USC officials to facilitate the fraud. When high school counselors of Sloane’s son – who knew he had never played the sport at any level – questioned how he was being recruited to play the sport at a collegiate competitive level, Sloane reportedly exhibited anger that he should even be questioned. Sloane would also cover up his bribe to USC by reporting it as a donation from his mother, who is deceased. Continue reading

A hate crime is defined as a prejudice or bias-motivated crime that occurs when a victim is targeted because of his or her membership in a particular race or social group. Even if the victim does not actually belong to that group, the act can be classified as a hate crime if such “membership” was perceived. Perpetrators of hate crimes often target an individual based on gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, or religion. This is not, however, an exhaustive list.

Hate crimes and hate speech are distinctly different. Whereas hate speech is criminalized in and of itself, hate crimes involve a crime that exists even without the bias or prejudice but is elevated due to its prejudiced nature. For example, assault is a crime, but if a white Christian man assaults a black Muslim man, it may be classified as a hate crime.

According to a report released by the FBI on Tuesday, hate crimes are on the rise in MA. In fact, this type of criminal act increased by eight-percent from 2016 to 2017.

In Massachusetts, cocaine is among the most heavily trafficked drugs. It is a Class B illegal substance, along with many prescription opioids. In other words, it is a crime to possess, manufacture, or sell cocaine in the state of Massachusetts. Most cocaine-related offenses (whether the drug is in powder or rock form) are considered felonies, the most serious type of crime. Massachusetts laws impose severe penalties for cocaine offenses, due in part to the threat of violence that often arises in the drug’s trade. Federal law also prohibits the possession, manufacture and sale of cocaine and other illegal drugs.

Possible Penalties

If convicted of a cocaine related offense, you may face the following penalties:

Bail is a type of payment—or the pledge to make a payment—in exchange for being released from custody. The defendant is temporarily released, but agrees to return to court when ordered to do so. As long as the defendant shows up at court as agreed, bail money is returned once the trial has concluded. If, however, the defendant does not return to court, the bail money is forfeited and criminal charges for failure to appear may apply.

Bail is not required in all cases. For minor offenses, the defendant may be summoned to court without the need to post bail. Basically, bail is an incentive to appear in court. If the prosecution is concerned that the defendant is a flight risk, bail will almost certainly be set. Further, bail amounts generally reflect the severity of the crime. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you have been charged with a crime.

The bail system is increasingly under scrutiny because it may prevent innocent people from getting out of jail due to their inability to afford bail. In fact, the Department of Justice has remarked that it is unconstitutional for poor people to be imprisoned simply because they cannot afford their bail. That being said, bail may also prevent dangerous criminals from being released into the general public as they await trial. In addition to these two extremes, there exists everything in between. If you think your bail is too high, can you get a judge to lower it?

How are Bail Amounts Set?

In MA, the bail magistrate sets bail. To do this, the bail magistrate considers the type and severity of the crime, along with the potential sentence the defendant is facing. The following factors will also be considered when setting bail:

  • Is the defendant a flight risk?
  • Does the defendant have a criminal record?
  • Has the defendant failed to show up for court in the past?
  • Is the defendant on probation or parole?
  • Does the defendant have ties to the community?
  • Is the defendant employed?
  • Does the case involve domestic violence, and if so, would the defendant’s release put the victim at risk?

Of course, many of the above factors are subjective. For example, your bail could be set high because you don’t have ties to the community and you are currently unemployed. Two strikes. If, however, you can show that you are actively seeking employment, and you moved to this community because the climate is favorable for a heath condition from which you suffer, these strikes may become less significant in the judge’s eyes. If you can provide evidence to convince the judge that you are not a flight risk, you may be able to see a reduction in bail.

