November 2009 Archives

November 30, 2009

Miami Medicare Fraud Being Examined by the Federal Government

With the current debate taking place in Congress over healthcare reform legislation, the topic of Medicare fraud has once again come to the forefront. As part of the new legislation, efforts to eradicate the growing problem of fraud is being discussed among politicians. Congress is aware that Miami is leading city when it comes to Medicare fraud. According to reports, large Medicare fraud cases are also increasing in Palm Beach and Broward Counties as well. The vast number of Miami Medicare fraud cases have led the federal authorities to target the South Florida area. In 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force was created to combat the fraud. It has become a model for other areas of the county dealing with the same issue. Other crime stopping measures are also being discussed. It is apparent that the federal government is stepping up their efforts and that they are after anyone involved in Medicare fraud.

Miami criminal lawyers experienced in defending Medicare fraud cases are finding themselves traveling to other counties to defend their clients. Justice Department officials claim that individuals involved in Medicare fraud are moving north in an effort to find fertile ground and avoid the area under the scrutiny of law enforcement. According to reports, one-third of all Medicare fraud cases in the United States stem from Miami and South Florida area. Anyone being investigated for being involved in a Miami Medicare fraud case must seek the assistance of an attorney experienced in handling these matters priors to speaking to law enforcement authorities. Speaking to law enforcement without representation may prevent an individual from availing himself or herself to the many defenses that exit.

The argument over Medicare fraud has caused a rift in Congress. Those opposed to healthcare reform claim that the government is incapable of running a federal healthcare system because it cannot even stamp out Medicare fraud in South Florida. President Obama and democrats want to throw more money and manpower into anti-fraud enforcement. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, a member of the Department of Justice testified that 3% to 10% of the $800 billion dollars spent on Medicare was lost to waste, fraud and abuse.

The crackdown on Miami Medicare fraud has resulted in more than 300 indictments, 150 guilty pleas, 20 individuals found guilty after jury trial and the collection in over $275 million in restitution. The majority of Miami Medicare fraud cases involve criminal enterprises taking advantage of senior citizens. Many of the fraudulent networks pay kickbacks to the elderly to get them to attend their clinics. They use their social security numbers and patient identification numbers to bill for treatments the patients never receive. Obama has requested $311 million dollars to beef up fraud enforcement. The money is expected to go in part to a new website to investigate fraudulent payments and new computer systems for identifying fraud.

Florida's Model for Medicare Fraud and the Fight to Stop It, Sun Sentinal.com, November 29, 2009.

November 25, 2009

Government Dismisses Charges Against Miami Criminal Lawyer

Federal prosecutors dropped all charges against a well-known Miami criminal lawyer on November 25, 2009. The lawyer was indicted for conspiracy to commit money laundering and other various charges. His case stemmed from the defense of the cocaine trafficking kingpin, Fabio Ochoa. Ben Kuehne was absolved of all charges last week. He is well-know for his representation of former Vice-President Al Gore regarding the 2000 Florida vote recount. He was also a member of the Florida Bar board of governors.

The federal court case involving Kuehne became the topic of conversation in legal circles over the past couple of years. The case centered around an individuals 6th Amendment right to counsel and a federal statute which provided for an exemption to attorneys for money laundering The government's case came to a grinding halt when the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Kuehne could not be prosecuted for money laundering in light of the exemption. With the main charge no longer in play, the Department of Justice decided to dismiss the wire fraud and obstruction of justice counts. Court records indicate that the government dropped the case in the interests of justice.

The indictment charged Kuehne with falsely verifying that the proceeds used by Ochoa to retain well-known Miami criminal attorney, Roy Black, were not obtained as a result of cocaine trafficking. Black received about $5.2 million from Ochoa to represent him in his cocaine trafficking case. Kuehne issued two opinion letters to Black in 2002 and 2003 claiming that the funds were not tainted. Kuehne received a $200,000 fee for his opinion.

Prosecutors tried to establish that Kuehne and others prepared documents to make it look like the funds were not linked to the massive Columbia drug cartels operation. Lawyers representing Kuehne have argued from the outset, that federal law precludes lawyers from being prosecuted for receiving tainted fees. According the law, any lawyer receiving tainted fees cannot be prosecuted, only the fees can subject to forfeiture.

Despite the exorbitant fees paid by Ochoa for his defense, he was convicted of the cocaine trafficking charges and is spending the next 30 years in federal prison. The resolution of the case comes with a sigh of relief for defendants and criminal lawyers alike. In a nutshell, defendants can use tainted fees to hire lawyers and the lawyers retained can sleep well at night knowing that they will not go to jail for receiving fees obtained from the operation of illegal enterprises.

US Drops Charges Against Florida Lawyer in Drug Case, The Miami Herald, November 25, 2009.

November 24, 2009

Pastor and Wife Found Guilty in Miami Mortgage Fraud Scheme

Miami mortgage fraud has now struck the religious ranks. A Broward County couple were found guilty in federal court for charges relating to a Miami mortgage fraud scheme and racketeering. Garry and Yvonne Souffrant were alleged to have defrauded banks and committed money laundering for individuals involved in cocaine trafficking. The indictment alleged that couple used proceeds from cocaine trafficking and marijuana trafficking to purchase real estate in the Miami and South Florida area.

