February 2010 Archives

February 26, 2010

Justice Department Implements New Tools to Fight White-Collar Crime

The head of the United States Department of Justice criminal division held a conference for criminal defense lawyers at which he explained the new tools the federal government was using to fight white-collar crimes such as fraud. Larry Breuer used the example of the recent investigation and prosecution regarding the Galleon hedge fund insider trading case and another case where 22 people were charged under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act ("FCPA"). While white collar crimes are usually prosecuted under federal statutes such a racketeering, wire fraud, and mail fraud, the new case being prosecuted under FCPA is uncommon. According to Breuer, Federal investigators made the cases through the use of wire taps and undercover agents.

Breuer told the lawyers at the conference that, "Taken together, these cases reflect a new chapter in white-collar criminal enforcement...out are the days of resting easy in the belief that only self-reporting or tipsters will bring criminality to light." He promised a more innovative and proactive approach to investigating and prosecuting white-collar crimes. The recent FCPA case brought by the federal government is the largest case ever prosecuted under that particular statute. The statute criminalizes conduct where individuals pay bribes to solicit business from overseas. Not only did Breuer promise a proactive approach, but also encouraged businesses to police themselves by reporting criminal violations they discover on their own.

Other examples cited at the conference regarding the Justice Department's new policy included the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, as well as, the Mortgage Fraud Task Force. Breuer boasted that since the inception of the healthcare fraud investigative tool, 300 hundred people have been arrested for their involvement in approximately 200 cases. The value of the losses suffered by the federal healthcare system added up to approximately $860 million. The Medicare Strike Force now operates in the following cities; Miami, Tampa, New York, Detroit, Houston and Baton Rouge. The Mortgage Fraud Task Force is also implementing new and innovative techniques to combat real estate/mortgage fraud.

Breuer also told the attorneys in attendance that the Justice Department was reorganizing all of its fraud divisions in an effort to achieve "firm and fair" justice. The department is also lobbying for changes in the sentencing guidelines involving fraud to help eliminate the great sentencing disparities that exist for white-collar crimes. Whether the new pro-active approach taken by the Justice Department leads to more prosecutable fraud cases will be determined over time. If you or a loved on is being investigated by federal investigators or have been charged in federal court regarding a fraud case, seek the services of an experienced criminal law firm to defend and protect your rights. Never speak with anyone regarding a fraud crime unless you are represented by counsel.

U.S. Top Cop Say Justice Department Using New Tools, Reuters, February 26, 2010.

February 25, 2010

Like Santa, Mortgage Fraud Task Force Comes to Town

Miami, the epicenter for mortgage fraud in the United States is playing host to mortgage-fraud summit meetings being provided by the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Barrack Obama established the task force last November in an effort to stamp out mortgage fraud, and other fraudulent real estate crimes. The task force is made up of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Miami criminal defense attorneys have been defending mortgage/real estate fraud cases in federal courts extensively over the past 24 months. There are currently 23 distinct task forces presently working throughout the country. Miami has become a primary focus of fraud since the housing bubble burst over two years ago. Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida commented, "Nowhere is the problem more serious than here in Florida."

South Florida, including Miami, is listed as number one in the nation for suspicious activity reports ("SARs"). SARs are financial reports issued by lending institutions when suspicious real estate activities occur. In another report generated by lender, Fannie Mae, Florida ranked the highest in loan fraud in 2008 and 2009. Every part of the loan industry has been clouded by fraud over the past several years. Numerous Miami-Dade residents have been indicted in federal court for defrauding banks and other lending institutions out of millions and millions of dollars. Buyers, sellers, real estate agents, mortgage brokers, lawyers and secretaries have all been the subject of dozens and dozens of federal investigations and prosecutions.

Generally, individuals charged in federal court are facing charges such as racketeering, mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit those crimes. Typically, defendants charged with these crimes are facing between two to thirty years. The sentences are determined using the federal sentencing guidelines. The guidelines move higher, the greater the loss suffered by the financial institutions. While mortgage fraud is a difficult crime to detect, enormous losses suffered by banks, putting the likes of Washington Mutual and Wachovia out of business, have caused lending institutions to ramp up security. Banks are shoring up their defenses by verifying employment, income, assets, and other financial information prior to loaning money. Federal regulators are also pushing banks and lending institutions to file SARs if they have the slightest hint fraud may be involved.

Banks have taken the advice to heart and have become investigators themselves. A recent report indicated the 60% of the mortgage fraud investigations begin with the initiation of a SAR. The mortgage-fraud summit meetings are slated to provide seminar type training to lending institutions in an effort to help them identify mortgage/real estate fraud. The summits are also designed to analyze fraudulent trends and create solutions to fight the problems. Summits are also scheduled to be held in Phoenix and Detroit. If you or someone you know is be investigated or prosecuted for mortgage fraud, contact a criminal defense firm experienced in defending these types of cases.

Mortgage Fraud Task Force Comes to Miami, The Miami Herald, February 25, 2010.

February 24, 2010

Forensic Accountant Enters Not Guilty Plea in Federal Court

An attorney/forensic accountant who formerly ran a well-known accounting firm entered a not guilty plea in federal court. Lewis Freeman attended his bond hearing, where U.S. Federal Court Magistrate Judge Robert Dube set a $1 million bond. Freeman is charged with fraud in an information that alleges that he embezzled more than $2.6 million from clients' trust accounts. Since the alleged scheme to defraud broke last fall, Freeman has been cooperating with federal law enforcement officers and prosecutors. Freeman appeared in court with his criminal defense team and entered not guilt pleas to charges of conspiracy and male fraud. His Miami criminal defense lawyers told reporters that, "Freeman is prepared to stand before the court and to accept the consequences for his actions."

Freeman, charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud has appeared to have accepted responsibility for his actions and is attempting to cooperate with government authorities. Because of his cooperation, it is greatly expected that he will enter a guilty plea in federal court in the not to distant future. Freeman's criminal defense team is hoping that the cooperation will lead to a significant sentence reduction supported by the government and issued by the presiding judge. While the federal sentencing guidelines dictate a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years, significant cooperation with the federal government can lead to significantly less incarceration.

