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8 USC Section 2423

Federal criminal law prohibits a wide range of activities relating to transporting people and/or traveling across state lines or internationally for the purpose of engaging in illegal sexual activity. Specifically, 18 U.S.C. § 2423 prohibits four types of activities and carries very severe penalties.

First, 18 U.S.C. § 2423 makes it a felony punishable by a minimum of 10 years in prison (and by as much as life in prison) to “knowingly transport[] an individual who has not attained the age of 18 years in interstate or foreign commerce… with intent that the individual engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense.” This provision obviously applies to those engaging in the human trafficking of underage prostitutes, and also potentially applies to an adult who drives or attempts to drive a minor across state lines so that he or she can have sex with that minor in another state. It could also apply to people who purchase bus or plane tickets for minors to travel into the U.S. or across state lines for the purpose of engaging in illegal sex.

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Recently, two Iranian citizens were arrested and indicted for allegedly smuggling items from America to Iran in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 USC 1701 (see press release here). That law grants the President of the United States the authority to deal with unusual threats to national security and permits the President to issue Executive Orders with respect to national security issues. Between 1995 and 1997, the President issued several orders making it illegal to export certain items to Iran without a license. See 31 CFR 560. It is thus a crime to violate these executive orders. 50 USC 1705.

The aforementioned Iranian citizens, Abolfazl Bazzazi and Mohammad Resa Bazzazi, allegedly arranged for shipments of items and technology to Iran from the United States. These items included technology which could purportedly serve military purposes. It is not clear from the indictment whether the defendants allegedly knew that their shipments were in contravention of U.S. law, though they are also charged with attempted smuggling in violation of 18 USC Section 554(a). This latter charge generally requires a showing that the items being smuggled were deliberately concealed or sent fraudulently.

The defendants currently face a possible maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The prosecution’s case may rely on suspicious informant testimony, or the cooperation of co-conspirators. The matter is nonviolent and may be resolved without significant jail time for the defendants, but the recent increases in tensions between the U.S. and Iran sparked by violence in the Middle East may prove to have serious negative consequences for these defendants.

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On Tuesday, federal prosecutors announced criminal charges against 70 current and former employees of the New York City Housing Authority for allegedly accepting bribes in exchange for work contracts. It purports to be the largest federal bribery prosecution in American history. The Southern District of New York’s press release is available here, and the complaints for the individual defendants are available here.

The gist of the crimes is that from time to time, construction or maintenance needs to be performed on buildings operated by the New York City Housing Authority (an agency which receives a tremendous amount of federal financing, notably). For large work projects, the NYCHA has to solicit multiple bids from various service providers. However, on smaller projects, there is a “no-bid” system by which an employee can simply choose the contractor that will do the work. This “no-bid” system appears to have given rise to a system of bribery, whereby contractors would simply pay the right NYCHA employee to win the work contract. It is remarkable that so many employees have been accused of this illegal conduct, and that the arrests all happened simultaneously. It is an impressively coordinated operation by law enforcement, to say the least.

Generally, the accused people are facing Conspiracy to Solicit and Receive a Bribe by Agent of Organization Receiving Federal Funds, which carries a five year maximum jail penalty. This applies to those NYCHA employees who agreed or discussed bribes in exchange for NYCHA funds. Some defendants are further accused of Soliciting and Receiving a Bribe by Agent of Organization Receiving Federal Funds, which carries a ten-year maximum jail penalty. Basically, the maximum penalty increases by five years for actually accepting the bribe. 18 USC 666(a)(1)(B). Some defendants are charged with Extortion Under Color of Official Right, a violation of the Hobbs Act under 18 USC 1951. That carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