Federal authorities claimed that Garry portrayed himself as a pastor at "God First Ministries" in Miami Gardens. Other than being a pastor, he and his wife also operated a family real estate business used in part to purchase homes and automobiles for cocaine trafficking rings throughout South Florida. Both defendants were represented at their trial in federal court by Miami criminal attorneys. The conviction opens the couple up to 5 to 30 years in prison.

Tried along with the defendants was Garry's brother, Gamaliel Souffrant. Unlike his brother and sister-in-law, he was found not guilty by a jury of his peers. At trial, the evidence revealed that the defendants acted as straw buyers or arranged for straw buyers to purchase homes and expensive automobiles while covering up the source of the drug related money. Million of dollars was alleged to have be laundered through the scheme to defraud.

The Miami federal court criminal docket is replete with cocaine trafficking, money laundering and mortgage fraud cases. Due to the magnitude of the problem, federal law enforcement agencies have established specialized task forces to arrest and prosecute those involved with the above listed crimes. Federal court district judges are handing down severe punishments in accordance with the Federal Sentencing Guidelines to those convicted of any of the aforementioned offenses.

Due to the serious consequences of being charged by a United States Attorney's Office and indicted for the charges discussed above, it imperative to hire a federal criminal lawyer with years of experience in that venue to represent your interests. Legal counsel who practice solely in state court do not have an understanding of the intricacies that occur in federal court. Always investigate the background of an criminal defense attorney you may hire to make sure you have the right person for the job.

Davie Couple Found Guilty of Mortgage Fraud, South Florida Business Journal, November 23, 2009.

November 23, 2009

Miami Man Receives Prison Sentence for Tax Fraud

A Miami man entered guilty pleas to numerous counts of tax fraud and identity theft in federal court. Gary Rosenfeld appeared with his Miami criminal lawyer at his sentencing hearing and received a three year prison sentence by the district court judge presiding over his case. The judge also ordered that the defendant pay restitution to his victims in the amount of $200,000. Miami tax fraud cases are some of the most common white collar crimes charged in South Florida. Tax evasion and fraud cases are always filed in federal court where federal statutes specifically criminalize these offenses.

Rosenfeld owned and operated a tax return preparation business form 2004 to 2007. He used his company, Taxing Solution, Inc., to file fraudulent tax returns on behalf of his clients, and others who were not his clients. The federal government and innocent residents of Miami lost in excess of $177,000 in the Miami tax fraud scheme. Rosenfeld filed fraudulent returns by misrepresenting wages, income and withholding amounts and fabricated tax deductions including tuition and education credits, as well as, false child care credits.

Sometimes, Rosenfeld would drafted tax returns which were approved by his clients. He promised them that their tax refunds would be directed deposited into their accounts. Instead, he altered the returns to increase the refunds and requested that "anticipation loans" be deposited into his accounts. A refund anticipation loan is typically requested from the IRS based on what an individual taxpayer believes his income will be for the year. Rosenfeld would then withdraw the funds from ATMs all over Miami-Dade County.

Along with tax fraud, Rosenfeld is charged with identity theft. Most Miami identity theft cases arise from credit card schemes to defraud. Many of Rosenfeld's victims consented to filing of their tax returns, albeit without the fraud. However, numerous victims were unaware that he was filing returns on their behalf. Using individuals's names to filed tax returns or obtain credit cards are common types of identity theft scenarios.

It is important to remember that if you are being investigated for tax fraud, tax evasion or any other fraud crime prosecuted under state or federal law, it is imperative to seek representation of a Miami criminal attorney with vast experience in defending such matters. Federal prosecutors will seek to make examples of those who commit federal fraud violations, especially when innocent victims are involved.

Miami Man Gets 3 Years on Tax, Identity Fraud Charges, The Miami Herald, November 23, 2009.

November 18, 2009

Former Cop Sentenced in Miami Ecstasy Case

On October 29, 2009, a former Miami-Dade County Police Officer appeared with his Miami criminal lawyer at his sentencing hearing in federal court. Ex-police officer Jorge Delgado was sentenced to two years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Delgado has entered a guilty plea at a previous court hearing to possession of ecstasy with the intent to distribute. At the time of his arrest, Delgado worked as road patrol officer. The case arose from a joint investigation between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Attorney's Office with the assistance of the Miami-Dade Police Department.

Delgado, a three-year veteran of the Miami-Dade Police Department was arrested during an undercover sting operation. The indictment and accompanying police reports indicated that he used his marked police cruiser to protect a shipment of ecstasy in exchange for $2,500.00. Law enforcement staged the events as part of their investigation. The agent in charge made the following statement to reporters, "It is disappointing when an officer breaks the law, but the South Florida law enforcement community as a whole is dedicated, professional, and has the highest standards of integrity. This officer chose not to honor the oath he took to serve the public and has now faced the consequences of his actions."

Any experienced Miami criminal attorney will tell you that every time a police officer is arrested, prosecuted and sent to jail; this fact will assist in the defense of your case. Obviously, if the officer arrested or even being investigated for committing a crime is integrally related to your charges, the prosecutor in most cases will have to dump the case. The quickest way to embarrass the prosecution and obtain a verdict of not guilty is to put a dirty cop on the stand to testify against you.