The information charges Freeman with stealing money from at least 250 clients while he was acting as their court appointed receiver. He acted as the receiver in many South Florida fraud and bankruptcy cases. On top of the theft allegations, he is accused of filing false financial statements to cover up the 10 year embezzlement scheme to defraud. People familiar with the case believe that two other individuals will be charged in the near future as co-conspirators. One of those involved is probably the chief financial officer of Freeman's company. The information specifically alleges that Freeman issued himself approximately 162 checks with a value of $6 million from the accounts of former businesses for which he was acting as a receiver. On a positive note, Freeman returned about half of the money he purportedly took. The interesting part of the case is how the federal judge will view the man who stole from victims that the courts appointed him to protect.

Federal prosecutors and agents bashed the former Miami forensic accountant by stating, "This is a classic case of how greed can slowly corrupt a person who started out with good intentions, it turns out that the wolf was protecting the hen house for the last ten years." The acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida is claiming that Freeman stole to support his lavish lifestyle. His defense team said that he was just trying to correct business mistakes. Both parties will be able to make those arguments to the federal judge when the sentencing hearing takes place.

Miami's "Go-To" Forensic Accountant Pleads Not Guilty to Fraud, The Miami Herald, February 24, 2010.

February 23, 2010

South Florida Gangs Committing Identity Theft

Scam artists and fraudsters used to be the prime suspects in one of today's most popular crimes. With the coming age of the credit card, identity theft cases are boasting heavy numbers. Identity theft occurs when an individual or a group of individuals illegally obtain another individual's personal information with the intent to steal goods or services. The problem of identity theft has even caused the federal legislature to enact new laws in an effort to combat the problem. A new law called aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory two year prison sentence in the federal criminal system. If you or someone you know is being investigated for or has been arrested for identity theft or aggravated identity theft, immediately contact a Miami criminal attorney with experience in defending these types of cases both in federal and state court.

A recent investigation revealed that South Florida gangs are becoming a part of the growing wave of identity theft cases. A Fort Lauderdale investigation called "Operation Smoking Gun" targeted violent street gangs with the intent to get guns and drugs off of the streets. While marijuana trafficking, cocaine trafficking and ecstasy trafficking, as well as, a plethora of gun related charges were the target of the investigation, searches conducted by authorities revealed $5,000.00 in counterfeit cash and more than 300 names related to identity theft. The operation netted more than 300 firearms, four kilograms of cocaine, 5 kilograms of marijuana, more than 7,500 ecstasy pills and more than 6,000 prescription pills, but to the surprise of investigators, violent gang are now becoming involved in identity theft.

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida was quoted as saying, "Operation Smoking Gun didn't start out looking for identity theft; it initially focused on rounding up gang members involved in guns and drugs. I think ii speaks to the evolution of crime in society today." Federal investigators believe that gang members are able to become involved in identity theft in large part to how people use their credit cards today. Fast food restaurants have become a large part of the problem because of the large volume of credit card transactions that occur in those locations. Card are secretly swiped and recorded by employees and the stolen data is typically sold of $5 to $10 per identity.

If you or anyone you know is contacted by the police regarding identity theft, contact a criminal defense firm and get legal advice and representation from a person experienced in these matters. Law enforcement will want you to give a statement regarding your alleged involvement in identity theft. Remember, anything you tell law enforcement can and will be used against you in court. Do not consent to the search of your home car or person. Make the police do their job and obtain a search warrant. Possession or the use of stolen credit cards or possession or use of fraudulent credit cards will be construed as identity theft. If investigators and prosecutors are motivated to send someone to prison, the charges of, racketeering and wire fraud may be found on an information or indictment as well.

Broward Sting Shows Gangs are Moving to Identity Theft, NBC Miami.com, February 22, 2010.

February 22, 2010

Noriega Seeks to Block Extradition to France

Manuel Noriega continues to fight his extradition to France. His attorneys have filed a petition with the United States Supreme Court in a last ditch effort to avoid being sent back to France to stand trial. He has already been convicted in absentia, but France has promised him a new criminal trial upon his return. Noriega was convicted in 1992 in a Miami, Florida federal court for cocaine trafficking, money laundering and racketeering. He completed his prison sentence more than two and a half years ago, but remains confined awaiting the final decision on his extradition. France is waiting to charge Noriega for allegedly laundering money through French banks. Noriega's criminal defense lawyers hope that the highest court in the land will hear the appeal based on a Supreme Court justice's dissenting opinion on another case.

Noriega's appellate attorney believes that a finding in favor of Noriega could force the federal court system to handle differently the cases of the Guantanamo Bay detainees that are being held as prisoners of war. Noriega is trying to use his prisoner of war status to block his extradition. His attorneys believe that his prisoner of war status under the Geneva Convention gives him the right to be repatriated back to Panama. The federal courts have ruled otherwise and have deemed the extradition to France proper. Legal experts highly doubt that the Supreme Court will even hear the case. They believe that the Supreme Court would rather address the Guantanamo detainees because there are over two hundred cases dealing with that matter.

If the Supreme Court were to hear the case, even a Miami military lawyer knows the Military Commissions Act of 2006 prohibits the use of the Geneva Convention in federal court to secure one's release or prevent one's extradition. Noriega and the Guantanamo Bay detainees are trying to use the Geneva Convention to convince the federal government that all prisoners of war have right under the act to be sent home or repatriated at the cessation of hostilities. Justice Thomas wrote in his dissent on another matter somewhat related to the aforementioned matters, "Whatever conclusion we reach, our opinion will help the political branches and the courts discharge their responsibilities over detainee cases, and will spare some detainees and the government years of unnecessary litigation."

Noriega's appellate attorney states, "He's entitled to protection under the Geneva Convention. It requires that prisoners of war be repatriated after the cessation of hostilities." Not only does France want a piece of Noriega, but so does his home country of Panama. He is accused of murdering a political rival prior to his capture by United States armed forces. The United States has decided to honor France's extradition request over Panama's, probably for political reasons. The United States Attorney's Office has filed a petition in federal court to extradite Noriega to France immediately. The federal judge presiding over the case has yet to make a ruling on the petition. If his final effort with the Supreme Court fails, he can still appeal to the Secretary of State whose signature in necessary to complete the extradition procedure.

Noreiga Appeals to the U.S. High Court to Avert Extradition to France, CNN.com, February 18, 2010.

February 19, 2010

War Against Mortgage Fraud May Be Failing

The federal agency called the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network released a report showing that suspicious activity related to mortgage fraud climbed 7.5% in the third quarter of 2009. The report covers July 1, 2009 to September 30, 2009. Again, California and Florida led the pack in terms of states being linked to mortgage fraud. The cities with the highest rates of suspicious activity continue to be Miami, Los Angeles and New York. Financial institutions and banks are required to file suspicious activity reports (SARs) when they suspect or actually catch a mortgage scheme to defraud. The reporting requirement comes from the Bank Secrecy Act. The report may be skewed as some of the SARs covered cases that were more than a year old and just reported during the aforementioned dates. Some of the suspicious activities were in fact more than two years old and just reported late.

