September 2009 Archives

September 30, 2009

South Florida Residents Sentenced in Miami Wire Fraud and Alien Smuggling Case

Three Miami residents were sentenced in federal court for defrauding illegal aliens out of almost a half million dollars. The three defendants were under indictment for stealing money paid by illegal aliens to assist them with their immigration matters. The acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida made the announcement with the assistance of federal agents. The Miami criminal attorneys representing the defendants did not make any comments following the federal sentencing hearing.

Rafael Diaz De La Rocha, Ada Calveiro and Nestor Romero were indicted and sentenced for wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and making false statements. Romero was also charged and sentenced for impersonating a federal officer. As a result of their guilty pleas to committing fraud against illegal aliens, Romero received a 110 month prison sentence, Calviero received a 40 month prison sentence and Diaz De La Rocha received a 20 month prison sentence. All defendants were sentenced within the guidelines established by the federal sentencing statutes.

From February 2003 through November 2004, the defendants conspired to defraud illegal aliens by charging them $7,500 a head to assist them with processing fraudulent applications which would enable them to obtain work authorizations. The Miami wire fraud case operated in the South Florida area and New York. Romero posed as an immigration attorney and an official from the Department of Homeland Security. Calveiro and De La Rocha assisted Romero in consummating the scheme to defraud.

After receiving the $7,500 payment, Romero prepared the fraudulent immigration applications using individual's information obtained as a result of identity theft, such as alien registration numbers. The defendants collected close to half a million dollars from unsuspecting illegal aliens during a five year period. The massive scheme to defraud was uncovered after several complaints were filed with federal authorities.

Acting U.S. Attorney, Jeffrey Sloman applauded the efforts of federal investigators who uncovered the scheme to defraud. The victims of identity theft and immigration fraud suffered irreparable harm by those who chose to enrich themselves at the expense of others. Sloman stated that the U.S. Attorneys office is committed to stop the growing number of Miami fraud cases, including, identity theft, credit card fraud, Medicare fraud and mortgage fraud.

Miami Group Sentenced for Conspiracy to Defraud Illegal Aliens in Florida and New York, Media Newswire, September 22, 2009.

September 29, 2009

Different Approach to Fighting Miami Drug Crimes

For years, Miami and South Florida jails were filled with defendants a charged with possession of cocaine and possession of marijuana. Other defendants were charged with sale of cocaine or sale of marijuana, in an attempt to support their drug habit. The Miami-Dade County jails became so overcrowded because people would post bond on possession of cocaine and possession of marijuana cases, and then get re-arrested for the same offenses. As a result, those convicted of violent crimes were being granted early release programs due to the overcrowding. Miami criminal attorneys routinely handle large numbers of cocaine and marijuana possession cases.

As a result of the overcrowding, then Miami-Dade County State Attorney implemented the "drug court" program. The program offered cocaine and marijuana users an opportunity to enter into drug treatment programs rather than serve jail or prison sentences. As a result of this Miami innovation, there are more than 2,100 similar drug offender programs offered around the country. Despite the novel approach to handling drug offender cases involving possession or sale of drugs, the state courts, jails and prisons are again overwhelmed by the problem.

All of the drug courts operating around the country use different models. As with all courts, some systems work better than others. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers conducted and extensive study into the drug court programs, including Miami to determine which system is the most effective. In Miami, there are usually two choices for those charged with cocaine possession or marijuana possession. The first option allows for defendants to enter into a guilty plea to the charges. If the defendant passes all of drug tests for six months to a year, the state attorney's office will vacate the plea and dismiss the charges. The other option is drug court, which allows the defendant to keep the case open for a year. If the defendant completes the assigned tasks, drug treatment and completing a requisite number of narcotics anonymous classes, the state will dismiss the charges.

The problem with these programs arises because Miami criminal lawyers are not provided the opportunity to defend these cases. Many of the cocaine possession and marijuana possession cases have defenses such as motions to suppress which are never argued, because the defendants are run through the system without the assistance of an attorney. As a result, many of the cocaine and marijuana cases are in the system for up to a year when they could have been disposed of quickly with the assistance of a criminal lawyer. Some standard of review for all drug possession and sale cases would alleviate the pressure on the system.

Rethink How We Fight Drugs, The Miami Herald, September 29, 2009.

September 25, 2009

Miami Judge Removes Himself from Obstruction of Justice Case

A Miami-Dade County judge took himself off a case which stems from a sexual assault which allegedly occurred at a Miami High School back in 2006. The Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office charged the principal of a Miami-Dade High School for his involvement in the cover up of the sexual assault. The Miami criminal defense lawyer representing Dwight Bernard attempted to gain enrollment into the pre-trial intervention program. Miami prosecutors filed a motion to recuse Circuit Court Judge Julio Jimenez after he urged the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office to offer the defendant the program.

The pre-trial intervention program is offered to first-time offenders. If the defendant complies with all the conditions set forth by the prosecution, the charges will be dropped within a six month time frame. The catch is that only the prosecution, and not the judge can offer the program to a defendant. After the defendant completes the program and the charges are dismissed, the defendant can seek an expungement of his record.

Bernard is currently charged with two counts of official misconduct. Jimenez intervened in the case when the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office extended a plea offer that included probation and to forfeit his school employment. Bernard's criminal lawyer told reporters that his client would not accept a plea because that would require him to lie under oath. Prosecutors from the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office filed a motion to recuse citing that Judge Jimenez said that he was concerned that a plea would cause Bernard to have an "undue cloud hanging over his head." Prosecutors also alleged that Judge Jimenez said that a "not guilty verdict was likely."

