Proposed 2014 Revisions to Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Federal Sentencing has been praised and pilloried since 1984 when the Sentencing Commission, a creature of the Congress, was created. Over the years it has been seen as race neutral, gender neutral, and fair. Heralded as removing judges from the influences of money and lawyers, it has both succeeded and failed beyond expectation. It is now being reviewed. Thankfully. And, amazingly CNN has reported favorably on it!

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The Sentencing Commission published some revisions, and they will be implemented. The Congress forever palavering over voters, who want criminals in prison, has evolved. Critics who have been overwrought and often wrong are tempering and things are where they should be: on the road of reform.
The elimination or the cocaine/crack disparities has been accomplished. The US Attorney’s Office has created and is implementing reviews of sentences that will be reduced. Minimum mandatory sentences are being halved. States, Florida and (surprise!) Texas have or are dealing with the issue of incarceration, retribution and the return of the incarcerated to functional citizenry. Drug addiction criminal sanctions include programs not only jail cells. The adage that every problem is a nail and every solution is the hammer is rolling back. Many criminal defense lawyers, both State and Federal, are reporting from the front lines of federal criminal trials and sentencing and the reports are not good, but they are being reported. It is a rationalizing process. And, as no surprise to Tea Party and moderate republicans, National Public Radio agrees!

So… what is going on here? What is being changed?...
Changes go to the DRUG QUANTITY TABLE. The proposed amendments would lower, by two levels, the base offense levels, which means taking 2 to five years off of the sentencing guidelines range(s). Although not a big drop in years it is an attempt to balance the public rage and push to jail addicts and suppliers. Federal Statute Title 18 section 3553 lists statutory factors for a proper and balanced sentence: the circumstances of the criminal act (the offense), the character of the defendant, the judge’s responsibility to the community at large to discourage criminal acts by others who become aware of the certainty of punishment, protecting the public from the defendant returning to the community and victimizing others, and, lastly, to salvage any future hope that the defendant can become a part of the general public who behaves well and pays taxes.
As the Attorney General told the Congress, being effective is being smart and the revisions say “smart” not “blunt”. And your federal government has chimed in with a balanced report of the subject:

Smart is smarter and the proposed amendments are a start toward and a part of the evolving of a view of bad behavior that can only remove those who sin by housing them in concrete and metal bars until age, death or human evolvement (both societal and personal) emote change. Change is needed from both realms and the proposed changes have enlisted support from all parties and actors in the criminal justice realm.

Florida Drug Cartel Man Caught and Standing Trial

Fabio Ochoa Vasco, 48, was arrested and charged with drug trafficking by US authorities in South Florida. He will be looking at 10 years to life in prison for a drug operation involving the smuggling of tons of cocaine by speedboat, cargo ship and airplane from Columbia into the U.S. Federal prosecutors and authorities are looking to cut a deal with the man for forfeiture of assets including apartments around the world owned by Vasco, a $1 million island, as well as a bunch of other assets named by Vasco. Vasco is claimed to have been involved in the drug trafficking industry and the Medellin cartel for three decades.

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Mortgage Fraud Florida and SEC Poised to Indict

Angelo Mozilo is in hot water with mortgage fraud charges and civil lawsuits in 4 states, Florida included. Mozilo's Countrywide Financial is just one of the many mortgage brokerages under fire for profiting and conductive illegal activity during the recently devastating boom and bust. Last July, Bank of America, for $2.5 billion, bought Countrywide with Mozilo leaving soon after the completion of the deal.

A white collar offense can also lead to civil lawsuits filed by the government or the persons who were allegedly victimized by the crime. Unlike in a criminal case, the accused in a civil lawsuit does not have the right to remain silent, and they may be obligated to testify at their own trial. An attorney will not be appointed for them if they cannot afford one on their own.

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Florida Prosecution of Mortgage Frauds by Criminal Lawyer Ralph Behr: Part 8

South Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog is proud to present the next installment of Attorney Behr's mortgage fraud prosecutions series:


18 U.S.C. §1956 Laundering of monetary instruments

&

18 U.S.C. §1957 Engaging in monetary transactions in property

derived from specified unlawful activity


Both statutes essentially have the same purpose of preventing persons from legitimizing proceeds obtained illegally although there are differences. 18 U.S.C. § 1956, is concerned with any financial transaction concerning proceeds of a “specified unlawful activity”73 whenever action is focused to keep the criminal activity from being discovered, or to hide the source or current possessor of the funds, or to avoid the mandatory disclosures under the Bank Secrecy Act under Title 31 U.S.C.74 Conversely, provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 1957 is applicable if a person “…knowingly engages or attempts to engage in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property of a value greater than $10,000 and is derived from specified unlawful activity…”75