An interesting part of the report set forth the prospect that new types of mortgage fraud are being committed. Hundreds of reports are coming in that loan modification fraud and foreclosure rescue scams may just be the beginning of a new type of real estate fraud the feds will start investigating. While mortgage fraud cases may be drying up for Miami criminal defense attorneys, these new types of fraudulent activities will provide new types of cases for criminal law firms. The two most common schemes according to the report are as follows. The first being cases where distressed homeowners were tricked into signing quitclaim deeds to straw buyers and the homeowners received eviction notices anyway. The second scheme involved individuals taking money from homeowners with the promise to seek loan modifications, when in fact all they did was take the money and run.

The recently created mortgage task forces are completely overwhelmed investigating typical mortgage fraud cases. The cases are very complex and take months if not years to thoroughly investigate. The lengthy criminal investigations result from the large number of individuals and different levels of fraud that need to be looked at when conducting a thorough investigation. Another reason why the investigations take so long is that the feds have to subpoena and review thousand of documents before questioning individuals suspected for the involvement in the case. Once the documents are reviewed federal investigators attempt to speak with or arrest anyone whose names can be found on the documents. If you are contacted by federal investigators who want to discuss real estate transactions, it is imperative to contact a criminal law firm that has experience in defending real estate fraud cases in federal court.

Anyone arrested for their involvement in real estate fraud will be charged with wire fraud, mail fraud and racketeering. The penalties one faces under the federal sentencing guidelines depends mostly on the loss suffered by the financial institutions who lent money to fraudulent buyers and sellers. Penalties can range from supervised release to long prison sentences depending on the loss. Even one fraudulent transaction where an individual signs a HUD1 seeking credit from a bank can go to prison if the loss amount is enough.

Mortgage Fraud Reports Up 7.5 Percent, US Agency Says, Reuters, February 18, 2010.

February 18, 2010

Museum to Recognize South Florida's Criminal History

Many cities across the United States boast about their history in one form or another. Miami, mostly known for its sandy beaches, fishing and tourism, has decided to honor the cities checkered, but spectacular criminal history. The Historical Museum of Southern Florida located downtown will be the home to the six month historical exhibit that depicts the well-known crimes that have been committed in the city over the past 100 years. Judge Scott Silverman, a Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge and one of the founders of the 11th Judicial Circuit Historical Society told reporters, "What the exhibit will try to do is capture Miami's criminal history during the last century and see how it has impacted the lives of the people in the community.

Miami's rich criminal history includes famous kidnaping, murders, attempted presidential assassinationattempts and cocaine trafficking rings. Famous mobster Al Capone resided on Miami Beach in the 1920's. He was involved in several criminal enterprises from racketeering to bootlegging. In 1933, an attempt was made on the life of Franklin D. Roosevelt at Bayfront. Of course, recent history recalls the craziness that ran rampant in the streets during the 1980's with the cocaine cowboys. Miami criminal defense lawyers have garnered a lot of notoriety over the years for their involvement in defending cases during these eras.

Famous cases, both solved and unsolved will also have exhibits posted at the museum. The exhibits will include photographs, court documents, historical law enforcement tool and even authentic fingerprint cards belonging to the most infamous of the city's high profile criminals and criminal enterprises. Exhibits include the 1933 kidnaping of James "Skeegie Cash and the 1932 kidnaping of Charles Lindbergh's child. A man named Franklin McCall was arrested for the Cash kidnaping and actually confessed to killing the small child by placing his hand over the child's mouth, accidently suffocating him. A Miami sex crimes of notable importance was the abduction of a six-year old girl named Judith Ann Roberts. The child was taken from her Coconut Grove home and found on a desolate road and determined to be the victim of sexual battery and murder.

In recent memory, Miami was a wild and dangerous place in the 1980's with the cocaine cowboys running extensive cocaine trafficking and money laundering rings. Because of the large quantities of cocaine entering the United States by boat and plane and the violence that stemmed from the territorial disputes ongoing during the cocaine wars, the Florida legislature mandated draconian minimum mandatory prison sentences for cocaine trafficking offenses. While the legislature was at it, they also created minimum mandatory sentences for marijuana trafficking, heroine trafficking, oxycodone trafficking, etc. The courts were also given leverage on drug cases by imposing Nebbia requirements. Nebbia requires that a person posting a bond demonstrate to the prosecutor and the court that proceeds for the bond whether it be the premium or the collateral came from legitimate resources.

Miami's Rich History of Crime to be on Display, The Miami Herald, February 17, 2010.

February 17, 2010

Prison Guards Busted in Cocaine Trafficking Ring

An FBI investigation led to the arrest of at least fifteen prison guards involved in marijuana trafficking and cocaine trafficking. The guards were involved in moving cocaine and marijuana from Miami-Dade to Palm Beach County. "Operation Blind Justice" focused in on two South Florida correctional facilities. Eleven corrections officers from Glades Correctional Institute and four corrections officers from South Bay Correctional Institute were arrested by federal authorities. Undoubtedly, the arrested correctional officers will seek to retain Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami criminal defense lawyers to defend the serious charges. The investigation began when a former warden provided information in 2007 to the Florida Department of Correctional Inspector General's Office. After a 26 month investigations, the feds moved in and made the arrests.

A spokesman from FBI reported that the group of correctional officers created their own marijuana and cocaine trafficking ring. The guards believed they were working for major drug traffickers, but in reality they were moving marijuana and cocaine provided to them by FBI agents. The correctional officers agreed to use their badges to protect the shipments that were being transported. They allegedly guarded nine shipments and received payments in excess of $150,000.00. The guards were also selling a steady supply of marijuana and cocaine to inmates. Some of the prison guards worked for the Florida Department of Corrections up to twelve years.

The defendants will be indicted in federal court for cocaine trafficking, marijuana trafficking, bribery and unlawful compensation charges. It is unclear whether the defendants will face charges in Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade County. For years, correctional officers have been arrested and charged both in state and federal court. However, the other criminal investigations involving correctional officers are dwarfed by the size of this criminal organization. The sad part is that the correctional officers sell the drug to the inmates who then get caught and get charged with additional charges such as marijuana possession and illegal importation of drugs into a correctional facility. Offenses such as these can cause inmates to lose their gain time.

