Federal Defense Lawyer in Fort Myers
Experienced federal criminal attorneys on your side
Most people understand the difference in the severity of sentencing between federal and state crimes. Nevertheless, many people don’t fully understand why some people defendants face state charges while others are charged with very serious federal offenses. The following guide will help you understand which crimes are prosecuted in federal court in addition to the factors that trigger federal prosecution. Your Fort Myers federal defense attorney can help you further understand the implications of federal and state charges.
Who investigates federal crimes?
Most crimes are investigated by the state government. Crimes that occur within the jurisdiction of the federal government can be investigated by one or more of the seven designated federal law enforcement agencies. These agencies are:
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives(ATF)
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
- Secret Service
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Fort Myers crimes investigated by the FBI
With more than 30,000 agents and staff members, the FBI is the largest federal law enforcement agency. Financial crimes, drug trafficking, civil rights violations, terrorism, and kidnapping are among the crimes the FBI investigates. In addition to sometimes working with Florida’s state and local law enforcement agencies, the FBI also works with the international police (INTERPOL) to track criminals around the world and detect threats against national security.
DEA crimes in Florida
The DEA enforces the federal Controlled Substances Act and investigates narcotics traffickers at the highest level. In cooperation with Florida and all other states, the agency created the Task Force Program. Originally a pilot program intended to target drug crimes in New York City, the Task Force Program now operates nationwide as a platform through which the DEA partners with state and local law enforcement agencies. The federal and state agencies share resources and expertise to target drug crimes throughout the U.S. Through the program, state and local law enforcement officers can be deputized as federal agents. Deputization extends the state and local officers’ jurisdiction and allows their agencies to receive an equitable share of forfeited drug proceeds.
ATF and federal charges in Fort Myers
Nowadays, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is mostly known among the general public for enforcing weapons charges. These charges often involve illegal weapons, firearms trafficking, and the illegal use and storage of explosives.
Originally founded during the Prohibition Era, ATF operates programs to identify and dismantle criminal organizations that traffic liquor or illegal tobacco internationally or across state lines. Not only do these organizations encroach on alcohol and tobacco businesses that legitimately engage in interstate and international streams of commerce, but they are sometimes linked to violence.
While ATF still investigates alcohol and tobacco-related crimes, the agency more often investigates suspected arson, bombings, and terrorism. Similar to the DEA, ATF carries out many of its activities in cooperation with state and local law enforcement agencies. The agency has primary responsibility for administering and enforcing the provisions of federal laws that govern destructive devices, arson, and explosives. ATF also plays a key role in educating the explosives industry insiders and in protecting the public.
The IRS Criminal Investigations (CI) unit investigates suspected tax fraud, tax evasion, and other federal tax code offenses. Some of the crimes the IRS investigates include:
- abusive tax return preparer schemes
- abusive tax schemes
- bankruptcy fraud
- corporate fraud
- employment tax crimes
- financial institution fraud
- illegal gaming operations
- general fraud
- healthcare fraud
- identity theft
- international tax avoidance schemes
- money laundering
- public corruption
After the IRS gathers and analyzes all of the information obtained in a criminal investigation, the agency determines whether the case constitutes a federal crime. If the agency determines there is no crime or if there is not enough evidence to prosecute, the IRS will “discontinue” the case. If the agency recommends filing one or more federal charges, the assigned IRS special agent will write a report detailing the federal laws the defendant may have violated and recommend prosecution in federal court.
Florida SEC investigations
After the Wall Street crash in 1929, the federal government enacted the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which formed the Securities and Exchange Commission to enforce laws against market manipulation. In addition to enforcing the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the SEC also enforces:
- Securities Act of 1933
- Trust Indenture Act of 1939
- Investment Advisers Act of 1941
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002
The three main goals of the SEC are to protect investors, to ensure markets remain fair, efficient, and orderly, and to facilitate the formation of capital. Federal securities laws require public companies and other regulated entities to generate and submit quarterly and annual financial reports to the SEC. These reports are intended to provide information to investors about companies’ financial state, future goals, and new projects. Companies that provide false information on their SEC filings violate federal laws and place investors’ capital at risk. Providing false information to the SEC may result in a federal investigation and criminal charges.