With this ammunition in hand, prosecutors filed a motion to recuse setting forth their belief that the State of Florida could not receive a fair trial or sentencing in the event Bernard was convicted after a jury trial. Jimenez defended his actions by stating the following, "I was trying to resolve the case in the best interests of the minor child, the defendant...the football team of the high school, and the community." He also claimed that he was asked to send the letter and then stabbed in the back. The case is a prime example of why many of the Miami-Dade County Circuit Court judges will not become involved in plea negotiations. It is the actions of the state attorney's office that makes every Miami criminal defense attorney's job more difficult in resolving cases for their clients.

Judge in Northwestern Principal Case Recuses Himself, The Miami Herald, September 25, 2009.

September 24, 2009

Cocaine Trafficking Cartels Move from Latin America to Africa

Miami is no longer the only stepping off point for Latin American drug cartels. Latin American cocaine trafficking cartels have set up shop in the western region of Africa. Officials from the Drug Enforcement Agency declare that 9 of the top cocaine trafficking cartels have established bases in at least 11 West African Nation, with the forerunner being Guinea-Bissau. Although Guinea-Bissau is the fifth poorest nation in the world, it is ripe for the drug trade because the drug cartels work with the local criminal gangs to traffic cocaine. West Africa has earned the title "The Coke Coast". Although crossing the Atlantic to engage in cocaine trafficking is an interesting concept, it certainly will not provide any cases to Miami criminal lawyers specializing in cocaine trafficking cases.

A University of Miami professor explained that the movement of cocaine trafficking to Africa is a direct result of the increase in demand for cocaine in Europe. While the demand for cocaine in the United States has dramatically fallen in the United States since the 1980s, the European markets demand has increased significantly. A UN report explained that cocaine use in the United States is 50% lower than it was in the eighties and that European countries have seen the demand for cocaine double or even triple in recent years. Another report revealed that 1,000 tons of pure cocaine are produced every year with nearly 60% of the product making it to market. Cocaine is 70 billion dollar a year industry.

Of the 1,000 tons of cocaine that are produced each year, 250 tons are earmarked for Europe. Recent reports revealed that 27% of cocaine that makes it to Europe comes through West Africa. While a kilo of cocaine goes for about $22,000 in the United States, the sane amount sell for $45,000 in Europe. The cocaine trafficking cartels are keenly ware of the tremendous profits available for their product. Another interesting fact is that the European Union recently began issuing a 500 Euro note (equivalent to $700). Cocaine traffickers find it easier to transport large bills which is why Europe is being the targeted by the cartels.

The cocaine trafficking cartels are also aware that the DEA has a reduced presence in the area. The DEA has offices in Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa to cover an area 11.7 million square miles. The political corruption, lack of police and military forces allow the cartels to operate with a free hand. Even if a cocaine trafficker is arrested, his release is usually secured in a matter of hours. Columbian and Venezuelan cocaine traffickers align themselves with criminal groups and terrorists that saturate the West African countries. Despite the distance between West Africa and the United States, the federal government is aware of the danger of terrorist groups such as al Qaeda aligning themselves with drug cartels.

Latin American Drug Cartels Find Home in West Africa, CNN.com, September 21, 2009.

September 23, 2009

Miami Criminal Lawyer Facing Appellate Court Decision

Oral arguments were heard in Miami, on Wednesday, September 23, 2009, before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal. Federal prosecutors argued that a money laundering conspiracy count charged by the prosecution be reinstated against Miami criminal attorney, Ben Kuehne. The federal court case involves Kuehne's acceptance of more than $5 million in legal fees from a Columbian man convicted of cocaine trafficking. Although Kuehne did not represent Fabio Ochoa in his cocaine trafficking case, he was hired to determine whether or not the fees that Ocho paid his Miami criminal defense lawyer were proceeds of the cocaine trade.

Ocho was once the famed ring leader of the Medellin cocaine trafficking cartel. The United States extradited Ochoa from Columbia in 2001 pursuant to the federal joint extradition agreement. Ochoa, convicted in federal court, is now serving a 30 year prison sentence.

An appellate lawyer from the Justice Department argued that United States District Judge erred by dismissing the money laundering and conspiracy count against Kuehne. United States District Judge Marcia Cooke dismissed the count based on a congressional mandate that prohibited criminal lawyers from accepting fees from illegally obtained money. According to Cooke, prohibiting lawyers from accepting fees is in direct contravention of the 6th Amendment to the Untied States Constitution which entitles every defendant the right to be represented by counsel.

Based on the oral arguments, it is highly unlikely that the 11 Circuit Court of Appeals is going to mandate that the money laundering and conspiracy charge be reinstated against Kuehne. Kuehne's federal court case has been placed on hold until the appellate court hands down a ruling. Kuehne faces up to 50 years in federal prison if he is convicted of the money laundering charges and obstruction of justice.

The Miami lawyer representing Kuehne argued to the appellate court, that federal law prohibits lawyers from being prosecuted for receiving tainted fees, however, tainted fees are subject to forfeiture. The current litigation certainly concerns many criminal lawyers who accept fees from clients who are charged with drug related offenses. Kuehne's attorney stated, "It's one thing to find a lawyer willing to risk his fee. It's another thing to find a lawyer willing to risk his liberty."

Fla. Court Hears Alleged Tainted Legal Fees Case, Associated Press, September 23, 2009.

