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.

January 29, 2010

Feds Progress Against Medicare Fraud Stalling

A Justice Department released a report earlier this week explaining that the number of people being arrested and charged for Medicare fraud has barely increased over the past two years. Despite the federal government's promise to fight healthcare fraud, little progress is being made according to the report. That fact is hard to believe because at least once a week local papers write articles describing the latest Miami Medicare fraud cases. The report indicated that federal prosecutors indicted 803 individuals with Medicare fraud this year. Federal authorities are disturbed that the prosecution rate has only increased 2% since 2007, the year the Medicare strike forces began to take shape. The numbers may be skewed because the report does not include the number investigations that are pending this year, as compared with 2007.

Again, politics is entering the picture in the battle against health care fraud. Democrats are trying to curb the fraud and use the benefits to assist in paying for the government run healthcare plan. The politicians want to save the tax payers from the $60 billion a year fraud and use the money to support the new plan. Obama's administration gathered experts in Washington, D.C. to get ideas prevent the extensive losses. Current safeguards are mostly limited to recovering losses as a result of fraud, and not preventing the fraud before it happens. Only the largest of Medicare fraud cases are often prosecuted in federal court. A federal prosecutor was quoted as saying, "While we can't prosecute our way out of health care fraud problem, we are making sure that we're using innovative ideas like the Medicare fraud strike forces to detect and prosecute healthcare fraud."

Based on the large number of arrests and prosecutions in Miami, the strike forces appear to have been working, at least in South Florida. The Justice Department set up a team of an investigators and prosecutors to combat the ongoing the ongoing problem. Based on the apparent success in Miami, the federal government set up strike forces in six other cities including Baton Rouge, New York and Tampa. Opponents of the strike forces are using the report in several ways. Opponents of Obama's plan routinely say that if the current administration cannot clean up the health care fraud, how can they possibly think they can create a health care system that will work.

Initially, the number of prosecutions in fraud cases jumped %35, but the numbers have remained stagnant since that time. However, the statistics do not take into consideration if the number of pending investigations have increased significantly during the same time frame. With the focus on these types of fraud offenses, prosecutors will seek, and the judges will hand down severe sentences for those convicted of health care fraud. Anyone being investigated for or having been arrested for their involvement in a Medicare fraud case should seek assistance from a Miami criminal defense attorney defending these types of cases in federal court.

Little Progress Seen Against Health Insurance Fraud, USA Today, January 28, 2010.

January 28, 2010

Ft. Lauderdale Lawyer Pleads Guilty in Federal Court

The day that South Florida has been waiting for finally came. Infamous Broward County lawyer Scott Rothstein entered a guilty plea in federal court for operating a massive 'Ponzi" scheme. Rothstein appeared before a United States District Judge and pled guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud and wire fraud. As part of his plea agreement, he agreed to an asset forfeiture of $1.2 billion, 24 pieces of real estate, expensive car, boats, jewelry and bank accounts. Rothstein appeared unshaken as he entered the guilty plea with the assistance of his Miami criminal attorney.

Rothstein was accused of operated a large scheme to defraud investors. In some instances, he received money from investors promising that the money would be lent to clients in the form of bridge loans that would yield a hefty return. Other investors gave money to Rothstein thinking they were buying civil case settlements. The investors were told that they would purchase the settlements at a discount to be repaid over time as at full face value. In both cases, the investments never existed and money invested from new investors was paid to older investors. The four year fraud used numerous bank accounts to facilitate the complex money laundering scheme.

Rothstein is scheduled to appear back in federal court on May 6th for his sentencing hearing. Based on the charges he pled guilty to, he is facing up to 100 years in prison. Most experts believe his sentence will range from 20 to 30 years. According to the special agent in charge of the investigation, "Scott Rothstein used a classic approach to mislead investors - an ostentatious lifestyle, personality and guarantees of sky-high returns-all red flags in the world of Ponzi schemes." Investors became suspicious late last year when they stopped receiving scheduled returns on their investments. Panic followed, which led to the inevitable dissolution of his 70 person law firm in Ft. Lauderdale.

