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 Theft Crimes

If you base your knowledge of crime on what is presented by the media, and the Trump administration, it would be easy to assume that U.S. crime is at an all-time high. However, quite the opposite is true. Here are some surprising facts about current crime rates, nationwide.

Drop in Violent Crimes

The rate of violent crime has dropped dramatically over the past 25 years, following its peak in the early 1990s. According to the FBI’s annual crime report and a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) survey of more than 90,000 U.S. households, violent crime has fallen between 48 and 74 percent since 1993. That being said, the FBI did report a 20 percent rise in the murder rate between 2014 and 2016. Even so, overall violent crime is the lowest its been in decades, across the nation.

Drop in Property Crimes

Property crimes—which include burglary and motor vehicle theft—have also seen a significant decrease in recent years. Similar to the drop in violent crime, property crime in the U.S. has fallen between 48 and 66 percent between 1993 and 2016, and property crimes are much more common than those of a violent nature. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with any type of criminal offense.

Pessimism

Public opinions about U.S. crime rarely lines up with actual statistics. For example, according to several polls, Americans commonly report that crime is up when data shows the exact opposite. In fact, according to 17 Gallup surveys taken since 1993, at least six-in-ten Americans said they believed there was more crime in that year compared to the previous year. Pew Research Center has experienced a similar outcome with their surveys. In a 2016 survey, more than half of registered voters said U.S. crime had worsened since 2008, even though it saw a rapid decline during that period.

Location, Location, Location

Crime varies widely based on geography. For example, while there were more than 600 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in Alaska and Nevada, violent crime rates in Vermont and New Hampshire were below 200 for every 100,000 people. And Boston is no exception. According to statistics and police reports, serious crimes in Boston have dropped by up to 22 percent since 2014. But for many residents who live in areas with a higher concentration of violent crime—such as Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury—the drop isn’t as noticeable. “We still have a lot of work to do,” said Police Commissioner William B. Evans, who went on to say that even the most violent neighborhoods are more peaceful than in the past. A MA criminal defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a crime. Continue reading

If you robbed or stole from someone while in possession of a deadly weapon, you may be facing charges for armed robbery. This is a serious crime in MA, and the penalties can be extremely harsh, up to and including life in prison. There are, however, multiple defenses against this crime. In addition, alternative sentencing options may exist in certain situations. When it comes to armed robbery, the help of an experienced MA criminal defense attorney is crucial to a favorable outcome.

The Four Elements of Armed Robbery

In order to be convicted of armed robbery, however, four elements must be proven. These are:

  • The defendant was in possession of a deadly weapon, or threatened use of a deadly weapon. Obvious examples are guns and knives, but anything can be considered a deadly weapon if it could cause serious harm. The weapon doesn’t need to have been used during the robbery. In fact, the defendant doesn’t even need to have a weapon in his possession. The threat of a weapon is enough.
  • The victim must have been physically hurt, or the defendant’s threat of harm must have made the victim fear for his safety. In addition, the defendant must have used the threat of force during the robbery.
  • The defendant must have actually taken the victim’s property, or the prosecution must show that he intended to steal it.
  • The defendant must have taken the property against the victim’s will.

As stated above, you do not need to be in possession of a weapon to be convicted of armed robbery. If the victim felt reasonably threatened that you were in possession of a weapon, you can be charged with this crime.

Penalties for Armed Robbery

Armed robbery is considered a violent crime in MA, and it carries the potential for life imprisonment. As with any criminal offense, your prior criminal history and the circumstances surrounding the crime will factor heavily in determining punishment. In MA, there is a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for many forms of armed robbery. The mandatory minimum is 15 years if you have a previous conviction.

  • The victim’s identity is also considered when determining punishment. If, for example, the victim was at least 60 years old, you are more likely to face an increased sentence of up to 20 years.
  • If the armed robbery was committed inside of the victim’s home, you may be facing up to life in prison.
  • There is a mandatory minimum sentence of five years if you wore a disguise during the robbery.
  • There is a mandatory minimum of five years if you were in possession of a gun at the time of the robbery.