September 22, 2009

Defendant Sentenced to 8 Years in Miami Medicare Fraud Case

Another day, another Miami Medicare fraud defendant is sentenced in federal court. Everyday the Miami Herald publishes another article regarding on the ongoing indictments, pleas and sentencing hearings surrounding Medicare fraud. Indicted several months ago, Alcides Garcia fled the United States to avoid being prosecuted for Medicare Fraud. He fled South Florida over a year ago while free on bail. At his initial bond hearing a federal magistrate accepted a $200,000 bond to assure his presence in court.

Garcia pled guilty to one Medicare fraud and was sentenced to eight years in federal prison. The defendant asked the court for forgiveness prior to the imposition of the sentence handed down by the U.S. District Judge. Garcia's Miami criminal lawyer argued that the amount of the loss claimed by the prosecution of $10.7 million far exceeded the $2.2 million actually collected from the federal healthcare fund for hospital supplies and medical equipment that were actually never purchased or used. Garcia admitted to fraudulently billing Medicare from 2002 to 2004, while acting as the owner/operator of A&Y Medical Supply.

United States District Judge, Marcia Cooke, ordered that Garcia pay restitution to Medicare for compensation for the losses that resulted from the fraud. It should noted that despite the large number of prosecutions and convictions in Medicare fraud cases, a very small percentage of the restitution is ever paid by the defendants. One can only believe that the balance sheets for healthcare funds like Medicare and Medicaid have suffered due to the hundreds of Miami healthcare fraud cases.

Investigators determined that Garcia fled the United States and traveled to Mexico, Spain and the Canary Islands on a fraudulent Mexican passport. Garcia became careless when he went to a shipping company and tried to have his belongings sent there from Miami. The owner of the shipping company became suspicious because Garcia appeared to be of Cuban descent, but he claimed to be Mexican. As a result of business owner's suspicion, he performed an internet search on his newest customer and determined that he was a federal fugitive from justice on Medicare fraud charges. The business owner contacted the FBI in Miami, who in turn contacted the Spanish National Police who placed him under arrest. Federal extradition laws along with an extradition agreement with the United States secured his return to face charges.

Miami Medicare Fraud Defendant Gets 8 Years, The Miami Herald, September 22, 2009.

September 21, 2009

Miami Murder Suspect Enters Plea In Criminal Court

A defendant in the murder case of nine-year Sherdavia Jenkins decided at the last minute to enter a guilty plea to a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against his co-defendant. Leroy Larose entered a guilty plea on September 16, 2009, accepting a seven year prison sentence in exchange for his testimony against Damon Darling, who allegedly killed the young with a bullet from his assault rifle. According to Larose's Miami criminal defense lawyer, he entered into a plea to seven years in prison as opposed to looking at a life sentence.

The allegations suggest that Larose and Darling got involved in a daylight shootout in Miami, Florida which resulted in the death of the young girl. Both defendants were charged with 2nd degree murder and attempted 1st degree murder for their involvement in the shooting. Each Miami criminal attorney for the defendants intended on using self-defense to keep their clients out of prison. According to the plea agreement, Larose will serve seven years in prison followed by 10 years of probation.

The case has always posed problems for the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office because of the "stand your ground" law implemented by the Florida Legislature in 2005. As a result of Larose's plea, the prosecution will go to trial against Darling. In addition to the murder charges, Darling is also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon which carries a 3 year minimum jail sentence.

The case is perfect example of the ongoing street violence gripping the streets of Miami. Law enforcement officials say the dispute between Larose and Darling began months before the murder occurred. On the date of the murder, Larose went to Overtown to purchase marijuana and was encountered by Darling and his assault rifle. Although more pre-trial motions are scheduled to be heard, the trial is set to commence this week. The trial is set to be heard before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler-Mendez.

To show that good things can come from senseless crimes, a Liberty City "peace park" is being erected in honor of the slain youth. These senseless violent crimes plaque the streets of Miami. One can only wonder how Miami's public will be protected if the budget constraints lead to the reduction in the number of police officers patrolling our streets.

Suspect in Sherdavia Jenkins' Death Makes Plea Deal, The Miami Herald, September 16, 2009.

September 18, 2009

Numerous Students Arrested on Miami Weapons Charges

Several students from Miami schools were arrested on weapons possession charges. The arrests follow from the homicide committed at Coral Gables High School last week. Anthony Rodriguez, of Miami, was charged with second degree murder for his involvement in the stabbing death of another student. Currently, Rodriguez is facing charges in juvenile court, however, his case is expected to be bound up to adult felony court as soon as the investigation is complete. It is unclear at this point whether Rodriguez has retained a Miami criminal lawyer to defend his case, or whether he will be appointed a Miami criminal attorney from Public Defender's Office.

The spike in arrests on weapons at schools is not uncommon following a violent incident. Students were arrested at various Miami schools for possession of weapons. The weapons seized by the police include a loaded .38 caliber revolver, knives, a box cutter and a Taser. Most of the weapons were located based on tips provided by other students to school administrators. Experts claim that reports of increased weapons possession charges always occur after a violent school related incident.

Police officials have declared that they have not changed their practices as a result of the Coral Gables High School incident. The Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, announced a community initiative program to reduce violent crimes in Miami schools. Aspects of the initiative include a weapons amnesty program, a campaign against non-violence for Miami-Dade students and a program for parents to increase their awareness of the safety needs of their children.

As for the students arrested on weapons charges following the alleged second degree murder, it is unclear whether the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office will treat these cases differently under the circumstances. The penalties that attach to the recent cases may be more onerous than usual to send a message to all Miami students that violence and possessing weapons in schools will not be tolerated. The parents and school administrators can only hope that the new initiatives will curb the rise in violent crimes committed in our schools.