If the police officer is not related in anyway to your case, the fact that he is being investigated or has been arrested, can play a large role in the outcome of your case. Police officers that been investigated, arrested, or sentenced are always brought to the attention of public through the media. An experienced Miami criminal defense lawyer who is prepared to take your case to trial should do so as soon as it is practical so the media event of a dirty cop will be fresh in the minds of the jury. Of course, this trial strategy is most effective in police related cases without civilian victims. For example, the strategy is most effective in cocaine trafficking or other narcotics related cases, weapons cases, and other victimless crimes.

Former Miami-Dade Police Officer Sentenced for Aiding and Abetting in Ecstacy Undercover Operation, American Chronicle, November 13, 2009.

November 17, 2009

Several Miami Residents Arrested for Credit Card Fraud

Five Miami and Hialeah residents were arrested in Tampa by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office for numerous counts of credit card fraud. Those arrested were allegedly involved in 66 fraudulent purchases at a Tampa Walmart. The police are alleging that those arrested used stolen credit card numbers to purchase in excess of $13,000 in gift cards. Law enforcement authorities began the investigation when many victims came forward and reported unauthorized transactions on their credit card statements. Those arrested are seeking representation by the most experienced Miami credit card fraud lawyers. Miami criminal lawyers are the most experienced in the handling of these types of cases due to the large number of credit card fraud cases that occur in the South Florida area.

As the number of credit card fraud cases have increased in Miami over the past couple of years, vendors have tightened security at their establishments usually requiring a driver's license before accepting a credit card for payment. As a result, individuals in the business of perpetrating credit card fraud have moved north through the State of Florida where credit card security is much more lax. The only problem with moving north, is that the criminal courts handling the matters are handing out much stiffer punishments than the courts in Miami.

Not only are heavier punishments being handed down, but criminal courts are handing down much higher bail requirements to secure release prior to trial. At the bond hearing, the judge set bonds in the amount of approximately $100,000 for each defendant. The judge also set a Nebbia requirement as part of the bond. A Nebbia condition on a bond requires a defendant to prove to the prosecutor and the judge that the premium required by the bondsman along with requisite collateral was not obtained from the criminal enterprise itself. The best way to overcome a Nebbia requirement is to show that the funds and property used to secure a bond come from third parties with legitimate sources of income.

Along with being charged with credit card fraud, charges of identity theft are also prosecuted in state and federal court. The reason identity theft charges are also filed is because the fraudulent credit cards are manufactured with the actual credit card numbers of innocent victims. The most common way of obtaining credit numbers is by "skimming". Machines are used at retail businesses to obtain the codes located on the magnetic strips on the back of credit cards. Although local law enforcement agencies investigate and prosecute credit card fraud, federal authorities such as the Secret Service are also investigating and making arrests in credit card fraud cases.

Six Arrested for Credit Card Fraud at Walmart, The Tampa Tribune, November 17, 2009.

November 16, 2009

Miami Medicare Fraud Defendants Sentenced to Jail

It appears that there is no end in sight to the number of Miami Medicare fraud cases being prosecuted by the federal government. Medicare fraud has cost the federal government billions of dollars. The government is spending countless manpower and funds to put an end to the longstanding problem. Anyone being investigated or charged for Medicare fraud should immediately seek the assistance of a Miami criminal lawyer to defend their case. Severe penalties attach to individuals charged in these types of cases from lengthy prison sentences and large fines.

A judge in Miami federal court recently sentenced three defendants for their involvement in a South Florida Medicare scheme to defraud. Three defendants admitted to opening clinics in the South Florida area to treat HIV patients. The U.S. Attorneys Office for the Southern District of Florida accused the men of billing Medicare in excess of $40 million dollars for providing infusion treatments to AIDS patients. The defendants collected approximately $12 million for treatments that were never provided to patients. The men were also charged with paying kickbacks to individuals to appear at their clinics.

Manuel Camacho entered a guilty plea to the charge of money laundering and was sentenced to 18 months in prison and two years of supervised release with significant fines. Camacho was the clinic owner on paper and used the Medicare fraud proceeds to purchase expensive automobiles and boats. Camacho's sentence was relatively light in comparison to his co-defendants. Although he was in charge of the operation on paper, his co-defendant's were the masterminds behind the Miami Medicare fraud scheme.

Roberto Rodriguez entered a guilty plea into the offense of wire fraud and was sentenced to 8 ½ years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. The judge ordered Rodriguez to pay restitution in the amount of $9.6 million dollars. The third co-defendant, Alejandro Gonzalez, entered a guilty plea to one count of mail fraud and was sentenced to 8 years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $11.9 million in restitution.

As Miami criminal attorneys, we always recommend to immediately contact a criminal defense firm with experience in Medicare fraud matters. Early representation can result in limiting the number of charges being filed and can lead to reduced sentences. The penalties that attach to Medicare fraud cases are directly proportionate to the amount of money fraudulently received from the federal healthcare program. Always remember to speak with a Miami Medicare fraud lawyer prior to speaking with federal law enforcement officials.

Medicare Fraud Nets Jail Time, $21 Million in Fines, South Florida Business Journal, November 16, 2009.

