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White Collar Crime Lawyer Coral Gables

Decades of experience defending state and federal white collar charges

White collar crimes are often glamorized in movies and new headlines. However, people who are convicted for white collar offenses may go to prison for as long as convicted drug offenders in some cases. The term “white collar crime” was coined by a criminologist during the late 1930s. White collar refers to the business professional clothing worn by the people who are most often the perpetrators of white collar offenses. Joffe Law, P.A., a Coral Gables white collar crime defense attorney, represents individuals who are facing serious criminal charges for a white collar offense.

Definition of white collar crime

White collar crimes are financially-motivated and mostly nonviolent. Florida law specifically describes white collar crime in the White Collar Crime Victim Protection Act as an act that matches at least one of the following descriptions:

  • involves the commission of deceit or fraud
  • involves conspiring to deceive or defraud someone
  • involves conspiring to deprive someone else of his or her property
  • involves the intent to defraud or conspire to defraud

Several of the state’s general statutes against criminal offenses also address white collar crime. For example, Florida does not have a specific statute that prohibits embezzlement. However, the state prosecutes embezzlement cases under Florida’s general law against theft.

The White Collar Crime Victim Protection Act enhances sentencing in white collar cases that target vulnerable populations like the elderly and the disabled. Under this statute, individuals who are found to have committed a white collar offense against an elderly or disabled person may be convicted for an aggravated white collar crime. Individuals who are prosecuted under the White Collar Crime Victim Protection Act have typically engaged in a pattern of white collar offenses against 10 or more members of vulnerable populations or they have tried to defraud victims for at least $50,000.

White collar crimes in Coral Gables

The victims of white collar crimes vary depending on the nature of the offense. Some schemes aim to defraud financial institutions while others target government agencies. Oftentimes, the general public may be the victims of crimes that cause corporations to raise prices or government agencies to lose money raised through taxes. We’ve listed below some of the white collar cases we handle.

FLORIDA’S ‘SCHEME TO DEFRAUD’ STATUTE

Florida Scheme to Defraud law divides fraud cases into two categories: communications fraud and organized fraud. A Scheme to Defraud is an instance in which an individual engages in an ongoing course of conduct with the intent to deceive someone or obtain someone else’s property by providing false representations, promises, pretenses, or willfully misrepresenting future acts.

An individual engages in communications fraud if he or she utilizes certain methods of communication while engaging in a scheme to defraud. An individual may be charged with communications fraud if he or she advances a scheme to fraudulently obtain money by using:

  • the postal service
  • a telephone
  • other electronic means

Florida’s communications fraud is written broadly enough to include virtually any fraudulent scheme that includes any means of communication other than a face to face conversation. If the defendant received less than $300 through the fraudulent scheme, the maximum penalty is one year in prison, one year on probation, and up to $500 in fines. If the defendant received $300 or more through the scheme, he or she may be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison, five years on probation, and a fine of up to $5,000.

Organized fraud is treated as a more serious offense than communications fraud. The communications fraud law does not reference the method of communication a defendant uses. However, these cases typically involve property or larger amounts of money. Cases in which the defendant defrauded one or more victims for $20,000 or less, the maximum penalty is five years in prison, five years on probation, and a fine of up to $5,000. If a defendant received between $20,000 and $50,000 through a fraudulent scheme, the maximum sentence is 15 years in prison, 15 years on probation, and a fine of up to $10,000. In fraud cases that involve more than $50,000, the defendant may be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison, 30 years on probation, and up to $10,000 in fines.

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

CORAL GABLES EMBEZZLEMENT CASES

Embezzlement is theft that occurs within a very specific set of circumstances. Florida law does not recognize embezzlement separately from general theft. However, if the crime involves multiple states, another country, or government officials or property, the case may be prosecuted under the federal embezzlement statute.

The most distinguishing factor that separates embezzlement cases from other types of theft is the existence of a fiduciary duty. Under federal law, the prosecution must prove the defendant held a trusted position that allowed the defendant to have access to the victim’s property. The prosecution must also prove the defendant took the victim’s property for personal use with the intent to deprive the victim of enjoyment of the property.

MONEY LAUNDERING CASES

Florida law generally defines money laundering as knowing the property in a financial transaction represents the proceeds from some form of unlawful activity. Criminal organizations engage in money laundering to “clean” the money they receive from engaging in criminal activity. The money laundering process takes place in multiple stages with the ultimate goal of obscuring the appearance that the illicit proceeds came from illegal activity.

The first step in the money laundering process is the placement stage. Criminals are more likely to be caught during the placement stage than at any other point in the process. During the placement stage, the criminals are tasked with introducing the proceeds into the money supply without drawing attention to themselves. Depositing large sums of money with unexplained origins is likely to trigger a series of questions from the bank to meet regulatory reporting requirements. Money launders engage in activities like cash smuggling and smurfing to evade detection.

