October 2009 Archives

October 30, 2009

Boston Developer Arrested for Miami Organized Scheme to Defraud

A Boston developer surrendered to local authorities for his involvement in a 1 million dollar Miami scheme to defraud. Dennis Stackhouse allegedly stole money that was earmarked by the local legislature to revitalize Liberty City by building the bio-pharmaceutical park. A Miami-Dade County circuit court judge issued a warrant for his arrest for two counts of organized scheme to defraud and two counts of grand theft first degree. Stackhouse has hired a notable Miami criminal attorney to represent him in this highly publicized case. Anyone being investigated or arrested for their involvement in an organized scheme to defraud should hire an experienced Miami fraud lawyer to protect their interests.

The Miami-Dade County State Attorneys Office is alleging that Stackhouse created an intricate scheme to defraud revolving around his involvement with the Poinciana Project. The Poinciana Project was intended to revitalize an area of Miami that desperately needed the help. Stackhouse was supposed to build a real estate and commercial complex that would be home to several noteworthy tenants, such as Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle told reporters, "This greedy individual stole more than just money from our community; he stole the promise of jobs, hope and revitalization from one of our most needy communities."

Stackhouse leased 15 acres from the county which was to be used for the development. He secured funding from Tremont Realty, a Boston based finance company. Without Tremont's knowledge, Stackhouse secured a second loan using the same property as collateral from a real estate trust, Empowerment Trust. The arrest warrant alleges that Stackhouse submitted duplicate bill to both companies for the same work. Stackhouse double billed both companies to the tune of $600,000. The arrest warrant also alleged that he billed for work that was never completed.

The investigation completed by local authorities took months due the massive fraud. Authorities seized 53 boxes of documents from Stackhouse's office and subpoenaed numerous bank accounted to piece together the case. All of the monies fraudulently obtained from the lending institutions went into Stackhouse's personal accounts and business accounts for unrelated projects. Public corruption detectives from the Miami-Dade Police Department led the investigation.

Developer Arrested in Alleged Liberty City Fraud, The Miami Herald, October 29, 2009.

October 29, 2009

Mortgage Fraud Funds Marijuana Trafficking and Racketeering Ring

Several Miami residents have been arrested while others are being sought by state authorities for their involvement in mortgage fraud, marijuana trafficking and racketeering. The Highlands County Sheriff's Office in conjunction with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued four arrest warrants with six more to be served. The investigation into the case began in 2007 with the discovery and dismantling of several "grow houses". It is unclear at this point whether the those arrested will seek representation from Miami criminal lawyers or criminal attorneys from the Orlando area.

Lesman Chavarria of Miami, Yelenies Viera of Hialeah, Maria Lurbe of Miami and Alexander Yanes of Miami were arrested and booked on the following charges: racketeering (RICO), mortgage fraud, marijuana trafficking and conspiracy. The initial judge at the bond hearing set bail in the amount of $50,000 for each defendant. Law enforcement did not set forth a time-line for severing the remaining warrants, however, they did acknowledge that the arrest warrants all contained the same or similar criminal offenses.

Highlands County law enforcement have stepped up their efforts to investigate and make arrests in marijuana trafficking and cultivation operations within their jurisdiction. These ongoing marijuana trafficking investigations are being conducted by Highlands County Sheriff's Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The Florida Legislature has enacted serious penalties in an effort to curtail marijuana trafficking. Possession of more than 25 pounds of marijuana or 300 or more marijuana plants can result in a three year minimum prison sentence. Possession of more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana or 2,000 or more marijuana plants can result in a seven year minimum prison sentence. Possession of more than 10,000 pounds of marijuana or 10,000 plants can result in a fifteen year minimum prison sentence.

After numerous marijuana "grow house" arrests, the investigations later revealed the homes used to grow the marijuana were purchased though mortgage fraud schemes. Many other law enforcement agencies have discovered that "grow houses" have been obtained through various mortgage fraud schemes. Miami and South Florida have been the home to the largest number of marijuana trafficking and mortgage fraud cases in the United States.

Mortgage Fraud Leads to Racketeering and Marijuana Trafficking Arrests, Newssun.com, October 27, 2009.

October 28, 2009

Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Seeks New Trial

A Miami criminal lawyer representing the man convicted of killing a 9 year old Liberty City girl is seeking a new trial. The defense lawyer is claiming that the manslaughter conviction of his client should be set aside because one of the jurors failed to mention that he had previously been a victim of a crime. The defense lawyer requested that Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Marisa-Tinkler Mendez grant him permission to speak with the jurors including the alternates. The judge set a hearing for November 10, 2009, to determine whether or not she will grant access to the jurors for questioning.

Earlier this month, a six member jury convicted Damon Darling of manslaughter and aggravated assault for his involvement in the death of Sherdavia Jenkins. Jenkins was the innocent victim caught in the cross-fire between Darling and his co-defendant, Leroy Larose in the courtyard of an apartment building located in Liberty City. Just prior to the commencement of the trial, Larose accepted a plea deal t seven years in prison in exchange for his testimony against Darling. Darling is facing up to 50 years in state prison at his upcoming sentencing hearing.

Darling was initially charged by the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office with second degree murder and attempted murder. A several hours of deliberation the jury returned a verdict of guilty to the lesser included charges of manslaughter and aggravated assault with a firearm. If the judge grants a new trial, Darling will only be facing the lesser charges for which he was convicted. Double jeopardy precludes the state attorneys office from proceeding on the original charges.