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Recently, three men were indicted and arrested in New York City for allegedly working together to run an unlicensed money transmitting business servicing customers in the Middle East (specifically in Yemen, Turkey, Iraq, the UAE, and Jordan, among other places). Though many places in the Middle East have traditionally relied upon informal money transmitting systems known as hawala, this particular arrangement resulted in serious charges for Mohanad Al-Zubaidi, Shaker Saleh Mohammed Hauter, and Abdulkader Noori Hamza. They purportedly transmitted 65 million dollars for their clients over the years, typically keeping a few percent of each transaction for themselves as payment. Though hawala proponents might argue that this system is necessary in light of the shortcomings of the banking systems in the Middle East, it unfortunately also presents problems for American efforts to prevent the laundering of illegal proceeds from the United States, as there is no monitoring of these transactions. Money transmittal businesses can be operated legally with the proper licenses and registration, but obviously some operators prefer not to be openly registered or licensed for a variety of reasons. Each of these defendants now faces up to five years in prison for running this unregulated money transmittal business, in violation of 18 USC 1960. Notably, Mr. Al-Zubaidi also faces up to thirty years in prison for alleged bank fraud, for purportedly creating bank accounts in the names of fictitious “shell” corporations, in violation of 18 USC 1344. The government will also likely seek to impose huge financial penalties on these defendants, and to disgorge any and all profits they may have earned; indeed, they make seek to hold the transmitters responsible for the amount of money they illegal transmitted. A copy of the indictment is available here.

There are a variety of possible defenses in this case, most of which will depend upon the particular role that each individual is alleged to have played, and what if any knowledge they had of the overall scheme.

Matthew Galluzzo is an experienced federal criminal defense attorney. He has successfully represented individuals accused of operating unlicensed money transmittal businesses with connections to the Middle East. For many years, he has been one of the go-to criminal defense attorneys for the Consulate General of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and has represented over sixty of their citizens in criminal cases across the United States. He practices primarily in federal court.

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Every day, dozens of people in Manhattan are arrested for allegedly shoplifting at major department stores, such as Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Sak’s and Nordstrom. Security guards at these stores are oftentimes mistaken in their assessments and rough in their handling of suspects. As such, the experience of being apprehended by store security guards and accused of shoplifting can be jarring and traumatic. Typically, suspects are brought to a private room in the department store and interrogated by security guards. Then, they are forced to sign a trespass notice acknowledging that they are no longer welcome in the store (a warning that they could be arrested for trespassing should they ever return). Afterwards, police arrive and place the suspect in handcuffs and typically take them back to their precinct, fingerprint them, put them in a holding cell for a few hours, and then issue a Desk Appearance Ticket to the suspect and release the suspect. They are typically charged with a violation of Penal Law Section 155.25, Petit Larceny, a Class A misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

A person who receives a Desk Appearance Ticket has in fact been arrested. The Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) instructs the arrested person to appear in court on a future date for the arraignment, or first appearance in court. Usually these arraignment dates are anywhere from two to six weeks later. This at least gives the person some time to choose a good attorney to accompany them to court.

These cases can present numerous problems for people with particular backgrounds. For example, many of the people who receive these sorts of DATs are tourists from out of town or even out of the country. Returning back to New York for a court appearance can be difficult if not impossible for such people. Matthew Galluzzo routinely makes arrangements for out-of-town clients to appear virtually or via affidavit in these matters, and can possibly assist you if that is an issue.

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Famous Hollywood actor Jonathan Majors was convicted today by a Manhattan jury of having previously assaulted his ex-girlfriend, Grace Jabbari, following almost two days of jury deliberations. Specifically, the jury concluded that Mr. Majors was guilty of reckless assault in violation of New York Penal Law Section 120.00 (Assault in the Third Degree, a Class A misdemeanor) and harassment in violation of Penal Law Section 240.26 (Harassment in the Second Degree). The first charge is a crime under N.Y. state law (the second is not – it is classified as a non-criminal offense) and carries with it a maximum penalty of one year in jail. The more serious charge – Assault in the Third Degree – stems from Mr. Majors allegedly causing substantial physical pain or a physical injury to Ms. Jabbari, and doing so recklessly, though not deliberately or intentionally.

The trial judge will now be responsible for sentencing Mr. Majors. The defense lawyers may ask that the trial court overturn the jury’s verdict, but those sorts of motions are rarely granted. Instead, the defense lawyers will need to concern themselves for now with persuading the judge to impose a non-jail sentence. The court could sentence Mr. Majors for as much as one year in jail, which he would have to serve at the notorious prison on Rikers Island. However, the court could instead impose a sentence of up to three years’ probation (which would restrict his ability to travel, even for work), or other conditions like anger management or counseling. The defense attorneys will likely propose some sort of counseling program with community service and beg the court to not sentence him to probation so that he can travel to filming locations without interruption or complication. Obviously, this conviction may ruin his Hollywood career, as certain projects have already been put on hold or suspended as producers awaited the outcome of this trial.

