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Platinum selling rap artist Fetty Wap (real name Willie Junior Maxwell II) was arrested and arraigned on October 29 pursuant to a federal indictment charging him and five other men with Conspiracy to Distribute Narcotics (the other five men were also charged with Use of Firearms in Connection with a Drug Crime). The charges are incredibly serious and Fetty Wap faces very significant jail time.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the rapper and five other men trafficked in significant quantities of heroin, cocaine, and the especially-dangerous drug, fentanyl. The defendants (including Anthony Leonardi, Robert Leonardi, Brian Sullivan, Anthony Syntje, and Kavaughn Wiggins) have all been arrested and detained pending trial. Prosecutors claim to have recovered at least 16 kilograms of cocaine, 2 kilograms of heroin, and fentanyl, though it is certain that they will allege that the group is responsible for far more than that. Indeed, the press release describes the amount of drugs trafficked by the crew as “massive”.

Fetty Wap is unlikely to be released on bail pending trial, though it may be possible given his likely financial resources. However, in federal narcotics cases of this size and scale, the presumption for judges is that a defendant should be detained pending trial. Fetty Wap would have to convincingly demonstrate that he does not pose a risk to the public, and that he would not flee if released on bond. Given his resources (and possible ability to live abroad), the amount of prison time that he is potentially facing, the fact that his codefendants are indicted for using firearms, and the fact that he allegedly trafficked in fentanyl, which is notorious for causing fatal overdoses, it seems unlikely that he will be bailed out pending trial.

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It was recently announced by the New York Attorney General’s Office that disgraced former New York governor Andrew Cuomo would be criminally prosecuted for an alleged groping of a female staffer at the governor’s mansion in Albany. 

Specifically, Cuomo will be charged with one count of Forcible Touching, in violation of Penal Law Section 130.52.* That code makes it a class A misdemeanor to intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose:

1. forcibly touch the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person, or for the purpose of gratifying the actor’s sexual desire;  or
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Today, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut announced the arrest of Democratic State Representative Michael DiMassa for allegedly defrauding over $600,000 from the city of West Haven. The federal wire fraud charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

According to a press release from the prosecutor, Mr. DiMassa supposedly formed an LLC with another person and used that LLC to bill the City of West Haven for consulting services that were not in fact provided. Allegedly, Mr. DiMassa made withdrawals from the LLC at about the same time he made large chip purchases at Mohegan Sun casino. One might suspect the government to argue that Mr. DiMassa’s fraud was the result of a gambling addiction.

Of course, nothing has been proven as of yet. But if Mr. DiMassa is in fact convicted of wire fraud for allegedly stealing $600,000, he is likely looking at a Federal Sentencing Guidelines range of between 33 and 57 months. In federal cases, crimes have minimum and maximum penalties, but judges use an advisory system called the Federal Sentencing Guidelines to narrow down the sentencing range. Those guidelines give defendants and attorneys an idea of what to expect at sentencing, but are nevertheless just approximations. This table provides the guidance.

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Today, New York-area.news outlets reported that an Instagram model with about 34,000 followers, Genie Exum, had been arrested and was awaiting arraignment in Manhattan on felony charges. Allegedly, she stabbed her boyfriend (ex-boyfriend) numerous times during an argument. The author of this post, Matthew Galluzzo, is a former supervising attorney in the domestic violence unit at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and has defended dozens of people charged with felony domestic violence. This is his analysis of what might happen to Ms. Exum and her case, and why.

Ms. Exum is being charged with one count of Assault in the Second Degree, a class D violent felony in violation of New York Penal Law Section 120.05. A person is guilty of it when they intentionally cause injury to another person by means of a weapon or dangerous instrument. Stabbing someone definitely qualifies (indeed, if the injuries were more serious, she would be looking at Assault in the First Degree). This the appropriate charge here.