The reports regarding the drug trafficking organization do not set forth the amount of narcotics being moved from West Palm Beach to Miami. The amount of drugs being trafficked is essential in determining the amount of time the corrections officers are facing in federal prison. The federal sentencing guidelines consider the type and weight of the drug to determine the guideline range which the court will use to sentence the defendants. If you or anyone you know is arrested for drug trafficking charges it is essential to retain an experienced criminal lawyer to defend the case.

FBI Busts prison Guard Drug Ring, NBC Miami.com, February 11, 2010.

February 16, 2010

Federal Judge Dismisses Charges Against Stanford Shredders

A Miami federal district court judge dismissed cases pending against two defendants standing trial for allegedly shredding documents related to the Allen Stanford case. In a well-publicized case, Stanford's former head of security and another security specialist were indicted federally for their involvement in shredding documents ordered not be destroyed that were being looked at by the SEC. Rafanello and Perraud were facing charges including obstruction of justice for their involvement. Allen Stanford is facing numerous charges including securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, racketeering and money laundering for his part in the alleged running of a $7 billion "Ponzi Scheme". After federal authorities disbanded Stanford's financial operation, Rafanello and Perraud allegedly destroyed thousand of documents to allegedly thwart the SEC investigation. After the jury heard closing arguments presented by federal prosecutors and the two Miami criminal attorneys representing the defendants, the federal judge decided to dismiss all of the charges during the deliberation process.

The lawyers representing Rafanello and Perraud previously argued to motions to dismiss at the close of the government's case and at the close of the defendants' case. It is quire unusual for a judge to take a case away from a jury after the jury has been read their instructions and the evidence has been delivered to the deliberation room. Judge Goldberg said, "I'm not taking this lightly, as to the necessary element of intent which is necessary in every charge brought by the prosecution, the evidence is substantially lacking." The judge dismissed the case during the second day of jury deliberations. Intent had been the sole focus of the defense throughout the case and Judge Goldberg had mentioned several times that the evidence of intent was always thin to non-existent.

Throughout the trial, the lawyer representing Stanford was present to hear the testimony and see for himself the outcome of the case. Stanford's lawyer was exited about the result and called the prosecutor's case extremely weak. Although the case went well for these two defendants, it is highly unlikely the outcome will be the same for Stanford. With the number of "Ponzi scheme" cases now appearing on federal court dockets, the media attention will likely dictate a different result. Hundreds of people across the country have lost fortunes and in some cases, their entire lifesaving as a result of the organized schemes to defraud. Although the only major fraud case resolved to date is the unprecedented Madoff case, the other federal prosecutions should resolve by the end of the year. Federal dockets are much smaller and cases are fast-tracked to keep them that way.

What was the motive of the federal prosecutors to proceed with a case that they knew was weak. One can expect that the government hoped that the defendants would buckle under the pressure and provide testimony against Stanford. There is no evidence that plea agreements were ever discussed, but the government would haven taken all the help they could get to prosecute Stanford in his fraud case. The case is the perfect example of not succumbing to pressure even if it means taking a case to trial. If state or federal prosecutors cannot prove case, why not make them prove it in court. Of course, there is always a risk to going to trial, yet a dismissal or a not guilty verdict sometimes outweighs the risks.

Stanford Document Shredders Acquitted by Judge as Jury Debated, The Miami Herald, February 13, 2010.

February 15, 2010

Lawyer Wears Wire Attempting to Catch Other Lawyer

In an unusual case, prosecutors requested that a criminal attorney as part of a investigation wear a wire in an attempt to catch another lawyer allegedly involved in fraud. The defense lawyer represents a Homestead man currently charged with DUI manslaughter that resulted in the deaths of three children. Gabriel Delrisco is currently facing charges in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court. Apparently, victims' family members requested that Delrisco provide untrue testimony regarding where he was drinking prior to the accident in an effort to beef up the civil lawsuit. The family encouraged Delrisco to say that he was drinking at a Homestead bar and strip mall in an effort to sue a defendant with deep pockets. In exchange, the family would request a lighter prison sentence at the conclusion of the case. Very often, the next of kin in cases where family members are killed have a significant impact on the length of sentence sought by state prosecutors.

The Miami criminal defense lawyer representing Delrisco relayed the information to the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office. As a result, an investigation was opened and the defense attorney was requested to wear a wire in an effort to implicate the attorney who filed the civil suit. Apparently, the wire did not aid the investigation and the case has been closed. As the investigation became public, animosity between the Miami criminal defense attorneys are brewing. The defense attorney representing the civil lawyer suspected of fraud commented that the cooperation with prosecutors was unprecedented and that he was stunned regarding the unattractive prospect of a criminal defense attorney posing as an undercover informer for the police.

Delrisco is facing 50 years in state prison for the death of ten year-old boy, a seven year-old and four year-old girl. Court records indicate that the defendant's blood alcohol limit was more than three times the legal limit. He is charged with three counts of DUI manslaughter with each count carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years. He is also charged with battery on a firefighter for fighting with a person attempting to remove him from the twisted wreck that used to be his SUV. Delrisco is facing a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison for this offense. It is unclear what sentence prosecutors are seeking in the case, but Delrisco is believed to have a past DUI record and an abominable traffic record.

Obviously, the most serious DUI charge is that which results in the death of another. However, other misdemeanor DUI charges can land a person behind bars. The Florida legislature has passed laws in an effort to curb DUI recidivism. If anyone is found guilty or enters into a plea on second DUI within five years of a first DUI conviction, that person faces a 10 day minimum jail sentence. Anyone found guilty or entering into a plea on a third DUI with ten years of two previous DUI convictions, they are facing a 30 day minimum jail. Bear in mind that these are minimum penalties and prosecutors routinely ask for significantly more time on these types of cases.

Crash Suspect's Lawyer Wears Wire for Sting Operation, The Miami Herald, February 15, 2010.

February 12, 2010

Miami-Dade Police Officers Face Federal Indictment

Three Miami-Dade police officers expect to be indicted in federal court on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. The three men previously testified as witnesses in a federal court trial. They are being charged with making false statements during the prosecution of Pedro L. Marte. The officers stopped Marte based on an anonymous tip that he had a firearm under the hood of his 1992 Mercury Marquis. The officers testified that the defendant ran a stop sign which gave them the authority to conduct the traffic stop. During a search of the car, a revolver was found under the hood. The government charged Marte with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. One of the defense attorneys involved in the case was quoted as saying, Bottom line: I think they're dead wrong in indicting them under these circumstances," referring to the officers.

