Articles Tagged with Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

During the 2016 presidential campaign, the opioid epidemic became a campaign issue with overdose deaths hitting a peak of 28,000 nationally the previous year detailed by the latest current available data.

It was just a few weeks ago that the President of the United States declared the opioid crisis a National emergency. More than a year earlier, the Governor of Florida stated that opioid abuse was a public health emergency in the state.

Locally, a Miami man was arrested this past June for heroin trafficking and possession of Fentanyl. He was coordinating transactions of the opiates with what turned out to be a police informant.

5/28/2017

When reporters asked Ariana Grande for comment as she disembarked in South Florida they were given no immediate comment. But the young Boca Raton pop star later tweeted through social media the following: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.” [Sic] – She later posted prepared remarks on Twitter which can be read by clicking this link.

This first online comment was in response to the heinous terrorist attack that took place in Manchester, England earlier last week killing at least 22 people and injuring 59, at last count.

It was the height of the Holiday shopping season last month, when a middle aged woman wearing sweat pants and a dark colored hat walked into a bank and simply handed a teller a note which read “This is a robbery. Smile & act naturally”. She also told the teller that she was armed and wouldn’t hesitate to use her weapon, “so don’t act like a hero”, even though witnesses to the apparent robbery didn’t see a weapon in the woman’s possession, according to the federal criminal complaint.

After her arrest, which took place three days after the alleged robbery, and after being taken into custody, Sonya Clark, who is fifty two years old and works for a moving company also seemingly confessed to robbing a local branch of a TD bank in Boynton Beach late last year, near her residence. The bank that was hit in Fort Lauderdale was also a TD Bank
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Recently on my Website, I’ve been focusing on the topic of identity theft since tax season is fast approaching and the rise in these types of cases increases dramatically this time of year.

Most people submit their tax information to the IRS before the April 15 deadline hoping to receive their refund checks as early as possible.

But in many cases, others are already spending that expected money as people continually check their mailboxes for the check they assume to receive from the Department of the Treasury.

Tax Season has begun, and potential identity thieves are making plans.

After the New Year’s festivities end, up until the April 15 deadline (excluding extensions) people go through their records from the previous year and prepare to submit their completed income tax information to the IRS by themselves or through a representative, in the hopes of receiving a nice refund from the taxes they overpaid during the year; using the deductions they are legally entitled to.

But well before that date, plans are hatched by identity thieves imagining how to play the system by stealing people’s identities, and cashing the refunds that are due to others.

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A recent example of enforcement of these new laws is a case involving Saiful Hossain, who worked in his father’s grocery store in Hillsborough County.

In 2012, the business was selling the synthetic drug openly before new laws were enacted banning a list of the chemicals used to manufacture the synthetic drug known as Spice.

According to federal documents, on November 7 of last year, Vero Beach resident Ahmed Maher Elhelw was arrested when federal agents discovered a three kilogram package of XLR-11, a controlled substance chemical used in the manufacture of SSC (smokable synthetic cannabinoids) in his possession. The chemical was one of many that were banned by the new law implemented in 2012. Subsequent investigation uncovered approximately seven more packages, containing equal amounts. The chemical that was imported into the Vero Beach area originating in China had a projected street value of more than $5.4 million.

Elhelw was the first of four South Florida residents who was taken into custody in a conspiracy to import and distribute synthetic chemicals in a plan that was hatched by Hossain after he decided to go out on his own when his father’s grocery store stopped selling the now illegal substance.
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Michael Paul Watkins of Inverness had successfully escaped from custody previously on two separate occasions after being convicted for the crime of fondling and handling a minor under the age of sixteen years in Florida State Court. He was arrested in October 2011 on a charge of domestic battery. Details of that arrest record are exempt from public information as per Florida statute.

Late last year, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office received information from local Wal-Mart employees that an individual who was later identified as an employee of Cool Aid Heating and Air Conditioning was purchasing a questionably large amount of firearms from the outlet during the course of a short period of time. The air conditioning company was one of two businesses owned by Watkins. The purchases included various types of guns including AR-15 rifles. The law enforcement agency also received an anonymous tip that Watkins was obtaining and stockpiling firearms, grenades (explosive devices), and ammunition from a third party. As a convicted felon, Watkins is prohibited from manufacturing, possessing, or purchasing any type of weapons under the National Firearms Act.

The Sheriff’s Office contacted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), a federal law enforcement agency and together they executed three warrants based on probable cause, searching Watkins home and the two businesses he owned.

Through their search efforts at Watkins home, close to 150 firearms as well as 17 explosive devices were uncovered. The investigators’ assigned to the search the premises commented that Watkins house was “built like a bunker”. There was a concrete gated wall surrounding the home entrance as well as rolling steel shutters guarding the front door and all windows.

In addition to the air conditioning and heating company, Watkins is also the owner of Ridin’ Dirty Motor Sports, a retailer of ATV’s, go carts and motorcycles. He was arrested at that location and charged with illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon as well as illegal possession of a destructive device. If convicted, each of the crimes carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in a federal prison.