Secret Service investigations
People primarily imagine Secret Service agents providing security for U.S. presidents. However, the agency has several other duties. In addition to the president, the Secret Service also protects:
- the vice president, president-elect, and vice president-elect
- family members of the president, vice president, and newly-elected president and vice president
- former presidents and their spouses
- children of former presidents who are under 17
- visiting foreign heads of state and their spouses
- other distinguished foreign visitors
- formally recognized representative of the U.S. on special missions abroad
- major presidential and vice presidential candidates and their spouses within four months of a general election
- other individuals designated by an executive order
- national Special Security Events
People are often surprised to learn that Secret Service also investigates financial crimes. Instances in which a bank or retailer receives counterfeit currency are generally reported to the Secret Service. Other examples of crimes the agency investigates include:
- forgery or theft of U.S. Treasury checks, bonds, or securities
- wire fraud
- computer fraud
- identity fraud
- credit card fraud
- crimes against certain federally-insured financial institutions
Don't say anything incriminating. Speak with a federal defense attorney first.
Department of Homeland Security investigations
DHS was formed 11 days after the September 11th attacks on the U.S. in 2001. The passage of the Homeland Security Act in November of 2002 made the agency a standalone department. DHS has six main objectives:
- increasing national preparedness, especially for catastrophic events
- creating improved transportation security systems to transport cargo and people more safely and efficiently
- strengthening border security and interior enforcement and reforming immigration processes
- enhancing the sharing of information with the agency’s partners
- improving financial management, human resource development, procurement, and information technology within the agency
- realigning the agency’s organization to maximize mission performance
Why the federal government investigates
Individual factors that prompt a government agency to investigate a crime depend on the unique facts of each case. Nevertheless, there are general situations in which the federal government will typically have jurisdiction to file federal charges against the accused. A federal agency may investigate a criminal matter if:
- the crime pertains to a matter that is reserved to the federal government by the Constitution
- the criminal activity crosses state lines
- the offense occurs on federal property
- the state lacks jurisdiction
In criminal investigations of offenses that have “concurrent jurisdiction” or cross state lines, both the federal and state governments may pursue charges against the accused. Therefore, the individual may be subjected to two criminal trials that arise from the same event without triggering the Constitution’s double jeopardy clause.
Who prosecutes federal cases?
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is responsible for prosecuting federal crimes. The U.S. Attorney has at least one office in each state. Florida has three offices: the Southern, Middle, and Northern Districts. Although an Assistant U.S. Attorney handles most cases, prosecutors employed by the office are typically among the best, brightest, and most experienced in their field. Therefore, defendants in federal court cases require the legal counsel, advocacy, and representation of an equally experienced attorney who is well-versed in the formalities of defending a case in federal court.
Federal drug charges in Fort Myers
Florida’s geography creates several advantages for drug traffickers. Therefore, drug-related offenses are the most common federal crimes in Fort Myers. All drug offenses that cross state lines are federal offenses.
Distribution is the federal version of a drug trafficking charge. This offense includes transporting, smuggling, or selling illegal or prescription drugs. Drug trafficking is a federal offense if it occurs across state lines or on federal property.
Federal drug possession
Federal drug possession is divided into two categories: simple possession and possession with the intent to distribute. The difference between the two charges depends on the quantity of controlled substance law enforcement claims to have found in the accused’s possession and the manner in which the substance is packaged. Both offenses require the accused to have had knowledge that the controlled substance was in his or her possession. An individual may be ruled to have been in possession of a drug if he or she has the substance within his or her control. Examples of areas that are within the individual’s control can include an individual’s vehicle, home, storage unit, locker, or bag. If a defendant is convicted on a charge of simple possession, the individual may be sentenced to a maximum of one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
Possession with the intent to distribute
An individual can be charged with Possession With the Intent to Distribute if he or she is accused of having a large quantity of a controlled substance and if the substance is also divided into smaller amounts, presumably for individual sale. Actually delivery of the substance is not a requirement for conviction.
Cultivation or manufacture charge
A federal Cultivation or Manufacture charge can arise if an individual contributes to any step in the production process of a controlled substance. Those who sell the equipment or precursors used to produce a controlled substance may also be charged. Courts may impose a more severe sentence if drug manufacturing took place near a playground or a school.
Continuing criminal enterprise
The Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE) statute, also known as the Kingpin Statute, targets traffickers who are involved in large-scale narcotics operations and are involved in long-term, detailed drug conspiracies. Specifically, the statute prohibits engaging in or conspiring to commit with five or more people a series of violations of the Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. Individuals who are managers, supervisors, or organizers of the narcotics organization may be convicted if they have obtained substantial income or resources from the drug offenses. CCE is a capital offense if the defendant who participated in the continuing criminal enterprise intentionally killed someone or caused an intentional killing.
