Today’s Lawrence Eagle Tribune reports that Anita Allen, a Haverhill, Massachusetts woman has been arrested and charged with federal wire fraud charges in the Massachusetts Federal District Court. Allen was an accounts payable specialist for a local IT staffing company. She allegedly moved money between Internet based accounts and funneled the money into her own personal account. Allen’s expertise in accounting enabled her to doctor the various books she was maintaining at work and helped her to steal about one million dollars. The statute under which Allen has been charged is examined below.
21 United States Code Section 331(c) makes it a crime for anyone to receive in interstate commerce a cosmetic that is misbranded. This is a crime that is rarely seen prosecuted in this area. Unfortunately Rossi Tavarez, a thirty seven year old Dorchester, Massachusetts woman is facing federal criminal charges for allegedly violating this law. According to reports, back in 2011 Tavarez was offering lip and buttocks augmentation through injections for a fee of seven hundred dollars per injection. She used a substance that was labeled for external use. The actual product was something not identified on the label. It was in fact a silicone-based product that could create the cosmetic enhancements desired. Continue reading →
Local news outlets are reporting that a fifty-six year old Connecticut man has been arrested and charged with child enticement in Massachusetts federal court. The complaint alleges that Paul Hinkel tried to entice a minor into having sex with him. Hinkel responded to a Craigslist post generated by undercover federal agents. The listing directed interested parties to an email address. Email exchanges between Hinkel and someone posing as the minor’s mother disclosed negotiations and plans for completing the act. When the Hinkel arrived at the meeting location he was met by federal agents and arrested. Continue reading →
While reading posts on my Google+ account today I noticed defendants in various parts of the country facing stiff sentences for computer related crimes. Take for instance the case of Jared James Abrahams, a nineteen year old California man and college student who recently pleaded guilty to a computer based extortion scheme. Abrahams was accused of taking over webcams by infecting computers with malware, then capturing the victims disrobing and extorting them for more photos under the threat of publishing the photos. It was also alleged that Abrahams demanded victims get onto Skype and do as he requested, again under the threat of exposing the illicitly accessed images. Abrahams is looking at thirty-three months in federal prison for the commission of these crimes. Victims identified on Abrahams computer equipment, one of whom was a minor, were from all over the world.
In another case, known computer hacker Jeremy Hammond could end up with a ten year sentence for hacking into computers and stealing tens of thousands of credit card numbers. The financial losses calculated by the government directly attributable to Hammond’s actions could be reach two and one half million dollars. Hammond’s lawyers claim that his efforts were part of his social activism, not for personal gain and not initiated maliciously. Rather, it was part of a nonviolent protest that should be punished as such. The government is seeking a sentence of ten years for Hammond, significantly more than the twenty months being requested by his legal team.
So what does this tell you about the state of computer crimes right now? Well obviously they are being taken very seriously by prosecutors. Both of these unrelated cases are being prosecuted by the federal government. The sentences being requested are staggering regardless of the motive or sensitivities of the defendants. Abrahams suffers from a documented case of autism for which he has been treated for over ten years. Hammond is motivated by social forces and has not profited from his actions. Nevertheless, prosecutors want blood. They want lengthy sentences. This trend is consistent not only in federal courts but in state courts including Massachusetts. The message district attorneys want to send is clear; virtual trespassing, no matter what the motive will not be tolerated and deserves sever punishment.
So how are these cases defended? Usually by challenging the validity of the search warrant the permits the police access to your electronic/computer equipment. Fight to show an absence of probable cause and improper issuance of the search warrant. Additionally, you might be able to defend these cases by showing that the government has failed to establish that you are in fact the person who committed the acts, regardless of what is on the computer.
An article in today’s Boston Globe discusses Judge Denise Casper’s first significant ruling in the James “Whitey” Bulger case, one that involves assuring the anonymity of a confidential informant. Bulger’s lawyers argued that one of FBI Agent John Gamel’s informants should be identified so that the defense can impeach government witness Kevin Weeks. Weeks previously stated under oath that he, Bulger and two others legitimately won a 1991 Mass Millions prize in excess of fourteen million dollars. The confidential informant who the defense wants to unmask has contradicted this claiming that the lottery money was not legitimately won but rather a money laundering scheme. Reasoning that there is no connection between the crimes charged and the lottery winnings the judge refused to order disclosure of the informant’s identity. She specifically wrote that “Contrary to Bulger’s argument, there is still reason to preserve the CI’s anonymity. The key consideration is not that there is no pending investigation or other law enforcement interest remaining in the underlying matter, but that the qualified privilege presumes confidentiality unless the burden to disclose such information is met … This assurance of anonymity is essential.”