One of the most effective defenses in armed robbery cases is to raise an identification issue. If the victim or witnesses are unable to confidently identify the defendant as the individual who committed the robbery, a conviction will be unlikely. That being said, a successful defense is highly dependent on the help of an experienced Boston criminal defense attorney. Continue reading

If you’ve been charged with shoplifting in MA you might be wondering what penalties you face, and if you even need a lawyer. After all, shoplifting charges are relatively minor, right? Well, not exactly. For starters, the penalties you face are largely dependent on the severity of your charges and prior criminal history; you could be looking at up to two-and-a-half years behind bars. Secondly, any criminal conviction on your record – even shoplifting – can have serious consequences for years into the future.

What is Shoplifting?

Walking into a store, putting an item in your purse, and walking out without paying for it is an obvious example of shoplifting. But shoplifting can take other forms as well. Simply concealing merchandise while in the store can be considered shoplifting. Altering or swapping price tags, or placing merchandise in different containers is also a form of shoplifting. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with shoplifting or any other crime.

If a merchant suspects you of shoplifting, you can be detained at the store for a reasonable amount of time. When law enforcement arrives, you can be arrested without a warrant if the officer(s) have probable cause to do so.

Shoplifting Penalties

If convicted of shoplifting in MA, you may be facing fines, jail time, and a possible civil suit. Merchants can sue shoplifters to recover damages for stolen goods. Penalties vary based on the value of goods stolen and other factors. If you have been charged with shoplifting, the following penalties may apply to you:

  • Goods valued at less than $100: If you have no prior offenses, you will likely face a fine of up to $250.
  • Goods valued at up to $100: If you have one prior offense, you will likely face a fine of up to $500.
  • Goods valued at up to $100: If you have two prior offenses, you will likely face a fine of up to $500, and up to two years in jail.
  • Goods valued at $100 or more: A fine of up to $1,000, and up to two-and-a-half years in jail.

In addition to the above criminal penalties, you may face civil damages of up to $500, plus actual damages.

Do I Qualify for a Pretrial Diversion Program?

Maybe you’re innocent. Maybe you did shoplift the item(s) you are charged with shoplifting, but you now realize you made a mistake. In either case, an experienced MA defense attorney can help you protect your rights. Fortunately, MA offers something called a pretrial diversion program for some people who are accused of low-level crimes. If you qualify for a pretrial diversion program, you might have to do things like complete community service and make restitution, but you will not end up with a criminal record. Once you have fulfilled the requirements of the program, the charges will be dropped. A plea bargain may be an option if a diversion program is not. This occurs when a defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. Continue reading

A San Francisco burglar just received a 327-year sentence for wreaking havoc on the city’s elderly residents. In 2014, German Woods began his criminal spree of home invasions and robberies. The 60-year-old burglar targeted vulnerable senior citizens who lived alone. He would hide in the shadows, attacking as they entered their homes. Many of the seniors spoke very little English, or none at all. In 2016, Woods was convicted on multiple charges, including some for elder abuse.

Consecutive Sentencing vs. Concurrent Sentencing

In the case above, Woods was charged on 17 counts, including burglary, robbery, and elder abuse. Each of these counts carries its own sentence. When a judge decides that a convict must serve multiple count sentences consecutively, each sentence is added to the next. This is how Woods ended up with a 327-year sentence. If, on the other hand, a judge decides on a concurrent sentence, all of the separate sentences will be served simultaneously. A Boston defense lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with burglary.

