April 19, 2008
Former Newark Mayor Convicted
The former major of Newark, Sharpe James, was convicted following a jury trial. A press release of the US Attorney's Office in New Jersey tells of his conviction on corruption-related charges. It notes that "James remains under indictment on another set of chages related to his alleged fraudulant use of city credit cards.
See also NYTimes here.
April 18, 2008
In the News
The Sentinel Online (AP) - Judge Warns Wecht Attorneys About Setting Media "Firestorm"
Phillyburbs.com - House Committee Asks for Documents Related to Wecht Case
ABA Journal News - FBI Expects Massive Rise in Mortgage Fraud Cases
April 17, 2008
White Collar Crime Program - May 8th
The Federal Bar Association (Tampa Bay), ABA, and Stetson University College of Law are sponsoring a White Collar Crime Institute on Thursday, May 8, 2008 at Stetson's Tampa Law Center. To registrar and to receive more information see here - Download wci_flyer.pdf
Highlights of the program include:
- U.S. v. You - Ethically Representing Your Client Without Becoming One
- Sentencing Guidelines - Recent Developments
- Indemnification - Who Pays for an Individual's Representation?
- The Ethics of Advising the Corporation on Internal Investigations - Does Attorney/Client Privilege Matter?
- Representing the Individual in the World of Corporate Cooperation
- Sentencing and Beyond
- Legal Ethics - A View from the Bench
The keynote luncheon speaker is Hank W. Asbill. Others scheduled to speak include:
- Brian Albritton, Holland & Knight LLP
- John Badalamenti, Office of the Federal Defender, Middle District of Florida
- Amy Baron-Evans, Sentencing Resource Counsel, Federal Public Defender Office
- Rachelle D. Bedke, U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida
- John Bencivenga, PMSI
- Hon. Susan C. Bucklew, District Judge, Middle District of Florida
- Steven E. Chaykin, Akerman Senterfitt
- Hon. Anne C. Conway, District Judge, Middle District of Florida
- Patrick Doherty, Brown & Doherty, Attorneys at Law Magistrate Judge, Middle District of Florida
- Donna L. Elm, Assistant Federal Public Defender
- Hon. Patricia C. Fawsett, Chief District Judge, Middle District of Florida
- James E. Felman, Kynes, Markman & Felman, P.A.
- John M. Fitzgibbons, Law Office of John Fitzgibbons
- Lee Fugate, Zuckerman Spaeder LLP
- Peter E. George, George & Titus, P.A.
- Robert S. Griscti, Law Firm of Robert S. Griscti, P.A.
- Mark L. Horwitz, Law Offices of Mark L. Horwitz, P.A.
- William F. Jung, Jung & Sisco, P.A.
- L.T. Lafferty, Fowler White Boggs Banker, P.A.
- John F. Lauro, Lauro Law Firm
- Hon. Richard A. Lazzara, District Judge, Middle District of Florida
- Charles B. Lembcke, Charles B. Lembcke, P.A.
- Hon. Thomas B. McCoun III, Magistrate Judge, Middle District of Florida
- Robert Mosakowski, U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida
- Jane W. Moscowitz, Moscowitz & Moscowitz, P.A.
- Kevin J. Napper, Carlton Fields, P.A.
- Robert E. O'Neill, U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida
- Edward J. Page, Carlton Fields, P.A.
- Paul I. Perez, Fidelity National Financial, Inc.
- Ellen S. Podgor, Stetson University College of Law
- Linda F. Ramirez, Linda Friedman Ramirez, P.A.
- Adam P. Schwartz, Carlton Fields, P.A.
- Hon. Mary S. Scriven,
- Elaine Terenzi, Chief, U.S. Probation Office, Middle District of Florida
- Gary R. Trombley, Trombley & Hanes
- Morris "Sandy" Weinberg, Zuckerman Spaeder LLP
- David T. Weisbrod, Attorney at Law
April 15, 2008
Another Long Sentence for a White Collar - But This Time With A Plea
This time it is 20 years for a white collar offender. But unlike Bernie Ebbers who received 25 years, Jeffrey Skilling who was given 24 years, and the Rigas sentences of 20 and 15 years - the accused - Samuel Israel III - plead guilty.