In United States v. Moncrief, 133 Fed.Appx. 924 (5th Cir. 2004), both of these statutes were instituted in a case which the government claimed to be “…the largest mortgage-loan-fraud operation ever to be prosecuted.”76 The case involved Meis Enterprises which was owned and operated by the Meis family.77 Mei Enterprises was a conglomeration of several businesses operated by members of the Mei family.78 Mei Enterprises operated a construction company and several real estate companies.79 Although the assortment of companies had differing bank accounts and officers in charge, Mei Enterprises “…operated out of one common office.”80

The alleged end result of the mortgage fraud scheme was to collect “…large amounts of cash by inducing mortgage lenders to provide the Meis with loans that were $50,000 to $80,000…” over what “…it cost the Meis to purchase the real estate that served as the collateral for the loan.”81 In order to obtain the loans, “…the Meis orchestrated sham real estate transactions in which the Meis would appear to sell a particular property, which…” would overlap “…with actual sales in which the Meis would purchase, for the first time, the very same property.”82 Purportedly, the Meis first would find a property for sale and “…acting through one of their realty companies such as Hathaway Properties, would contract to purchase the property from its owner.”83

Third parties or straw buyer would serve as a temporary purchaser usually Frank Mei Sr. to complete “…a parallel sham transaction that would be used to obtain an inflated loan.”84 Mortgage brokers in one of the Mei Enterprises would falsify employment and income information on loan application to lenders.85 Eventually, Moncrief, a residential real estate appraiser became involved in the Mei scheme.86 Allegedly, Moncrief used the Mei’s formula for over inflating the value of selected properties and “…was involved in more straw buyer transactions than any other appraiser that the Meis use…”87 which exposed him to the money laundering violations.88

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Any use of the previous article requires written permission from Ralph Behr and from this website and its subsidiaries under State and Federal Law. DO NOT copy and use the text provided above and/or publish as your own. The document may only be used for private study or distributing among peers in paper, not on internet transmission, with no intent to make profit or sell without credit being due to the original author.

Florida Prosecution of Mortgage Frauds by Criminal Lawyer Ralph Behr: Part 4

Continuing the series on Mr. Behr's mortgage fraud prosecutions in Florida:


18 U.S.C. §1014 Loan and credit applications generally; renewals and discounts; crop insurance

Under this federal statute, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt (1) a person knowingly made any material misrepresentations (2) directly to any specific federally insured institutions in the business of extending credit (3) for the purpose of influencing the institution’s actions.29 In United States v. Dominguez, 226 F.3d 1235 (11th Cir. 2000) the defendant faced multiple counts involving participation in a cocaine distribution organization and a mortgage fraud scheme.30 The basis of Dominguez’ assumed fraudulent mortgage scheme was an overestimation of his legitimate income by about $40,000.00 on federal tax returns and mortgage loan applications submitted to federally insured banks.31

Dominguez’ argued on appeal “…the district court erred by denying his motion to sever the drug-related charges and mortgage fraud-related charges…”32 The court found his argument to be without merit because it believed the concealment of his income from the “…the drug activity was the motive for the mortgage fraud.”33 Moreover, the court included the government’s closing argument in a footnote to find the two sets of charges were properly joined.34 The government claimed the defendant was falsifying his income just enough to be believable but not enough to raise any suspicion for a person “...four years out of law school.”35

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Any use of the previous article requires written permission from Ralph Behr and from this website and its subsidiaries under State and Federal Law. DO NOT copy and use the text provided above and/or publish as your own. The document may only be used for private study or distributing among peers in paper, not on internet transmission, with no intent to make profit or sell without credit being due to the original author.

Florida to Federal Crimes: Madoff and Jail for Dummies

Kieran Crowley, New York Post, Jail for Dummies

Bernard Madoff's niece and another relative -- worried they'll wind up behind bars -- have contacted a consultant who teaches white-collar criminals how to survive in federal prison and secure early release, sources said. A jail cell would be a stark change for Shana Madoff, who grew up on a six-acre Woodbury, LI, estate called Hastings Hall owned by her parents, Peter and Marion Madoff. Peter is Bernie's brother.

Shana, 38, who was a compliance officer with the infamous Madoff firm, contacted Larry Levine, a former federal prisoner and founder of Wall Street Prison Consultants, the sources said.

Levine refused to identify his clients, but admitted that "a female relative of Bernie Madoff contacted me" about taking his Fedtime 101 crash course. Shana contacted the company two weeks ago "because she was concerned about her safety" should she ever go to jail, one source said.