The defense lawyer filed a motion for a new trial because a juror inaccurately filled out a juror questionnaire, when he checked "no" to question asking if he had ever been the victim of a crime. Since the trial, an investigation revealed that in 2008, the juror had been the victim the crimes of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, simple battery and criminal mischief, all stemming from a single incident. The motion claims that Darling was prejudiced for not having provided that information during jury selection.

The motion for a new trial also alleges that the same juror and another juror were "lifelong" friends from Homestead, Florida and that they failed to reveal this information to the judge, the defense lawyers and the prosecutors. Both jurors denied any impropriety, saying that the allegations were blown out of proportion had and had nothing to do with the verdicts they rendered.

Convict's Lawyer: Juror Tainted Sherdavia Trial, The Miami Herald, October 27, 2009.

October 27, 2009

Federal Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of Miami Criminal Lawyer

On Monday, October 26, 2009, a Miami criminal lawyer had a ruling upheld in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which could eventually keep him out of prison. The federal appellate court ruled that Ben Kuehne cannot be legally charged for receiving legal fees from money that was illegally obtained. The ruling should put all Miami criminal defense lawyers at ease. With the large volume of drug trafficking, mortgage fraud and Medicare fraud cases in the Miami and South Florida area, many of the fees received in these cases by criminal attorneys come from proceeds obtained through the operation of a criminal enterprise.

The federal appellate court upheld the ruling handed down by U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke. Cooke granted Kuehne's defense lawyer's motion to dismiss the count of money laundering. Cooke granted the dismissal based on a Congressional exemption which precludes defense lawyers from being prosecuted under the federal money-laundering statute. The exemption was mandated by Congress who sought to protect a defendant's Sixth Amendment privilege to hire counsel of their choice.

Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Rosemary Barkett disagreed with the Department of Justice's argument that a Supreme Court Decision negated the Congressionally mandated exemption. Judge Barkett issued a nine page opinion which disagreed with government's argument that illegally tainted money does not fall within the exemption. Barkett wrote, "We do not believe Congress intended such an absurd result, which nullifies the provision and divorces it from its statutory content, thereby violating basic canons of statutory construction."

Kuehne's attorney was gratified by the decision rendered by the appellate court. A Miami criminal defense attorney who assisted in writing the appellate brief was also satisfied with result which limits the federal government from impeding on an individual's Sixth Amendment rights. Also indicted in the case are Kuehne's Columbian accountant and a Columbian attorney, Oscar Saldarriaga.

Kuehne is a well-known Miami criminal defense attorney who has appeared in many high-profile cases. Attorneys throughout Miami and South Florida have backed Kuehne since he was indicted by the federal government. The dismissal of the money laundering charge removed the most serious charge from the indictment.

11th Circuit Sides with Defense Attorney Over Legal Fees, Law.com, October 27, 2009.

October 26, 2009

Medicare Fraud More Popular Than Drug Trafficking in Miami

Miami Medicare fraud cases has overtaken the number of drug trafficking cases in Miami. Medicare fraud is now estimated to cost the U.S. healthcare system approximately 60 billion dollars a year and has become one of the profitable crimes being committed in the United States. In an effort to put an end to the extensive fraud, federal and state law enforcement agencies around the country, including the Medicare fraud task force, are scouring the clinics and pharmacies located in low-end strip malls looking for violators. Miami Medicare fraud lawyers have realized a steady in flow of new clients being investigated or prosecuted by state and federal authorities.

Although Miami has become a haven for those committing Medicare fraud, other large cities have become the home to major healthcare schemes to defraud. In Detroit, Michigan, the FBI recently arrested 53 people allegedly involved in a 53 million dollar fraud. Included in those arrested were doctors, pharmacists and clinic owners. All those arrested for their involvement in the network, were involved to some extent for billing Medicare for unneeded or unnecessary medical procedures or devices. The majority of those arrested have been released on bail set at their initial appearance or bond hearing.

In another recent case, a Los Angeles shelter recruited hundreds of homeless people to reside in their facility by offering them room and board, and sometimes cash or drugs. The proprietors of the shelter billed Medicare tens of millions of dollars for healthcare services that were never provided. While federal and state governments have thrown millions of dollars at combating Medicare fraud, it seems as if they are putting their thumb in the dike. The Medicare oversight committees must do their job to curb the fraud before it gets started.

A federal prosecutor reported to the media that Miami Medicare fraud cases now exceed Miami cocaine trafficking and marijuana trafficking cases. Though Medicare fraud cases have increased in the recent years, as a Miami criminal lawyer, it is hard to believe that these cases now exceed the number of drug trafficking crimes committed in Miami-Dade County. Anyone being investigated for Medicare fraud, should immediately contact a Miami Medicare fraud lawyer prior to speaking to law enforcement officers. Any information provided during what appears to be a harmless statement may seal a person's fate.

Medicare Fraud: One of the Most Profitable Crimes in U.S., Kaiser Health News, October 26, 2009.

October 23, 2009

Medicare Fraud Strike Force Arrest 20 in California

The Medicare fraud strike force, with agents from Miami, Houston, Los Angeles and Detroit, arrested 20 individuals in California for their involvement in a 26 million dollar Medicare fraud scheme. The Medicare fraud strike force has led to the indictment of 331 individuals throughout the country since 2007. Clinic owners and patient recruiters were among those arrested. If someone is being investigated for or has been arrested for Medicare fraud, it is imperative to seek advice and counsel from a Miami Medicare fraud lawyer.

