The U.S. Attorney’s office in the Middle District of Florida has linked improper police use of the Florida driver’s license database to IRS fraud. Apparently personal information of thousands of Floridians was compromised in an identity theft scheme to defraud that originated from the Tampa police department. A federal grand jury is now looking at possible indictments against members of the Tampa police department reportedly including a fired Tampa homicide detective who allegedly used information gleaned from homicide victims to perpetrate tax fraud and Identity theft.
For too long police officers have abused their access to personal information of citizens. It’s long been a problem in the Tampa Bay area. Recently a Sergeant with the Clearwater Police Department was found to have used the DAVID drivers license database to gain personal information about other officer’s wives. Officers have also been disciplined for misusing the information for personal benefit in many other ways.
Ultimately the problem is exasperated in that too many inessential officers have access to the database, this leads to casual use and abuse of the database. The database should be handled with the same care given to the property room where evidence of crimes is kept until needed for trial. Only officers who establish a need to be in the property room are granted entry. Logs are kept of time of entry and leaving with what was taken out. Video cameras record what officers do when in the property room.
If evidence in a cocaine case can be kept safe, so can our personal information. Officers should have to submit daily lists of what information was collected with justification for the need for the information to a superior. Any use without justification should result in an immediate investigation of the officer. If the police are unable to safely guard the personal information in their care, then the information should be taken from every law enforcement officer who has no special need for it and given only upon a showing of proper need to a judge.
Everyone can agree that any clear misuse of the database should result in firing. However, law enforcement officers who misuse the database should not be shielded from criminal prosecution.
Even savvy street smart Detectives were surprised when serving the warrant in search of drugs at a Tampa Bay hotel room.
|Norman Rockwell, Tax Time, 1945
Instead of the usual things your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer might expect like mountains of cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin enveloped in clouds of smoke, the Detectives found fifteen people sitting around tables furiously filling out fake tax refund forms.
Rather than tell the officers the complete truth after Miranda was read, “We’re playing a new game called Tax Crosswords…,” apparently the Taxters led the Detectives on a two year odyssey.
Tampa has long been the the epicenter of identity theft and tax refund fraud with Federal and Florida law enforcement doing their best to work as a team despite the stringent secrecy requirements for Federal tax information of citizens making investigations and prosecutions difficult. As reported in this excerpt by Bay News 9 three leaders of the alleged aggravated identity theft and tax fraud conspiracy may have taken as much as half a billion dollars, but even with that much money they never lost sight of their past acquaintances on Facebook nor forgot to apply for their food stamps and Medicaid:which in turn led to multiple grand jury indictments for which have been unsealed.
“She was known as the First Lady,” Maj. Ken Morman said. “That’s what she posted on Facebook.”
Detectives said the three were the kingpins of a ring of people that stole at least a half-billion dollars by filing fake tax returns.
Neighbors said they suspect something wasn’t right at the house.
“We suspected something wasn’t right because of the cameras and nice cars,” said neighbor Dora Hubley.
Twelve other people face charges as well, including one who police said had $23,000 in cash plus benefits cards for food stamps and Medicaid.
Police said it took two years to bring this tax fraud case to a close because of all the bureaucratic red tape. They announced Wednesday that they were forming an investigative alliance with the Internal Revenue Service and the Secret Service to speed these types of cases up in the future.
They better hope a judge doesn’t sentence them to a lifetime of doing taxes, something most of us avoid. If your Conspiracy to Commit Tax Fraud has endangered not only your future freedom but your ability to maintain government subsidies, call Clearwater Criminal Attorney but don’t expect any refunds and please bring plenty of cash.
Tampa Bay, Pinellas and Miami, Florida have become the epicenter of identity theft tax fraud with thieves stealing social security numbers, then using the information to file fake taxes and to take the tax refund in the form of an IRS credit card. Some argue that the IRS is at fault for making it all too easy to accomplish the crime by sending out immediate tax refunds as credit cards before doing any kind of factual or mathematical examination of the tax forms.
| Van Gogh, Postman Joseph Roulin, 1888
By the time the IRS gets around to verifying the validity of information the money is long gone and at least at this point sadly, I must report that not one dime of it has made it into the willing hands of your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney.