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Federal Court Sentencing in "Advance-Fee" Fraud Scheme

Three defendants were sentenced to prison today after pleading guilty in January 2008 to federal charges of running an “advance-fee” scheme that targeted U.S. victims with promises of millions of dollars, Acting Assistant Attorney General Rita M. Glavin of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Benton J. Campbell of the Eastern District of New York announced. The defendants were sentenced at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, N.Y. Nnamdi Chizuba Anisiobi, 31, citizen of Nigeria, was sentenced to 87 months in prison. Anthony Friday Ehis, 34, citizen of France, was sentenced to 57 months in prison. Kesandu Egwuonwu, 35, citizen of Nigeria, was sentenced to 57 months in prison.

All three defendants each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, eight counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud. The defendants allegedly sent thousands of email spam across the internet to potential victims using a variety of identity concealers from phone numbers to addresses to email addresses. One of the defendants would even telephone individuals, using a raspy voice, in order to con them into money by making them believe he had throat cancer and needed money immediately.

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US Supreme Court To Review Miami Case

A Miami court case involving Cuban spies has been under attack by nobel laureates, scholars, and various international organizations on the grounds of it being an unfair trial. The trial was thought to be doomed from the beginning due to its location in Miami, the heart of the anti-Castro movement and the Cuban community who is for the most very against Castro. In retaliation, the Cuban American Bar Association replied, "They obvious did zero actual research to do with anything about the Cuban-American community," he said. "It's unbelievably inflammatory, ignorant and completely baseless." Despite the CABA's remarks, jurors have felt intimidated by the community and feel at risk of personal harm if they bring back any verdict that will not go with the community's desires, even after proper trial showing evidence one way or the other.

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Hackers Might Get Stiffer US Sentencing Penalties

With the ever-growing realm of internet crimes, federal prosecutors are upgrading into the times with thoughts of new sentencing guidelines. Michael Dubose at the Justice Department's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property has warned "cyber-criminals are increasingly using sophisticated technological tools like 'proxies' to evade detection and prosecution." These proxies might be considered as "sophisticated means" in the near future, upping the sentencing on criminals who use them, directly or indirectly.

If you're not aware of it right now, you might be using a "sophisticated mean" to just view this blog! Many corporations and universities across the country use special network routers and server or proxy protocols to transfer their pipeline internet connections to users in their networks. Someone who downloads an illegal mp3 might get tagged with an extra "sophisticated mean" to their sentence just because it was on a proxied-up internet connection.

Internet crime is on the rise in detection and prosecution, so be careful what and where you download or do on your computer. The eye in the sky, or rather the internet, could be watching you.

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Bernard Madoff, Still A Free Man

Last week a judge turned down prosecutors' request to jail the recent $50 billion-dollar-disappear magician Madoff. He had sent many pieces of jewelry to close family in the weeks after his investigation took hold. Nearly $173 million in signed checks were stashed away in a drawer of his office, in what some would say was a daring and bold move. Prosecutors on the case are moving quickly to appeal the magistrate's decision.

White collar crimes like these truly show how voracious and destructive to one's life savings a single person you entrust with them can be. The problem is in these times, anyone and everyone can be charged with a white collar crime by a prosecutor who feels you have done wrong financially.

Don't be caught without a chair when the music stops. You need a lawyer to defend your rights and protect you from aggressive prosecutors. See that you get the representation you need. Criminal defense Attorney Ralph Behr is a NASD Arbitrator and knows how the financial markets work and how prosecutors frame and prosecute white collar charges in State and Federal courts in South Florida. South Florida criminal defense attorney Ralph Behr will defend you aggressively. South Florida criminal defense attorney Ralph Behr will work for you by getting you quick, prompt, and effective defense in South Florida State and Federal Courts.

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Florida Supreme Court Overturns Death Penalty Case

Willie H. Nowell's death sentence was overturned recently by the high court. Nowell and his accomplice were charged with the following:

(1) first-degree premeditated murder; (2) attempted first-degree premeditated murder; (3) killing of an unborn child by injury to the mother; (4) armed burglary of a structure while inflicting great bodily harm or death; (5) robbery with a firearm while inflicting great bodily harm or death; (6) kidnapping while inflicting great bodily harm or death; (7) another count of kidnapping while inflicting great bodily harm or death; (8) grand theft of a motor vehicle; (9) possession of firearm by convicted felon (Bellamy); and (10) possession of firearm by convicted felon (Nowell)
A new trial of his previous first-degree murder conviction was ordered with new directions for the re-do trial. This decision by the court is unprecedented and extremely rare as the court almost never overturns death penalty cases.

The original issue seen by Supreme Court judges was that the trial court judge had "made a mistake "by not not ruling that the prosecutor had made improper comments during his closing arguments in the trial's penalty phase, by arguing that Nowell didn't deserve "mercy." " Further questionable acts were discovered in the juror filtering of a Hispanic individual thought to be based on his race.