This most recent case of Medicare fraud involved billing for expensive medical equipment, such as power wheelchairs and hospital beds that were not needed and were never provided t0 patients. In fact, some of the equipment was ordered for people who were deceased. One of the defendants, Miguel Martinez, allegedly recruited relatives and friends to act as fictitious owners of four fraudulent clinics that would bill Medicare for the unneeded equipment. Gangs were also allegedly involved in the multi-million dollar scam.

Despite the existence of the Medicare fraud strike force, the federal government has dumped millions of dollars and added dozens of agents to curtail this nationwide problem. The Medicare fraud strike force was established in Miami in 2007, to combat the more than 3 billion dollar a year fraud committed in that city alone. Federal authorities have compiled statistics that revealed that Medicare fraud exceeds 60 billion dollars a year in the United States. Critics have suggested that Medicare fraud would be significantly curtailed if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid complied with the oversight policies established by both programs.

As cited in a previous article, federal authorities are seeing more violence linked to Medicare fraud. Although, Medicare fraud is considered a white collar crime, an increase in violent crimes is the direct result of those engaged the fraud to settle debts. Numerous murders have been linked to Medicare fraud deals gone bad. Fighting Medicare fraud has come to the forefront as the national healthcare debate continues. Only time will tell if the significant amount of resources used to fight Medicare fraud were well spent.

20 Charged in Medicare Fraud Bust in California, Associated Press, October 22, 2009.

October 22, 2009

Cocaine Trafficking Kingpin Sentenced in Miami Federal Court

A Miami federal judge sentenced a former Columbian cocaine trafficking kingpin to 45 years in federal prison. Federal prosecutors allege that Diego Montoya Sanchez trafficked in excess of 1.2 million pounds into the United States through Miami and other South Florida locations. Represented by a very experienced Miami cocaine trafficking lawyer, Sanchez repeatedly apologized for his life of cocaine trafficking and murder. After his extradition from Columbia, Sanchez was indicted in Miami for cocaine trafficking, racketeering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy.

Sanchez was the famed head the North Valley cartel which came to the forefront of Columbian cocaine trafficking when the Cali and Medellin cartels were shut down by the United States and Columbia governments. The North Valley cartel was responsible for the importation of 1.2 million pounds of cocaine into Mexico and the United States. The cocaine had a street value of 10 billion dollars. Sanchez was also implicated for ordering the murder of a former associate turned informant.

Sanchez never aspired to become the head of one of the largest cocaine trafficking rings in the world. Both Sanchez and his Miami criminal lawyer both expressed remorse and explained to the federal judge that they both hoped that others who wish to engage in cocaine trafficking understand the path of destruction it causes. According to a statement provided by the defendant, he began his career in the cocaine trafficking trade as a low level driver and messenger for a friend who ran a cocaine laboratory. He eventually learned the trade and opened his own cocaine lab.

Despite the recent arrests, convictions and prison terms imposed on Columbian cocaine traffickers, new cocaine trafficking rings take over from where the old ones left off. Even though the North Valley cartel has been disbanded, others choose to grow and cultivate coca plants and make millions of dollars. Cocaine trafficking remains big business in Columbia, and despite law enforcement's attempts to stop the cocaine trade, it continues to operate unabated.

Former Drug-Cartel Leader Sentenced to 45 Years, The Morning Call, October 21, 2009.

October 20, 2009

Man Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison for South Florida "Ponzi" Scheme

In Miami, a money manager from Boca Raton, Florida attended his sentencing hearing in federal court and received 24 years in prison. Federal prosecutors allege that Michael Riolo, of Boca Raton, operated a "Ponzi" scheme that defrauded his investors out of 44 million dollars. He purported to his investors that he was investing their money by trading in foreign currencies. Riola was charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, securities fraud and conspiracy. His Miami criminal lawyer was present at the sentencing hearing.

The federal government alleges that Riolo committed the fraud by using two companies, Sterling Wentworth Currency Group and La Salle International Clearing Corp. Riolo handled accounts for more than 80 investors who committed 44 million dollars from 1999 to 2008. Rather than using the funds to invest in foreign currencies, such as the yen and euro, he used the money to fund his lavish lifestyle.

Like all the "Ponzi" schemes and schemes to defraud that we have been reading about over the course of several months, he filed falsified monthly reports on the profits made from his investments and used new monies to pay older investors the gains that he promised. Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida told reporters, "During these tough economic times, it is more important than ever that those who lie and steal from the investing public be held accountable for their misconduct."

South Florida has been hit hard by numerous "Ponzi" schemes and other organized schemes to defraud. Palm Beach, Florida is still suffering the consequences of Bernie Madoff's 65 billion dollar fraud. Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in federal prison. Another example of a "Ponzi" scheme that hit the west coast of Florida was the fraud committed by Art Nadal. He is awaiting trail for 360 million dollar fraud that lasted for ten years.

South Florida and Miami fraud defense lawyers have had their case load skyrocket since the economic downturn which began in 2007. Despite the existence of "Ponzi" schemes for decades, greed overwhelms investors' common sense. Their greed many times costs them their homes and life savings. It's like the old adage goes, "if it is to good to be true, that it is probably is."

