December 2012 Archives

December 28, 2012

Program Benefits UM Students

An arrest for marijuana possession or other minor offenses could have potentially devastating effects on a college student. First and foremost, an arrest could lead to an expulsion from a college or university. Secondly, an arrest or conviction record could certainly be a severe impediment when embarking on a career. A pilot program created by the University of Miami and the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office gives college students a second chance. The program referred to as the University Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program (U-Lead) is intended to give first time offenders an opportunity to overcome a mistake.

One of the Miami criminal lawyers at DMT recently enrolled a client into the program. Last May, a college student from UM was caught smoking marijuana in his Coral Gables dormitory. Larry McMillan, Esq. who represents the student, was quoted as saying, "It was a wake-up call for him and it shook him to the core. He could have blown it with the puff of a pipe. He is now doing community service hours. He realizes that the opportunities to come to this country and study of very limited." Without the U-LEAD program, the student would have been arrested and faced charges in county court. He would have faced expulsion from school and potential immigration consequences had he entered a plea to the charge. However, if he successfully completes the requirements set forth, no arrest will be made and he can complete his college education.

The pilot program created by the university currently has 80 students enrolled in the program. To successfully complete the program, students are required to complete community hours, pay fines and cooperate with university police. Miami defense attorneys, prosecutors and the police all agree that the program is a "valuable chance at redemption" for first time offenders accused with possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia.. Leon County and Tallahassee, Florida has a similar program which recently came online that allows for the issuance of a citation in lieu of an arrest for minor non-violent crimes. Some cities and other South Florida universities are considering similar programs.

Authorities are in favor of expanding the program to alleviate the stress placed on the county court. Last year, 51,400 misdemeanor arrests were made causing significant congestion to the system. To date the UM program has been successful. Only three or the 80 students enrolled have been bounced out of the program. To qualify for the program, a participant must have been caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana or drug paraphernalia. If a student qualifies, they are required to review a series of forms. Program representatives suggest that the students reveal the problem to their parents for the sole purpose of retaining a criminal law firm to guide the student and the parents through the system. If a student rejects the program or fails to complete the conditions set forth, an arrest and prosecution will be sought by UM and the state attorney's office.

Students are required to complete 25 community service hours, donate $200 to a victim relief fund, and pay a $200 administration fee used to fund the program. Students enrolled in the program are subject to random urine tests and must provide the source of the marijuana. Students are also required to take a drug awareness course and take a tour of the courthouse. The program is similar to the state's pre-trial diversion program with the only difference being that an arrest is never effectuated. The program is attempting to encompass other offense such as possession of a false identification and alcohol violations. All common offense committed on a college campus.

U of Miami Helps Students Facing Minor Pot Charges, Miami Herald.com, December 22, 2012.

December 17, 2012

Insurance Fraud Arrests Made in South Florida

Multiple suspects have been arrested in the latest case of insurance fraud. Two South Florida clinics were the target of the investigation and have been closed down. Insurance fraud involving staged accidents are one of the more common crimes defended by Miami criminal attorneys in South Florida over the past few years. Despite the large amount of money and man-hours spent investigating and prosecuting staged accident cases, significant numbers of arrests continue to be made every couple of months. Miami police working in conjunction with the Secret Service and other local and state agencies conducted the investigation and made the arrests. The arrests come at the conclusion of an operation dubbed "Operation Never Ends", which alludes to the fact that law enforcement, despite its efforts, cannot quell the problem.

Insurance fraud and staged accident cases are committed in the same fashion in Miami and throughout the South Florida area. Clinics pay individuals to become involved in planned automobile accidents. Once the accident has been occurred, accident reports are generated by the police officers or public service aides who arrive at the scene. The drivers and passengers involved in the accident take the accident reports to unscrupulous clinics who then sign these individuals up as patients. The would-be patients are treated on one or two occasions, x-rays or MRI's are sometimes taken, with the bills being submitted to insurance carriers under PIP (personal injury protection claims). The clinics bill the insurance carriers such as All State, Geico, and Progressive for upwards to thirty or forty treatments that were never necessary or even provided. The proceeds from the claims are used to pay kickbacks to individuals that set up the accidents ("runners"), who direct the participants involved in the accident to the clinics for treatment. The clinic owners pay the runners and the accident participants for their involvement in the fraud. It is important to note that any person found guilty of planning or being involved in a staged accident faces a two year minimum prison sentence.

When the police make arrests in insurance fraud and staged accident cases, they generally take down everyone involved in the clinic including owners, operators, office managers, secretaries, receptionists, doctors, therapists and x-ray technicians. The Miami-County State Attorney's Office has a specialized unit that prosecutes only insurance fraud and staged accident cases. The prosecutors usually offer pre-trial diversion (PTI) or probation to the participants in the stage accident, excluding the runners. Secretaries and receptionists usually suffer the same fate. Staying out of jail comes with a price. All of these individuals that receive non-jail sentences are required to testify against the owners and operators of these clinics. The owners and operators are usually offered jail or short prison sentences if they desire to enter into a plea.

The lawyers prosecuting the cases usually have a difficult time proving an owner or operator guilty at trial as long as they represented by qualified and experienced criminal defense trial lawyers. The majority of the evidence in these cases is presented by the individuals that have entered pleas and agreed to testify in exchange for receiving PTI or probation. On many occasions these witnesses provide conflicting statements at examinations under oath, statements provided to law enforcement and deposition testimony. With no physical evidence available to prosecute the owners and operators, the prosecution is left to proceed with flip witnesses whose credibility is at question. If anyone is arrested and charged with insurance fraud or planning a staged accident, they would be best served by hiring an experienced Miami criminal defense lawyer who has defended these types of cases and secured acquittals at the conclusion of several jury trials.