Now that Rothstein has entered a guilty plea, there is no doubt that federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors will target others purportedly involved in the scheme. Court documents revealed that other members of the now disbanded law firm have criminal culpability for their involvement with Rothstein. Many of those suspected of being involved have retained Broward and Miami criminal attorneys should the hammer fall. Among those being looked at by investigators include Stuart Rosenfeldt and Russell Adler, Rothstein's former law partners and David Boden, Rothstein's former chief counsel. Anyone indicted in the case will face the similar charges of money laundering, wire fraud and mail fraud. If sentences are imposed against any of these individuals, they are not likely to exceed that Rothstein receives in May in light of the fact that he appears to be the mastermind behind the scheme.

Fort Lauderdale Attorney Pleads Guilty in Billion Dollar Ponzi Scheme, PR Newswire, January 27, 2010.

January 27, 2010

Former Member of Cali Cartel Sentenced

A notorious member of the Cali cocaine trafficking cartel was sentenced in a Miami federal court to 200 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release. Jorge Solano was indicted and sentenced for cocaine trafficking, conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and money laundering as a result of large scale investigation conducted by the U.S. immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Solano was considered to be involved in moving approximately 50,000 kilograms of cocaine into Miami between 1988 and 1991. During this time, he was considered to be the major supplier to Miami cocaine trafficking rings. Solano was represented by a Miami defense criminal lawyer with vast experience in defending federal Miami cocaine trafficking cases.

The Cali cocaine trafficking cartel was considered to be the largest distributer of cocaine throughout the United States and the world during the 1980's and 1990's. From 1988 to 1991, Solano was the highest ranking cartel member operating in Miami and was in charge of coordinating cocaine imports to Miami from Venezuela. The cartel would import large quantities of cocaine by ships carrying the cocaine hidden in drums of asphalt and concrete posts. In 1991, customs officials with the assistance of the United States Coast Guard discovered one of the cocaine laden ships. Kilograms of cocaine were discovered in the center of concrete posts. Federal authorities executed a search warrant at several warehouses operated by the Cali cartel. With the authorities closing in, Solano fled to Cali, Columbia in an effort to evade arrest and prosecution. Solano remained fugitive for seventeen years.

In 2008, Solano was still engaged in the business of cocaine trafficking. He was arrested in Togo, Africa. Togolese authorities arrested Solano and reported the bust to federal authorities in the United States. As part of an extradition pact between the governments, Solano was returned to the United States to face prosecution. Even with the disbanding of the Cali and Medellin cartels, Miami remains a key hub in receiving cocaine from South America. Despite several decades of our government's fight against the importation of drugs, the inflow of cocaine has not been dramatically reduced.

Anyone arrested for cocaine trafficking faces severe penalties, both in state and federal court. Cocaine trafficking offense all carry mandatory prison time in state and federal court. The amount of time an individual faces behind bars depend on the amount involved in the alleged trafficking. In federal court, cocaine traffickers face a minimum prison sentence of 10 years. The number can be reduced if a defendant enters a plea and has no previous criminal record. A sentence can be further reduced if a defendant decides to cooperate with federal investigators and prosecutors. Before entering into a plea to a cocaine trafficking case, it is imperative to hire an experienced attorney to review the evidence, as a plea may not be in a client's best interest. Depending on the evidence, a person charged in a cocaine trafficking case may choose to go to trial, win and avoid being incarcerated altogether.

Former Fugitive Cali Cartel Member Sentenced to More than Sixteen Years in Prison, Ethiopian Review, January 22, 2010.

January 26, 2010

Broward Lawyer Provides Economic Windfall for Other South Florida Lawyers

A $1.2 billion "Pozni Scheme" created and operated by a Ft. Lauderdale lawyer has caused significant incomes for all types of South Florida lawyers. Hundreds of former employees, investors and creditors have lost jobs and millions of dollars as a result of the alleged massive scheme to defraud conceived by Scott Rothstein. As others suffer, various types of South Florida lawyers are earning large sums of money due to their involvement in all aspects of the case. Experts have determined that different types of lawyers from Miami criminal lawyers, Broward banking and insurance attorneys, as well as, lawyers working for two law firms assisting the receiver will make in excess of $15 million for their involvement in the case. The criminal defense lawyer representing Rothstein is under the impression that he will enter a guilty plea in federal court later this week.