It appears Marte may have been targeted by these officers. He had two prior cocaine trafficking convictions in the State of Florida. At trial, Marte's defense filed and argued a motion to suppress. The crux of the argument was based on the fact that officers conducted a "warrantless search" and never read Marte his Miranda rights. After listening to the testimony of the officers, the U.S. district judge granted the motions and dismissed the indictment. The judge then sent the matter to federal prosecutors to investigate the testimony of the officers involved in the arrest. The United States Constitution provides that all searches must be conducted pursuant to a warrant. However, over time exceptions to the warrant requirement have been created pursuant mostly to case law. Exceptions to the warrant requirement include: consent to search, search incident to arrest, the automobile exception and the exigent circumstances to name a few.

Although the indictment remains sealed and not available to the general public, it is believed that the focus of the indictment is based on the testimony provided by the officers at the hearing. The charges will most likely stem from the fact that the officers failed to testify regarding the information obtained by the confidential informant. Despite the fact that the federal court judge dismissed the charges against Marte, he was arrested one week again for federal gun charges. One of the other defense lawyers involved in the case claimed that the case is an outrage because Marte had the gun and also admitted to having the gun and feds let him go anyway.

Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon is a serious charge both in state and federal court. In state court, that charge carries a mandatory prison term of three years. In federal court, the same charge also carries mandatory prison time. Although usually charged in state court, federal prosecutors filed these charges because the cases are fairly easy to prove and they can boost their conviction numbers. If you or anyone you know is charged with a state or federal weapons charge it is essential to retain counsel with experience in the defending these types of cases. It is important to seek a trial active attorney as the majority of these cases go to trial because of the mandatory sentences.

Three Miami-Dade Cops Face Perjury Indictments, The Miami Herald, February 12, 2010.

February 11, 2010

Medicare Fraud Case Lands Another South Florida Resident in Prison

The federal government continues to prosecute and punish anyone caught up in Miami Medicare fraud. This time the feds arrested and prosecuted a Miami-Dade County woman for allegedly running a clinic that allegedly assisted in defrauding the federal health care system out of $2.3 million. Dulce Briceno appeared in federal court with her Miami criminal attorney for her sentencing hearing. After hearing arguments from the prosecution, as well as defense counsel a federal court judge sentenced the woman to five years in prison and ordered her to repay the federal government $1.8 million in restitution. Medicare fraud cases are currently and will be the foreseeable future the focus of the federal government. Anyone contact by federal investigators regarding their involvement in a healthcare fraud case should immediately seek the assistance of a Miami criminal lawyer to protect their rights. Lengthy prison sentences and large fines and restitution orders are being handed down by federal judges.

Briceno was one of fifty individuals arrested as part of large investigation conducted by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. The strike force operates in seven districts within the United States. The strike force continues to expand its reaches throughout the country. The federal task force is responsible for at least 500 indictments in involving fraud. What was interesting about the case is that Briceno's alleged criminal violations did not occur in Miami, but rather in Detroit, Michigan. Yet with her consent, her case was transferred to a Miami federal court. Briceno was one of fifty individuals involved in the massive scheme to commit healthcare fraud. Of the fifty arrested, two of those indicted were actually medical physicians. The clinic billed Medicare $2.3 million, but only actually received $1.8 million from the federal government.

Briceno with the assistance of her criminal lawyer entered into a plea agreement with the federal government. She admitted to running the daily operations of X-Press Center when the clinic billed Medicare for unnecessary medical treatments or for treatments that were not provided to patients. Patients were not referred to the clinic, but were recruited and received monetary compensation for appearing at the clinic. No matter what state the purported healthcare fraud occurred in, the allegations are always similar. The court records are sealed so it is unknown whether she is going to provide substantial assistance to federal prosecutors. From the look of the sentence, her cooperation must have been limited. If she decides to assist prosecutors after the sentence was imposed her lawyer can file a Rule 35 and seek a sentence reduction.

If you are contacted by federal investigators contact a criminal attorney with experience in Medicare fraud matters. Early representation is always beneficial to a client and can result in limiting the number and type of charges being filed. It can also assist in reducing someone's exposure under the federal sentencing guidelines. The penalties that attach to Medicare fraud include prison, restitution and large fines. The amount of prison time a person faces is directly proportionate to the amount of money fraudulently received from the federal healthcare program.

Clinic Operator Sentenced for Medicare Fraud, South Florida Business Journal, February 5, 2010.

February 10, 2010

Former Stanford Employees Lose Motion to Dismiss

Two former Allen Stanford employees currently on trial in a Miami federal court lost their first attempt to have the charges dismissed during trial. The Miami criminal attorneys representing Thomas Rafanello and Bruce Perraud argued motions to dismiss after federal prosecutors rested their case. United States District Judge Richard Goldberg denied defense counsels' motions after hearing arguments from both sides. After denying the motion, Judge Goldberg did comment that he hoped that the prosecutors could prove intent, a necessary element to the crime. The judge called their evidence, "precious thin". There will be another opportunity to argue a second motion to dismiss at the close the defense's case. The trial began on February 1, 2010 and is expected to be completed late this week or by the beginning of next week.

Allen Stanford is charged with running a $7 billion "Ponzi Scheme". Sanford hired Rafanello after he left the DEA to head up the security Allen Stanford's financial empire. Stanford is currently in federal custody awaiting charges in a Houston correctional facility. Sanford has been indicted in numerous counts including securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, racketeering and money laundering. Rafanello's co-defendant, Bruce Perraud was employed by Stanford as a global security specialist. After federal authorities shut down Stanford's operation, Rafanello and Perraud allegedly destroyed reams of documents in contravention of a court order. Both individuals were the first being tried that were involved with Stanford's investment fraud scandal. Each is facing up to forty years in federal prison if they are convicted on all four counts.

The criminal defense attorneys representing Perraud and Rafanello have argued from the inception of the case that paperless copies of the documents purported to be shredded existed, thereby negating the defendants' intent to commit a crime. One of the attorneys argued today that was no evidence of corrupt intent and requested that the judge end the case at the time of the motion. Government prosecutors argued that the defendants were destroying records in contravention of a court order and that we will never know what documents were destroyed. Judge Goldberg replied, "Well, you'll never know because you haven't bothered to look." The judge referred to the documents that were stored in the paperless system.