6 Miami-Dade Students Arrested for Having Weapons at School, The Miami Herald, September 21, 2009.

Commitment to Ending Youth Violence in Miami-Dade Schools Renewed, The Miami Herald, September 21, 2009.

September 17, 2009

Noted Miami Fraud Investigator Challenges IRS

A noted Miami fraud investigator known for his expert opinion on Miami fraud and white collar crimes (i.e., mail fraud, wire fraud, racketeering (RICO), tax fraud and other organized scheme to defraud, has sued the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for a $4.8 million dollar judgement levied against him. The IRS sued Lewis B. Freeman for allegedly promoting an abusive and fraudulent tax shelter. A Miami lawyer filed the suit in federal court and alleges that Freeman had no involvement in an illegal scheme to defraud.

Freeman and his Miami firm are often hired to act as fraud experts in Miami federal cases. Freeman is often interviewed by the media for his expertise on Miami fraud cases and white collar crime. To date, the IRS has not filed and answer to the civil complaint filed in federal court. Freeman filed to suit in federal court for two reasons; first, he has no desire to pay the federal government $4.8 million dollars; secondly, he is concerned about his and his firm's reputation as a result of levied fine.

The complaint filed on Freeman's behalf alleges that he long with three other shareholders proposed a tax shelter program to 20 companies. The plan allowed for employees of these companies to be paid to reimburse commuter costs. The reimbursements are tax-free for the employees and the employer does not have to pay social security or Medicare taxes on the tax-free reimbursements. The tax-free program was provided to 4,827 employees. The IRS claims that the abusive tax shelter was a fraud, and that Freeman owed the IRS a $1,000 dollar penalty for the 4,827 workers for a total of $4.87 million dollars.

The other three shareholders involved in the alleged fraudulent tax shelter have a also received IRS penalty notices similar to the one received by Freeman. Freeman's attorney does not know if the other shareholders will follow Freeman's lead and file a lawsuit in federal court. Freeman not only contests the IRS claim regarding the tax shelter, but also contests the amount of the fine. He claims the tax shelter was provided to 20 companies. As such, he asserts that if he liable, the amount of the fine should only be $200,000.

Noted Fraud Investigator Fights Big IRS Penalty, Forbes September 4, 2009.

September 16, 2009

Puerto Rico to Miami Cocaine Trafficking Ring Busted

Agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency arrested 21 people in Puerto Rico and one person in Miami for their involvement in a massive Puerto Rico to Miami cocaine trafficking ring. Two defendants remain at large in the San Juan, Puerto Rico area. Those arrested or soon to be arrested are accused of sending cocaine laden suitcases to Miami and Orlando. Nine of the 23 people were American Airlines employees with ties to the Orlando and Miami International Airport.

All of the defendants are charged with conspiracy to traffic cocaine in excess of 19,800 pounds aboard commercial flights from Puerto Rico to Miami and Orlando. If convicted, the defendants face a potential sentence of life in prison and extensive fines. The case will appear in federal court either in Puerto Rico or Miami. It is unclear whether any of those arrested have hired Miami criminal lawyers at this point. Due the severity of the possible penalties set forth in Federal Sentencing Guidelines, it would behoove the defendants to hire only the most experienced Miami cocaine trafficking lawyers to defend their cases.

The indictment alleges that the ring leader of the Puerto Rico to Miami cocaine trafficking ring is Wilfredo Rodriguez-Rosado. Rodriguez-Rosado has been employed by American Airlines since 1999. The federal indictment alleges that he recruited American Airline employees to load cocaine laden suitcases onto commercial flights bound for cities in the United States, including Miami and Orlando. The Puerto Rico to Miami cocaine trafficking ring allegedly smuggled more than $19 million dollars of cocaine into the United States.

DEA Special Agent in Charge, Javier Pena, said with respect to the cocaine trafficking arrests, "With these arrests, the DEA closes another route for thousands of kilograms of cocaine to reach the United States or any other part of the world from Puerto Rico." According to reports, Puerto Rico has been a conduit for drug trafficking (including cocaine and marijuana) and weapons smuggling for years. Jet Blue and Comair employees were previously arrested and charged in federal court for their involvement in these crimes. Those arrests resulted in the legislation of more stringent security measures at airports. Apparently, the legislative changes have not impeded the drug and weapons smuggling operations out of Puerto Rico.

U.S. Anti-drug Swoop Arrests American Airlines Staff, Reuters, September 15, 2009.

American Airlines: Orlando Linked to Caribbean Drug Ring, Orlando Sentinel, September 16, 2009.

September 15, 2009

Former ICE Agent Indicted on Cocaine Trafficking Charges

In Miami federal court, a former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was indicted on cocaine trafficking charges. The indictment also alleges that he sold information about law enforcement activities to a well-known drug cartel. Richard Padilla Cramer was employed by the federal government for 30 years as an immigration agent. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida filed a criminal complaint against Cramer for allegedly negotiating cocaine shipments from Panama to Spain.

The case is just a prime example of how state, local and federal authorities get tangled up in the drug trade. There is the recent occurrence of a Florida Fish and Wildlife Officer involved in a Miami cocaine trafficking ring. Why do law enforcement officers succumb to becoming involved in the drug and narcotics trade? Is it out of greed or necessity? As a Miami criminal lawyer, I have seen examples of both. Some law enforcement officers who have been indicted or arrested on cocaine or marijuana trafficking charges claim to have made a mistake and wanted to live a more lavish lifestyle. Other law enforcement officers became involved in similar criminal enterprises for economic reasons; such as insufficient income or economic difficulties.