Florida Man Sentenced to 24 Years for Ponzi Scheme, Reuters, October 19, 2009.

October 19, 2009

Cuban Refugees Dominate Miami Marijuana Trafficking Rings

Miami marijuana trafficking and marijuana cultivation have become big business in recent years. Investigators report that Cuban refugees are at the heart of the South Florida marijuana trade. Law enforcement officials have directly come out and said that since 2005, Cuban marijuana trafficking organizations have dominated the industry from Miami to Atlanta. Many Miami marijuana trafficking lawyers have represented Cuban refugees both in state and federal court.

Investigators believe that the refugees are led to the trade because of the lucrative profits that can be reaped from a marijuana harvest. The most potent cannabis can yield $4,500 per pound. Marijuana trafficking is also a safe bet because the current law in the State of Florida only requires a prison sentence if someone is caught growing or harvesting more than 300 plants or in excess of 25 pounds. Otherwise probation is the likely result in state court. However, severe immigration consequences can result, even from a probationary plea. Individuals facing deportation should speak with a Miami post-conviction relief lawyer.

A recent investigation determined that 85% to 90% of the individual arrested in Miami and South Florida for marijuana trafficking are Cuban refugees who arrived in the United States within the last five years. Those who released the report attempted to be politically correct by saying that the Cuban-American community on the whole is not responsible, but rather Cuban refugees who are recent arrivals are recruited to live in the "grow houses" and cultivate the crops to make a living. They are lured into the business with allure of money and the opportunity to one day own and operate their own "grow House".

In the early 1980's, Florida's marijuana trade relied on crops smuggled into the United States from Jamaica, Mexico and South America. Around 2000, the amount of Florida-grown marijuana has increased exponentially. Last year, South Florida had seized a documented 348 "grow houses" and thousand of pounds of marijuana. The marijuana grown in Miami and South Florida is transported to the north east for approximately $8,000 per pound.

Cuban-born Suspects Dominate Florida Pot Rings, The Associated Press, October 19, 2009.

October 18, 2009

Miami "Ponzi" Scheme Uncovered

Three Miami residents are accused of running a major scheme to defraud which bilked hundreds of Haitian-American investors out of approximately $14 million dollars. The Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") have filed complaints against Ronnie Eugene Bass, Jr., Abner Alabre and Brian Taglieri for operating a "Ponzi" scheme which promised to double investors money every 90 days. Also facing criminal charges, it is unclear if any of the men will retain private Miami criminal lawyers to defend their charges.

The three defendants have been indicted in federal court for wire fraud, securities fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. They each face 20 years in prison if convicted of the charges. A spokesman from the SEC stated that the three men targeted the Haitian-American Community promising huge returns on their investments. Bass, Alabre and Taglieri operated their scheme to defraud from April 2008 to December 2008. The scheme operated under the title of HomePals Investment Club. Bass told investors that he was a skilled in trading stock options and commodities.

HomePals collected approximately $14.3 million dollars from would be investors, however, the investigation revealed that only $1.2 million dollars of the funds were actually invested. Most of the funds collected from unsuspecting investors went to pay earlier investors. Other monies went to pay commissions to those who started new investment clubs. Despite the large sum of money taken from investors, only $668,000 of the misappropriated funds were used for personal use.

By the end of 2008, only $7,300 remained from the total procured from investors. Like in all the recent "Ponzi" scheme to defraud cases, investors will likely never see any of their money again. The defendants were detained in federal custody over the weekend with their initial bond hearings and arraignments scheduled in a Miami federal court on Wednesday, October 19, 2009. Miami criminal attorneys were appointed to represent the defendants.

The SEC accused a man in Palm Beach County in a similar case for stealing more than $23 million from Haitian-Americans. George Theodule promised his investors that he was going to create a "nation of Haitian millionaires". As the old adage says, "history repeats itself." Whenever a significant downturn in the economy strikes, "Ponzi" schemes and schemes to defraud are uncovered for two reasons. First, people do not have the financial means to continue fueling the fraud. Second, when times are tough, investors seek a return of their investment money. The problem exists because there is no money to return to the investor.

SEC: Ponzi Scheme Targeted Haitians in Fla., NJ., The Associated Press, October 18, 2009.

October 15, 2009

Miami Federal Judge Reduces Sentence in Cuban Spy Case

In a sentencing re-hearing in Miami federal court, United States District Judge Joan Lenard re-sentenced one of the five men convicted in what has become known as the "Cuban Five" case. A federal appellate court issued an opinion declaring the sentence illegal and the remanded the case back to the U.S. district court for sentencing. The appellate court ruled that the government failed to prove that Antonio Guerrero actually traded in "top secret" intelligence. A well-known Miami criminal lawyer represented Guerrero at the sentencing hearing.

Guerrero was convicted in 2001, along with four other defendants in federal court for spying on anti-Castro Cuban exiles. At trial, the government proved that the five defendants infiltrated numerous anti-Cuban political organizations such as Brothers to the Rescue. Brothers to the Rescue is an anti-Castro group that made regular flights over Cuba to drop leaflets. The Cuban government has routinely said that the five men were in the United States to protect Castro and the Cuban government from individuals seeking to topple the Cuban government. Guerrero is a United States citizen and was working at the Key West Naval Air Station at the time of the alleged offenses.