At arraignments, the judge will issue an order of protection in favor of the victim of the stabbing (i.e. Ms. Exum’s boyfriend/ex-boyfriend), precluding her from having any contact with him whatsoever. She cannot contact him electronically, through social media, in person, or through third parties (some judges even go so far as to say that you cannot like the other person’s social media postings). Even if Ms. Exum’s boyfriend forgives her and tries to call her, for example, she cannot speak with him or communicate with him without violating the order of protection and risking a re-arrest by the police. The order is not the victim’s to apply as he sees fit – it is issued by the court and must be obeyed. These sorts of orders are particularly complicated when the parties lived together, as the criminal defendant simply has to vacate and find somewhere else to sleep.

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Yesterday, the Department of Justice announced that its U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan (Southern District of New York) had filed an indictment charging 18 former NBA players and 1 of their spouses with federal crimes relating to the defrauding of the NBA players’ association HRA (health reimbursement account). In short, the alleged mastermind of the crime, Terrence Williams, allegedly recruited former players into his scheme. They allegedly created fake invoices for chiropractic, medical, and dental services that they did not in fact receive, and then submitted those invoices to the HRA for reimbursement for those phony services.  The defendants are charged with violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1341 (wire fraud) and 18 U.S.C. § 1347 (health care fraud), and Terrence Williams also faces a charge of identity theft for bizarrely impersonating a health care plan administrator to try to shake down another player for his kickbacks under the scheme.

Of course some of these players may in fact be innocent. But you can expect the government’s case to be strong here. The prosecutors will probably be able to demonstrate that the medical/dental/chiropractic services detailed in these invoices submitted for reimbursement were not in fact provided. And the government almost certainly has the bank records, phone calls, emails, and text messages showing the transactions between Terrence Williams and the other participating defendants. There are probably several cooperating witnesses as well (i.e. former players who did not participate in the scheme though they were approached about it). So, most of these defendants – if not all of them – are likely to plead guilty. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of federal defendants do.

Sentencing at the federal level is an inexact science.  There is no statutory minimum here, and sentencing judges will look to the federal Sentencing Guidelines for guidance. However, the sentences suggested by those Guidelines are merely advisory, and not mandatory or binding.  In fraud cases, the biggest variable in the Guidelines calculation is the amount of loss (assuming these defendants mostly do not have criminal records already). The defendants will likely be in Criminal History Category I, on the left hand column of the sentencing table provided for by the Sentencing Guidelines.  Their base offense levels for Wire Fraud/Health Care fraud would be six. See U.S.S.G. 2B1.1. But then, you would have to add an additional offense level for the amount of fraud. There is some debate about whether this number should reflect “actual loss” or “intended loss,” which would make a difference here as the intended loss (i.e. the amount of false invoices submitted) was $3.9 million overall, but the actual loss was $2.5 million overall. Theoretically, each member of the group could be held responsible for the entire $3.9 million, as they were co-conspirators in a group effort to defraud the HRA. However, normally, in fraud cases, defendants are held accountable, so to speak, for the amount of money they themselves were actually involved in stealing (though that is not always the case, it is a fuzzy question of foreseeability). Terrence Williams, however, as the mastermind of the scheme, would probably have to add at least 16 levels to his sentencing offense level, in light of his being in charge of the entire scheme. Additionally, “masterminds” or managers of criminal enterprises can have their sentencing levels increased by another four levels. Pleading guilty tends to get a defendant an overall three-level reduction in sentencing offense level, so Terrence Williams could find himself at a suggested Guidelines sentencing range of 57-71 months (offense level 25), or roughly 5-6 years in federal prison.

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If you or a loved one have been charged with a federal crime in Connecticut, you need an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney to assist you as soon as possible. Matthew Galluzzo, a former Manhattan prosecutor with over twenty years of experience, has lived in Connecticut for a decade. He specializes primarily in defending against federal criminal charges, and has successfully represented numerous clients charged in federal court with crimes relating to:

Narcotics (21 U.S.C. 846 and 21 U.S.C. 841)

Wire fraud (18 U.S.C. 1343)