So when if fact does Massachusetts require the informant’s identity to be disclosed? Like most jurisdictions, Massachusetts recognizes the government’s privilege not to disclose the identity of a confidential informant. The Massachusetts Courts endeavor to protect the safety of the informant by maintaining anonymity. The courts also acknowledge that the privilege helps the police in investigating criminal activity. The privilege however is not absolute. The standard for requiring disclosure in one of materiality particularly at the trial stage of the proceedings. Disclosure is often required where it bears on the issue of guilt or innocence. If the confidential informant participated in the crime charged disclosure will be ordered. Also, if the informant was a percipient witness to the crime alleged and is the only civilian witness disclosure will be ordered. In essence, a balancing test is done by the judge to see whether applying the privilege would result in an unfair trial for the defendant.
As a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer I can certainly see why the defense would want this person’s identity disclosed. Weeks and several other government witnesses in this case cut deals that resulted in reduced jail sentences in exchange for their testimony. Naturally, attacking their credibility is a major consideration to the defense. The lottery matter is not irrelevant in the context of this case. The crimes charged go back more than three decade. They include money laundering, which is precisely what the confidential informant said the lottery winnings were about.
A lengthy investigation into Revere Blood gang activities led to the arrest of fifteen men from various parts of Massachusetts including Revere, Lynn and New Bedford. It is alleged that various gang members were involved in gun and drug sales in Suffolk County and Essex County. Nine of the defendants have been charged with Federal Drug Crimes. The remaining six have been charged in state courts in Boston and Salem, Massachusetts. The charges for each vary and include Trafficking Cocaine, Trafficking Heroin, Firearms Charges and Counterfeit Drugs. Many of the accused have prior drug convictions. Conspiracy is another charge that many of the defendants face.
Lawyers Who Defend Drug Cases in Revere and Lynn, Massachusetts
While the article is not clear as to what charges each defendant faces I imagine that the charges in Federal Court are more severe than those filed in state court. The combination of drugs and guns as the basis for a criminal charge in Federal Court can be devastating. For example, 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c) mandates a consecutive sentence if a firearm is used in connection with a drug trafficking case. This law requires someone convicted of the offenses to first serve jail time on the drug case and then to serve time on the gun charge. The minimum mandatory sentence on such a case is five years from and after the drug charge and up to thirty years. The sentence increases in accordance with the type of firearm that was possessed. Possessing the gun as opposed to brandishing or actually shooting the gun also effect the length of sentence. This law is much more severe than Massachusetts state laws prohibiting the same conduct. As a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer I imagine that the cases against the people charged in federal court carry those sentence enhancements.
It is difficult to assess possible defenses for the accused in these cases due to the lack of detail in the article. Factors that trigger the defenses include the defendant’s actual role in the criminal enterprise; i.e. was this someone who was caught selling drugs and guns or simply someone who was at the homes that were searched when the warrants were executed. The quantity of drugs found on an individual often guides defenses. For instance, someone with a history of drug possession convictions or with a documented drug abuse history might be able to claim possession rather than an intent to sell drugs if the quantity in his or her possession is consistent with their drug habits. The presence of Drug Distribution Paraphernalia factors into the analysis of the defendant’s intent as does the presence of absence of drug ingestion devices.
Paul Teves was an eleventh grade school teacher working at the West Bridgewater High School. He also coached track. Now the thirty five year old stands charged with Distribution of Child Pornography in the Federal District Court for the District of Massachusetts. According to a report in the Brockton Enterprise, Teves used a screen name and described himself as a mother willing to pimp out her eleven year old daughter. Chats were either monitored or seized wherein Teves communicated with someone from Albuquerque who, once arrested cooperated and led officials to Teves. Teves was interviewed by investigating FBI agents. He admitted exchanging videos and stills of Child Pornography with others. It appears that Teves is not currently in custody.
The statute under which Teves is being prosecuted is likely 18 U.S.C. §2252. That law states that anyone who receives or distributes material that involves this use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and that depicts such conduct is guilty of a felony. A conviction of this offense is punishable by a minimum mandatory five year prison sentence.
Investigating these cases is often difficult and frustrating for law enforcement. People who engage in this type of conduct often do so from their homes. The mere fact that several people can live in one home and share the same IP address makes identifying the actual perpetrator difficult. Even if a person lives alone law enforcement officials know that unsecured IP addresses can be accessed by neighbors. Experienced Massachusetts Criminal Lawyers can exploit this fact when filing Motions to Suppress unlawful Searches and Seizures. While identifying the source or origin of the illicit activity may be easy, putting a suspect’s fingerprints on the keyboard is a much more difficult task. More often than not law enforcement agencies solidify their cases when they contact the suspect and get him or her to talk. The accused usually panics talk to the authorities. They think they can minimize the damage by admitting to wrongdoing and being cooperative. They are wrong. I have been practicing criminal law for over twenty four years and never once have I had a client who “talked his way out” of a criminal problem. The police are skilled at asking questions. The questions are designed to elicit certain answers. Once they get those answers their case strengthens. Also, rarely does a client come into my office, look at a police report and tell me “that is exactly what I said to them”. The response is almost always “that is not what I said”. This is why I always advise clients to say nothing and hire a lawyer. Lawyers are paid to protect you and to make sure that you do not jeopardize your legal rights by acting foolishly or on impulse.