Federal drug conspiracy charges
Under federal law, drug conspiracy is defined as an agreement within which two or more people knowingly join to break one or more federal drug laws. Although the manner in which the law is written is very broad, conspiracy cases can mostly be classified into the following categories:
- Conspiracy to Manufacture a Controlled Substance
- Conspiracy to Import a Controlled Substance into the United States
- Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance
- Possession of a Controlled Substance With the Intent to Distribute
Federal fraud charges in Fort Myers
Fraud is a broad category that includes several offenses that can potentially occur within the jurisdiction of the federal government. Generally, fraud offenses have an element of intentional misrepresentation or deception. These crimes often have multiple victims and are perpetrated with the intention of receiving financial gain.
Federal mail and wire fraud
Mail fraud refers to deceptive schemes that utilize the post office, postal mail depositories, and other private or commercial interstate carriers to obtain money, property, or counterfeit items. Wire fraud refers to schemes that utilize wire, radio, television, writing, signs, signals, pictures, or sound to deceive with the intent to obtain money or property. Although mail and wire transactions do not always cross state lines, mail and wire fraud has been a federal offense since Congress enacted a federal law against this type of fraud in 1872. The definition of mail and wire fraud is broad enough to include a number of different modes of communication. Therefore, mail and wire fraud charges often accompany a variety of other federal criminal charges that involve deception for the purpose of deriving financial gain.
Aside from tax evasion, there are several other types of federal tax crimes. The IRS often plays a critical role in investigating major crime rings that engage in other offenses like money laundering, identity theft, and other types of fraud. People who engage in criminal activity for financial gain most often do not report and pay taxes on their illegal income, or they provide false information on their tax documents.
There are several different activities that constitute securities fraud. Examples are:
- Ponzi schemes
- high yield investment fraud
- pyramid schemes
- advanced fee schemes
- foreign currency fraud
- broker embezzlement
- hedge fund fraud
- late day trading
A famous example of securities fraud is the Martha Stewart insider trading case. Individuals who are charged with securities fraud may be subjected to criminal and civil penalties.
The FBI investigates suspected healthcare fraud cases that affect federal government and private insurance programs. Virtually anyone, including medical care providers, patients, and identity theft rings can commit healthcare fraud. Examples of the many different types of healthcare fraud are:
- submitting multiple claims for a single service
- billing for service or supplies the patient never received
- submitting multiple bills for visits that should be billed as one service
- billing for a more expensive service than the patient received
- deceptive marketing
- identity theft
- voluntarily switching identities to allow someone other than the insured to receive covered services
- impersonating a healthcare professional
- prescription forgery
- diverting legally written prescriptions for illegal purposes
- doctor shopping
Federal embezzlement charges
Embezzlement occurs when an individual exploits his or her trusted position for personal financial benefit. An embezzlement case becomes a federal matter if the federal government has involvement in the accused party’s job, the agency for which he or she works, or if there is a national interest in other facts in the case. The federal government also has jurisdiction in cases in which the embezzler had access to the federal property or if the accused embezzled taxpayer money. In cases in which the assets embezzled totaled less than $1000, the defendant may not be sentenced to more than one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. If the assets were worth $1,000 or more, the defendant may be sentenced to up to 10 years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
Fraudsters seek to scam the immigration system in several different ways. Contrary to the rhetorical imagery of people sneaking into the U.S. via watercraft or by crossing the border by land, most instances of immigration fraud are designed to victimize unsuspecting people who are seeking to immigrate to the U.S. Common immigration scams include:
- fraudulently charging to file immigration forms
- fake government emails being to request I-9 forms from employers
- “notarios publicos” scams
- fraudsters pretending to be government agents who request payment by phone or mail
- visa lottery scams
- fake government websites that collect visitors’ personal information
- fraudulent job offers and illegal employment schemes
- fake colleges and universities claiming to be able to sponsor international students
- fraudsters pretending to be government agents who can help applicants skip the line
- fraudsters requesting money and personal details from Afghan parolees
The Department of Homeland security investigates immigration fraud. Most people are familiar with Immigration Control Enforcement (ICE), which is a department within DHS. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service is another department within DHS that also investigates immigration fraud.