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The Assimilative Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 13, makes state law applicable to conduct occurring on lands reserved or acquired by the Federal government (as provided in 18 U.S.C. § 7(3)), when the act or omission is not already a crime under Federal law. For example, a person who commits the New York state law crime of Assault in the Third Degree on federal property might actually be prosecuted in federal court for, essentially, a violation of that state crime. The Assimilative Crimes Act could also possibly provide for the prosecution of sexual assault, burglary, and theft cases on federal property, to name a few examples. See e.g. Hockenberry v. United States, 422 F.2d 171 (9th Cir. 1970). See also United States v. Bowers, 660 F.2d 527 (5th Cir. 1981) (child abuse); United States v. Smith, 574 F.2d 988 (9th Cir. 1978)(sodomy); United States v. Johnson, 967 F.2d 1431 (10th Cir. 1992)(aggravated assault); United States v. Griffith, 864 F.2d 421 (6th Cir. 1988)(reckless assault); United States v. Kaufman, 862 F.2d 236 (9th Cir. 1988)(assault); Fesler v. United States, 781 F.2d 384 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1118 (1986)(child abuse).

Finally, it should be noted that although many crimes can be prosecuted in both state and federal court without violating the principle of Double Jeopardy, a state law crime prosecuted in federal court via the Assimilative Crimes Act cannot also be prosecuted in state court. See Grafton v. United States, 206 U.S. 333 (1907).

If you or a loved one have been arrested and charged with a crime occurring on federal property in the New York City area, you should strongly consider contacting the Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo PLLC. Many defense attorneys know state law but are unfamiliar with the unique procedures of federal practice. Matthew Galluzzo, however, is a former Manhattan state prosecutor with over twenty years of experience who now specializes primarily in the defense of federal crimes. Give him a call to discuss your case and his possible representation of you.

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In federal court, the sentences for narcotics trafficking can be quite severe. The maximum and minimum penalties are generally contained in 21 U.S.C. Section 841. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines also help predict a likely outcome for a federal narcotics case. Generally speaking, the charges normally can be divided into three subsections of the law: 21 U.S.C. Section 841(b)(1)(A) provides for a ten year mandatory minimum sentence, 21 U.S.C. Section 841(b)(1)(B) most provides for a five year mandatory minimum sentence, and 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(C) has no mandatory minimum sentence. However, those penalties can change significantly if a person overdoses or dies as a result of the drug at issue, and if the convicted seller has a prior conviction for selling narcotics.

For example, if a person is convicted in federal court of selling even a small amount of drugs, and one of his customers dies from an overdose, the minimum penalty immediately becomes 20 years. If the convicted person also has a prior conviction for selling narcotics, that person may face a life sentence for having sold drugs that results in an overdose.

These cases can certainly be defended against at trial. It can be difficult for prosecutors to prove which drugs a deceased person may have consumed, who they purchased them from, or whether the drugs were actually responsible for the person’s death. However, these cases are extremely serious and should be defended by an attorney with experience in these matters. Matthew Galluzzo, a federal criminal defense attorney and former Manhattan prosecutor, has defended individuals accused of trafficking narcotics resulting in death. If you or a loved one are facing federal charges relating to narcotics, you should strongly consider contacting him to discuss his possible engagement.

 

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United States District Court Violation Notices – a Dangerous Trap for the Uninformed

People who commit minor offenses on federal property (such as parks, beaches, government buildings, or national monuments) sometimes receive United States District Court Violation Notices. These notices look a bit like traffic tickets or criminal summonses (see links below). They typically list the offense charged and the date and time of the offense. They also usually offer the option to pay a fine through the mail or request an appearance in court. Many people elect to simply pay the fine through the mail because they think it is harmless to do so. (And, the arresting officers usually tell them that it’s no big deal and they should just pay the fine). However, most of the time, pleading guilty through the mail actually constitutes a guilty plea to a crime that will show up on a background check. These offenses are typically misdemeanors and the records of conviction are publicly available through the federal Central Violations Bureau. Those convicted of a federal petty offense have to respond “yes” to the question as to whether they have been convicted of a crime, and of course those professionals with employment-related licenses may be obligated to report these convictions to their certification boards. See the links below to a typical violation notice:

violation notice (page 1) violation notice (page 2)

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One common federal criminal charge applies to the possession of firearms by felons. 18 U.S.C. 922g includes a variety of situations involving illegal firearm possession, but subsection 1 of that provision states:

      (g) It shall be unlawful for any person – 

        (1) who has been convicted in any court of, a crime punishable

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