Two nights ago Guarionex Pratts of North Andover, Massachusetts was arrested at his apartment by North Andover Police and DEA agents. Apparently a call to the DEA Tipline alerted authorities to the existence of Drug Dealing Activities at the apartment. The tip stemmed from neighbors concerns about an odor suggestive of drug activities in the building. The Lawrence Eagle Tribune is reporting that Pratts consented to a search of his apartment. During the Search officers found hundreds of Oxycodone pills, a significant sum of cash and over two pounds of Heroin. Packaging products or Drug Paraphernalia was also found and seized during the search. The smell that alarmed the neighbors was determined to come from cutting agents used to dilute the drugs being that were being packaged for street level sales. The heroin was valued at around one hundred fifty thousand dollars. Pratts has been charged with Trafficking Heroin and Trafficking Oxycodone. There is a mandatory minimum fifteen year sentence for a conviction of the Heroin Trafficking Offense. Pratts, who is thirty two years old, is believed to be supplying Drug Dealers in Lawrence, Massachusetts. If the Massachusetts state courts retain jurisdiction of the case it will likely be prosecuted in the Essex County Superior Court in Salem.
As a Massachusetts Criminal Attorney who has handled hundreds of drug cases in Essex County something immediately hits me when I read this article. Did Pratts really consent to the search of his apartment? The sheer quantity of drugs found suggests that whoever was responsible for these substances was not a novice. He or she had extensive experience in the Massachusetts drug underworld. Anyone with this level of familiarity with the drug trade would not simply consent to the search of his apartment. They would say no to the request to search. Massachusetts laws require a valid search warrant to justify a search of someone’s property. There are exceptions to the warrant requirement. Consent is one of those exceptions. Large scale drugs dealers however never consent. This leads me to conclude that there was no consent or the consent was coerced. In either case a Motion to Suppress the search will likely be filed to try to get the searched declared unconstitutional. If there truly was consent to the search this fact will have some significance for Pratts as well. It will be argued that no one is likely to consent to a search under these circumstances unless he or she had absolutely no involvement with the underlying Drug Distribution Activities. Pratts legal road is a long one. This makes his decision to hire the right lawyer to defend him one of the most important of his life. He must start an aggressive defense right away.
After four days of deliberations a Northern California jury rendered its verdict in the Barry Bonds perjury/obstruction of justice case. The three perjury charges stemmed from allegations that Bonds made false statements while under oath before a federal grand jury in 2003. The jury was unable to return verdicts on those counts and a mistrial was declared. On two of these three counts the jury was leaning heavily towards acquittal. However the jury did convict Bonds of obstruction of justice, a crime permitting incarceration for up to ten years. The factual basis for this conviction originated from Bonds’ response to the question : “Did Greg [Anderson, Bonds personal trainer] ever give you anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with?” Bonds’ response centered on his friendship with Anderson and his celebrity status. Prosecutors claim that he never answered the question. Understandably, defense attorneys are seeking to have the judge vacate this conviction.
Massachusetts Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
18 U.S.C. §1503 lays out the law for a Federal Obstruction of Justice Charge. In essence, anyone who “endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be punished”. This statute was designed to target any corrupt conduct endeavoring to obstruct or interfere with the administration of justice. The Barry Bonds jury was asked to determine if his evasive answer to one question satisfies the elements of the statute beyond a reasonable doubt. Legally the word “corrupt” implies an evil or wicked purpose. The prosecution must also prove a beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant’s specific intent to impede the administration of justice. I can fully appreciate Bonds’ lawyers’ efforts to have this conviction vacated. While his arguably rambling response to the question before the grand jury was non-responsive an intent to impede the administration of justice seems to be a reach, notwithstanding the jury’s verdict. This issue will be argued again on May 20th, this time to the trial judge alone. Perhaps the conviction will be vacated.
Just under a month ago police from Lawrence and Methuen Massachusetts along with the FBI started an investigation after an FBI informant made a significant disclosure to authorities. Supposedly, Tony Diaz was offering free drugs to the informant. In return Diaz expected the man to kill someone who had been skimming drugs. With this information meetings with this informant and another were held with Diaz and under police monitoring. It is alleged that during these meetings Diaz gave the informants Cocaine and Heroin. Diaz told the informants that the target had stolen over one hundred grams. It is further alleged that during the final meeting Diaz gave the informant a loaded .38 caliber revolver with instructions to shoot the target in the face. Diaz denied the allegations during a post-arrest interrogation. He has been charged in the Federal District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
Massachusetts Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
The crime of murder-for-hire in federal court is codified under 18 U.S.C. §1958. The law states that anyone who uses interstate facilities with the intent to commit a murder for money or other compensation shall be punished. The prosecution must prove that the defendant used or caused someone else to use the interstate facility (here the use of cell phones) with the intent that the murder be committed. In a case like this the informants will have to testify unless the conversations were recorded. It would be interesting to hear exactly is on those recordings particularly where Diaz denied the murder-for-hire charge but admitted to Drug Distribution and Possession of the Firearm.