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New York Criminal Defense Law Blog

New policies could swell federal prison population

New York residents may be aware of efforts in recent years to ease overcrowding in federal prisons. This was done in part by limiting the use of mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines that had the potential to put nonviolent offenders behind bars for many years. However, in a two-page memo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has now directed federal prosecutors to seek the most serious charges against defendants.

According to the Justice Department, low-level offenders would not be the target of this new directive unless their crimes involved links to gangs, guns or other aggravated offenses. Instead, 10-year mandatory minimum sentences would be sought against those found to be in possession of a kilogram of heroin, five kilograms of cocaine or 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of sentenced inmates in federal prisons dropped 5 percent from 2009 to 2015.

RICO charges for drug arrests

New Yorkers arrested based on drug crime allegations may face additional risks. In some drug cases, federal prosecutors may decide to pursue RICO charges, increasing the level of potential penalties.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act gives state and federal law enforcement agencies powers to help them more effectively investigate and prosecute certain common types of organized crime. The Act lists several crimes, including drug trafficking and drug dealing, that can serve as a basis for RICO prosecution.

Life insurance investing firm settles with SEC

New York residents may be interested to learn that a New Jersey-based management firm along with its CEO have agreed to pay more than $4 million in order to settle charges after they were accused of being involved in a Ponzi scheme. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the firm used new investor money to pay earlier investors.

The SEC's complaint stated that the firm, Verto Capital Management, raised about $12.5 million to allegedly purchase and sell life insurance policies on the secondary market. The SEC alleged that the firm misrepresented its profitability to investors even though it had actually not been profitable for several years. The funds that were raised were reportedly used to pay earlier investors and the CEO.

Arrests in drug trafficking operation

According to officials, 52 individuals were charged with multiple offenses related to almost 370 crimes as a result of a Central New York drug trafficking operation. The charges included selling drugs, operating as a major drug trafficker, drug possession and conspiracy to commit murder.

The arrests were a result of a one-year investigation, referred to as Operation Bricktown. Approximately 30 of the individuals who have been charged are believed to be members of Syracuse's Bricktown Gang. It is believed that the organization has been operating in the city for over a decade. According to police surveillance records, members of the gang intended to kill members of rival gangs in the city.

Report on law enforcement hacking released

New York residents may be aware that federal agencies including the National Security Agency have been accused of monitoring the electronic communications of millions of Americans, but they may not know about a new technique being used by law enforcement that places malware on the computers of people who have been suspected of being involved in illegal activity. Civil rights groups are especially concerned about this development because it allows federal agents to monitor the online activates of large numbers of internet users after obtaining a single search warrant.

Law enforcement hacking was made possible by a revision of Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure that was implemented in 2016. The rule change allows government agents to seize the servers of websites alleged to be involved in criminal enterprises in order to identify and track their visitors. In a 2016 case, the technique was used by FBI agents to monitor the activities of approximately 9,000 individuals who accessed a website that allegedly distributed child pornography.

Former CUNY official charged with embezzlement

A former administrator of the school of professional services at the City University of New York has been charged with allegedly embezzling an undisclosed amount from the university while he was employed there. The 43-year-old man was taken into custody in Los Angeles on April 7.

According to the New York State inspector general, the charges include bank fraud, embezzlement and misappropriation. If he is convicted of the offenses, he may face up to 30 years in prison. Authorities allege that between 2007 and 2012 while the man was working for the university, he set up a series of bank accounts into which he funneled money. He then allegedly embezzled tens of thousands of dollars to use for his own personal needs.

New York’s drug offenders need treatment, not jail time

Many of New York’s drug offenders commit crimes due to addiction, and not because they are inherently prone to criminal behavior. If you are among them, you may not necessarily have to serve time. Increasingly, the criminal justice system offers participation in a closely supervised and highly regulated drug court program to drug addicts charged with crimes in New York. This is not only a means of avoiding jail time, but also of kicking the addiction itself.

Whether you may enter a drug court program depends on numerous factors, among them the details of your alleged activity and whether you have a prior conviction. Should you be offered entry, know that statistics show that they offer tremendous benefits not only to you, but the surrounding community, too. They do so by:

Police brutality can lead to lawsuits

New York residents rely on their local police to protect them and their property against crime. Sometimes, however, police use excessive force when apprehending or questioning someone. In such cases, people may suffer physical or mental injury that has a long-term impact on their well-being.

In April 2017, an NBA player reached a settlement with the New York Police Department over an arrest in which his leg was broken. The amount was $4 million, compensation for his inability to play while his leg healed. He was eventually able to go on and resume his career, joining another pro team.

Town councilman faces tax evasion, other charges

A New York town councilman was taken into custody on March 31 and charged with tax evasion, wire fraud, failing to file a return or pay tax and making and subscribing to false corporate tax returns. Allegedly the man owes $250,000 in taxes and diverted $800,000 of an employer's revenue.

Prosecutors claim that over two years, the man diverted legal fees from the law firm that employed him into a consulting business he had set up. They also said that he filed three years of fraudulent tax returns.

New York woman pleads guilty to embezzling $4.1 million

On March 28, a New York woman pleaded guilty to embezzling $4.1 million from her employer. Officials from the Erie County District Attorney's Office said it is one of the largest individual embezzlement cases prosecutors can recall handling.

The defendant, a 55-year-old East Aurora resident, began working as a comptroller at Towne Automotive Group in 2001. According to media reports, she wrote unauthorized checks from her employer's accounts and illegally transferred money into her personal bank accounts. Investigators were able to prove she misappropriated $4.1 million, but prosecutors say bank records only went back to May 2009, so she may have stolen a larger amount. Her scheme was uncovered in November 2016 when a business called Towne Automotive to discuss a $125,000 check it had received. The defendant was on vacation, so another employee looked at the books, discovering the fraudulent activity.

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