The only benefit appears to be that some violent criminals in Florida have traded their guns for laptops giving up doing violent crime for the lucrative, easier and safer pursuit of fake tax refunds fueled by furious acts of identity theft.
One wonders if it’d be easier just to pay criminals not to do violent crime? Happily, this experiment is moving forward with CBS more or less launching a national tutorial on how to conduct tax fraud identity theft crime and Forbes donning identity theft as a fun in the sun Florida vacation crime.
Yet the mournful NYT noted that postal workers have been beaten and one was even killed by Florida tax fraudsters who wanted the postal workers master pass key to gain access to the credit cards being sent to millions of folks across the country from the IRS, apparently to everyone in the United States who is not a Largo Criminal Defense Lawyer.
The Federal Appeals Court made a recent decision that helps protect your computer information even from a Federal Grand Jury subpoena based on good reason to suspect that your computer has been used for criminal activities. Although the case which is now the law in Pinellas, Clearwater and Tampa Bay involved computer crimes where the grand jury was told by law enforcement that child pornography was on a computer, the decision protects any encrypted information on a computer. If you’ve been charged with any computer crime, fraud or identity theft contact a Clearwater Criminal Law Attorney as soon as possible.
A computer could harbor significant information about crime other than specific computer crimes; for example, an accounting program used for a business under a fraud investigation or an analysis of drug sales for dealer or the office computer in a medical fraud case. The decision means that if a computer is successfully encrypted by the Defendant the Government can not gain password information thru a grand jury subpoena. Of course, the Government will still have the hard drive of the computer and can still have its experts attempt to break the encryption which if successful will be used at trial against a Defendant unless you hire a Computer Crime Criminal Lawyer.
This is a well thought through opinion on whether production and decryption constitutes “testimony,” and if so then is protected under the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (remember that yellowing old piece of paper up in Washington). The legal analysis clears an area of law that has at times appeared murky by finding that this testimony of a password can not be compelled from the Defendant.
My Computer is slow but sure…
|An abacus from China, The Ming Dynasty
The United States Sentencing Commission just finished an extensive study on the effects of Mandatory Minimum sentences in federal sentencing which it has just sent to the U.S. Congress.
You’ll find some excellent recommendations that Congress should immediately adopt such as reducing Mandatory Minimum sentences, giving Judges more discretion in sentencing, reducing Prosecutorial power, enlarging the safety valve for more than just first time offenders, making the guidelines fairer and reducing demographic and racial disparity in sentencing – all of which would provide your Federal Criminal Trial Attorney with some reason to believe that sentencing under the Federal Guidelines really could become fair and impartial.
Below is a brief summary from Amy Baron Evans (many thanks) of Chapter 12 (the Recommendations). You can access the entire study from the link below.
Drugs · “Commission analysis indicates that the quantity of drugs involved in an offense is not as closely related to the offender’s function in the offense as perhaps Congress expected.” “[O]ffenders who performed lower-level functions such as Couriers and Mules also were convicted of drug offenses carrying a mandatory minimum penalty in a significant proportion of their cases (49.6% and 43.1%, respectively). For every function, the quantity of drugs involved in the offense on average resulted in a median base offense level that included or exceeded the five-year mandatory minimum penalty.” But, USSC suggests, safety valve and role adjustments correct for the problem on average.
· Criminal history in drug cases – the “cumulative impacts”
of 851, the CH score, and the unavailability of safety valve relief “can result in disproportionate and excessively severe sentences in certain cases.”
FAMM – The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010
Stacking 924(c)s “results in excessively severe and unjust sentences in
some cases.” Average sent5ence was 351 months! “There are some circumstances where such a long sentence may be appropriate (e.g., in the eight cases in fiscal year 2010 in which the offender’s primary guideline was §2A1.1, which covers first degree murder), but there are other circumstances in which the offender received such a long sentence even though the offense did not involve any physical harm or threat of physical harm to a person.”