Cash smuggling involves physically transporting illegal cash into a country that has less stringent banking regulations. Criminal organizations will often enlist family members, friends, associates, and members of immigrant communities in cities located along an international border to smuggle cash for the organization. Although cash smuggling is more common in border towns, anyone anywhere can be approached to smuggle cash for a criminal organization.

Smurfs are individuals and groups of people that deposit laundered money into bank accounts. First the launderers divide large sums of money into smaller amounts and distribute the money to smurfs. Next, the smurfs deposit the smaller amounts into accounts and different banks to avoid the banks’ reporting requirements.

During the second step, also known as the layering stage, criminal enterprises use the illicit proceeds to conduct a complicated series of transactions. Each transaction creates more of a distance between the criminal activity and the dirty money. Some examples of the transactions money launderers engage in may include:

  • depositing and cashing out chips while gambling at a casino
  • using the money to trade stocks
  • placing the money in different financial accounts and investment products
  • buying real estate
  • buying recreational vehicles

By the time the transactions have been layered several times, it is virtually impossible to trace the money back to its illegal origins. The final stage in the money laundering process is the integration stage. Once the money has been integrated into the legitimate money supply, the criminals can use the money however they please with a much lower risk of the authorities tracing the money back to the group’s illegal activity.

Money laundering may seem like a series of transactions, but the process itself is a serious crime under state and federal law. You don’t have to be a member of a crime ring to be charged for money laundering. If you knowingly collect a debt that arises from illegal activity, receive, deposit, or otherwise conduct transactions with dirty money, you may be charged for laundering money.

State racketeering/RICO charges

RICO is increasingly becoming a topic of household discussion as it seems the media announces a new political or corporate scandal every week. Most people become familiar with the concept of racketeering through mafia movies or news headlines. However, less sensational versions of racketeering are more commonplace in communities throughout Florida. We represent people who have been charged with racketeering under the state and federal RICO statutes.

RACKETEERING UNDER FLORIDA LAW

In 1970, Congress enacted the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute for the purpose of prosecuting criminal organizations. In 1977, Florida’s legislature followed suit by enacting its own state level version of the RICO Act. Florida’s RICO law closely mirrors the federal law. However, there are some significant differences between the two.

Similar to the federal law, Florida’s RICO law criminalizes the act of an illegal enterprise receiving income through a pattern of “racketeering activity.” Florida law also prohibits the collection of unlawful debts from activities like illegal gambling, loan sharking, and extortion. Like the federal law, Florida law also specifically identifies crimes it refers to as “racketeering activity.” Some examples of racketeering under state law include:

  • tax evasion
  • eluding a law enforcement officer
  • Medicaid fraud
  • employment fraud
  • kidnapping, human smuggling, and human trafficking
  • burglary and trespass
  • perjury
  • bribery
  • tampering with a witness
  • criminal gang-related activity
  • federal drug crimes

To prove a state RICO charge, the prosecution must establish that the defendant has engaged in at least two related racketeering activities while engaging with a criminal enterprise. The list of crimes that constitute “racketeering activity” is extensive. Racketeering activity is not limited to those who actually commit the crimes. An individual may be convicted on a Florida RICO charge if he or she attempts to commit, conspires to commit, solicits, coerces, or intimidates someone else to commit racketeering activity.

People who are unrelated to the criminal activity that produced a criminal organization’s proceeds may also be prosecuted. The state prosecutor may also file charges against:

  • people who are employed by a business that engages in illegal activity
  • people who have an interest in a criminal enterprise or the collection of an illegal debt
  • people use or invest any part of the proceeds of illegal activity

Members of criminal enterprises commonly give money to their friends, family members, and other associates. If you believe you may have received money or property from someone who is involved in an illegal enterprise, you may be investigated for racketeering in Coral Gables. Contact us to learn how our team may be able to protect you if a law enforcement agency decides to investigate you.

Contact a Coral Gables white collar crimes attorney

Joffe Law is here to answer your questions about white collar crimes in Coral Gables. Whether you have been accused of tax evasion or participating in an extensive racketeering scandal, we can give you the legal advice you need. Contact us to schedule a case evaluation.


Frequently Asked Questions
about white collar crimes

Is tax evasion a white collar crime?

Yes, tax evasion is a criminal offense. Contact David Joffe for legal representation if you are under investigation for a tax-related offense.

What should I do if I believe my employer is engaging in criminal activity?

If you believe your employer may be engaging in criminal activity, you may also be at risk of being investigated and charged for a state or federal crime. Contact an attorney to discuss your suspicions. Our office will conduct a confidential case review and advise you of the potential legal options that may be available to help you protect your reputation and avoid criminal prosecution.

What if my ex-spouse is part of a criminal enterprise?

Depending on how far back a criminal investigation goes, law enforcement may request an interview with you to learn more about your ex-spouse and any role you may have played in the criminal enterprise. Don’t speak to law enforcement without first retaining a federal defense lawyer in Coral Gables. David Joffe and his team will listen carefully to your concerns and advise your legal options that may protect you from criminal liability. We can help you protect your constitutional rights when communicating with law enforcement.

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