Cramer became involved in the cocaine trafficking case when he was working in Guadalajara, Mexico. The allegation suggests that Cramer invested between $15,000 and $20,000 into one shipment of 660 pounds of cocaine. Cramer left Nogales, Mexico in 2004 when he retired from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. Cramer moved to Green Valley, California and was employed by the Santa Cruz County Detention Center as a correctional officer.

Several former fellow employees were surprised by the situation. Cramer was well-known and respected law enforcement veteran. Cramer's employment records were indicative of a 30 year veteran of federal law enforcement. It is unclear what defenses will be set forth by his Miami criminal attorney in representing Cramer.

Ex-lawman from Nogales is Arraigned in Drug Case, Nogales International, September 8, 2009.

September 14, 2009

Former Miami DEA Boss Surrenders to Federal Authorities

The former chief of the Miami Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA") Office surrendered to federal agents and found himself in court for his involvement in the Allen Stanford financial scheme to defraud. Former Miami DEA chief, Tom Raffanello, has been indicted in federal court for charges of obstruction of justice, conspiracy and destruction of records. The charges stem from the Allen Stanford fraud investigation. Stanford is currently held without bail in a United States District Court in Houston, Texas.

It is ironic that Rafanello found himself handcuffed and appearing in federal court with other defendants charged with cocaine trafficking and marijuana trafficking. Rafanello posted a $100,000 bond and agreed to turn over his passport. On September 18, 2009, Rafanello will be arraigned with his co-defendant, Bruce Perraud in front of Magistrate Judge Robin Rosenbaum. Both Raffanello and Perraud are represented by Miami criminal lawyers.

After retiring from the DEA in 2004, Raffanello was hired to be a member of Allen Stanford's security force. The federal case centers around allegations that Raffanello and Perraud intentionally tried to derail federal law enforcement's probe into Stanford's 7 billion dollar "Ponzi" scheme. As soon as Stanford was indicted, a federal judge ordered that all of the company records must remain intact. E-mails between Raffanello and Perraud confirm that each understand the judge's order.

The indictment alleges that on February 25, 2009, a shredding truck arrived at the company's office located near the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Under Perraud's direction all of the paperwork contained in the office was taken away for destruction. According to Raffanello, he ordered Perraud to destroy the paper records because duplicates were stored in computer files.

The Miami criminal attorney representing Raffanello said that the destruction of the records was a mistake and that the documents were destroyed in due course as a matter of regularly scheduled house keeping. Perraud's Miami criminal defense lawyer told reporters that the documents that were destroyed had nothing to do with the violations that the SEC was investigating. Federal prosecutors allege that the documents were intentionally destroyed to curtail the federal investigation into Stanford six days after his operation was shut down in February.

Indicted ex-DEA Boss Turns Himself In, The Miami Herald, September 12, 2009.

September 11, 2009

Former Client of Miami Criminal Lawyer Held Without Bail

Federal authorities arrested Beau Diamond for charges including money laundering and wire fraud. It is alleged that Diamond engaged in a fraudulent and elaborate "Ponzi" scheme while conducting business as Diamond Ventures, LLC. Diamond is accused of misappropriating funds received by over 200 clients who intended that their investments be traded on the foreign exchange market ("FOREX"). Diamond formerly represented by a Miami criminal defense attorney, is now represented by a federal public defender.

This case is indicative of the times. As the economy faltered and many investors sought redemptions of their money, perpetrators of fraud became uncovered. Two examples of massive schemes to defraud include the Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford cases. Although the 38 million in losses in the Diamond case cannot compare to the losses attributable to Madoff and Stanford, the federal sentencing guidelines will not be kind to Diamond whether he enters a plea or takes his case to trial.

The federal complaint filed against Diamond alleges that he received 37.6 million dollars from investors. Diamond Ventures, LLC began operating in April 2006. When the operation began, Diamond Ventures, LLC guaranteed customers a 5% monthly return on their investment. For the first year and a half, clients of Diamond received their monthly payment on schedule. It is unclear whether profits returned to clients were the proceeds from gains in the FOREX market or proceeds from new clients.

The problems became apparent in December 2008 when clients did not receive their monthly checks. A financial review shows that Diamond Ventures received 37.6 million dollars from investors; 15.4 million dollars was lost due to trading, 15.6 million dollars was returned to investors and 6.6 million dollars was used to supplement Diamonds lavish lifestyle. The federal complaint alleges that Diamond used client's money to pay for a Sarasota Condo, an apartment in California, a Lamborghini, vacations and gambling.

In federal court, a bond hearing was held before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas B. McCoun III. At the detention hearing, A. Brian Albritton, of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida, argued that Diamond was a flight risk. Albritton argued that if Diamond is found guilty of wire fraud and money laundering, he is facing up to 19 years in prison. Diamond's criminal attorney argued for a $500,000 bond. Although Diamond's parents had the $50,000 required to post the bond, McCoun was uncomfortable setting the bail because he is a fight risk and was concerned with parents ability to make good on the bond should Diamond flee the jurisdiction. The federal government has 30 days from the September 1, 2009 arrest to get a grand jury indictment.

Florida Man Charged with $37 Million Ponzi Scheme, Reuters, September 3, 2009.

Fed Charges Beau Diamond of Sarasota in $38 Million Ponzi Scheme, Tampa Business Journal, September 4, 2009.

Bail Denied for Currency Trader Beau Diamond, Herald Tribune, September 11, 2009.