After a lengthy federal court trial in 2001, Guerrero was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to life in prison. Judge Lenard re-sentenced Guerrero to 262 months in federal prison in accordance with the court of appeals ruling. With the sentence reduction, he will be eligible to leave prison in approximately seven years. The Miami criminal attorney representing Guerrero was quoted as saying, "It was odd, you have a man who was on a military base but who didn't take a single classified document and noone testified that he injured U.S. national security, but the judge still rejected the prosecutors' request to lighten the sentence." Two of the other defendants are scheduled to be re-sentenced later this year or early next year.

Judge Reduces Sentence for One of Cuban Five, The New York Times, October 13, 2009.

October 14, 2009

Prominent Miami Attorney Served Questionable Warrants by FBI

Lewis Freeman, a noted Miami fraud investigator, known for rendering his expert opinion on fraud and white collar crime cases (i.e., mail fraud, wire fraud, racketeering (RICO) has retained two-high powered Miami criminal lawyers to defend his case currently being investigated by federal authorities. Freeman's offices located in Miami and Plantation were raided by the FBI pursuant to federal subpoenas. The FBI is trying to track and locate 3.6 million dollars in fraudulently obtained funds. Freeman has not been formally charged with a crime at this point in the investigation.

Freeman and his Miami firm have been hired in the past by state and federal judges to act as fraud experts in Miami courts. Freeman is often interviewed by the media for his expertise on Miami fraud cases and white collar crimes. Freeman also acts as a curt appointed trustee and is asked to oversee accounts of bankrupt companies to ensure that the assets are distributed in accordance with court orders and the law.

Freeman's Miami criminal attorneys assert that the investigation stems from the federal lawsuit filed by Freeman against the IRS for a $4.8 million dollar assessment levied against him by the federal agency. The IRS levied the fine against Freeman for setting up a tax shelter involving tax exemptions for employees travel and parking costs.

FBI sources are quoted as saying that the FBI does not do favors for the IRS and that the investigation is unrelated to federal suit filed by Freeman. Officials also commented that whenever subpoenas are served on law offices, approval must come from the highest levels within the Department of Justice. It should be noted that Freeman's offices are not law offices, but are used by investigators and forensic accountants. However, four non-practicing attorneys work in the offices.

Only time will tell if Freeman is indicted in federal court or charged in state court. The FBI seized thousands of documents from the storage rooms at the offices that were raided. Once federal investigators and prosecutors review the documents seized, they will decide whether Freeman and his firm were engaged in any fraud or wrongdoing that merit a filing of criminal charges.

Questions Raised Over FBI Search Warrant on Prominent Miami Attorney, Amlawdaily.com, October 13, 2009.

October 13, 2009

Miami Marijuana Trafficking Cases Spur Home Invasion Robberies

Miami marijuana traffickers have more to worry about than getting arrested by law enforcement authorities. A recent survey revealed that most of the South Florida and Miami home invasions are related to marijuana trafficking or cocaine trafficking operations. The majority of South Florida and Miami home-invasion robberies occur between drug dealers or rival gang members. Generally, the home-invaders force their way into rival drug dealers or gang members homes with guns in an effort to steal drugs, money or jewelry. Miami criminal defense lawyers have seen a rise in home invasions as a result of the increased drug trade and gang related violence in the Miami and South Florida area.

While the majority of Miami home-invasion robberies stem from the drug trade or gang activities, there has been a reported increase in numbers of the violent crime where truly innocent victims are involved. On March 20, 2009, in Lake Worth, Florida, a would be home-invader broke into a home belonging to a Palm Beach County police officer. When the home invader knocked and barged his way into the home, he was shot and killed by the officer.

On September 30, 2009, two masked robbers forced their way into a home and sexually assaulted a young woman. Law enforcement investigators say that it is uncommon for sexual assaults to occur during a home-invasion. Authorities recommend that the best way to avoid being a victim of a Miami home-invasion robbery is to keep doors locked and check to see who is knocking before opening the door.

Statistics show that although home invasions are uncommon, but have been steadily on the rise across Miami, South Florida and the entire State of Florida. In 2006, 732 home invasion robberies were reported in 2006, and 894 reported in 2007. Law enforcement authorities recommend that if a person is a victim of a home-invasion robbery, do not resist and relinquish any property that is demanded. Property can be replaced, not your life.

Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County boast the highest number of home-invasion robberies in Florida. However, the statistics appear to be inaccurate due to the fact that many of the crimes are actually burglaries rather than home-invasion robberies.

Avoid a Home Invasion: Know Who's Knocking at the Door, SunSentinal.com, October 10, 2009.

October 12, 2009

Miami Criminal Attorneys Face Case Load Reduction

If the Miami-Dade County legislature decides to decriminalize certain misdemeanors, a Miami criminal lawyer may see a slight drop off in their case load. In an efforts to reduce the number of criminal cases in Miami, the local legislature is contemplating decriminalizing certain minor offenses that clog up the county court's dockets. Miami-Dade County commissioners and local judges are pushing to decriminalize 18 misdemeanor charges from the books. Some of the charges that are being considered for decriminalization are failure to have the proper markings on a commercial vehicle, drinking in public, selling flowers without a license and being present in a park after hours.

First time offenders, as well as, repeat offenders are arrested for these crimes everyday in Miami. Since 2005, 52,560 arrests have been made relating to these crimes. Despite the fact the crimes seem inconsequential, offenders do face jail time for these offenses. The local legislature wants to convert these offenses from crimes to civil infractions. Civil infractions are handled along the same line as minor traffic infractions with fines being the penalty.

