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South Beach, Florida

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White collar crimes are often glamorized in movies and the media. Miami is the backdrop for some of the most famous white collar cases in U.S. history. White collar offenses evoke images of fine suits, luxury vehicles, and beachfront properties. However, people who commit white collar crimes may find themselves in prison alongside other people who commit less glamorized offenses. Often, white collar investigations spill over to include people who were in close proximity to the crime but had no knowledge of the illegal activity. If you have been caught off guard by a criminal accusation, you’ll want David Joffe, South Beach’s premier white collar crimes defense lawyer, on your case.

White collar crimes in South Florida

There are several characteristics that make Florida an attractive location for white collar schemes. As the state with the second-highest population of elderly residents, Florida’s demographics appear favorable to fraudsters who view older residents as a vulnerable group with substantial savings. Real estate and financial services scammers seek to take advantage of South Florida’s hot real estate market to operate schemes in the real estate and the financial services sectors. The local sex industry and high rate of illegal drug activity also give way to higher rates of related crimes like racketeering and money laundering. 

White collar crime is big business in South Beach and communities throughout South Florida. Some of the most common white collar cases we see involve:

  • fraud
  • identity theft
  • tax evasion
  • cybercrime
  • racketeering

We represent individuals and organizations that are facing criminal charges for one or more white collar offenses. If you are under investigation, contact a South Beach defense federal criminal lawyer who specializes in fighting charges related to white collar crimes.

Fraud cases in South Beach

Florida’s statutes formally refer to fraud as a Scheme to Defraud. A scheme to defraud refers to an ongoing course of conduct with the intent to defraud one or more people or with the intent to obtain property by false pretenses, misrepresentations, false promises, or willful misrepresentations of a future act. State law identifies two types of schemes to defraud: organized fraud and communications fraud.

An individual may be charged with organized fraud if he or she engaged in a fraudulent scheme and actually obtained property through the scheme. The penalty for organized fraud depends on the aggregate value of the money or items the defendant obtained by operating the scheme. If the defendant fraudulently received property that is valued at less than $300, the charge is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If the property was valued at $300 or more, the offense is a felony.

Florida’s communications fraud statute allows state prosecutors to charge defendants who engage in fraudulent schemes even if the defendant does not receive anything of value from the scheme. An individual may be charged with communications fraud if he or she uses any of the following communication modes to advance a scheme to defraud:

  • mail
  • phone
  • Fax
  • email
  • social media
  • Internet
  • any other electronic means of communication

A fraud accusation can damage your professional reputation even if you are not convicted. Consult a South Beach white collar crimes attorney from the beginning of a criminal investigation to protect your reputation and help you avoid making incriminating statements.

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Identity theft in Florida

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Florida ranked third in the U.S. for reported cases of identity theft. The crime of identity theft is usually a precursor to a larger fraudulent scheme. Identity theft occurs in several different ways. When someone has his or her purse or wallet stolen, the thief may gather the victim’s personal information from the stolen driver’s license, credit card, and bank cards. Other identity thieves search mailboxes and trash cans for unsuspecting victims’ bank statements and other personal documents that contain financial data.

Using an ATM that is located outside of a bank can be risky because illegal tampering occurs. Identity theft rings install skimmers onto unmonitored card readers. When a customer swipes his or her card, the skimmer collects the cardholder’s personal data and stores it to later be retrieved by the theft ring.

Phishing is a common method of deceiving bank customers into providing their account number, password, or other information. Fraudsters create fake bank websites that appear to be authentic. Potential victims receive an email from the fraudsters that resembles an email from the bank and requests the victim to click a link to log into the fake website. The website collects the victim’s financial data when he or she attempts to log in his or her online account.

After stealing someone’s identity, the next step is usually to open credit cards and other accounts in the victim’s name for the purpose of making fraudulent transactions. Some identity theft rings sell the victims’ financial information to others who want to use stolen financial cards to make purchases.

Identity theft cases are complex and have many moving parts. Rarely do people who engage in identity theft work alone. In some cases, a friend, a family member, or anyone else who unknowingly receives the proceeds of someone else’s identity theft scheme may be charged as if he or she intentionally participated in the crime. Joffe Law represents defendants in complex South Beach identity theft cases.

SOUTH BEACH TAX EVASION DEFENSE ATTORNEY

South Florida is home to numerous high-income communities. High-income individuals often use tax avoidance strategies to reduce their tax liability. Tax avoidance is a legal practice that is encouraged by many accountants. However, tax evasion is a crime. An individual may be charged with tax evasion in South Beach if he or she:

  • fails to file a tax return
  • filing a tax return that contains false information
  • intentionally failing to collect payroll withholding tax
  • fails to pay state sales tax

Depending on the facts of a case, tax evasion can be both a federal and state offense. Similar to Florida’s scheme to defraud statute, under state law, tax evasion is a third degree felony if the case involves between $300 and $20,000. If a case involves more than $20,000 up to $100,000, the individual may be charged with a second degree felony, the maximum sentence increases to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Cases that involve more than $100,000 are first degree felony cases. If convicted, a defendant may be sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of up to $10,000.