Mandatory Minimum Sentencing | Drug War Facts
ACCA: Applied inconsistently in part because whether an offense is a
“violent felony” or “serious drug offense” depends on the stat max in the convicting state (one year or 10 years, respectively). “As a result, the Armed Career Criminal Act’s mandatory minimum penalty can apply to offenders who served no or minimal terms of imprisonment for their predicate offenses, further increasing the potential for inconsistent application insofar as the penalty may be viewed as excessively severe in those cases.” Recommendations:
· Reduce the penalties for 924(c)s, especially stacked 924 (c)s
· Make 924(c) a true “recidivist” statute by limiting to prior convictions
· Give the court limited discretion to impose consecutive sentences for multiple 924(c)s as in 1028A
USSC will study further and make recommendations later, but “preliminary
review of the available sentencing data suggests that the mandatory minimum penalties for certain child pornography offenses and the resulting guidelines sentencing ranges may be excessively severe and as a result are being applied inconsistently.” The data is non-gov sponsored variances, gov-sponsored variances, and failure to charge the mand min in 53% of cases where it’s available.
Aggravated Identity Theft
USSC likes this better than other MMs because (1) the two-year consecutive
penalty is relatively short, (2) the court has discretion to impose sentences for multiple violations concurrently, (3) there is no stacking provision, and (4) it does not depend on CH or weapons, which creates demographic disparity under other MMs. There is inter-district disparity in the use of 1028A but this may be because it’s new, and in any event, the punishment is relatively short.
Safety valve in general
Congress should consider whether to enact safety valve for low-level,
non-violent offenders convicted of other offenses.
This recent painting depicts a beaming French Poodle who sits centre stage as the wise Judge at Court. That’s an adoring bailiff at the judge’s left paw staring at the Judge with appropriate admiration and respect. I’m the bright black Labrador to the Judge’s right with an Important Brief that I’ve dipped in beef broth in hopes of the Judge devouring my every word.
|Trial by Jury or Laying Down the Law by Sir Edwin Landseer, 1840
|The painting was inspired by a chance comment by an infamous Tampa Bay Judge, over dinner with the painter Sir Edwin Landseer, that the French poodle belonging to amateur artist and renowned socialite, the Count d’Orsay of Clearwater Beach, Florida “would make a capital Lord Chancellor (Chief Judge in England).”
The paper reports this morning that crime rates in Tampa Florida as in most of the rest of the nation drifted lower this year, something of a surprise to every Clearwater Criminal Attorneys as the number of Floridians who are incarcerated continues to rise. I’ll stop for a moment for any criminal defense attorneys, fond colleagues and friends, to wipe their eyes before they try to finish reading this sentence. There, there brighten up! It’s all in what you define as “serious crime.”
Governor Bush suggests that it was his policies of more jail cells and long term sentences that are the immediate cause of the fall of serious crime. But new studies show the truth that Florida’s prison and criminal justice system has failed to deter crime despite the use of cocaine going down in Florida as unlawful prescription fraud drug use rises, because Florida fails to do anything effective as Europe has with drug decriminalization.
And it is true that his effective leadership included the appointmant of the man who for years ran the brutal Florida prison system and who now faces Federal prison himself having just pled guilty to bribery in Federal Court. One might think that the Governor is correct, that it was his policies that forced down serious crime, if his policies in Florida might somehow have contributed to the fall in serious crime in places as far flung as New York City and San Francisco.
Yet our smiling Governor fails to note that “serious crime” is defined as violent crime and does not encompass the escalation of other very destructive crimes such as Identity Theft. Identity Theft is especially pernicious, bringing financial havoc and disorder while ruining the lives of those it touches.
Clearly the rate of serious crime falling in the United States is due to an aging population and a reasonably good economy. But it may also have something to do with the drug culture that has gone from crack cocaine and the robberies and burglaries that sustained cocaine use to the much more deliberative crimes caused by crystal methamphetamine users who often turn to nonviolent crimes such as Identity Theft, which has been defined as not serious by our government. Every crime is serious to the the family of those charged, if you’ve been charged with a serious crime call a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer to help defend you.