Proponents of the decriminalization submit that the minor crimes clog up the court's dockets and take up badly needed space in the local jails. Miami-Dade County Chief County Judge Samuel Slom was quoted as saying, "We are being forced to operate like a factory, we are handling cases that have no business being in a criminal courthouse." The county court prosecutors at the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's office are overwhelmed by the number of cases. While an overworked system works to the benefit of Miami criminal defense lawyers, the tax payers and those arrested for such insignificant charges pay the bills.

On the other side of the coin, law enforcement officials say arrests for minor crimes prevent criminal activity as they prevent more dangerous crimes. Although law enforcement officials make a valid point, resources such as money and man power could be directed at more serious offenses such drug trafficking and violent crimes. While the current proposals are only on paper, time will tell which theory will provide more of a benefit to the citizens of Miami-Dade County.

Miami-Dade County's Costly Nuisance Laws Could Get the Ax, The Miami Herald, October 10, 2009.

October 9, 2009

Florida Supreme Renders Opinion on Miami Marijuana Possession Case

The Florida Supreme court reviewed a Miami marijuana possession case to settle a dispute regarding conflicting opinions from different Florida appellate courts. A juvenile defendant was arrested by the Miami-Dade Police Department for possession of marijuana. The Miami criminal attorney representing the juvenile filed a motion to suppress which was denied by the trial court. The 3rd District of Appeals reviewed the appeal and affirmed the trial court's decision. A Miami appellate lawyer filed and argued the appeal before the Florida Supreme Court.

The court record and police reports indicate that the youth was sitting in his car rolling a marijuana cigarette when he was approached by armed police officers in marked unit with flashing lights. The Florida Supreme Court did not reverse the finding of the circuit court or appellate court, but provided some ammunition that will assist Miami criminal lawyers when they file motions to suppress based on illegal stops. According to the opinion rendered by the Florida Supreme Court, a person has been stopped or "seized" when a person is confronted by armed police officers with flashing lights. When a person is confronted in this situation, a reasonable person would not be free to leave.

Motions to suppress are the best tool that a Miami criminal defense lawyer can use to defend narcotics cases from cocaine trafficking to simple marijuana possession cases. Many Miami narcotics cases can be successfully defended by showing the police authorities did not have a reasonable to suspicion to stop an individual involved in illegal narcotics activities. If a trial judge can be persuaded that law enforcement officers can not establish that they had sufficient facts to warrant the stop, the judge can exclude the evidence. Once the evidence is excluded after successfully arguing a motion to suppress, the prosecution can not proceed with case and will dismiss the charges.

A successful motion to suppress is a sure fire way to beat Miami drug cases. It prevents an individual from going to trial before a jury where success can never be guaranteed. Depending on the charge, defendants can be facing significant prison terms if they are convicted at trial. Even if a motion to suppress is not factually strong, it generally gives Miami prosecutors and reason to work out a case to probation, therefore avoiding the risks at trial. It is imperative that anyone facing serious narcotics charges hire an experienced Miami criminal attorney defending Miami drug charges to defend their case.

Court Clarifies When Someone is in Police Custody, The Miami Herald, October 9, 2009.

October 8, 2009

Miami Marijuana Trafficking Case Intertwined with Miami Mortgage Fraud Ring

Four South Florida brothers entered guilty pleas in federal court for their involvement in a Miami marijuana trafficking and Miami mortgage fraud rings. The defendants admitted in open court that they fraudulently obtained 18 mortgages to purchase homes throughout the State of Florida. The homes were purchased to be used as "grow houses" for a massive marijuana trafficking ring. "Grow houses" were once legitimate homes now used to grow marijuana hydroponically with self-contained watering and lighting conditions. If someone is charged with marijuana trafficking or mortgage fraud it is imperative to hire a Miami criminal lawyer with vast experience defending such matters.

Manuel Pupo, Elieser Pupo, Serguey Pupo and Elmer Pupo entered guilty pleas to a litany of crimes including drug trafficking, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and mortgage fraud. The sentencing for all four defendants is scheduled for December 11, 2009 in federal court where they each face between 20 and 40 years in prison. The Pupo brothers purchased numerous houses by committing mortgage fraud. They hired illegal immigrants to cultivate marijuana and paid for their living expenses. The four defendants purchased the marijuana and the tools necessary to maintain a hydroponic garden and taught their employees how to cultivate the crop.

Once the marijuana was cultivated and harvested, they would pick up their crop, sell it, and give a percentage of the proceeds to the individuals who grew the marijuana. Investigators from the Port St. Lucie Police Department uncovered the marijuana trafficking ring in 2006. The defendants raised between $200,000 and $400,000 per crop and would use the proceeds to pay the mortgages on the "grow houses". In furtherance of the money laundering operation, the defendants would pay the farmers in cash, but they were required to pay back some of the proceeds by way of rent checks for living in the homes.

South Florida and Miami marijuana trafficking cases have become prevalent with the economic downturn in the economy. With a lack of employment opportunities, individuals have become drug traffickers to earn a living. With the possibility of enrichment, also comes the consequence of potentially serving a long prison term. Last year, the Florida legislature promulgated new laws that enhance penalties for persons who engage in marijuana trafficking.