November 14, 2009

Miami Commissioner to Resign Amid Investigation

Miami Commissioner, Angel Gonzalez, agreed to resign as part of a negotiated deal with the Miami-Dade County State Attorneys Office. The Miami criminal lawyer representing Gonzalez would not admit that his client agreed to resign in lieu of being arrested. Another Miami-Dade commissioner, Michelle Spence-Jones, is also currently under investigation. The current investigation involves a job that Gonzalez obtained for his daughter.

The current investigation is Gonzalez's second brush with the law. He served as a director of the Allapattah Business Authority in the 1990's. The agency became embroiled in voter fraud that occurred in the 1997 election. Gonzalez pled guilty to charges including voter fraud. He received a withhold of adjudication and one year of reporting probation. Because Gonzalez was not convicted, he remained eligible to run for office.

Despite his criminal record, Gonzalez won the Miami commissioner's seat for District 1 in 2001. He also won re-election bids for the same seat in 2003 and 2007. Gonzalez was also investigated this year for failing to properly fill out financial disclosure forms. He failed to report $135,000 in rental income he received since 2005. With the assistance of his Miami criminal attorney, Gonzalez amended the financial forms and paid a nominal fine.

Spence-Jones is being investigated for approving thousands of dollars in grant money to a business owned by the Spence-Jones family. Her Miami criminal defense lawyer did not believe his client will be formally charged by the state attorneys office. In May, the state attorney's office cleared Spence-Jones of allegations including bribery and paying out illegal kickbacks.

The ongoing investigations in to official misconduct are in full force as the new mayor of Miami took office this week. Miami has for years been the focal point of political corruption on the local government level. Miami has also become well-known for cocaine trafficking, mortgage fraud and medicare fraud. With all of the investigations and criminal prosecutions that occur in Miami, th justice system will never be short of business.

Miami Commissioner Angel Gonzalez to Resign Amid Probe, The Miami Herald, November 11, 2009.

November 13, 2009

South Florida Lawyer's Scheme to Defraud May Exceed $1 Billion

Federal agents from Miami continue to dig deeper into what is becoming a massive scheme to defraud. Prominent South Florida Miami lawyer, Scott Rothstein's elaborate "Ponzi Scheme" could exceed $1 billion. For now, Rothstein remains out of custody, but an inevitable indictment will come down charging the lawyer with money laundering, wire fraud, mail fraud and racketeering along with other charges. Rothstein is currently represented by one criminal defense attorney. Due to the severity of the allegations, he may choose to add other Broward or Miami criminal lawyers to his defense team.

Members of the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) held a press conference requesting that people that were victimized in the investment scheme to defraud should come forward. The special agent in charge of the investigation told reporters that the fraud investigation will be one of the largest in South Florida history. He believes when the investigation is completed, losses will exceed $1 billion.

To date, criminal charges have not been filed against Rothstein. According to reports, he has spoken with investigators with the assistance of his lawyer. As Miami fraud defense lawyers, we always recommend to those being investigated by law enforcement, seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. After consulting with a criminal lawyer, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, an informed decision whether to speak with the authorities or not can be made.

Rothstein has not been arrested because the agents involved in the case want to complete a thorough investigation. The agents are convinced that the scheme to defraud was too elaborate for one individual to be involved. It appears that Rothstein had co-conspirators who will also be arrested and charged in the case. If an indictment comes down, Rothstein and any other co-defendants will be arrested and taken before a magistrate in federal court to appear at a bond hearing. The magistrate will determine an appropriate bond in the case to ensure the defendants appearance at court hearings and trial if the case comes to that end.

The case under investigation is one of many that have come to light over the past 18 to 24 months. Although the amount alleged in the fraud committed in the Madoff and Stanford cases far exceeds this losses in this case, the victim's of the purported fraud stands to lose significant assets as a result. Rothstein has promised to use everything in his power to recover the money lost. Only time will tell, but the more likely result is a long prison term.

FBI Says Florida Fraud Scheme Could Top $1 Billion, Reuters, November 12, 2009.

November 12, 2009

Teens Charged with Attempted Murder for Setting Boy on Fire

Three Broward County youths are facing attempted second degree murder charges for setting their 15 year-old friend on fire. On October 12, 2009, five teenage friends of Michael Brewer covered him with alcohol and set him ablaze. Police officials determined that the attack occurred because Brewer owed one of the boys $40 for a video game. Brewer remains in critical condition in Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital's burn unit. It is unclear whether the defendants will be represented by Broward or Miami criminal attorneys.

Until Monday, the Broward County State Attorneys Office had not decided whether to charge the defendants as juveniles or adults. The decision to came down to transfer the defendants to adult court. The defendants in the case are Denver Jarvis, age 15, Matthew Bent, age 15, and Jesus Mendez, age 16. All defendants under the age of 18 are treated as juveniles, unless the assistant state attorney in charge of the juvenile unit decides to bind up the case to adult court. The Miami-Dade County's juvenile system works in a similar fashion. For example a person under the age of eighteen charged with theft or marijuana possession will most likely remain in juvenile court. However, a juvenile charged with a violent crime, such as attempted murder or armed robbery, will be sent to adult court where the penalties are much stiffer.

