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Coconut Grove White Collar Crime Attorney

Potent representation for serious criminal charges in state & federal court

White collar crimes are often viewed as if they are less severe than other offenses. Nevertheless, most white collar crimes are felony offenses under federal law and Florida law. Contrary to what many people believe, people who are convicted for a white collar offense may be sentenced to prison time like other convicted felons and ordered to pay large fines. Therefore, being accused of a white collar offense is nothing to take lightly. We recommend contacting an experienced white collar defense lawyer in Coconut Grove immediately if you are under investigation. Joffe Law, P.A. is an established criminal defense law firm in South Florida that specializes in representing defendants in state and federal court.

White collar crimes defined

The term “white collar crime” dates back to the late 1930s, when a criminologist coined the term to describe the professional wardrobe that is typically worn by the perpetrators. White collar crimes are mostly non-violent. Some examples of white collar crimes are:

White collar crimes as state and federal offenses

Most people imagine the FBI swooping in and raiding restaurants, casinos, and other businesses that are owned by groups that commit white collar offenses. The truth is virtually any law enforcement agency in Florida may investigate and make arrests in a white collar case. Most white collar offenses are prosecuted under state law and investigated by state and local law enforcement agencies. However, in many cases, a white collar crime may also be a federal offense. Some situations where the services of a Coconut Grove federal defense attorney:

  • the case involves activity that takes place within the stream of interstate or international commerce
  • the case involves activity that took place on federal land
  • the case involves activity that took place in a U.S. territory
  • the case involves a federal official
  • the case involves a federal agency

Some offenses, like mail fraud, federal tax fraud, and securities fraud automatically implicate federal jurisdiction because the related activities are only regulated by federal agencies. State prosecutors may also bring charges against a defendant in a case that is within the federal government’s jurisdiction. For example, the state may charge a defendant who is facing a federal securities fraud case with communications fraud if the scheme was advertised over the internet. Defendants who are charged in federal and state court for a white collar offense may have their cases prosecuted in two separate cases and be sentenced in each venue if convicted. The penalties may add up quickly.

Just Arrested in Coconut Grove?
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.

Scheme to defraud in Coconut Grove

Fraud is a broad term that describes the intentional deception of a person or entity made by someone else to receive money or anything else that is of value. Florida law refers to fraud as a Scheme to Defraud. A scheme to defraud is a “systematic, ongoing course of conduct with the intent to defraud one or more persons or with the intent to obtain property from one or more persons by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises or willful misrepresentations of a future act.” There are two main categories of fraud under Florida law: organized fraud and communications fraud. Organized fraud occurs when someone successfully receives money or property through a scheme to defraud. Communications fraud occurs when the defendant uses any of the following communications methods to advance a fraudulent scheme:

  • mail
  • telephone
  • email
  • text message
  • any other electronic means of communicating

If an individual receives through a scheme to defraud money or property that is valued at less than $300, he or she may face a misdemeanor charge. If the money or property received is valued at $300 or more but less than $20,000, the offense is a third-degree felony. If the money or property is valued at least $20,000 but less than $50,000, the offense is a second-degree felony. Cases in which a defendant defrauds someone else or an entity out of money or property that is valued at $50,000 or more are first degree felony cases.

Coconut Grove attorney for extortion cases

Extortion is the formal legal term for blackmail, though the offense also includes bribery, public corruption, shakedowns, and demands for ransom. Under Florida law, extortion involves the use of threats, coercion, or intimidation to receive money or valuable goods or services. State law also includes cyber extortion, an offense that occurs when someone steals secrets through an electronic means such as hijacking the individual’s computer or attacking an entity’s website and demands payment from the victim. Florida’s extortion law does not require prosecutors to prove the defendant had a real intent to do harm or the ability to carry out the threat.

To establish a charge of extortion under Florida law, the prosecution must prove four or five elements, depending on whether the threat was made by a third party. The elements of an extortion charge are as follows:

  • the defendant communicated via print, writing, or verbally with another person
  • the defendant made a threat in the communication
  • the defendant made a threat maliciously
  • the defendant made the threat with the intent to either extort money or any pecuniary advantage from someone else or compel someone else to do any act or refrain from doing any act against his or her will
  • if the defendant made the threat to a third person, the defendant intended the threat to be communicated to the individual who was extorted or compelled to action or inaction

Lawyer for Coconut Grove embezzlement charges

Florida does not have a standalone embezzlement statute. Because embezzlement is a specific type of theft, state prosecutors charge defendants in embezzlement cases under the state’s theft statute. Embezzlement occurs when someone who is in a trusted position uses the other party’s trust to deprive the other party of ownership of his or her money or property. Examples of embezzlement include:

  • a club treasurer who takes money from the treasury for personal use without authorization
  • an insurance agent who diverts the customers’ money into a personal account instead of paying the customers’ premiums
  • a valet attendant who keeps a customer’s car for himself
  • a cashier who pockets money from the cash register without authorization
  • an airport worker who collects valuable items from travelers’ luggage and brings the items home

The key difference between theft and embezzlement is the requirement of the existence of a fiduciary relationship or relationship of trust. Federal law also prohibits the act of embezzlement. Under federal law, embezzlement is defined as theft or larceny of assets, money, or property by someone who is in a position of trust or responsibility over the assets.