September 10, 2009

Plea Accepted by Miami Man in Credit Card Fraud Case

In federal court, a Miami computer hacker responsible for the largest case of identity theft and credit card fraud, plead guilty and will serve up to 25 years in prison. Albert Gonzalez, of Miami, entered a guilty plea to conspiracy, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The guilty pleas encompassed two cases from New York and Boston. Both federal cases were heard in Massachusetts. Gonzalez was responsible for stealing credit card numbers to 170 million accounts. He and his co-conspirators targeted the computer systems of large companies which included Barnes and Noble, Sports Authority, T.J. Maxx and Office Max. The Miami criminal attorney representing Gonzalez said his client was extremely remorseful for his actions.

As a result of the guilty plea, Gonzalez will serve between 15 and 25 years in a federal prison. As a result of his involvement in the largest case of credit card fraud in United States history, he must also forfeit his condo, automobile, jewelry and a substantial amount of cash. Gonzalez was raised in Miami, Florida and became interested in computers as a child. In high school, Gonzalez used a school computer to hack into an Indian government website. The FBI investigated that matter, but he was never charged with a crime.

According to his Miami criminal lawyer, Gonzalez is a computer genius who turned his talents to computer hacking. In 2003, he was arrested on a similar case of computer and credit card fraud. In fact, Gonzalez was working for the Secret Service as an informant at the time he committed these new crimes. Gonzalez used the proceeds from his latest criminal venture to fund his lavish life-style. He purchased expensive jewelry and cars for his girlfriend, friends and family. Gonzalez was arrested while staying at an expensive hotel on Miami Beach with his girlfriend. In May, 2008, law enforcement arrested him with $22,000, computer equipment and a semi-automatic handgun.

Gonzalez and his co-defendants were accused of "wardriving" or using laptop computers to access companies records through the internet. Once the hackers were able to gain access to the records, they used software to capture credit card and debit card numbers. The fraudulently obtained credit and debit card numbers were sold overseas. Although Miami credit card fraud is on the rise, it difficult to imagine seeing a case involving this amount of fraud in the near future.

Florida Man in Credit Card Data Theft Accepts Plea, The Associated Press, August 28, 2009.

September 9, 2009

Miami Criminal Cases Are On The Decline

The City of Miami Police Department recently released the final criminal statistics for the first half of 2009. According to a report sent by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to the FBI, violent crime went down 15 percent, while property crimes went down 14 percent. In total, crimes in Miami were down a total of 15 percent. While a decrease in crime is good for the general public and for Miami as a whole, most Miami criminal lawyers feel the economic effects of such a downturn. When the number of criminal cases are on the decline and more and more Miami attorneys are turning to criminal law to pay their bills, there are less and less state and federal cases to go around.

The reduction in Miami criminal cases is surprising in light of the economic difficulties our community is facing. A number of crimes in Miami are on the decline. Examples of cases on the decline include homicides, burglary, sexual battery, robbery, aggravated assault, larceny and auto theft. However, other offenses such as drug trafficking (i.e. cocaine trafficking and marijuana trafficking) and fraud (credit card fraud, mortgage fraud and medicare fraud) appear to be on the rise. The economic conditions in Miami lead individuals to find illegal ways to make up for lost income as the unemployment rate soars to nearly 10 percent.

An example of the decrease in violent crimes is the reduction in the number of homicides in Miami. In 1980, there were 220 murders within a population of 335,000 residents. In 2008, there were only 63 murders within a population of 410,000. In 1991, 8,452 people in Miami were the victims of a robbery. In 2008, only 2,415 people were the victims of a robbery. In 1989, there were 15,350 burglary cases. In 2008, only 4,941 burglary cases were reported in Miami. Based on the calculations submitted in the FDLE report, there has been a 30 percent decline in crime over the past eight years.

The statistics indicate that the number of crimes committed in the Miami and South Florida area are on the decline. A large part of the reason for the decline in crime has been the efforts of local law enforcement officers. While the decline in crime positively impacts the reputation of Miami and Miami Beach, which in turn boosts the economy as tourism picks up, other businesses are negatively impacted. Any Miami criminal defense lawyer will tell you that their Miami criminal law practice suffers from a reduction in crime.

Violent Crime Has Declined, The Miami Herald, September 9, 2009.

September 8, 2009

Miami Criminal Lawyer Cannot Spare Former Wildlife Officer from Long Prison Sentence

In federal court, a United States District Judge in Miami, Florida sentenced a former wildlife officer for his involvement in a Miami cocaine trafficking and heroine ring. The federal indictment alleges that he was involved in transporting the cocaine and heroine from Florida City to Key West. Jonathan Jacox, of Big Pine Key was sentenced to 90 months in prison for his criminal smuggling charges. Jacox's Miami criminal lawyer was present at the sentencing hearing in federal court.

On June 5, 2009, Jacox pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to sell cocaine and heroine and one count of possession of a firearm while in the commission of a felony. The co-defendant in the case, former Monroe County deputy sheriff, Shawn Hernandez entered a guilty plea on August 20, 2009. Hernandez is scheduled to be sentenced on October 22, 2009. Jacox was poised to turn into a government witness against Hernandez. According to federal sources, Hernandez recruited Jacox to assist him in the cocaine and heroine trafficking operation from Miami to Key West.

Jacox blames no one but himself for the seven year prison term. Jacox told the federal judge, "I want everyone to know I am guilty of everything I am charged with, and that I am ready to pay the price for my incredibly stupid actions." Jacox, a former sailor in the United States Navy, joined to the fish and wildlife commission and graduated in 2006. His initial assignment was on Marathon Key. Jacox blamed his involvement in the cocaine and heroine conspiracy on economic hardship. Jacox's statement to the federal judge apparently carried some weight as he was initially facing a 15 year mandatory sentence.