Federal bankruptcy courts preside over all bankruptcy proceedings. Therefore, any criminal acts of fraud that may occur during the bankruptcy process are automatically categorized as federal offenses. Like most types of fraud, bankruptcy fraud occurs in many different versions. Nevertheless, the general definition of fraud involving bankruptcy is to knowingly make false statements or misrepresentations with the intent to commit an act of fraud during the bankruptcy process. Some examples of bankruptcy fraud include:
- concealing assets from a bankruptcy trustee
- bribing or attempting to bribe a bankruptcy trustee
- misstating the value of an asset
- accumulating debt with the intent to file for bankruptcy
- filing in multiple jurisdictions to exploit the bankruptcy process
- petition mill schemes that defraud people who have financial debt
Although there currently is no federal statute that directly grants the federal government jurisdiction over mortgage fraud cases, the U.S. Attorney’s Office aggressively pursues mortgage fraud as a federal offense. To establish jurisdiction, the federal government will typically leverage other federal statutes to file federal charges in mortgage fraud cases. Mail and wire fraud and bank fraud charges are common in mortgage fraud cases because these types of fraud are specifically covered by federal statutes. Mortgage fraud cases are classified as “fraud for profit” or “fraud for housing.” Examples of mortgage fraud include:
- using a straw purchaser to mask the actual buyer
- house flipping schemes
- inflated appraisals
- occupancy fraud
Federal violent offenses
Violent crimes are most often prosecuted as state offenses. Nevertheless, there are certain factors that can give the federal government jurisdiction over what might otherwise be a state crime. Violent offenses can be prosecuted in federal court if:
- the victim is a federal official
- the offense crossed state lines
- the offense occurred on federal property
- the case involves organized crime or gang violence
- the victim was kidnapped
- the offense was a mass killing
- the defendant is accused of serial killing or sniping
- the offense may have involved a hate crime
- the victim is a child
Federal RICO charges
Congress passed the 1970 RICO statute to prosecute members of organized crime groups who engage in racketeering. An individual may be subjected to federal charges under the RICO statute if he or she committed at least two acts of racketeering within a 10-year period. The following crimes may constitute racketeering activity:
- obstruction of justice
- human smuggling
- acts of terrorism
In total, federal law identifies 35 crimes and racketeering activity. RICO cases can easily carry a life sentence in prison as federal RICO charges are added on top of the original charges for the underlying crimes upon which federal prosecutors base a RICO case.
Federal kidnapping charge in Fort Myers
According to the 1932 federal kidnapping statute, the federal government has jurisdiction over certain cases involving kidnapping. These situations include:
- cases in which the victim is willfully transported in interstate or foreign commerce
- kidnapping that occurs within maritime or special jurisdictions in the U.S.
- kidnapping within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the U.S.
- a victim who is a foreign or official, internationally protected people, or official guest as defined by federal law
- a victim who is a federal officer or a federal employee
- international parental kidnapping
There are several different types of human smuggling, all of which are illegal. Congress has enacted a comprehensive law that generally bans the smuggling of humans. The main goal of the law is to target people who help non-citizens, also referred to as “aliens,” enter the country in a manner that does not comply with the current immigration laws in the U.S. The most common examples of human smuggling are:
- bringing an alien into the U.S. through an unofficial checkpoint, even if the person has permission to be in the U.S.
- transporting an alien domestically with the knowledge or reckless disregard for the person’s illegal immigration status
- concealing, harboring, or hiding from detection any alien
- encouraging or inducing illegal immigration
- conspiring or aiding and abetting in a human smuggling offense
- bringing aliens to the U.S. without authorization
- knowingly hiring at least 10 unauthorized aliens within a 12-month period
Banks are federally-protected financial institutions. Therefore, bank robbery is a federal offense. The federal bank robbery statute outlines all the elements a criminal offense and specifies which financial institutions are protected. In addition to banks, the statute also applies to credit unions and savings and loan associations. Not only does federal law prohibit the act of robbing a bank, but individuals may also be charged with bank robbery if they knowingly receive, conceal, sell, or otherwise dispose of money or property that was taken by force from a protected financial institution. Federal courts may increase sentencing if the defendant assaulted, kidnapped, or killed anyone while in the process of robbing a bank.
Defense attorneys are not all the same. Some people believe they may have been convicted on a criminal charge because their attorney did not provide adequate legal representation. Defendants are allowed to request a new attorney after conviction to appeal the case outcome or have a retrial. This is called “post-conviction relief.” Fort Myers federal defense lawyers are available to file a post-trial motion whether a defendant received an unconstitutional or unfair outcome or if the individual’s previous attorney refuses to file an appeal on the client’s behalf.
Defendants who require the representation of a Fort Myers federal appeals attorney should choose a lawyer who is highly experienced with the post-conviction relief process. A seasoned federal appeals attorney will possess the skills to thoroughly study the previous trial transcript and construct a well-written brief. The best federal appeals attorneys are able to determine the most appropriate legal issues to raise that are most likely to yield a successful outcome for their client.
Federal court attorney in Fort Myers
Federal cases typically carry must steeper consequences. If you or someone you know is facing one or more federal charges, invest in an attorney who can provide the individualized attention and legal expertise a federal case requires. We represent people who are under investigation and federal defendants at every stage of the criminal court process, even after conviction. Contact our Fort Myers federal defense attorney to receive the representation you deserve. Our compassionate, courteous staff will provide conduct an interview to receive the facts of your case. Call us today to receive a free, confidential case evaluation.