In the past the exorbitant sentences have been given for the most part to individuals who risked trial. We have seen individuals who enter pleas receiving lower sentences, like six years (Fastow) in return for testimony.
But what happens when you have no one to testify against and when the amount of loss is high? The co-founder of the defunct hedge fund Bayou Group found out that the reduction for a plea brought it to a sentence of 20 years.
See also my article, The Challenge of White Collar Sentencing
Howard M. Shapiro and David Z. Seide of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr have an important commentary piece on Stringer in Legal Times. One can access it here via the site's free registration. They provide an important piece of advice to defense counsel - "Defense counsel should keep pushing for a detailed record of communications and interaction between civil and criminal agencies because prosecutors and civil enforcement attorneys will continue to risk crossing the line every time they coordinate their investigations."
Memorial for Stanton Wheeler
Susan Shapiro, Senior Research Fellow, American Bar Foundation writes:
At the upcoming Law & Society Association meeting, we will be honoring the memory of Stanton Wheeler, one of the founders of the Association and a mentor and friend to many of us, who passed away in December.
As part of our remembrance, we will be assembling a family tree, recording those whose lives were touched by Stan. If you feel part of that extended family, please contact Susan Shapiro at firstname.lastname@example.org . Please respond by April 21.
The family tree will be on display at the Law & Society meeting in Montreal and then given to his family. On Friday, May 30, 2008 from 4:30-6:15, there will be a roundtable remembrance panel at the meeting to honor Stan. In addition to the official commentators, those in attendance will have an opportunity to offer their memories (time permitting). For details contact Susan Shapiro.
To learn more about Professor Stanton Wheeler, see here.
Government Asks for 36 Months for Snipes
The government filed its sentencing brief (see here - Download usa_sentencing_memo_re_snipes.pdf ) in anticipation of the forthcoming Wesley Snipes sentencing hearing set for April 24, 2008. The brief calls for the court to impose a sentence of "36 months’ imprisonment and a fine of at least $5 million." It also requests the court to deny bail pending appeal. See Professor Doug Berman's Sentencing Law & Policy for his comments on this brief.
(esp) (w/ a thanks to Whitney Curtis)
The Wecht Case - Should There Be A Retrial?
Cyril Wecht's possible retrial is receiving close scrutiny, as it should. The 77 year old gentleman's trial went for 7 weeks, had hundreds of exhibits, and the government presented 44 witnesses. It probably cost the taxpayers a pretty penny to try this case, and most certainly the defense tab was likely to have been high. As I stated here:
"The case is a relatively simple one. The government charges corruption with expansive statutes like wire fraud and honest services fraud under section 1346. They take each fax and make it into separate counts, even when the faxes were sent the same day. The Indictment makes one wonder what a case like this is doing in federal court, except for the fact that the accused is charged with activities while in his role as a county coroner."
See Indictment. It seemed like the government was throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping something would stick.
But the jury was not as hungry as the prosecution hoped. And despite many days of deliberation, it was hung. A press report states that it was a hung with a majority in favor of acquittal (see here).
The happenings since the jury was dismissed have been disappointing. It seems the FBI has engaged in post-trial conduct that includes contact with jurors. (see here) There is question about the source of the names and contact information of the jurors, especially in light of a prior court order (see here) One can't help but wonder here if the tables were reversed and the defense were engaged in such conduct if the FBI would tolerate this conduct.
The defense has filed a new motion, premised on double jeopardy. Argued is whether Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure, Rule 26.3 was violated in how the court determined it was a hung jury and whether there was "manifest necessity" for a mistrial. (See Defendant's Brief in Support of his Motion to Dismiss the Indictment and to Preclude the Government From Further Prosecution in Violation of the Prohibition Against Double Jeopardy) - Download double_jeopardy_brief.pdf Interesting commentary on this motion is offered by Professor Robert Weisberg in this comprehensive article by Jonathan Silver of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
But more important questions remain here. First, is this case important enough to expend tax dollars on a retrial? Has the accused, irrespective of guilt or innocence, been sufficiently punished by the physical, emotional, and actual cost of this long first trial? Second is DOJ's criminal division providing sufficient oversight here or are they leaving this decision to an individual US Attorney's Office? Third is someone scrutinizing the post-trial government conduct?