Burglary Penalties in MA

In MA, burglary is loosely defined as unlawful entry into a structure with the intent to commit a felony. Although theft is not necessary to justify a burglary charge, it is a common element of the crime. As with most crimes, the penalties for burglary depend largely on the underlying circumstances, prior criminal history, and the severity of the offense. For example, someone who enters a home for the sole purpose of trespassing will likely receive a lesser punishment than someone who enters a home, ties up the occupants, and steals valuable jewelry. If you are convicted of burglary in MA, you may face the following penalties:

  • Burglary: This crime is a felony offense and carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. If it’s a first offense and no one was home at the time of the burglary, the sentence will generally be less severe. A second offense carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.
  • Armed burglary: Burglarizing an occupied home with a weapon in your possession carries a 15-year minimum sentence for a first offense.
  • Burglary with assault: Assault doesn’t require the use of a weapon. In fact, you don’t even have to physically harm someone to commit assault. Simply causing another to fear for their safety is enough to justify an assault charge. Burglary with assault carries a 10-year minimum sentence for a first offense.
  • Home invasion: This offense is similar to burglary in that it requires unlawful entry into a structure with the intent to commit a felony. However, to be considered a home invasion, the crime had to occur at night, in a home, and the defendant had to be armed, know someone was at home, and use force or threats. The penalty for home invasion is a minimum sentence of 20 years, and up to life in prison.

Remember, you don’t have to kick down a door to commit burglary. Burglary can be the simple act of unlawfully entering a structure, even if that means opening an unlocked door and stepping inside. A MA criminal defense attorney can protect your rights if you’ve been charged with burglary or any other crime. Continue reading

We’ve all heard the term embezzlement in the news and in crime movies, but most people don’t know what it actually means. If you’ve been accused of embezzlement, you may be unsure of what your charges entail. Embezzlement is a form of theft, but it’s much more specific than shoplifting or taking a purse from the seat of a car. Embezzlement involves theft of assets by an individual who is responsible for managing those assets.

Embezzlement is most common within businesses and corporations, and when individuals are put in charge of managing loved one’s estates. This crime can be as simple as taking a few dollars here and there while working as a cashier or bank teller, or as complex as creating fake employee profiles and writing monthly checks to employees who don’t actually exist. In many cases, the individual keeps the money for himself or herself, but the transference of funds outside of the company to another individual can also constitute embezzlement. Consulting with a skilled Boston criminal defense lawyer is crucial to a positive outcome if you’re facing embezzlement charges.

Four Factors of Embezzlement

Defined as the theft or larceny of assets by a person with responsibility for those assets, embezzlement likely occurred if the following four factors were present:

  • A fiduciary relationship between two parties; one party must rely on the other.
  • The property in question must have been acquired through the relationship.
  • The defendant must have transferred the property to another person or entity, or he or she must have taken ownership of the property.
  • The action of taking the property was intentional.

Accounting embezzlement, which involves manipulating accounting records to conceal the stealing of funds, is one of the most common forms of the crime. When a person is given lawful possession of someone else’s property, for the purpose of managing it, but converts it to personal use, this is embezzlement. In some cases, people take large sums of money at once, while other people embezzle small amounts over an extended period of time. It is also possible to embezzle property, such as laptops or company vehicles. A MA defense attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you are facing this type of charge.

Penalties for Embezzlement in Massachusetts

The penalty for embezzlement in MA is largely dependent on the value and type of property stolen, as well as on the defendant’s prior criminal history.

  • Value of stolen property is worth $250 or less: If it’s a first offense, you could face fines of up to $600, and up to two-and-a-half years in prison.
  • Value of stolen property is worth $250 or more (or if the stolen property included firearms): You may face a fine of up to $25,000, and up to five years in prison.
  • Trade secrets: You could be looking at a fine of up to $25,000, and up to five years in prison.

Continue reading

Oh the weather outside is frightful…and so is the nationwide uptick in crime during the holiday season. But it shouldn’t be a surprise. Most holiday crimes are related to theft or excessive alcohol. Theft is often a result of a lack of funds for Christmas presents or the knowledge that cars and houses are loaded with aforementioned presents. And alcohol-related crimes are often a result of too much holiday partying. Either way, it’s good to know how to safeguard yourself this December. And if you happen to be the one facing criminal charges this holiday season, contact a skilled defense lawyer if you want to avoid jail time and hefty fines.