Jacox, a new father, was also dealing with an illness in his fiancee's family that left him in financial straits. Things went from bad to worse when the downturn in the economy eliminated his off-duty jobs and overtime pay. Jacox said he was desperate as his financial situation was collapsing. While at the low point in his life, Hernandez approached him to assist in his cocaine and heroine trafficking endeavors. Undercover federal agents were aware of the cocaine and heroine trafficking conspiracy and were involved both in Miami and Key West, both ends of the route. Jacox was solicited to guard the supply as it was transported by Hernandez.

Wildlife Officer Convicted of Drug Smuggling Regrets Stupid Actions,The Miami Herald, September 8, 2009.

September 7, 2009

Nine People Charged in Complex Miami Mortgage Fraud Scheme

In South Florida, nine people were charged in a Miami mortgage fraud scheme that bilked two banks out of more than $3 million dollars. The federal indictment alleges that six of the nine people reside in the Miami and South Florida area. The charges are being brought in federal court in the Southern District of Florida. It is unclear at this early juncture in the criminal process which Miami criminal attorneys are involved in the defense of the case. The announcement made by the U.S. Attorney's Office is part of the Miami mortgage fraud crackdown which began in 2007. The investigations are targeting all levels of individuals involved in mortgage fraud. Among those recently arrested in Miami mortgage fraud cases include real estate agents, mortgage brokers, attorneys, title agents and straw buyers.

Of the nine people indicted for mortgage fraud in Miami federal court, five reside in Miami, one in Hialeah, one in Lehigh Acres and one in Fort Myers on the west coast of Florida. The federal indictment alleges that Michael Ramos, of Miami, Florida, was a licensed mortgage broker who owned and operated Go Expert Mortgage. The Miami mortgage fraud scheme involved two properties located on Miami Beach. Among the other defendants involved in the case, include Paula Ramos, Michael's mother and a former Miami attorney named Ryan Dosen, who is no longer licensed to practice law in the State of Florida.

Go Expert allegedly provided fraudulent information on mortgage applications to Washington Mutual and Regions Bank. The most common incidents of Miami mortgage fraud involve the use of straw buyers who are recruited by unscrupulous mortgage brokers to apply for loans. The straw buyers provide their personal information including social security numbers to apply for the loan. The straw buyers receive payments in exchange for their participation in the fraud. The mortgage brokers fill out the mortgage applications using falsified income statements of the straw buyers and submit them to the lending institutions.

The fraudulent mortgage applications are used to obtain home loans of home equity lines of credit. Although the banks are able to recover some of the losses though the subsequent sale of the properties, they are seldom able to recover losses from the home equity lines of credit. Although, there is no federal mortgage fraud statute, the federal government charges people involved with Miami mortgage fraud with the common offenses of wire fraud and mail fraud. No trial dates have been set in the most recent Miami mortgage fraud case.

Nine Indicted in Elaborate Mortgage Fraud Scheme, South Florida Business Journal, September 3, 2009.

September 4, 2009

Miami Sexual Assault in Local Day Care Center Results in Civil Suit

A Miami woman filed suit against a south Miami day care center for failing to prevent her five year-old child from being sexually assaulted. The lawsuit accuses the day care of negligence for allowing her child to be a victim of child sexual abuse. The civil complaint filed in the Miami-Dade Circuit Court lists Discovery Day Care, Inc. as the defendant in the case and alleges that the school was negligent in allowing an employee's 13 year-old son to molest two pre-school age children.

The 13 year-old boy was initially charged in juvenile court with two counts of sexual assault. A Miami criminal defense attorney was able to negotiate a plea to two lesser included charges of battery. Charge bargaining in the Miami Juvenile Justice System is a common occurrence. Of course, charge bargaining may be limited depending on the severity of the crime. Typically, if a crime is serious enough, the State Attorney's Office will bind up a juvenile case to adult court where the juvenile will be facing adult sanctions.

The juvenile, only referred to as R.S. in the court records was sentenced to sexual behavior counseling, 100 community service hours, a stay away order and a curfew. He is schedule to be on probation until 2011. The information filed in state court alleged that the defendant forced a 5 year-old child to perform oral sex on him on at least 10 occasions. The sex acts were performed during nap times back in 2008. The defendant was caught when he attempted to do the same thing to a second young girl in the case. This time, the young girl reported the incident to her mother, who in turn called the police.

Since the resolution of the criminal case, the mother and child have since moved to Tampa, Florida. The attorney representing the mother and child, said the child suffered irreparable harm and is seeking monetary compensation in the civil negligence lawsuit. The mother claims that she filed suit because she and her family will never be the same. She trusted the school to protect her small daughter and should have prevented the teenager from sexually assaulting her child.

South Miami-Dade Day-Care Center Sued Over Sex Assaults, The Miami Herald, September 3, 2009.

September 3, 2009

Miami Criminal Attorney Representing the Tamiami Strangler Files Appeal

A Miami criminal attorney filed an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn the death sentence of the man dubbed the "Tamiami Strangler." Miami criminal lawyer, Gustavo Garcia Montes, argued that Rory Condre told a priest that as a youth he had been molested by an uncle and that his death sentence for murder should be overturned. During the sentencing portion of the trial held years ago, a witness testified to substantially to the same thing regarding Condre's past. Fifteen years agon, Condre was convicted for six counts of murder for killing Miami prostitutes and dumping their bodies.