Several Arrest Made in South Florida Insurance Fraud Crackdown, NBC Miami.com, December 14, 2012..

December 13, 2012

FBI Investigating Police Officers Involved in Bookmaking

The FBI has targeted several police officers for their alleged involvement in illegal bookmaking activities. More specifically, several police officers from the City of Miami are accused of providing protection for an illegal bookmaking ring operating out of Liberty City. The illegal gambling operation was under investigation for the past year and has been shut down according to local and federal authorities. One police officer has been suspended from duty, but the feds anticipate approximately six arrests in the upcoming days or weeks. Once the officers are arrested, it would be in their best interests to retain Miami criminal attorneys that have experience in defending public corruption cases both in state and federal court.

The investigation allegedly revealed that the officers involved were working off-duty details at a commercial establishment at the heart of the bookmaking operation. The FBI is simultaneously investigating other Miami-Dade law enforcement officers who are alleged to be involved in complex schemes to defraud including identity theft and thefts tax refunds. The latest investigation of City of Miami police officers is the most recent in a long list. Over the years, many City of Miami police officers have been relieved of duty and also on some occasions charged both in criminal federal and state courts. While very few officers across the county are corrupt or involved in criminal enterprises, allegations of this nature certainly violate the public trust. As a Miami criminal lawyer, reports of this nature certainly support allegations made by clients who routinely complain of police misconduct.

While all police departments across the country have their issues, the City of Miami Police Department is always making headlines. Whether the allegations are fair or unfair, the public confidence is certainly impacted anytime misconduct is reported in the media. In the past, officers from the Miami Police Department have been accused of being involved in drug trafficking, drug-ripoffs, robberies and illegal shootings. While all of the allegations have not been substantiated, police officers have been convicted of these types crimes and have been sentenced to jail and prison sentences both in state and federal court. The United States Justice Department is also investigating the City of Miami Police Department for police shootings that took the lives of seven men in 2010 and 2011. It is apparent that the Miami Police is not the only department under scrutiny. Unrelated FBI investigations are targeting officers in other departments for identity theft and tax refund fraud. There are allegations that police officers are stealing social security numbers and dates of birth and filing fraudulent tax returns.

It is certainly a shame when allegations of this nature come to light. While most police officers follow the law and the policies set forth by their departments, others are just as guilty of committing crimes as some of the defendants they arrest. At a minimum, bad officers can taint the reputation of an entire police department. Sometimes these illegal actions work to the benefit of clients. Officers being investigated, relieved of duty or even arrested will irreparably damage a prosecutor's case to the point that cases are often dismissed both in county and circuit court for officer misconduct..

Investigating Cops in Bookmaking Case, Miami Herald.com, December 11, 2012.

December 10, 2012

Local Millionaire Arrested by Feds for Fraud

A colorful and popular socialite was arrested on Friday for fraud related charges. Claudio Osorio, along with his business partner, Craig Toll, were indicted on multiple fraud and money laundering charges. Osorio, a prominent Miami millionaire, is accused of defrauding numerous people into investing in his company Innovida. Osorio and Toll are being represented by Miami criminal attorneys. Some of Osorio's alleged victims include several current and former NBA player, such as Alonzo Mourning, Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer and Howard Eisley. Osorio's. other victims allegedly caught up in the fraud include his neighbor, a Tanzanian businessman, and a group of investors from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). According to prosecutors, Osorio was able to lure unsuspecting investors as he and his wife threw expensive parties and gave the appearance that they were very wealthy.

In 2005, Osorio created the company Innovida which was supposed to create and market fiber-composite panels which could be interlocked to construct affordable housing and shelters for post-disaster victims, such as those from New Orleans and Haiti. He claimed that his business was forming joint ventures with Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia. According to court documents, Osorio was able to perpetrate the fraud by assembling high-profile individuals to sit on the board of directors to legitimize his company. He was able to secure $40 million from investors, as well as, a $10 million government loan. Osorio told investors that the company had $40 million in cash with another $500 million in cash on the way from Middle Eastern investors.

Not only is Osorio and his business partner being charged criminally in federal court, but the Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges for defrauding investors by overstating the financial success of the company. The complaint alleges that Osorio stole nearly half of investors' money to pay for a lavish Star Island mansion, a Colorado retreat, a Maserati and to pay country club dues. To garner support from investors, he made large charitable contributions and hosted extravagant political fundraisers. Investors became suspicious when the numbers did not add up to make a profitable company. The Swiss government also sought $200 million in repayment in loans for a previously failed business. Osorio filed for bankruptcy last year and his multi-million dollar home was sold at auction.

Osorio and Toll will likely appear at a pre-trial detention hearing in the next 24 hours. Federal prosecutors can request from the magistrate presiding over the case to hold defendants without a bond. The magistrate will decide if pre-trial detention is appropriate by determining whether the defendants are a danger to the community and whether or not they are fligh risks. In determining whether defendants are flight risks, the magistrate will consider a defendant's ties to the community. Citizenship, properties overseas and family members residing in the jurisdiction will help the magistrate make that decision. If a magistrate finds that a defendant is not a flight risk and is not a danger to the community, he will set a bond commensurate with the charged and the amount of loss suffered by the alleged victims.

High-Flying Miami Millionaire was a Fraud, Feds Say, Miami Herald.com, December 8, 2012.