  • Shoplifting: The most obvious reason for an increase in shoplifting during the holiday season is lack of funds. We are under more pressure than ever to surround the Christmas tree with boxes and boxes of holiday cheer. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford such a display. For this reason, among others, some people turn to shoplifting around the holidays. Theft is never “right”, but we understand that even good people make mistakes, especially when financial stress is particularly overwhelming. If you are facing shoplifting charges, contact a Boston defense lawyer today.
  • Vehicle break-ins: For much the same reason as shoplifting increases during the holidays, so do vehicle break-ins. Car burglars expect to find gifts in cars. This is especially true of cars parked near shopping centers. Parking lot thieves will often watch for people who drop a load of purchases in their car and walk back to the store to finish shopping.
  • Porch theft: Since Amazon and other online shopping sites first allowed us to spend more time at home in our pajamas, porch theft has skyrocketed. Many of our online orders are delivered by UPS, FedEx, or the US Postal Service while we’re at work during the day. A stack of boxes by the front door and no car in the driveway makes you an easy target this holiday season. To prevent porch pirates from ruining your Christmas, have packages delivered to work or to the residence of a friend who is home during the day.
  • Drunk driving: The holiday season often feels like one never-ending party. Many families have two or more office parties, family parties, parties at friend’s houses, fundraisers, and other festive gatherings to attend during Christmas and New Years. Although good friends and good eggnog can make for a lovely evening, don’t get behind the wheel if you’ve had a few drinks. To protect yourself and everyone else on the road, don’t drink and drive, and have a designated driver if you opt for too much cheer this holiday season. Beyond being dangerous, driving while intoxicated can impact your current or future employment, and even a first offense can cost you thousands of dollars. Not to mention, nobody wants to get an OUI for Christmas.

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If you are one of the many who still believe that convictions for “white collar crime” such as embezzlement or larceny do not bring jail or prison sentences…think again.

As we have discussed in the past, the authorities have been working very hard to dispel that belief. Take Robert Scatamacchia (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) for example.

The Defendant is not the type of man you would expect to see either at the defense table in court or wearing the appropriate garb in a Massachusetts prison.

But now, he has done both.

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Look, there is no question about whether robbery is a serious crime in Massachusetts.  Thus, the circumstances were certainly intense in Methuen yesterday.

36-year-old James Dobbins (hereinafter, the “Defendant”) was arraigned today at Beth Israel Hospital. He is charged with robbing a convenience store…armed robbery while masked.

The Defendant is in the hospital because he was shot at least four times by detectives. This took place when investigating officers went to talk to him about the robbery.

According to the Commonwealth, the Defendant called officers to the apartment complex. Then “without warning drew a black firearm, pointed it at the officers and began to move at them rapidly.”

Not the wisest thing to do should you wish to stay alive a bit longer.

He is alive, though, the Boston Herald tells us . Meanwhile, the four officers involved have since been placed on administrative leave, which is common procedure with such shootings.

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Kevin Burnham, a “decorated and highly-respected” Springfield police officer who retired in 2014 (and hereinafter, the “Defendant”) has been indicted with stealing approximately $385,317 which had been evidence in 170 drug cases. He has pleaded “not guilty” and released on his own recognizance.

The Defendant must turn in his passport, not travel out of state without Probation Department permission, turn his guns over to counsel who must give them to any successor counsel, and give his license to carry firearms to the police commissioner.

The defense attorney at the bail hearing was appointed “for arraignment only” and so now the Defendant must find his own criminal defense attorney by January 19th.

The Indictments charging the Defendant with larceny counts name a timeline of more than a four year period .
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Here is another tale of an free enterprise gone bad. The gent is from Medford. He is 28 years of age and his name is Casey Kolenda (albeit hereinafter, the “Defendant”).

According to the Boston Herald’s story on the subject, found here, the Defendant has pleaded guilty to making and selling counterfeit Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority passes. In return for his plea of guilt he was sentenced to three years in prison. The specific charges he plead to were seven counts of counterfeiting.

The victory announcement was made by Attorney General Maura Healey, who’s office prosecuted the case.
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