April 14, 2008
AG Cuomo Looking at Lawyers and Law Firms in School District Probe
A press release of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office states:
"Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced today that his Office has issued multiple subpoenas to lawyers and law firms in upstate counties as part of his rapidly expanding probe into potentially fraudulent employment arrangements between public school systems and lawyers.
Investigators from the Attorney General’s Office have thus far identified more than 90 attorneys (more than 70 upstate and 20 in Long Island) who may have been improperly placed on public school system payrolls in connection with more than 180 school districts statewide (more than 150 upstate and 30 in Long Island). Calling these lawyers “employees” enabled them to collect taxpayer-funded health, pension, and other benefits not otherwise available for professional consultants."
But Do You Really Want BigLaw?
For those exiting law school and thinking of a career in white collar crime, the question always is - where to go. One place to try for is the Department of Justice. The Honors Program offers one highly competitive route. But there are also many agencies that provide avenues for a career in white collar crime. For example, the FBI here (check our their summer internship program here) investigates many white collar activities. State prosecutors in some cases are starting white collar sections to handle cases like consumer fraud type matters. And of course there is the Attorney General's Office - just ask New York AG Andrew Cuomo what he is doing (see here).
Another route - the law firms. There are many small criminal defense firms throughout the country that specialize in white collar crime. There are also firms that handle many different types of matters and also take some white collar cases. Finally there are large firms with groups that handle "special matters" or white collar crime.
Don't forget the corporate avenue, in that many corporations are needing to deal with compliance programs and making certain that the corporation is not charged with any criminal offenses.
Some may prefer to take the route of BigLaw, but it is important to note that this is not the only route to handling white collar crime matters. The National Law Journal posts today a listing of where students go from different law schools. But although the article places BigLaw in the first slot of its table, one shouldn't always think of this route as the only way to enter the white collar crime law arena.
Obviously, the one way you most definitely want to avoid in entering the world of white collar crime is as the criminal defendant.
April 13, 2008
Hillary Takes on White Collar Crime
Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton has presented a tough on crime posture in framing issues in her campaign. Her latest statement discussed white collar crime. Reporting on Clinton's latest statement, NBC/NJs Anetha Jones writes -
"white-collar crime cost people their pensions and their jobs and contributed to the economic woes communities face. As president, she would pledge to pursue corporate criminals like street criminals, directing her attorney general to conduct a 90-day review of all deferred prosecution agreements and report on how to strengthen prosecution efforts against corporate wrongdoers."
ABC - KPRG- TV9 states
"She promised to pursue white collar crime as well, placing an emphasis on identity theft and prescription drugs purchases made over the Internet..."
It is interesting that two important issues related to white collar crime are singled out here - computer related offenses (identity theft) and corporate deferred prosecution issues.
In the News
U.S. Attorney's Office - Oregon, Press Release - Former Director of Accounting Services at Oregon Department of Education Admits Stealing $925,000 Government Investigators Recover $750,000
Jason, Cato, Pittsburgh Tribune Review - Legal fees to cost Wecht millions
Philly.com (AP) - Judge Sets Jury Selection for Second Wecht Trial
Ralph R. Reiland, Columnist, Pittsburgh Tribune Review - The Real Theft & Fraud (discussing the Wecht trial)
Tax Cases Are "In" This Week
With April 15th just around the corner, it is not surprising to see DOJ filing an increased number of tax cases. This increased prosecution, right before the tax deadline, is like an advertisement that deterrence is the government's aim. The following is a sampling of some of the recent tax cases:
DOJ Press Release - Federal Court Bars Oregon Family and Associate From Promoting Tax Fraud Scheme
DOJ Press Release - Federal Permanently Court Bars Michigan Man from Preparing Tax Returns
DOJ Press Release - Federal Court Bars Hialeah, Florida Woman From Preparing Tax Returns for Others
DOJ Press Release Fresno Man Barred From Promoting Tax Scheme
And in addition, there is a new initiative starting -
18th Annual National Institute on Health Care Fraud here
Strafford - Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in India here
Civil False Claims Act & Qui Tam Enforcment - Washington, D.C. - June 11-13 here