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Articles Posted in Federal Crimes

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What is a Grand Jury?
The purpose of the grand jury is to determine whether or not there is probable cause to believe that any federal felony has been committed. A typical federal grand jury consists of between 16-23 citizens drawn from the community. 
The jurors meet in a closed courtroom, with no judge, no accused, no press, and no lawyer but the prosecutor present. This means your lawyer will NOT be present in the closed court room.  The grand jurors decide whether or not to indict a person or persons by listening to witnesses and evaluating evidence obtained by grand jury subpoenas. At least 12 grand jurors must find that there is sufficient probable cause in order to return a True Bill,  which when signed by the prosecutor becomes the indictment: the formal criminal charge that the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. If the grand jury does not find sufficient probable cause, which almost never occurs, then it returns a No Bill.

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Health Care Qui Tam cases

What does Qui Tam mean? 

Qui tam is short for the Latin phrase “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur,” which roughly translates to “he who brings an action for the king as well as for himself.”  

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When the PPP program was first created, it was meant to assist business left struggling by the Covid-19 pandemic.  One of the key provisions of the program, was that the Small Business Administration (SBA) would guarantee the loan which meant that borrowers could secure loans more easily.  As mentioned in a previous blog, the government in the spring of 2020 started to go after the most egregious and problematic PPP loan applications and payments and really ramped up prosecutions.

But now, the DOJ, IRS, SEC etc are shifting their focus to more complex investigations.  We have clients where the government is scrutinizing every aspect of the loan application such as 

-was the box checked stating that you only had one entity

The Department of Justice just announced that U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland created COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to enhance enforcement efforts against COVID-19 related fraud.

Cases have included:

  • Offers to purchase COVID-19 vaccination cards

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The IRS has just announced that Operation Hidden Treasure will seek to find taxpayers with unreported income from currency transactions.  Did you notice the new question on page 1 of the Tax Form 1040?  It states, “At any time during 2020 did you receive any financial interest in virtual currency?”  Last year this question was only on Schedule 1.

The IRS Criminal Investigation Division (“CID”) will look for typical “flags” in money transactions.  That may include “structuring” (transactions in increments of less than $10,000 to avoid reporting requirements), “the use of nominees, shell corps” (entities used solely for moving money around) or “getting on and off the chain.” (On chain transactions – blockchain is modified to reflect the transaction on a public ledger. Off chain transactions are those that that go off the blockchain.  They work by swapping private keys to an existing wallet instead of transferring funds.)

The IRS identifies and investigates these tax evasion flags.  Operation Hidden Treasure is “all about finding, tracing, and attributing crypto to U.S. Taxpayers.” Do not be fooled into thinking that since it’s cryptocurrency the government does not have the know how to investigate.   Charges for tax evasion, false information on a tax return or even money laundering or structuring can be forthcoming.  Call Conaway & Strickler, PC if you have had a friendly visit from an IRS CID Agent or if you think you might be facing some issues with the IRS.  Carolyn Schenck, national fraud counsel in the IRS Office of Chief Counsel states, “Operation Hidden Treasure is designed to find, trace and attribute such transactions to taxpayers. These transactions are not anonymous.  We see you.”

Two Georgia men have been named in a recent so-called public corruption probe. The men face numerous charges for federal crimes related to technology sales to a county school system in 2012. The county school system receives federal funding, thus the men’s actions in question are considered to be federal offenses.

According to court records, an industry recruiter supposedly contacted a Bibb County school superintendent. The recruiter allegedly offered the former superintendent money to ensure his support of a local neighborhood program. Records show that the superintendent accepted the offer of money and indicated that he would support the program in question.

The former superintendent allegedly received numerous payments. However, the payments were apparently not reported on the man’s income tax returns. In addition, he supposedly reported deduction and business losses on his tax form that did not occur. The man has apparently agreed to work with authorities in a plea agreement.

Federal Crimes: Being tried in a federal court in Georgia is an obviously serious matter. The thought of facing federal criminal charges can be quite worrisome and stressful for those involved. There are several steps a person can take, however, to help alleviate stress and prepare a thorough defense.

Even before an arrest has taken place, a person under investigation may seek counsel from a criminal attorney. An experienced attorney may be able to offer advice in advance of any arrest or charges that may occur later. If charges have already been filed, an attorney can investigate the situation to determine whether any personal rights were violated in the process.

An experienced attorney knows how to approach even the most challenging situation to build a strong defense and combat any tactics or strategies employed by the prosecution. Protecting a client’s best interests and preserving his or her freedom as much as possible are priorities of a seasoned criminal defense attorney. A person facing potential time in prison if convicted has a lot at stake; it is logical to want to arm oneself with the best defense possible in such situations.

When federal agents storm a private residence, it is usually for serious reasons. In Georgia and elsewhere, federal crimes are typically prosecuted in a very aggressive manner. Therefore, any person who becomes suspect in a federal investigation, or charged with a crime, will want to prepare as strong a defense as possible should a later trial take place.

One married couple recently found themselves being escorted from their high-rise condominium by federal agents. Their condo was raided, and they were arrested on suspicion of bankruptcy fraud. The Federal Bureau of Investigation apparently conducted several other similar raids in the area, resulting in a total of eight arrests, including the man and his wife.

Authorities are now claiming that more than $3 million was bilked from the system in four separate cases of bankruptcy fraud. The married couple is accused of hiding and transferring assets before filing a Chapter 7 claim in 2010. The couple has three children, who have since been taken into the custody of the Department of Children and Families.

Being accused of a federal offense in Georgia or elsewhere certainly causes immediate and potentially long-lasting changes in one’s life. Depending on the length of an investigation and the various proceedings and meetings required as the case makes its way through the legal system, persons charged with federal crimes may spend quite a bit of time in court. Many people facing such charges choose to rely on experienced criminal defense attorneys to guide them through the process.

A recent case involved what federal authorities have identified as an apparent “food stamp trafficking” scheme. There seems to be a black market that involves buying food stamps and paying cash back to the seller on the dollar. Federal agents say that in the process of their investigation, they seized hundreds of thousands in cash, as well as a man’s home and a store he owned.

The 49-year-old man reportedly ran the fraud scheme by paying 60 cents on every dollar in food stamps that customers would sell to him. He is said to have profited around $6 million over a period of time. The man was recently tried and convicted in a federal court. 

Federal Crimes: The United States, until recently, left counterfeit issues to the civil arena. If the situation needed to be addressed criminally, the federal government left it up to the states. The Anti-Counterfeiting Act of 1984 was drafted to make it easier to bring criminal charges at the federal level.

In 1994, Congress added counterfeiting under 18-USC §2320 (c)(7)(D) to the list of violations that constitute “specified unlawful activity” under the money laundering statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1956. Thereforce, proceeds allegedly gained from trafficking in counterfeit goods can now form the basis of a money laundering charge. This effectively “beefed up” the government’s ability to prosecute these cases. Penalties for violations of § 1956 and § 1961 are substantially greater than for trafficking in counterfeit goods. A violation of § 1956 carries a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison and a fine of $500,000 or twice the amount involved in the transaction. There is also a civil penalty of up to $10,000 or the value of the funds involved in the transaction, whichever is greater. In 1996, § 1961 was amended to include § 2320 as a RICO “predicate offense”. Once again, this “beefed up” the government’s ability to prosecute these type of cases with much more severe penalties. A violation of RICO carries a maximum penalty that includes twenty years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to “twice the gross profits or other proceeds” of the racketeering activity. 18 U.S.C. § 1963. Long and short of this brief legislative history of counterfeiting laws in the US, is that a case is prosecuted much more punitively than a mere 30 years ago.

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