Pot Planters Plead Guilty of Massive Mortgage Fraud, UPI.com, October 2, 2009

October 7, 2009

Mafia Now Involved in Miami Medicare Fraud

Miami Medicare fraud defense lawyers can now expect to represent Mafia crime families in South Florida federal courts. The allure of fast money and minimal prison sentences has attracted Mafia families to enter into this fast growing federal crime. Federal investigators claim that two reasons have led to the Mafia's involvement in Miami Medicare fraud. First, Medicare fraud can be more financially productive than drug trafficking or racketeering. Second, the prison sentences under the federal sentencing guidelines are vastly less severe than narcotics and other types of crimes usually committed by crime syndicates. Miami criminal lawyers have seen a steady increase in Miami Medicare fraud cases over the past several years.

Individuals that are involved in Medicare fraud typically bill the federal healthcare system for treatments or medical devices that are never provided to patients. People are paid kickbacks for going to clinics and providing their personal information for treatments they never receive. Major Medicare fraud schemes have been uncovered in other cities besides Miami. Fraud schemes have been found in Los Angeles, Detroit, Houston and New York. In many cases, federal investigators have determined that Mafia crime families are at the very heart of Medicare fraud enterprises.

In May 2009, 11 members of the New York Bonanno family were indicted for their involvement in a Miami Medicare fraud ring. They were charged with identity theft and conspiracy to commit murder in case where they allegedly stole Medicare numbers and were prepared to murder government witnesses. Not only are crime families involved in the healthcare fraud schemes, but common everyday criminals have gotten into the act.

The results of these Miami Medicare fraud schemes have led to many cases of violence. In 2007, a pharmacy owner was found dead, lying in a pool of her own blood at the hands of her own cousin. Federal authorities were investigating the pharmacy for Medicare fraud. Investigators believe the crimes are linked. A Miami clinic owner was found shot to death in the back seat of his car. The murder occurred soon after 50 Medicare suppliers wee served with search warrants.

Federal investigators believe the violence stemming from the Miami Medicare fraud case is a result of disputes over money or are attempts to silence witnesses who are cooperating with the federal government. The murders appear to be the result of professional hits that generally go unsolved. The cases involving Medicare fraud and violence have been increasing exponentially over the past several years in Miami. Only time will tell if law enforcement will be able to quell the fraud and violence.

Mafia, Violent Criminals Turn to Medicare Fraud, Associated Press, October 7, 2009.

October 6, 2009

Clinic Operators Convicted in Miami Medicare Fraud Scam

Despite the representation of two noted Miami Medicare fraud defense lawyers, two Miami business people were convicted in federal court after a jury heard several days of testimony. Scarlet Duarte and Rechart Garcia were convicted for healthcare fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. Federal authorities alleged that both defendants owned and operated six clinics in Miami-Dade, Lee and Collier Counties.

Testimony was provided at trial that alleged that the two defendants billed Medicare for $51 million fraudulent claims for HIV treatments that were never provided to patients. Despite the effective cross-examination of several government witnesses by the Miami criminal defense lawyers defending the case, their clients were convicted nonetheless.

The Miami healthcare fraud scheme netted $21 million dollars in profits for the clinic owners. The clinic owners paid kickbacks to patients to appear at the clinic and pretend to receive HIV treatments. The patients never received the treatments, yet the defendant billed Medicare as if they had. Fifteen other individuals involved in the massive scheme to defraud have already entered guilty pleas or been convicted at trial for their involvement in the clinic's fraudulent operations. Duarte and Garcia are each facing 20 years in federal prison. Their sentencing is scheduled on December 14, 2009, in federal court.

Despite the number of arrest and convictions, most of the patients in Miami Medicare fraud are rarely indicted and prosecuted. One theory behind this claim is that the patients receiving kickbacks become government witnesses against the clinic owners and doctors. In exchange for their testimony, they are absolved of their crimes. A second theory may be that the patients are such small fish, the federal government makes the conscious decision not prosecute due to a lack of manpower or resources. In either event, the federal government needs to send a message to the patients, as well as the clinic owners to reduce the number of Miami Medicare fraud cases.

The number of Miami Medicare cases has risen exponentially over the past several years. Federal investigators and government prosecutors have focused on this new age crime to prevent the inevitable bankruptcy of the federal healthcare system.

Miami Clinic Operators Convicted in $51 Million Fraud, South Florida Business Journal, October 5, 2009.

October 5, 2009

Man Sentenced in Miami Marijuana Trafficking Case

In Miami, a former resident of Broward County appeared in federal court before United States District Judge Richard Goldberg for his sentencing hearing. Ryan Gayle was indicted and sentenced in the third largest marijuana importation and trafficking case in the history of the Miami International Airport. Gayle was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison and 5 years of supervised release on October 2, 2009, for his involvement in Miami marijuana trafficking ring. Gayle was representing by a local Miami criminal defense lawyer at his sentencing hearing.

On November, 30 ,2006, U.S. customs officials seized in excess of 3,540 pounds of marijuana at the Miami International Airport. The marijuana was transported from Kingston, Jamaica aboard cargo aircraft bound for Miami, Florida. The marijuana was concealed in packaging that was labeled black pepper and various seasonings. A long term narcotics investigation that took several months revealed that the large shipment of marijuana was intended to be delivered to Gayle.