If one had to predict, one would not expect the court to impose a jail sentence in a reckless assault case. First, Mr. Majors has no criminal history, which tends to militate strongly against jail sentences in relatively minor cases. Furthermore, the injuries sustained by Mr. Jabbari appeared to be relatively minor on the spectrum of assault cases; certainly, many assault trials involve much more serious injuries resulting in hospitalizations and/or permanent disabilities. Mr. Majors is a prominent person and the court might want to make an example of him, but he is also potentially able to do something positive for the community, as well. So, I would predict some sort of combination of anger management and community service, along with an order of protection in favor of Ms. Jabbari. The big question really is whether Mr. Majors will be sentenced to a period of probation, which would be a huge hindrance for his career.

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Thousands of domestic and international travelers pass through John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City every day. It should be unsurprising, then, that every day, Port Authority Police officers arrest a few travelers and give them Desk Appearance Tickets. A Desk Appearance Ticket is a summons given to a person who has been arrested for a criminal offense, and it directs them to appear before a judge in criminal court at a later date. Desk Appearance Tickets are usually reserved for misdemeanor offenses and for those individuals without significant criminal records in the United States.

Common Desk Appearance Tickets from JFK Airport include 1) shoplifting offenses (Petit Larceny – PL 155.25, a Class A misdemeanor) at the JFK retail shops or duty-free stores, 2) misdemeanor possession of controlled substances (PL 220.03), 3) misdemeanor possession of a weapon, such as a knife or collapsable baton or brass knuckles (PL 265.01), 4) theft of services, such as failing to pay a bar or restaurant tab (PL 165.15), and 5) assault (PL 120.00, a Class A misdemeanor). However, there are many other possible offenses at JFK Airport that could result in Desk Appearance Tickets.

A Desk Appearance Ticket is the same thing as a criminal arrest and a conviction for a misdemeanor can give you a permanent and public criminal record. It can also potentially result in jail time, probation, fines, loss of employment, loss of immigration status, and loss of licensure, depending on the circumstances. These DATs must be taken seriously, as should any criminal arrest. Matthew Galluzzo has successfully helped over 100 clients earn dismissals in cases involving Desk Appearance Tickets, and has specifically helped over a dozen clients with charges stemming from JFK Airport.

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On November 14, 2023, French footballer Aurélien Michel appeared in federal court before the United States Magistrate Judge Vera M. Scanlon and pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud.

Aurélien Michel was initially arrested on January 4, 2023, as he passed through JFK airport. He was immediately taken into custody and brought before a federal judge in Brooklyn, where he was arraigned on a complaint charging him with being the orchestrator of a scheme involving NFT fraud. He posted bail on February 1, 2023 and has been at liberty in the U.S. since that time.

Eight months later, Aurélien Michel pleaded guilty and acknowledged his role in the NFT fraud scheme. Notably, however, the prosecutors only required him to plead guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud[1], meaning that some of the most serious potential charges were dropped.

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Matthew Galluzzo has once again been recognized as one of the top criminal defense lawyers in the New York metropolitan area. Every year, Super Lawyers, a publication compiled by Thomson Reuters, receives nominations from lawyers in the community and then ranks those nominees based upon peer evaluations and a dozen objective categories. Only 5% of nominees ultimately are awarded the designation of “Super Lawyer”. Matthew Galluzzo has been a mainstay of the list for criminal defense since 2019.

If you or a loved one have been arrested or are being investigated for a criminal offense, you should strongly consider contacting the Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo. Mr. Galluzzo has been consistently recognized by his peers as a leading advocate for criminal defendants, and he maintains a perfect client rating on Avvo.com. Even foreign governments have recognized his ethics and expertise, including the nation of France, which recently knighted him and bestowed upon him the title of Chevalier in the National Order of Merit in recognition of his exceptional work in representing and defending French citizens.

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On September 22, following an investigation conducted since 2018 by the FBI, Republican Senator Bob Menendez and his wife Nadine Menendez were charged with federal bribery offenses.

According to the indictment filed in the Southern District of New York, Bob and Nadine Menendez were bribed by three Egyptian businessmen: Will Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes. The latter allegedly offered the couple several hundred thousand dollars in exchange for economic protection of their interests.

A years-long bribery scheme between the co-defendants allegedly led the senator heading the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to use his influence to promote arms exports to Egypt in exchange for bribes that benefited him directly and indirectly through his wife.

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