The Miami criminal lawyer initially retained by Denver Jarvis provided an interview to CNN. She told reporters that she believed her client should not be charged as an adult. "The juvenile system is designed to deal with children criminally charged. Broward County has chosen to ignore the juvenile system." Brewer's parents have decline to comment on the transfer of the case to adult court, but one cannot imagine that they share the same view with Jarvis' lawyer.

As a Miami criminal lawyer, it is imperative to intervene early in a juvenile case in an effort to convince prosecutors to keep juveniles in the lower tribunal. The punishments served by adults and juveniles are vastly different. In the case of the three juveniles, if convicted in juvenile court, they would be facing up to eighteen month locked facility especially designed for people under the age of 18. If convicted in adult court, they are facing life in prison with the most hardened criminals the State of Florida has to offer. Of course, the judge presiding over their case has the power to apply juvenile sanctions in the event of a conviction. That route is a crap shoot because no one knows which judge will preside over the case. In any event, Broward County has made their decision and only time will tell what the final result will be.

3 Teens Accused of Setting Boy on Fire Face Attempted Murder Charges, CNNJustice.com, November 9, 2009.

November 11, 2009

Moving Shipments Becoming a Difficult Task For Cocaine Traffickers

Miami cocaine traffickers beware because federal law enforcement agencies with the assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard and Marines are cracking down on Florida's borders and in the Caribbean. During the month of October, law enforcement intercepted cocaine shipments in excess of $133 million. The joint operations are intended to curb the number of Florida and Miami cocaine trafficking operations that continue to exist despite the large amounts of money and manpower being thrown at the problem. For decades, Miami criminal lawyers have represented clients arrested in joint interdiction operations.

The operations center is being run out of Jacksonville, Florida. The aircrews flying missions over the Caribbean are Jacksonville pilots assigned to the Customs and Border Patrol and the U.S. Marines, while a Coast Guard cutter stationed in Miami also assisted in the operations. Military law allows for military units to support the federal authorities in drug interdiction operations.

On October 9, 2009, Customs and Marine aircraft located a speed boat 50 miles off the coast of Panama. They directed the Coast Guard cutter to the location of the boat and a chase ensued. The individuals in the boat began dumping bales of cocaine over the side and attempted to evade capture. The Coast Guard recovered 36 bales of cocaine heading for the South Florida area.

On October 20, Customs and Marine aircraft with the assistance of the Joint Interagency Task Force South located another speed boat off the coast of Columbia. The aircrews observed the passengers on the speed boat dumping bails of cocaine overboard. The Coast was only able to retrieve two of the bales weighing approximately 100 pounds.

On October 29, 2009, Custom's pilots discovered a speed boat off the coast of Nicaragua which appeared to be engaged in cocaine trafficking. The pilots notified the Coast Guard who in turn launched its helicopter to intercept the cocaine laden craft. The helicopter was forced to fire on the vessel when it attempted to evade capture. Four cocaine traffickers were captured with 74 bales of cocaine weighing approximately 3,700 pounds.

The Jacksonville Joint Air Wing boast of a record year, intercepting over a 250,000 pounds of cocaine, marijuana and heroine. The total estimated street value of the seized narcotics exceeds $3.2 billion. Thirty-two vessels and one aircraft were seized and are subject to civil forfeiture actions. Nine of the vessels were self-propelled semi-submersible which makes them much more difficult to detect.

CBP Aircraft Aids in Caribbean Cocaine Seizures Worth $133 Million, Trading Markets.com, November 11, 2009.

November 10, 2009

Miami Criminal Lawyer To Argue Self-Defense In Stabbing Case

The Coral Gables student accused of murder is now represented by a Miami criminal lawyer who told reporters his client has a strong case of self-defense. The Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office released the statement provided by the defendant, Andy Rodriguez. They also released surveillance footage, police reports, witness interviews and the medical examiner's report. Rodriguez is currently charged with murder for the slaying of Juan Carlos Rivera at Coral Gables High School on September 15, 2009.

Homicide detectives and prosecutors have determined that the fistfight turned deadly was the result of tensions between the two students regarding a girl. Rivera resided in the same apartment complex in Miami with Rodriguez's girlfriend. The girlfriend's mother asked her to give Rivera rides to school. A friend of Rodriguez told police that Rodriguez had told his girlfriend not to give Rivera anymore rides. Soon thereafter, tensions apparently built between the two teens.

Rodriguez has no criminal history, but school records show that he has been suspended seven times. Three of the suspensions were a direct result of physical confrontations on campus. Rodriguez told homicide detectives that he did not go to school with the intent to kill Rivera. Unless prosecutors have some evidence to support the fact that Rodriguez took the knife to school with the intent to kill Rivera, they will have a difficult time persuading a jury to convict the defendant of first degree murder.

Despite the fact that Rodriguez gave a statement to police, the statement in and of itself does not exhibit the requisite premeditation for first degree murder. Rodriguez told detectives that he found the knife on the side of the road while walking home from work. He told police that he kept the knife and carried in case he was attacked by Rivera. The day before the stabbing, Rodriguez and Rivera bumped into each other during lunchtime. Witness statements are conflicting regarding the lunchtime encounter.