While the marijuana trafficking case was being investigated by several federal agencies, Gayle attempted to receive multiple different marijuana shipments from Jamaica. Federal authorities arrested Gayle in August, 2008, for importation of marijuana, trafficking in marijuana and conspiracy to traffic in marijuana. Gayle pled not guilty to the federal indictment and proceeded to take his case to a jury trial. After hearing two weeks of testimony, the jury convicted Gayle for importing marijuana and conspiracy to traffic marijuana.

At present, the majority of Miami marijuana trafficking cases arise through the operation of marijuana "grow house" cases. By growing the marijuana locally, those who engage in marijuana trafficking usually avoid investigation by federal authorities. By cultivating the marijuana in Miami, individuals avoid investigations by customs agents and the DEA for the most part. Those who choose to grow marijuana rather than import it, generally are investigated by local law enforcement authorities who operate with a lack of man power and resources.

Another advantage to growing the marijuana at home is in the event one is arrested, the charges with be brought in state court versus federal court. The lack of experience of the prosecutors and the enormous case load in Miami, bodes well for the defendants arrested for marijuana trafficking. With the assistance of a skilled Miami marijuana trafficking defense lawyer, a lengthy jail sentence is improbable, with probation a more likely scenario.

Convicted Drug Trafficker Sentenced in the Third Largest Marijuana Seizure at Miami International, Media Newswire, October 5, 2009.

October 2, 2009

Miami Gang Members Indicted on Murder Charges

A Miami grand jury has indicted four men in a triple murder case which occurred in 2006. Four well-known gang members armed with masks and guns opened fire on a van killing three men and wounding another in day light hours on a Miami street. Miami police investigators determined that the mastermind of the attack and resulting homicide was Emanuel "Mano" Cadillon. The attack was the result of retaliation for the execution-style murder of Cadillon's toddler son weeks earlier. Cadillon has been charged by the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office with three counts of first degree murder. The record is unclear as to which Miami criminal lawyers will be representing the four co-defendants in the case.

Cadillon is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for possession of ammunition by a convicted felon. He was arrested in Miramar, Florida after an all-night standoff with police. Along with Cadillon, a Miami-Dade grand jury indicted Robert Shaw, Junior Sylvin and Samuel Cadillon. Sylvin is currently scheduled for trial in federal court in October for cocaine trafficking and conspiracy to traffic in cocaine charges.

All of the men indicted have been under investigation by gang and homicide detectives for their alleged involvement in several brutal murders in Miami-Dade County. Investigations have revealed that the men are members of a violent Haitian street gang referred to as the "69th Street" gang. The victims of the murder are said to have been associated with another street gang referred to as the "Zombie Boys." Miami detectives acknowledged the ongoing violent criminal and drug activities of these local street gangs.

The key evidence in the case against the defendants is DNA on cell phone that was recovered at the crime scene, weapons seized in a Miami Beach hotel room, and statements made by Shaw to other inmates while he was in custody on an unrelated case. After the grand jury indicted the four co-defendants, Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle issued the following statement, "I have a simple message to gang members like these determined to commit vicious crimes: Don't stop looking over your shoulders because my prosecutors and our police are determined to hunt you down and take you off our streets."

Homicide detectives are investigating another triple homicide with the same gang members being the primary suspects. The MO is apparently the same, with gang members using two vehicles to box in the vehicle being operated by the victims. Once the vehicle is stopped the gang members pump dozens of rounds into the vehicle with the intent of killing everyone inside.

4 Gang Members Charged in 2006 Miami Triple Slaying, The Miami Herald, October 2, 2009.

October 1, 2009

Davie Man Arrested for Involvement in Miami Medicare Fraud Ring

In Miami, Florida, a U.S. federal district judge sentenced a Davie man to 12 years in federal prison for his involvement in a multi-million dollar Miami Medicare fraud scheme and money laundering operation. With his Miami criminal attorney by his side, Daniel Martinez pled guilty for his involvement in a scheme which fraudulently billed Medicare approximately $5.4 million dollars for medical equipment. Miami, Florida remains a hotbed for those who perpetrate Medicare fraud. Federal authorities continue to crackdown on this offense as the monetary losses are staggering and threatening the existence of the Medicare system as we know it. The only people who benefit from the large number of prosecutions are Miami Medicare fraud defense lawyers.

Martinez owned and operated Med-Pro between 2005 and 2006 and billed Medicare for medical supplies that were never prescribed by doctors, nor supplied to patients. Medicare paid Med-Pro approximately $1.2 million dollars for good and services that were never rendered. As part of his plea agreement, Martinez also admitted that he operated 5 other medical equipment companies in the Miami area which billed medicare approximately $17 million dollars.

Martinez attempted to conceal his involvement in the scheme to defraud by using the names of friends and relatives as the business owners of the fraudulent medical supply companies. Also sentenced in federal court for their involvement were Jimmy Soto, Leonardo Lozado, Eilaides Diaz and Jose Claro. Soto entered a guilty plea to Medicare fraud charges and was sentenced to 11 ½ years in prison. Diaz received 6 ½ years, Lozado received four years and Claro was sentenced to 2 ½ years.

Martinez used the proceeds obtained in his Medicare scheme to defraud to live a lavish lifestyle. He purchased several houses and expensive cars with the fraudulently obtained proceeds. He also purchased 10 Rolex watches with a street value of approximately $250,000. As a result of the hefty losses suffered by Medicare, Martinez must pay restitution to compensate the federal medical provider.

Davie Man Sentenced for Medicare Fraud, South Florida Biz Journals, September 29, 2009.