Articles Tagged with Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

Lying to federal authorities such as the FBI is a crime that is punishable by up to five years in federal prison. Over the past year or so, many people have become aware of this crime due to recent highly publicized cases that have filled the headlines relating to the ongoing Special Counsel’s investigation of foreign interference in the 2016 election. Indictments have been unsealed relating to multiple defendants pleading guilty, being sentenced by a judge and sent to prison for this crime. Others await sentencing after negotiating plea deals for this crime as well as others.

However the same circumstance doesn’t apply for lying to local or state law enforcement authorities. It’s important to know that difference. Although statements you make to a police officer (true or false) can be used and held against you in a court of law whether your Miranda rights have been read to you or not at the time your statements were made, but the act of telling a lie in itself is not a crime. 

Those who have visited my Website, or read articles here on my blog have been educated strongly to never speak when questioned by police or any other type of law enforcement authorities without an attorney present. It is also crucial not to volunteer information. This instruction is imperative whether an arrest has been made or the possibility of one may be pending. Even if police believe you’re only a witness to a possible crime you have the right to say nothing to them if they question you until an attorney is present.

Updating an article that was posted on this blog in mid-February, a North Lauderdale woman was sentenced to forty-one months in federal prison after the judge in the case determined that a tougher punishment for the crimes she committed was warranted.

Normally, in cases such as these some type of restitution and penalties are always assessed by the judge but it’s rare that such a harsh sentence is imposed. In fact, most of those that plead guilty to the crime she was found guilty of usually get a minimal sentence or even probation if their previous criminal record is fundamentally unsoiled.

Background

A North Lauderdale woman was jailed last month after a jury found her guilty of ninety counts of stealing federal funds. The jury deliberated for approximately thirty minutes before finding her guilty of all charges in Fort Lauderdale federal court. Her sentencing hearing is set for April 5, 2018 when she can be sent to federal prison for up to ten years. Additionally, she will most likely be slapped with a fine of up to $250,000 in addition to restitution of the stolen money and at least three years of supervised release after her sentence is served.

She was represented at trial by a Federal Public Defender.

Myriam Etienne illegally accepted more than $130,000 in Social Security benefits which were directly deposited into a bank account she jointly shared with her grandparents. For more than a decade Etienne illegally received her grandfather’s benefits as well as receiving her grandmother’s payments after she also died.

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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