The following day, the students bumped into each other again and began fighting in the hallway. The fight spilled outside into the courtyard. While the teens grappled on the ground, Rodriguez stabbed Rivera five times, one piercing the heart. Rodriguez admitted to the stabbing, but told police officers that Rivera came at him with a pen and that he was acting in self-defense. None of the witnesses at the scene saw Rivera with a pen. That fact bodes poorly for the self-defense claim issued by his Miami criminal attorney. Despite the lack of premeditation, the prosecution appears to have enough to overcome the self-defense claim and get a conviction on the charge of second degree murder.

Suspect: 'Bad Face' Provoked Fatal Coral Gables High Stabbing, The Miami Herald, November 10, 2009.

November 9, 2009

Convicted Rapist Stands Trial For Murdering Wife

A former Miami social worker is accused of murdering his wife and is charged with the sexual assault and attempted murder of his stepchildren. After a six week jury selection, opening statements were presented to the jury by the prosecutor and the defendant's Miami criminal lawyer. The prosecutor told jurors that Grady Nelson admitted to law enforcement officers that he sexual assaulted and stabbed his stepdaughter and stepson and then turned the knife on his wife. The medical examiner found that he stabbed his wife 60 times and slashed her jugular artery. Nelson was formally charged in 2005 with first-degree murder, attempted murder and sexual battery.

Prior to the murder of his wife, Nelson had been arrested for the sexual assault of his wife's 11 year-old daughter. Soon after the arrest, Nelson attended his bond hearing where he was granted bail and bond hearing judge issued a stay away order from the victim. Despite the court order issued by the judge, the defendant returned home and allegedly committed the horrific crimes. The police found him inside the residence covered in blood and holding the murder weapon.

The Miami criminal attorney representing Nelson explained to the jury that his client was innocent of all charges and that the actual person guilty of the crimes was the boyfriend of the children's grandmother. The attorney explained to the jury that the alleged confession was forced out of his client by law enforcement officers. The prosecutor will undoubtedly present the taped admission to the jury. The jury will be given every opportunity to listen to the alleged confession and decide for themselves whether or not it was coerced by the homicide detectives.

One of the reasons jury selection took six weeks in fairly straightforward case is due to the fact that the Miami-Dade County State Attorneys Office is seeking the death penalty against Nelson. In all capital cases, the defendant is entitled to a twelve member jury. In all other cases, a defendant is entitled to a six member jury. The increased number of jurors and additional death penalty questions that coincide with this type of case can explain the length of time to select a fair and impartial jury.

If Nelson is convicted of the first degree murder and sexual battery, he is facing the death penalty. If convicted of the crimes, he will appear at a death sentencing hearing, where the judge will make the ultimate decision. Nelson will present through the assistance of his lawyer any mitigating factors which will cause the judge a reason to hand down a life sentence as opposed to the alterative. Of course the prosecutor will offer aggravating factors in an effort to convince the judge that the death penalty is warranted.

Trial Begins For Convicted Rapist Accused of Killing Wife, The Miami Herald, November 5, 2009.

November 6, 2009

Ft. Lauderdale Law Firm Employees Hire South Florida and Miami Criminal Lawyers

The federal investigation into the fraud allegations against the Broward law firm of Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler is generating new business for South Florida and Miami criminal lawyers. Federal law enforcement authorities raided the once prestigious law office on Wednesday, and seized forty-four boxes of documents and numerous computers. The $400 million massive scheme to defraud may have destroyed a law firm, but is creating a lot of new clients for Miami fraud lawyers. It is possible that several indictments will he handed down which contain charges such as money laundering, racketeering, wire fraud and bank fraud.

The individual subject to the most scrutiny is Scott Rothstein, a high-profile Broward County lawyer and equity partner in the firm currently under investigation. According to the firm's most recent statement, Rothstein operated a side business at the firm which including selling civil case settlements to investors. The only problem is that the clients and settlements were most likely fictitious. The firm under investigation grew from seven lawyers in 2002 to 70 lawyers at present. Rothstein was not afraid to display his new found wealth by purchasing expensive homes, automobiles and jewelry.

Several members of the firm have already hired high-profile South Florida and Miami criminal attorneys to represent their interests in the federal investigation which will inevitably become criminal cases. Not only those under investigation are hiring lawyers, but the victim's of the fraud are also hiring lawyers in an effort to recoup their losses from the scheme to defraud. Notable victims of the fraud are; notable car dealer, Ted Morse; and investment group, The Banyon Investment Fund. Numerous other victims of the fraud have come forward and will undoubtedly files civil claims against the Broward firm and its partners.

A notable Miami criminal defense lawyer told reporters, "It's sort of like the Criminal Defense Lawyers Welfare Relief Act. Basically, anybody who has had a position above secretary ought to be lawyered up. And even secretaries ought to be cautious of speaking with authorities without counsel." Any experienced criminal lawyer with experience in handling federal fraud investigations will tell anyone involved to retain counsel and refuse to speak with investigators without counsel being present. Even lawyers who are subject to criminal investigations should hire experienced attorneys to represent their interests and never choose to go it alone and represent themselves.

Fla. Firm's Attorneys Rally Their Defenses as Partner Faces Fraud Allegations, Law.com, November 6, 2009.