Despite the fact that the federal authorities discovered dozens of Ponzi Schemes over the past months, the cases seem to proceeding to trial at a slow pace. The slow pace from arraignment to trial can be expected in state court, but it is unusual in federal court. The complexity of the cases and legal maneuvering of experienced criminal lawyers tend to delay the cases. Eventually, all of those accused of creating schemes to defraud will appear in court. Only time will tell which ones will go to jail and which one will be exonerated. If you or anyone you know is being investigated for or has been arrested and charged in a fraud case, contact an experienced criminal attorney to fight the charges.

Alleged Stanford Shredders Loss Bid to Dismiss Case, Business Week, February 9, 2010.

February 9, 2010

Attorney Lobbies for Juvenile Offenders

For years, the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office has maintained the independent power to determine which juvenile offenders will be transferred or direct filed to adult circuit court for the disposition of their cases. Public Defender and Miami criminal defense lawyer, Carlos J. Martinez, is a strong opponent of the current state of law in Florida and Miami-Dade County regarding the direct filing of juveniles to adult court. In the 1990's, the threat of increased violent juvenile offenders caused Florida's Legislature to grant prosecutor's throughout the state unfettered discretion as to which juveniles should be treated as adults. The legislature passed experimental laws allowing the state prosecutors to direct-file juvenile defendants and removed the circuit judiciary from having any input into the decision making process as to when juveniles were to be treated as adults.

In Miami-Dade County, certain offenses committed by juveniles are direct filed to circuit courts. Generally, juveniles who serious violent crimes such as armed robbery, armed car jacking, home invasion robberies, murder and attempted murder charges are automatically direct filed by the state attorney's office. While each case is supposed to be reviewed based on the facts, the charge itself rather than the facts weighs the most heavily in the decision whether or not to direct file a juvenile case. Typically, marijuana possession, cocaine possession, car burglaries and grand theft are charges not routinely direct filed to adult court. Once juveniles are direct filed to adult court, they face the same penalties as adult offenders. However, experienced attorneys have the ability to argue to circuit court judges why juvenile and youthful offender sanctions are more appropriate sentences for these types of offenders.

Prior to the change in the law in 1994, the court had unfettered discretion in determining which juvenile offenders would be direct filed to adult court. A full-blown hearing was held in juvenile court where state prosecutors would present their case to the judge as to why a direct file was appropriate. The juvenile, represented by a qualified lawyer would argue that juvenile sanctions were more appropriate. The judge would hold mini-trial where victims and witnesses would be permitted to testify in open court. After hearing the evidence, the court would consider the juveniles past history of delinquency and the seriousness of the evidence before entering a ruling. The court would also consider if the juvenile sanctions would be able to protect the general public and rehabilitate the juvenile offender. At present, the state attorneys solely determine what venue they think would be the most appropriate to dispose of the case.

Although the current state of law seems to provide little hope to juvenile offenders charged with serious violent crimes, experienced criminal attorneys will attempt to intervene in the direct filing process. If child is arrested for a serious violent crime, it is imperative to contact a lawyer immediately. Your criminal defense lawyer should contact the assistant state attorney in charge of the direct filing decision and set a meeting where mitigation can be presented in an effort to prevent the direct file from happening. The meeting must occur quickly, as most direct file decisions are made within twenty-one days of the arrest. The reason why it is so important to prevent a direct file at all costs is that the time and location of incarceration is drastically different for adults and juveniles. An adult charged with armed robbery in adult court is facing life in prison while a defendant juvenile court is facing between eighteen and twenty-four months in a juvenile facility. The adult facilities are geared toward punishment, while juvenile facilities are geared toward rehabilitation.

Get Rid of the Direct -File Law,, The Miami Herald, February 7, 2010.

February 8, 2010

Former NFL Star Arrested on Miami Beach for Battery

Recent reports show that the economic woes this country is facing impact unemployment and consumer sentiment, but also the number of domestic violence cases reported in Miami and across the United States. Even those who are not suffering during the economic downturn get arrested for domestic violence. Those arrested for domestic violence are usually charged with assault, battery, aggravated assault and aggravated battery. The facts of each case determine what an individual is arrested for and ultimately charged with by the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office. Saturday night, Warren Sapp was arrested on Miami Beach for one count of misdemeanor battery. He was released on a $1,500 bond and appeared on local TV with his Miami criminal attorney.

Domestic violence cases differ from the run of the mill cocaine possession or fraud cases. When someone is arrested for a crime and booked into the Miami-Dade County jail, a bond is set depending on the monetary schedule set forth by each circuit court and the individual can immediately bond out of jail. Exceptions to this rule are serious violent offenses that carry potential sentences of life in prison and domestic violence cases. Certain violent and drug trafficking offenses are deemed non-bondable. Charges that are non-bondable include armed robbery, murder, and armed drug trafficking. Just because someone is charged with a non-bondable offense does not mean that a qualified Miami criminal defense attorney can not obtain a bond at a specially set hearing in front of a circuit court judge called an "Arthur Hearing".

Domestic violence charges carry a bond, however, the jail will place a domestic violence hold on those charged with this category of offense. Anyone arrested on a misdemeanor or felony domestic violence charge must appear before a judge before bond can be posted. At the bond hearing, a judge will release the hold only after a criminal stay way order has been issued. A stay away order is very similar to a civil domestic injunction against repeat violence. The stay away order is issued which prevents a defendant from having any contact with an alleged victim. The types of contact that are prohibited are direct contact, telephonic contact, or third-party contact. E-mails and text messages are also prohibited.

Any experienced defense lawyer with experience in domestic violence cases can appear before the presiding judge and have the stay away order modified. Of course, this can only occur with a consenting victim. If the victim consents, the judge can modify the stay away order to allow contact so long as it is not violent. A person's prior criminal history and history of domestic violence will also play a part in the judge's determination whether or not to modify a stay away order. Anyone charged in a domestic violence case should know that if the stay away order is violated, police officers can arrest you on site and return you back to the department of corrections. If the judge finds that a defendant arrested for domestic violence violated a stay way order, that person will most likely be held in custody until the case is resolved. If you or a loved one is arrested for domestic violence, immediately contact a Miami domestic violence lawyer as soon as possible to defend the charges. If the charges are dismissed the stay away order will be dissolved.

Ex-NFL Star Released from Florida Jail on Bond, The New York Times, February 8, 2010.