If an individual embezzles money, assets, or property that is valued at less than $1,000 under federal law, the maximum sentence is a fine or up to one year in federal prison. However, if the value exceeds $1,000, the defendant may be ordered by a federal judge to pay fines and/or sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in federal prison.

Our Coconut Grove white collar crimes defense attorney may challenge an accusation of embezzlement in several ways. There is no crime if the defendant can prove he or she actually believed he or she was authorized to take the money or property. In other instances, a defendant who did not actually take the money or property may be accused of theft or embezzlement. Your Coconut Grove defense lawyer will examine the facts of your case and devise your defense strategy accordingly.

Florida racketeering defense attorney

Racketeering is a crime that has recently resurged in the national media headlines. Some of the most sensational racketeering cases happen right here in South Florida. In 1970, Congress passed the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute. The federal RICO law made it easier for federal prosecutors to charge members of criminal enterprises for related crimes. In 1977, Florida passed its own racketeering law that largely mirrored the federal statute.

Both the federal and state law allows prosecutors to charge defendants with racketeering if they are involved in a criminal enterprise and if they have committed two or more “racketeering activities.” Racketeering activities are crimes that are related to the operation of a criminal enterprise and may be used to establish a RICO charge in court. Florida law requires the two racketeering activity offenses to have taken place within the state’s five-year statute of limitations. The state and federal laws both have detailed lists of crimes that qualify as racketeering activity. Florida’s section that describes racketeering activity is extensive and includes fifty crimes that are listed in the state’s legal code.

An example of racketeering is a criminal enterprise that operates a tire shop that slashes other people’s tires to create a customer base. If members of the criminal enterprise break into other people’s properties and commit acts of intimidation and coercion by slashing the victims’ tires, a prosecutor may use burglary and coercion as predicate offenses that meet the “racketeering activity” requirement. If the organization also launders its money from the illegal tire shop, the prosecution may also include money laundering in the charge.

Florida law goes a step further than the federal statute by allowing prosecutors to charge entire criminal organizations at once. In 2016, the state legislature amended Florida’s RICO statute to include a provision by which a state agency may recover fair market value for forfeited assets in racketeering cases.

If you are under investigation for racketeering, your Florida racketeering defense attorney can challenge the charge in the interest of reducing criminal liability. Prosecutors may struggle with proving your affiliation with a criminal enterprise or with establishing your engagement in a pattern of racketeering.

Money laundering in Florida

Criminal organizations use the money laundering process to integrate their illegal proceeds into the mainstream money supply without being detected. Not only are the people who are directly involved in the criminal organization at risk of prosecution and conviction, but the people who are in close proximity to money launderers may also be investigated and charged. Money launderers use small business owners, friends, family members, associates, and in some cases, strangers to clean dirty money.

Placing dirty money into the mainstream money supply

The first step in the money laundering process is placement. Money launderers are most vulnerable to detection during the placement stage. Once a criminal organization receives proceeds from its illegal activities, the organization must find a way to introduce the dirty money into the mainstream money supply. Large sums of cash and unexplained bank deposits trigger regulatory alerts and attract unwanted attention. Some of the strategies money launderers use to place money into the mainstream supply include:

  • Smurfing – dividing large sums of money into smaller sums and allowing groups of people known as “smurfs” to make smaller deposits into financial accounts
  • bulk cash smuggling – transporting large sums of cash across international borders
  • placing money into cash-based small businesses
  • purchasing high-value assets
  • using money transfer services

In South Florida, money launderers especially target members of immigrant communities. People who have ties to other countries are often used for bulk cash smuggling. Money launders also use money transfer services that are often found in immigrant-owned businesses. Knowingly assisting with money laundering is a serious federal offense. If you believe you may have been targeted or unknowingly assisted with money laundering, protect yourself by contacting a Coconut Grove white collar defense lawyer.

Layering transactions to conceal illegal proceeds

Once money launderers place money into the mainstream money supply, the next step is to conduct a series of transactions to create distance and a complex path between the money’s illegal origins and the members of the criminal organization. Some transactions money launderers conduct during the layering stage are:

  • trading stocks
  • depositing the money into accounts in different jurisdictions
  • purchasing recreational vehicles
  • purchasing high-end artwork
  • converting the money into cryptocurrency

Integrating laundered money into the legitimate money supply

After layering a complex series of transactions, it is practically impossible to trace the laundered money back to its illegal origins. At this point, the members of the criminal organization may use the money however they please with a substantially reduced risk of detection.

Coconut Grove white collar criminal lawyer

Whether you are under investigation or if you have been charged in state or federal court, you need a reputable, seasoned white collar crimes attorney. Contact Joffe Law to learn more about our legal defense services for defendants who are facing white collar criminal charges in Coconut Grove.

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