Florida cybercrime cases

“Cybercrime” is a general term that refers to any criminal act that occurs over the Internet or by using the Internet. Because the Internet offers the cloak of anonymity, cybercrimes can be more difficult to investigate and prosecute. Examples of cybercrimes include:

Computer intrusion is a general term that describes the act of illegally hacking into personal computers, cell phones, and other digital devices. Specific types of computer intrusion include:

  • computer fraud (computer hacking)
  • access device fraud
  • communications interception
  • communication interference
  • unlawful access to stored communications
  • recording of dialing, routing, addressing, and signaling information

Access device fraud and computer fraud are the most common cybercrimes in the U.S. Access fraud occurs when an individual knowingly and intentionally uses an access device to engage in an act of deception for financial gain or to cause someone to suffer a loss. An access device is any item, such as a card, code, account number, ID number, or other equipment or identifier people can use to obtain money, goods, services, or anything else of value.

Computer fraud, or hacking, occurs when someone accesses someone else’s computer or device without authorization to illegally obtain something of value. Accessing a device beyond the authorized level of access granted with the intent to illegally obtain something of value is also computer fraud. The federal computer fraud statute specifically prohibits hacking into a device to illegally obtain:

  • financial records from a financial institution
  • consumer data from a consumer reporting agency
  • information from a federal agency
  • information from any protected computer

Florida’s legislature enacted the Florida Computer Crimes Act in 1978 to prosecute crimes that involve computers and other electronic devices. Although the act was passed in the 1970s, regular updates have kept the piece of legislation in line with modern technological advancements. Similar to the federal law, Florida’s cybercrimes law prohibits the act of accessing an electronic device without authorization to commit any crime. Unlike the federal statute, Florida’s cybercrimes act also makes it illegal to alter, delete, destroy, or damage any computer, data, software, or program without authorization. If convicted under Florida law, a defendant may be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison and fined a maximum of $10,000 per count. Florida’s cybercrimes law also addresses:

  • computer-related theft
  • denial of service attacks
  • dissemination of malware
  • cyberstalking and cyberbullying

Racketeering (RICO) under Florida law

Similar to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970, which the federal government uses to prosecute federal racketeering cases, Florida’s RICO ACT addresses state level racketeering offenses. A unique feature in Florida’s RICO ACT is the state law allows prosecutors to charge entire criminal enterprises at once. The state RICO law encompasses a very robust section that includes most criminal offenses in the list of crimes that qualify as “racketeering activity.”

An individual may be charged under Florida’s RICO statute if he or she participates in a criminal enterprise and commits at least two criminal acts that qualify as racketeering activities. State law requires both acts to have taken place within five years, which is the statute of limitations. The criminal acts must also be related to the criminal enterprise.

Florida’s law against financial abuse of the elderly and disabled

In response to the state’s high rate of white collar crimes that target vulnerable populations, Florida’s legislature enacted a law that specifically prohibits the exploitation of seniors and people who have one or more disabilities. State law defines exploitation of a vulnerable adult as taking advantage of the adult for personal gain. Common examples of exploitation of a senior or disabled adult include:

  • cashing checks without permission
  • stealing money
  • stealing property
  • inducing the victim to sign over money or property
  • abusing power of attorney
  • stealing the victim’s identity

Florida law defines a senior as someone who is 60 years of age or older. A disabled adult is defined as someone who has a mental, physical, or emotional disability that affects the adult’s ability to care for him- or herself and maintain his or her property.

Exploitation of a vulnerable adult is a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. If the defendant obtains property valued at $50,000 or more, the offense is a first degree felony, which has a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison. The sentence may be enhanced to a second degree felony under the following circumstances:

  • the victim is 60 years of age or older
  • the victim has advanced Alzheimer’s or dementia
  • the victim has certain mental or physical disabilities that impair the victim’s ability to care for him-herself

In addition to ordering a defendant who is convicted for financially exploiting a vulnerable adult, a Florida criminal court may also order the defendant to pay restitution to compensate the victim for his or her financial losses. The court determines the amount the defendant must pay for restitution.

White collar crimes attorney in South Beach

David Joffe is South Florida’s trusted defense lawyer for white collar crimes cases. Our dedicated team believes in defending the constitutional rights of the accused. We will work diligently to build the strongest case for your defense. Contact Joffe Law, P.A. if you have been accused of a white collar offense in South Beach. A member of our team will conduct a case evaluation.

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