February 5, 2010

Alleged Head of Cocaine Trafficking Ring Held Without Bail

The leader of a Columbian cocaine trafficking cartel appeared in a federal court in New Jersey and entered a not guilty plea with the assistance of his Miami criminal defense lawyer. At the arraignment, Salomon Mora was formally charged with cocaine trafficking and money laundering. Along with his arraignment, the formal reading of the charges, a pre-trial detention hearing was also presented in court. Federal prosecutors argued that Mora was a flight risk and a danger to the community. After hearing from both sides, the federal magistrate held him without bail. Mora's Miami criminal attorney did not oppose the ruling, but told the magistrate he may request a bond at a later date. Mora is accused of being the leader of a cocaine trafficking ring that shipped tons of cocaine into the United States and returned millions of dollars to South America. The magistrate set a trial date of April 13, 2010.

Court papers indicated that Mora was the head of a cocaine trafficking cartel that imported in excess of 10 tons of cocaine into the United States from 1999 and 2000. The United States State Department offered a $5 million dollar reward for information leading to his capture. Mora has been wanted by federal law enforcement since the 1990's. He was originally indicted in Miami, Florida years ago. The original indictment alleged that Mora's operation purchased or manufactured cocaine in Columbia and then transported the product to Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the United States. The indictment also alleged that Mora transferred approximately $1.6 million from New Jersey back to country of origin.

After Mora's capture, he was extradited back to the United States from Venezuela. The interesting fact is that everyone is aware of the strained relationship between Venezuela and the United States. In fact, the countries do not maintain a reciprocal extradition treaty. The justice minister from Venezuela issued a statement that the deportation of the well-known drug trafficker is evidence that President Hugo Chavez is assisting in the fight in the was on drugs. It is apparent that the deportation is a political ploy to curry favor with the international community. The United States often accuses Chavez of doing nothing to curb the flow of cocaine from Venezuela. Venezuela has long been the hub for cocaine being trafficked out of Columbia to Europe and the United States.

Mora began his long career in cocaine trafficking back in the 1980's when he was a member of the infamous Medellin Cartel. He later worked with Alberto Gamboa in the Columbia North Coast Cartel. Mora is looking at up to twenty years on each count of money laundering and 10 years to life for the cocaine trafficking and conspiracy to traffic cocaine charges. As of the date of the initial court hearing, twenty-four other member of Mora's cocaine trafficking ring have been arrested. Twenty of the defendants have already entered guilty pleas in federal court and are serving prison sentences.

Reputed Columbia Drug Chief Held Without Bail Pending Trial, NorthJersey.com, February 3, 2010.

February 4, 2010

Miami-Dade Man Sentenced to Prison for Internet Fraud

A man who used to reside in Sunny Isles appeared in federal court with his Miami criminal defense lawyer for his sentencing hearing before a United States District Judge. Nilton Rossoni received a 5 ½ year prison sentence and was ordered to repay approximately $717,000 in restitution. Late last year, Rossoni entered a guilty plea to charges including mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit both crimes. Rossoni's son was indicted along with his father, but federal investigators have been unable to locate him. Both defendants are originally from Brazil, but both are legal residents of the United States. After Rossoni completes his sentence he will also suffer immigration consequences as a result of his plea. Upon the expiration of his green card, he will be deported back to his country of origin.

Rossoni admitted running an internet scheme to defraud using the popular web portal and on-line auction, eBay. Rossoni purported to sell items including airline tickets, DVD collections and grills to online buyers. The indictment alleges that he took the payments, but failed to deliver any of the articles promised to the winning bidders. Overall, Rossini fraudulently took over $700,000 through more than 5,500 fraudulent internet transactions. Rossino created e-mail accounts on AOL, Yahoo and other internet providers by using fake names and stolen identities. He then set up hundreds of eBay accounts using the fraudulent names and online accounts. He would then use pre-paid credit cards to purchase inexpensive items and provided feedback on the site to make him appear as a legitimate buyer and sellers of products.

After running items for sale including computer hard drives, sporting goods, luggage and appliances, he would instruct the winning bidder to send payment by check or money order made payable to fictitious names to 59 different private mail boxes throughout Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County. Once Rossoni received the checks or money order he would deposit the funds into bank accounts at Bank of America and other South Florida banks under the same fraudulent names. Court papers indicated the internet fraud began in 2003 and operated until 2008 when Rossoni was arrested by the United States Postal Inspection Service.

The number of crimes involving fraud and identity theft have grown exponentially since the inception of the internet. Defendants can be charged with computer fraud when materially misrepresented information is transmitted over the internet with intent to commit a crime. When individuals commit internet fraud, usually some form of identity theft occurs. The federal government created the Internet Crime Complaint Center to receive internet fraud complaints and refer them to the appropriate investigative agency. If you or someone you know is contacted by investigators or has been arrested for allegedly committing internet fraud crime, contact a defense lawyer experienced in defending internet fraud cases in federal court.

It's Jail for eBay's Maestro of Fraud, The Miami Herald, February 4, 2010.

February 3, 2010

Ten People Charged in Multi-Million Dollar Miami Mortgage Fraud Scheme

Ten Miami-Dade residents were formally charged in a massive Miami mortgage fraud scheme. The defendants are alleged to have defrauded various lenders to the tune of $24 million. The hardest hit bank was Washington Mutual, suffering $7 million in losses as a result of the fraudulent real estate transactions. The ten defendants allegedly worked in concert using a mortgage brokerage company called Miami Dade Mortgage Professionals to perpetuate the fraud. The charges are being brought in federal court in the Southern District of Florida. At least one of the defendants has retained a Miami criminal defense law firm to defend the charges. It is unclear at this early juncture in the criminal process whether the defendants will retain Miami criminal attorneys or seek the assistance from the Federal Public Defender's Office. Criminal investigations continue to target all levels of individuals involved in mortgage fraud. Real estate agents, mortgage brokers, attorneys, title agents and straw buyers have been the subject of many federal criminal investigations.

All of the defendants indicted for mortgage fraud reside in Miami and Hialeah. The federal indictment alleges that Alain Hernandez, a licensed mortgage broker, and his wis wife, Ricelda Hernandez, a licensed real estate agent, would draft fraudulent mortgage applications and solicited others to act as straw buyers promising hefty returns in exchange for their assistance in committing the fraud. The allegations suggest that Ana Blanco operated Trinity Closing Group to seal the deals. The defendants were indicted on charges including racketeering, money laundering, wire fraud and mail fraud. The Miami mortgage fraud scheme involved six residential properties.