The lawyer set to earn the most money for his involvement in the case is Miami-Dade Senior Judge Herb Stettin who was appointed to act as the receiver in the case by a Broward County judge. Stettin is responsible for receiving and distributing all of the items seized by federal authorities in asset forfeiture actions. Stettin is expected to make millions as a result of the receivership according to experts cited by the Miami Herald. The authorities have seized millions of dollars in assets from Rothstein's estate including expensive sports cars, mansions, jewelry and other assets belonging to his former seventy member Ft. Lauderdale law firm. Lawyers from investors, creditors and the like are lining up to collect the proceeds from these assets.

Rothstein is currently charged by indictment for mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering and is facing dozens of years in federal prison. Rothstein has not directly spoken with federal investigators or prosecutors working on the case. His criminal attorney has acted as an intermediary in any communications directed toward the authorities. Rothstein is set to enter a change of plea on January 27, 2009. Apparently, a plea agreement has been reached because the hearing date has not been postponed. The terms of the agreement will be released when the plea is taken by the federal judge.

Once Rothstein enters a guilty plea, a sentencing date will be set in three or four months. During that time, a federal probation officer will compile a pre-sentence investigation which will include a background history of the defendant. Additionally, the probation department will determine the potential sentence using the federal sentencing guidelines. The pre-sentence investigation report will be provided the judge, defense counsel and the prosecution. Rothstein's defense team and federal prosecutors will have the opportunity to file objections prior to the sentencing hearing in federal court. The word on the street is that Rothstein will probably receive a twenty year prison sentence. The sentence is along the lines the punishment doled out to Mark Dreier, the New York lawyer, who sold false investment notes and stole from clients. The biggest problem Rothstein faces other than the amount of money involved in the the scheme to defraud, is the fact that evidence apparently exists that will be submitted to the court that Rothstein forged judges signatures and fraudulently created fake civil court settlements and sold them to investors.

Scott Rothstein Case Seen as Economic Boon for Lawyers, The Miami Herald, January 27, 2010.

January 25, 2010

Fugitives from Law Enforcement Flock to Miami and South Florida

Federal law enforcement authorities recently released a report indicating that the majority of fugitives are eventually captured in Miami and the South Florida area. The United States Marshal's Office have a wide variety of responsibilities including guarding federal courthouses, overseeing the federal witness protection program and selling of seized assets forfeited by criminals. The Marshals spend countless man-hours capturing would be fugitives. In 2008, the marshals were responsible for the capture of 36,000 federal fugitives and approximately 73,000 local and state fugitives. More than half of those were captured in Miami and South Florida. Supervisory Deputy Barry Golden gave the following explanation for the skewed numbers. "Part of it is the weather. But also, South Florida is a multi-national, multi-racial, multi-lingual, is there anyone who really stands out; not really, it is easy to blend in."

As a result of the large number of fugitives being captured in Miami and South Florida, many Miami criminal lawyers have garnered extensive expertise in extradition matters. If a federal fugitive is captured in South Florida, that individual will be housed in the Miami Federal Detention Center until the federal court with jurisdiction completes the extradition process returning the fugitive to the location where he or she will face charges. If the fugitive has local or state charges pending, the defendant will be housed at the Miami-Dade County Jail until the jurisdiction from where the offense originated decides whether or not they wish to spend funds and manpower to pick-up and deliver the fugitive. Other cases involving fugitives involve military law. Active duty soldiers from the Army, Navy. Air Force or Marines are regularly wanted for the charges of Absent Without Leave (AWOL) or Desertion. Once a military unit declares a soldier AWOL, an arrest warrant will soon there after issue. Any service member picked up on this type of warrant is typically held in local custody until picked up by the military. As a Miami military lawyer, is has become evident that the current state of our military forces has caused an increased number of AWOL and desertion charges.