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Florida Convict Gets Sentence Lowered

James Ray Booth, 59, once a convict serving a life sentence, now serves a 10 year sentence. He was charged in 2006 with first-degree murder yet acquitted of aggravated battery and armed burglary recently this year in a new trial. The jury found nevertheless guilty of third-degree murder and aggravated assault with a firearm, two charges that were of lesser severity than former charges.

The lengthy legal procedings in court with Prosecutor Pete Magrino and the suspect's attorney, Patricia Jenkins, argued over legal semantics. The final verdict was two consecutive life sentences and 20 years in prison for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

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FLORIDA FEDERAL CRIMINAL COURTS

FEDERAL SENTENCING NEWS

Our friends at the US Supreme Court have taken a refreshing step towards the rule of law by pulling back out-of-control federal sentences.

The Supreme Court ruled that a federal appeals court cannot enhance a sentence unless asked to by the prosecutor. Although it seems wrong it is now a step in holding back re-sentencing by appeals court judges who did not sit on a trial.
Federal prosecutions are more likely to result in convictions and harsher sentences than in State courts. If you have been arrested in Fort Lauderdale, Miami or Palm Beach call a South Florida criminal defense attorney. Attorney Behr offers free consultations.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines Hijacked by Judge

Federal criminal prosecutions too often are one-sided. For many accused and tried in Federal court it appears to them that the rules change with each turn of the wheel.

Florida federal criminal defense attorneys see it again and again. From drug possession prosecutions through wire fraud and money laundering the 'relevant conduct' sentencing loopholes permit sentencing which has all the appearance of a kangeroo court making up rules which favor the government.

South Florida criminal lawyers, among them attorney Ralph Behr, a former member of the Federal Rules Committee of the Florida Bar, has fought for clients who have been unfairly treated at sentencing. Here's an example:

In what may be one of a long line of cases highlighting the unfairness of Federal criminal prosecutions Anwuan Ball was sentenced by a Judge in Federal court for crimes for which he was not on trial.
An angry juror wrote:

As you remember, Judge Roberts, we spent 8 months listening to the evidence, filling countless court-supplied notebooks, making summaries of those notes, and even creating card catalogues to keep track of all the witnesses and their statements. We deliberated for over 2 months, 4 days a week, 8 hours a day. We went over everything in detail. If any of our fellow jurors had a doubt, a question, an idea, or just wanted something repeated, we all stopped and made time. Conspiracy? A crew? With the evidence the prosecutor presented, not one among us could see it. Racketeering? We dismissed that even more quickly. No conspiracy shown but more importantly, where was the money? No big bank accounts. Mostly old cars. Small apartments or living with relatives. It seems to me a tragedy that one is asked to serve on a jury, serves, but then finds their work may not be given the credit it deserves. We, the jury, all took our charge seriously. We virtually gave up our private lives to devote our time to the cause of justice, and it is a very noble cause as you know, sir. We looked across the table at one another in respect and in sympathy. We listened, we thought, we argued, we got mad and left the room, we broke, we rested that charge until tomorrow, we went on. Eventually, through every hour-long tape of a single drug sale, hundreds of pages of transcripts, ballistics evidence, and photos, we delivered to you our verdicts. What does it say to our contribution as jurors when we see our verdicts, in my personal view, not given their proper weight. It appears to me that these defendants are being sentenced not on the charges for which they have been found guilty but on the charges for which the District Attorney’s office would have liked them to have been found guilty. Had they shown us hard evidence, that might have been the outcome, but that was not the case.

Jurors acquitted Ball in November 2007 Ball was found not guilty on all counts of racketeering, drug conspiracy and murder. He was found guilty of possession of a half-ounce hand-to-hand crack-cocaine sale in Washington seven years prior.

Federal prosecutors requested Judge Richard W. Roberts to sentence Ball to 40 years, based on charges that were never filed or conduct the jury never asked considered.
Federal sentencing guidelines permit judges to sentence for crimes not charged under the "acquitted and uncharged conduct" federal sentencing.

FLORIDA PRISONS GET PLAYING CARDS

Now those convicted of crimes in Florida and serving time in prison can prepare for work in casinos while completing their sentences.

Florida convicted inmates recieved gift packs of playing cards from the West Palm Beach Police.

The cards will soon be given to every prisoner in custody serving sentences with the Florida Department of Corrections.

The playing cards have information, photographs and criminal information concerning closed and unsolved criminal cases.

Blackjack anyone in cellblock C?

The West Palm Beach police department dedicated time over the past six months searching through old cases and tracking down photos from closed cases.

The playing cards contain pictures of victims and information about the crime.

Cold cases in South Florida, with an emphasis on homicides in West Palm Beach dating back to January of 2000 are on the playing cards.

South Florida, Palm Beach, Broward County, Fort Lauderdale and Miami have a large number of inmates serving in prison. If anyone has information from the cards they can contact a criminal defense attorney in any Florida city or town and ask for a sentence modification.