Hernandez allegedly provided fraudulent information on mortgage applications to Washington Mutual, Loan City and other lenders. Papers in the court file allege that Hernandez and his wife recruited straw buyers to consummate the fraudulent real estate deals. The most common incidents of mortgage fraud involve the use of straw buyers who are recruited by unscrupulous mortgage brokers to apply for loans. The straw buyers provide personal information to apply for the fraudulent loans. The straw buyers receive hefty payments from the organizers for participating in the scheme to defraud. The mortgage brokers fill out the mortgage applications using falsified income statements of the straw buyers and submit them to the lending institutions.

In other mortgage fraud cases, falsified applications were used to obtain home loans of home equity lines of credit. This type of fraud is not alleged in this case. Banks are trying to recover some of the losses though the subsequent sale of the properties. However, the current real estate market in South Florida makes it difficult to move the properties. If you or someone you know is being investigated or arrested for mortgage fraud, immediately contact a defense lawyer experienced in defending cases in federal court. Depending on the amount of loss, individuals arrested on these types of charges could be sentenced to multiple years in prison.

Ten Indicted in Multimillion-Dollar Mortgage Fraud Scheme, South Florida Business Journal, February 2, 2010.

February 2, 2010

Feds Seize $5 Billion in Illegal Drugs Last Year

Recent articles have set forth the proposition that the United States is losing the war on drugs. That very well may be the case, but federal authorities working together seized in excess of $5 billion of illegal drugs from marijuana trafficking and cocaine trafficking rings. Drug smugglers lost that amount of marijuana and cocaine during operations conducted by the United States Coast Guard, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Customs and the Joint Interagency Task Force. In total, 175 tons of cocaine and 35 tons of marijuana were seized, some of which was destined for the streets of Miami. For years, Miami criminal defense attorneys have been defending those involved in marijuana and cocaine trafficking rings. The inflow of illegal drugs into Miami leads to dozens and dozens of arrests each year.

The current Coast Guard Commandant and Chairman of the Office of National Drug Control Policy's Interdiction Committee applauded the efforts of federal law enforcement for stopping illegal drug traffickers at sea. Coast Guard officials reported that cocaine and marijuana traffickers are becoming more brazen and creative in their efforts to bring the illicit substances to the United States. Drug smugglers are not limiting themselves to go fast boats any longer. In recent narcotics bust last year revealed the Coast Guard intercepted a self-propelled submarine carrying 5 tons of cocaine. Last year, 322 people wee arrested at sea for their involvement in cocaine and marijuana smuggling.

The Coast Guard, United States Navy and border patrol use vessels and aircraft in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean to conduct their interdiction efforts. In March of 2009, the Coast Guard in conjunction with the border patrol spotted four go fast boats moving north toward the United States border. The Coast Guard used small boats and a helicopter to track the smugglers. A marksman aboard the helicopter fired warning shots and disabled two of the vessels. Coast Guard personnel seized in excess of 3,300 pounds of cocaine. In another instance, a Coast Guard plane spotted a suspicious vessel operating in the Pacific. After, tracking the vessel, a cutter moved in and seized 16,500 pounds of marijuana.

The interdiction community claims that the counter-drug operations put a significant dent in the amount of illegal drugs entering the county. However, the number of marijuana trafficking and cocaine trafficking cases that occur within our borders do not give such an optimistic view that the federal government is really winning the war on drugs. In state court, cocaine possession and marijuana possession cases litter the court's docket. With that being said, it does not appear that the countless man hours and money being spent are keeping the illegal substances off of the street. After being arrested, cocaine traffickers have told federal authorities that only a small portion of their wares are intercepted and that the cost of producing cocaine is so cheap in South America that a lost shipment is nowhere near the value the federal government puts on the seizures.

U.S. Agencies Seized $5 Billion in Illegal Drugs in 2009,, Tampa Bay Online, January 29. 2010.

February 1, 2010

Crime Rate Drops in Miami-Dade County

A statistical report issued by Miami-Dade County revealed a drop in violent crimes from 2009 as compared with 2008. The number murders, armed robberies, sexual battery and aggravated assault and battery cases showed a significant decline. Mayor Alvarez and other public officials credited the improvement to the increased efforts by local law enforcement authorities. Law enforcement claims to be targeting violent criminals and the crimes they commit. The number of murders committed in Miami-Dade County dropped from 97 in 2008 to 82 in 2009. While there is an improvement from last year to this year, records revealed that there were 64 murders in 2005. That number may be an aberration. Forcible sex offenses, along with domestic violence and child abuse cases have also been on the decline according to the report. Miami criminal defense law firms still remain busy defending clients both in state and federal court not necessarily charged with violent offenses.

While the number of violent crimes may have decreased year over year, the number fraud crimes including Medicare fraud and mortgage fraud have been on the rise. Additionally, marijuana and cocaine trafficking arrests have not decreased as significantly as the violent offenses. Other non-violent crimes such dwelling burglaries, grand thefts, stolen motor vehicles have declined slightly from the previous year. Is local law enforcement responsible for the decline in violent crime? On the whole crime nationwide is down year over year. One would never guess the results of this survey. The Miami-Dade Courthouse is a crowded as ever with lines of defendants standing in lines that are dozens of people long.

As a Miami criminal attorney, the reduction in criminal cases is not readily evident. All types of criminal offenses continue to appear in state and federal criminal court. Credit card fraud and Medicare fraud arrests are being made on a weekly basis according to local news reports. Of course, the news continues to cover the numerous schemes to defraud that keep pooping up throughout South Florida. While violent crimes appear to be down, crimes involving fraud seem to be on the rise. The increase in the number of fraud crimes probably has something to do with the current economy that is choking off income from the citizens of Miami and South Florida.

Also noticeable are the number arrests regarding drug trafficking cases. Marijuana trafficking and "grow house" operations remain prevalent from Miami to Tampa. Also on the rise appears to be narcotics trafficking cases where pills are involved. Oxycodone trafficking and ecstacy trafficking keep appearing on the desks of local prosecutors. Despite the draconian minimum mandatory sentences that accompany these type of trafficking cases, people are willing to engage in these enterprises in an effort to make a living or supplement their income. As the economy mends and unemployment declines, it remains to be seen if the number of non-violent fraud and narcotics cases decline in conjunction with the recent decline in violent crimes.

Crime Drops in Unincorporated Miami-Dade County,, The Miami Herald, January 27, 2010.