You may also be able to get some relief in the form of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits “excessive bail.” If you can show that the amount of your bail is excessive, based on what you can afford, the judge may lower it. Once the initial bail is set, you may have to request a second hearing to challenge the amount. A MA defense lawyer can help you protect your rights if you have been charged with a criminal offense. Continue reading

Martin Shkreli gained notoriety in 2016 by spiking the price of a life-saving HIV drug by about 5,000 percent. Dubbed ‘Pharma Bro,’ he later found himself in hot water for committing investment fraud. Although his lawyer was pushing for less than 18 months, Shkreli was recently sentenced to seven years in prison. During his sentencing, ‘Pharma Bro’ seemed much less cocky than he has in the past.

When Shkreli first learned of the criminal charges against him, he predicted that he’d never do any time in jail. But his prediction was quickly proven wrong. Unfortunately for him, his bail was immediately revoked after he jokingly offered money to any person who could obtain a lock of hair from then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Shkreli, who was convicted of securities fraud and conspiracy on August 5, 2017, appeared more humble in court on Friday, as he admitted to his many mistakes. In fact, the 34-year-old broke into tears, pleading for leniency from the judge.

Dr. Roberto A. Fernandez was sentenced to 97 months in prison for prescribing medically-unnecessary drugs to patients in exchange for financial kickbacks. In addition to his prison sentence, Fernandez was ordered to pay $4.8 million in restitution after he plead guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud.

Fernandez referred patients to pharmacies to obtain medications they didn’t need. In some cases, the prescribed drugs were contraindicated with other drugs the patients were already taking. As a thank you for the uptick in referrals, pharmacy owners rewarded Fernandez with kickbacks in the form of extra pain pills and fraudulent Medicare billing for services that never took place. Fernandez amassed an extensive network of co-conspirators; the fraudulent billing and pain pill scheme involved six health care facilities and racked up more than $20 million in false expenses.

According to the Department of Justice, Fernandez received kickbacks for “signing plans of care and prescriptions for medically unnecessary home health services.” The dishonest doctor also admitted to providing “prescriptions for expensive, name brand drugs, including HIV/AIDS medications that conflicted with other HIV drugs already prescribed to the beneficiaries.” Several of the pharmacy owners and healthcare professionals involved in the scheme with Fernandez are already behind bars. A MA criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime.

Six Years of Fraud and Distribution

In addition to wire and health care fraud, Dr. Fernandez was charged with:

  • conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government by paying and receiving healthcare bribes and kickbacks.
  • conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.
  • distribution of controlled substances.

According to law enforcement, the fraudulent Medicare claims and illegal prescription of controlled substances, including opioids, had been going on for at least six years.

Fernandez is Not Alone

This latest health care scheme comes on the heels of a $1.3 billion national health care fraud crackdown, which involved 412 defendants, including 115 physicians, nurses and other licensed health care professionals. Those charged were involved in the illegal prescription and distribution of opioids and other narcotics. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the largest-ever health care fraud takedown in July.

“Too many trusted medical professionals like doctors, nurses, and pharmacists have chosen to violate their oaths and put greed ahead of their patients,” said Sessions. “Amazingly, some have made their practices into multimillion dollar criminal enterprises. They seem oblivious to the disastrous consequences of their greed. Their actions not only enrich themselves often at the expense of taxpayers but also feed addictions and cause addictions to start. The consequences are real: emergency rooms, jail cells, futures lost, and graveyards.  While today is a historic day, the Department’s work is not finished. In fact, it is just beginning. We will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict, and incarcerate fraudsters and drug dealers wherever they are.”

Penalties for Health Care Fraud

A conviction of federal health care fraud is a serious offense that may result in the following penalties:

  • Up to 10 years in prison for each offense
  • Up to 20 years in prison if the fraud resulted in serious bodily injury
  • Up to life in prison if the fraud resulted in death
  • Up to $250,000 per offense for false Medicare or Medicaid claims, up to billions for organizations that engage in multiple counts of health care fraud
  • Restitution to pay back money that was illegally obtained

A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with a crime. Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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

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