November 5, 2009

Law Office of South Florida Lawyer Raided by Feds

Fort Lauderdale and Miami criminal lawyer, Scott Rothstein is mired in a federal investigation that can land him a lengthy jail sentence. Federal law enforcement authorities believe they have a new multi-million scheme to defraud on their hands. On Wednesday, FBI and IRS agents raided the Ft. Lauderdale law office of Rothstein, Rosenfeldt and Adler seizing documents, computers and other records that will most likely lead to the uncovering of the latest "Ponzi" scheme to hit the Miami and South Florida area. Rothstein has hired a notable South Florida and Miami fraud lawyer to represent him during the investigation.

Federal authorities suspect Rothstein of being the mastermind behind a fraud that could eventually lead to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. Rothstein is under investigation for grand theft, money laundering, wire fraud and mail fraud. The latest report has Rothstein cooperating with the authorities in an attempt to help himself by revealing other participants in the scheme to defraud. Not only is Rothstein accused of wiping out investors, but also his Broward County law firm. One of the partners told reporters that the 70 member firm has only $117,000 in the operating account.

Investigators believe that Rothstein sold fraudulent lawsuit settlements to investors and stole money from client's trust funds, as well as, from the firm's operational account. The other partners claim to have no knowledge of the massive fraud allegedly perpetrated by their partner. They claim that Rothstein had sole control of the firm's operational and trust accounts. The federal investigation will reveal what other individuals may or may not have been involved at the firm.

As news of the fraud began to break, Rothstein traveled to Morocco. He texted his partners from overseas stating, "I am a fool. I thought I could fix it, but got trapped by my ego and refusal to fail and now all I have accomplished is hurting people I love." Undoubtedly, federal prosecutors will use this statement against him if he is prosecuted in federal court. Any Miami fraud lawyer will tell you, do not make any statements to anyone including text messages and e-mails because they will be used against you in any prosecution.

Adler, one of the named partners has hired a Broward criminal lawyer to represent his interests in the case. Rothstein is a high-profile Broward lawyer, who lived a lavish lifestyle and donated large sums of money to charities and politicians. Reports indicate that Rothstein owned millions of dollars in automobile and jewelry. Many wonder how Rothstein could have pulled off such a large scheme to defraud without his partners of the firm becoming aware of it.

Federal Agents Raids Scott Rothstein's Law Offices, The Miami Herald, November 5, 2009.

November 4, 2009

Former Miami DEA Chief May Have Charge Dismissed

Miami Federal Magistrate Judge Robin Rosenbaum recommended to federal prosecutors that they drop an obstruction of justice charge against Tom Rafanello. Rafanello, the former chief of Miami's Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), is charged with obstruction of justice and interfering with a federal investigation for shredding thousands of documents despite a court order to leave the records intact. Rafanello's Miami criminal lawyer was pleased with magistrates recommendation. His lawyer is hopeful that the federal district judge presiding over the case agrees and throws out the remaining charges.

Rafanello, after leaving the DEA, was hired as the head of security for Allen Stanford's financial empire. Allen Stanford was arrested several months ago by federal authorities for a running a $7 billion "Ponzi" scheme through island nation of Antigua for the past decade. Stanford is currently in custody in a Houston federal correctional facility awaiting trial on charges of securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, racketeering and money laundering. Days after federal authorities shut down Stanford's operation, Rafanello and another member of Stanford's security team, Bruce Perraud, destroyed reams of documents in contravention of a court order.

Jude Rosenbaum told prosecutors that they have failed to show that the shredding of the documents impeded the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) probe into Stanford's massive scheme to defraud. Rosenbaum did not reject the entire case, finding evidence that Rafanello's action impeded a federal investigation. The records allegedly destroyed in the case included background checks on Stanford employees and investors. Federal prosecutors declined to comment on the preliminary ruling, but have previously argued that Rafanello and Perraud destroyed the records knowing that a judge ordered them to be preserved.

As with every economic crisis, massive schemes to defraud investors always come to light. From multi-billion dollar schemes to defraud like the one committed by Bernie Madoff in New York, to multi-million dollar schemes committed in our backyard, such as Beau Diamond's alleged Sarasota fraud, investors always suffer the consequences. South Florida and Miami fraud lawyers have been busy defending those accused of defrauding investors. With the next economic downturn, more innovative schemes to defraud will be unveiled. As the old adage goes, history always repeats itself.

Miami's EX-DEA Chief Could Escape Charge in Allen Stanford Case, The Miami Herald, November 3, 2009.

November 3, 2009

Former Miami Criminal Court Judge Faces New Charges

Former Miami Circuit Judge Phillip Davis is once again facing allegations in the courthouse where he used to preside over criminal cases. Davis now faces Miami money laundering and grand theft charges. The case is being prosecuted by the Broward County State Attorneys Office. Reports fail to mention which Miami criminal lawyer is representing Davis in his new case. This not the first time Davis faces criminal charges.

Sixteen years ago, Davis was indicted in federal court on bribery and extortion charges. The allegations stemmed from Operation Court Broom which was initiated as a result of the massive corruption which was occurring on the bench in Miami in the late 1980's. Davis was allegedly taped recorded by the FBI arranging to receive a $20,000 payoff from then Miami criminal attorney, Ray Takiff to fix the outcome of a criminal case. Takiff, at the time of the conversation was an informant for the federal government.