Miami law enforcement authorities conducted a murder investigation into several murders of female prostitutes between September 1994 and June 1995 which occurred on S.W. 8th Street. Condre left a note on the third victim informing police that it was the third victim in the string murders and intended on continuing the spree. Condre's arrest resulted when he abducted a female prostitute, sexually assaulted her and left he duct-taped in his apartment. The victim was able to get the attention of the next-door neighbor and report the crime. In 1999, Condre was tried and convicted in the sixth murder. He entered guilty pleas to the other five murders. In March 2000, Condre was sentenced to death for the murder of his final victim.

On June 25, 1995, Condre gave a three hour interview to Miami-Dade homicide detectives where he graphically outlined the rapes and murders of the six prostitutes. Condre gave a 173 page sworn confession to law enforcement authorities, declining to have a Miami criminal lawyer present during the questioning. Condre would pick up prostitutes on the side of the road and would offer to pay the prostitutes $100 for sex. He would then take the prostitutes to his apartment in west Miami-Dade County. After having sex one or two times, he would strangle them and dump their bodies on lawns on the side of the road.

The homicide detectives investigating the murders were perplexed for months. In fact, they brought many suspects to the police station and DNA samples were taken. With no matches being made, Condre was not caught until after his sixth murder. He is considered one of South Florida's worst serial killers.

Old Appeal Revisited in Tamiami Stangler Case, The Miami Herald, September 3, 2009.

September 2, 2009

Miami Sexual Battery Suspect Held in Custody in Los Angeles

A former Miami-Dade advertising salesman who is now locked up in Los Angeles for two sexually related attacks has been charged with a sexual assault and kidnaping which occurred at the mall located in Kendall, Florida. Theodore Lazier, a University of Florida graduate and former Beverly Hills advertising salesman has been identified through a DNA match to be the man who committed a sexual assault, kidnaping and armed robbery in Miami, Florida against a mother at The Falls Shopping Center in 2006. Lazier has not yet had the opportunity to speak with a Miami criminal lawyer at this juncture in his case. Once Lazier is transferred to Miami, Florida, he will either retain a Miami criminal lawyer or be appointed one by a state court judge.

An arrest warrant for Lazier was entered into the Miami-Dade County criminal court system. Lazier is pending arrest for two counts of armed sexual battery and two counts of armed kidnaping. In the case that occurred at the Kendall Mall, Lazier allegedly forced a 37 year-old woman into her car at gunpoint. The woman was putting her daughter into the car seat inside the parking garage when she was attacked by Lazier. Lazier drove the woman to another location where he sexually assaulted her and then abandoned her at a local Home Depot.

As a result of the attack, The Falls Shopping Center added extra security and video surveillance cameras. In order to catch the suspect, detectives created a video re-enactment of the offense and handed out hundreds of fliers around the neighborhood. Major Elizabeth Buchholz, of the Miami-Dade sexual crimes bureau stated, "Residents from coast to coast can feel a little safer knowing he is behind bars."

Lazier was at large for almost three years, when he was detained in Beverly Hills, California because he matched the description of a person who committed two assaults which occurred nearby. In once case, Lazier broke into a woman's home at gunpoint, robbed her and forced her to drive him to the airport. In the second case, Lazier assaulted a woman in an underground parking lot and attempted to kidnap her. There was no physical evidence in either case, but both victims were able to identify their attacker. Lazier was charged with kidnaping, carjacking and robbery. Lazier pled guilty in California state court and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Lazier was raised in Homestead, Florida and attended South Dade High School. He then graduated from the University of Florida with a telecommunications degree. He has held several jobs from Miami Beach, Florida to Beverly Hills, California.

Suspect in Rape at The Falls Being Held in L.A., The Miami Herald, September 2, 2009.

September 1, 2009

Man Convicted in Miami Medicare Fraud Case Murdered After Serving Prison Time

A Miami man was shot to death inside his Miami-Lakes apartment soon after his release from federal prison. After Alberto Valdes was released from prison for his involvement in a Miami Medicare fraud ring, he began receiving death threats. The police found his body in his Miami-Lakes apartment after a neighbor discovered blood seeping under the door. Miami homicide detectives are investigating whether the death threats stem from his former involvement in the Miami Medicare Fraud underworld. The Miami criminal lawyer who represented Valdes was unavailable for comment.

Miami-Dade homicide detectives have ruled the killing a homicide, but are still looking into all possible leads to locate suspects and determine the motive for this violent crime. Back on June 18, 2009, Valdes requested that his probation be terminated early so he could leave Florida. He requested the early termination of probation because his house was the subject of two burglary attempts and he had received numerous death threats.

At the end of June, 2009, a federal probation officer recommended to a U.S. District Judge in federal court that his probation be terminated. In general, probation officers will recommend early termination if an individual has not had any prior probation violations. On July 8, 2009, the judge agreed to terminate the probation. Valdes served 5 months in federal prison and was supposed to serve a probationary period ending February 2010.

Following the murder, police could not locate Valdes' two year-old daughter. Apparently, she was with her aunt and uncle visiting the girl's mother in prison. Valdes's wife, Maricel Li, was only convicted in a Miami Medicare fraud case and is now incarcerated in a federal prison in Tallahassee, Florida. Li pled guilty in 2007 with three other co-conspirators for filing fraudulent Medicare claims for medical equipment including prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs and other medical devices and supplies. She received a two year prison sentence, followed by a three year term of probation and $556,000 in restitution.

Slain Man Served Prison Time for Medicare Fraud, The Miami Herald, August 18, 2009.