Anyone arrested on out-of-state or military warrant will be taken to the Miami-Dade County Jail and will appear at a bond hearing the following day. The judge will review the jail card and determine that a hold from a foreign jurisdiction exists. The judge will place a hold on the file with a no bond hold. The jail card will reflect that the fugitive is to be held until XYZ county or the military releases the hold. Several scenarios can take place. If a fugitive waives extradition, the local, state or military authorities have approximately two weeks to come to Miami and pick up the fugitive. The out-of-state jurisdictional authorities can ask for an extension of time which will be granted by the court. Therefore, the fugitive may be held up to 30 days in jail without a bond. If the 30 days passes, the fugitive will most likely be released barring extraordinary circumstances.

If you or a loved one is being held with a bond in the Dade County Jail on an out of jurisdiction case, contact a Miami extradition lawyer. A Miami criminal attorney experienced in extradition matters may be able to provide assistance. Depending on the severity of the offense, an out of state jurisdiction may agree to set a bond in lieu of spending time and money on retrieving a fugitive. A lawyer will contact the prosecutor's office in the jurisdiction where the offense is alleged to have occurred and negotiate setting a bond. Once the prosecutor agrees to the bond, that information will be transferred to Miami where the jail card will be amended to reflect the bond. In military case, a well-versed Miami military lawyer will contact the appropriate military installation AWOL apprehension unit and have them agree to the release of hold. The armed service will also provide an airline ticket to the installation of their choice. Most of the time, service members will be required to return to the unit from where they last reported for duty. Even if a fugitive is being held without a bond, there are solutions to the problem which will not require them to remain in custody for up to a month.

Lasso many in South Florida, The Palm Beach Post, January 21, 2010.

January 21, 2010

Miami-Dade County Amends Local Sex Offender Laws

Miami-Dade County commissioners voted to amend local sex offender laws in an effort to alleviate the problems that are leaving sex offenders with no place to live with the exception of under bridges. The new ordinance will supercede portions of the old ordinance by loosening some portions of the local laws. Commissioners unanimously voted to create one standard across the entire county rather than the previously existing multiple laws handed down separately from various municipalities.

Although the standards have been loosened, Miami-Dade County made the changes maintaining a balance between the rights those convicted of sex offense such as sexual battery and lewd and lascivious conduct, and children who need protection from these offenders. Despite the changes, Miami criminal lawyers must make their clients aware of which sex offenses carry these restrictive bans before allowing their clients to enter into plea agreements with the state attorney's office. It is imperative that a Miami sex offense criminal lawyer not only plea bargain on behalf of their clients, but should also make charge bargaining a priority in an effort to avoid these restrictions.

The new Miami-Dade County ordinance repeals at least 24 laws that had previously enacted by separate municipalities. The ordinance create more workable exclusion zones for those convicted of certain sexual offenses such as sexual assault, sexual battery, lewd and lascivious conduct, statutory rape and child sex abuse. The new law maintains the 2,500-foot rule prohibiting certain sex offenders from living that close to schools. However, a new 1,000-foot rule now exists prohibiting certain sex offenders from living that distance from where children congregate. Civil libertarians applaud the new rule. However they still hold the opinion that any restrictions force many of the sexual offenders underground, thus making it more difficult for law enforcement to monitor them.

Others disagree with the change in the law. Miami Beach County Attorney, Jose Smith, intends to challenge the new law and was quoted as saying, "I haven't been satisfied that the county has the authority to do this and that the new law waters down their more strict city-wide policies." Miami Beach along with several other municipalities will challenge the new ordinance. Many local governments had previously imposed the 2,500 foot ban as a result of the rape and murder of nine-year old Jessica Lunsford in 2005. Others predict every municipality will adopt Miami-Dade Counties policies by the end of the year. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has become involved in the controversy and previously filed suit against Miami-Dade over its 2,500 foot rule. The organization has gone on record that the new ordinance is a step in the right direction, but argue for more changes in the law.

Miami-Dade OK's New Sex Offender Law, The Miami Herald, January 21, 2010.