Davis testified in his federal trial and explained to the jury that he was suffering from a cocaine addiction, and in fact, admitted to snorting the illegal substance in his courtroom chambers. He admitted that he usually carried cocaine on his person and that he addiction led to his poor judgement. As a result of his heart-felt apology, the federal jurors acquitted him of the bribery and extortion charges.

After leaving the bench, David assisted in the foundation of the Miami-Dade Resident College in the late 1990's. The program was created to assist less fortunate citizens with parenting, life and vocation skills. According to investigators, Davis and a co-worker submitted fraudulent invoices to receive extra grant money. He created a sham corporation to pay non-existent independent contractors and kept the proceeds for himself. David was arrested in 2005 for stealing money slated for the college. He was charged with money laundering and for the theft of over $80,000.

Davis took the stand and told jurors that the invoices were not fraudulent and that he did not steal money intended to help the poor which was supplied the county and the state. Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle decided to opt out of the case to avoid a conflict. As a result, the Broward County State Attorneys Office is prosecuting the case.

Ex-Miami-Dade Judge Acquitted of Bribery Faces New Charges, The Miami Herald, November 3, 2009.

November 2, 2009

Pilot Mental Health Program New to Miami Criminal Courts

Miami criminal courts have recently added a pilot program to aid mentally ill people through the justice system. Judge Deborah White-Labora, who currently runs the Miami drug court program is taking on this pilot project. The drug court program was instituted years ago to help defendants with drug addictions. The program is onerous because takes one year to successfully complete. Counseling and weekly narcotics anonymous meetings are required. The program is open anyone arrested and charged with cocaine possession, marijuana possession and heroine possession, etc. Those enrolled in the program are eligible to have their drug charge dropped if they successfully complete a year long treatment program. Once the charge is dropped, the record is elible for expungement.

Individuals charged cocaine trafficking or marijuana trafficking, of course are not eligible to take advantage of the program. For years, Miami criminal lawyers have used the drug court program to avoid having clients enter pleas and receiving probation or short jail sentences. However, before someone enters the drug court program, it would be wise to seek advice from a Miami criminal attorney. A skilled Miami criminal lawyer can many times win a simple drug possession case without putting their clients through the year long program.

Like the drug court program, the new Miami mental health program will assist certain defendants suffering from mental health issues. Individuals are required to be enrolled in the program for one year and have to take their required medications and attend all necessary mental health counseling. The program has been given a $330,000 budget which will allow for the hiring of six new employees, money for housing and medication, as well as for transportation expenses.

Of course the program will not be available for all offenders. Enrollment will be offered depending on the mental illness, the charges for which the person is being prosecuted and the person's criminal history. Those charged with violent crimes with a long criminal background will most likely not be admitted into the program. The program will also assist enrollees in applying for and receiving social security benefits which will assist in paying for living and mental health treatment expenses.

Court Program for Mentally Ill Allows Treatment, The Miami Herald, October 31, 2009.

November 1, 2009

Ex-Police Officer Acquitted in Miami Cocaine Trafficking Case

A former Miami-Dade Police Officer and his brother took their chances with a jury in Miami federal courtroom and their gamble paid dividends. Each brother was represented by Miami criminal lawyers with years of experience defending Miami cocaine trafficking cases in federal court. Antonio and Glen Roberts were accused of being involved in a large Miami cocaine trafficking ring. Seventeen other defendant were arrested and indicted on several criminal charges including cocaine trafficking, racketeering, and conspiracy charges.

All other seventeen defendants entered guilty pleas prior to trial. Among those who entered pleas were Michael King, another former Miami-Dade police officer and Marvin Coney, a former Miami-Dade County corrections officer. King received five years in prison for racketeering and obstruction of justice. He allegedly placed bets on professional basketball games, and at one time tipped of Coney as to the pending Miami cocaine trafficking investigation. King received five years in federal prison while Coney was sentenced to ten years.

Jurors in a Miami federal court acquitted the brothers after a two week trial where they were accused by federal prosecutors of being involved in the Miami cocaine trafficking ring. Antonio Roberts was acquitted of four cocaine related charges, as well as, the obstruction of justice charge. Glenn Roberts was acquitted of the cocaine with possession to distribute charge. The investigation into the criminal enterprise was headed up by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. During the course of the investigation, the FBI recorded approximately 10,500 conversations.

Despite the large number of conversation recorded by the FBI, the jury could not convict the brothers as they undoubtedly found that the federal government could not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. A conversation recorded by the FBI revealed that Antonio called Coney to warn him of a police presence in the neighborhood. Another conversation that was recorded revealed that Glenn spoke about buying a "cookie" which is code for one ounce of cocaine. It is believed that the severe lack of evidence along with a strong case presented by the Miami criminal attorneys secured the acquittal.

It is always a difficult decision when discussing with a client whether or not to enter a plea or take a case to trial. Any skilled Miami cocaine trafficking lawyer or Miami marijuana trafficking lawyer has represented enough clients to give a good opinion as to what he believes will be the outcome of any criminal case will be. However, without a crystal ball, no one can give guarantees. While the first seventeen defendants entered guilty pleas, they may have a more difficult time at trial depending on the evidence that was accumulated against them.

Ex-Miami-Dade Cop, Brother Cleared in Drug Case, The Miami Herald, October 29, 2009.