When Watkins’ employee was questioned by federal investigators he told them that the acquisition of the firearms began in September 2013 in gun shops where they were legally sold, including Wal-Mart stores in Inverness, Inglis, and Ocala, Florida. The money was provided by his employer and on some occasions he waited in the store’s parking lot for the transaction to be completed. He also bought conversion kits for Watson by way of the Internet, using a pre-paid card provided by his boss. These supplies are specifically used in the conversion of semi-automatic weapons into automatic firearms.

He also admitted to investigators that he assisted his boss construct and set off pipe bombs which were made from PVC pipes that contained explosive substances on a vacant lot which Watkins owned in Dunnellon, FL. The Citrus County Property Appraiser confirmed that the property was owned by Watkins’s company (Watkins Inc.).

In further response to investigator’s questions regarding why his employer had accumulated the equivalence of a small armory, he told them that Watkins feared the foreseeable collapse of the United States economy and planned to eventually become a supplier for the firearms industry. Telephone records and text messages corresponding to the purchase dates between Watkins and his worker were also accumulated by investigating agents.

Although Watkins was convicted of his prior crimes in the state criminal justice system, these new charges will be tried in federal court. The employee continues to work and cooperate with federal authorities.

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These days it seems that with far too much frequency there is continually breaking news about another retailer with online outlets being victimized by a security breach. The latest of these high tech break-ins was successfully aimed at Home Depot and turned out to be executed by a low-tech method; at least when first hijacking their network.

The well-known distributor of appliances and supplies for home and garden items released news that show that a breach which began in April of this year and went undetected through September allowed hackers to steal credit and debit card data of fifty-six million customers. The news got worse when the company announced last week that in addition to the credit data being compromised as many as fifty-three million email addresses were also revealed to the hackers through the attack.

The hackers didn’t have to break through any firewalls or tough encryption protocols or even find a flaw in their Website’s security code. They did it the old fashioned way by stealing a vendor’s login information to gain access to their network.

Once inside the system the online bandits were able to move around the network and plant malware known as “Backoff” which in this case was custom-built, accessing records of customer’s credit and debit card information at point of sale terminals that were located throughout the United States and Canada. This type of bug had been previously flagged by the Secret Service leading the Agency to issue an advisory that warned businesses of the threat before this latest attack took place.

According to Kaspersky Labs a well-regarded cyber security company, the amount of companies targeted by this method may easily have exceeded the more than one thousand companies thought to be affected by it based on estimates released by federal officials.

The technicians from Kaspersky found that during a period of only a few days of their investigation, in excess of one hundred networks from eighty-five separate IP addresses were attempting to link to what are technically known as malicious command-and-control servers.

Malicious command-and-control servers are used in cyber-attacks for the purpose of maintaining communication with systems that have been previously compromised within a network that has been breached. Ninety-seven of those infected systems were in the U.S and Canada with the other small group targeting Israel and the United Kingdom.

It appears that most of the systems were compromised quite a while ago, since this particular Backoff component had been identified as early as October of last year according to one of the senior security researchers at Kaspersky. “Looking at the bigger picture here, these companies were infected for a very long time, maybe even half a year or longer,” said Roel Schouwenberg, the senior security researcher that was interviewed and speculated that the companies under attack “should have detected and blocked any malicious activity related to the malware” and then added that “none of the companies appears to have even known they were infected.”

It appears that Home Depot did not learn from the massive data breach earlier this year against Target stores that affected more than 100 million customers. The company has been accused of not keeping up-to-date on necessary security measures that would have made them aware of the planted malware ultimately thwarting the break-in and subsequent data theft.

The implications of such a theft of data are usually not immediately felt but the threat continually exits without taking measures to protect the stolen data. That’s not to say that there aren’t immediate financial ramifications.

Before the breach was even publicized a consumer class action suit was filed in federal court by First Choice Federal Credit Union that listed an extensive listing of damages. The case was filed in Georgia which is Home Depot’s hub.

First Choice which is located in New Castle, Pennsylvania filed the suit on behalf of financial institutions including credit unions and banks anticipating that they will be suffering injuries as a result of a massive security breach which compromised the retailer’s customers’ names, and zip codes of the stores marked by the theft, debit and credit numbers along with their expiration dates, and verification codes. The suit also mentions the immediate costs of redistributing new cards and other costs involving the intensity of labor needed to achieve it. To sum it up, the complaint states that “Home Depot utilized weak password configurations and did not employ lockout security procedures at its remote access points.”

In Florida, the breach affected 434,000 members of credit unions. With the average cost of each card estimated to be just over eight dollars it will cost close to three and one half million dollars to replace and reissue the cards as well as sustaining additional costs for notifying their members by way of additional staffing. Charges will also be incurred for the monitoring of the affected accounts. These figures are according to the League of Southeastern Credit Unions and Affiliates.

To read more in detail about computer and Internet cases visit the following page on my Website: https://www.southflalaw.com/federal-computer-crimes.html

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