Articles Posted in Federal Criminal Law

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Today, a federal jury in Virginia found President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, guilty of eight of the eighteen crimes contained in an indictment filed against him. Specifically, Manafort was found guilty of five tax fraud charges, one charge of hiding foreign bank accounts and two counts of bank fraud. The question now is how much jail time he will receive from the sentencing judge.

As a preliminary matter, for the purposes of this analysis, we assume that Mr. Manafort will not be pardoned by the President. Also, we assume that Mr. Manafort will not be convicted of any other charges. The judge in this trial declared a mistrial as to ten of the eighteen counts in the indictment on account of the jury’s inability to decide guilt or innocence on those charges, but that does not mean that Manafort is clear of those charges. Indeed, prosecutors could attempt to convict him again with a new jury. However, I expect that will not happen, as the prosecutors are likely satisfied by the result, and convicting Manafort on the remaining charges would not really change things very much.

Federal sentencing can be extraordinarily complex and is often very uncertain. By statute, a sentencing court must impose a sentence “sufficient, but not greater than necessary,” to serve the ends of justice. 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). A sentencing judge is obviously constrained by the statutory maximums and minimums for the crimes of conviction, but oftentimes, the crimes have enormously wide sentencing possibilities (for example, the bank fraud charge for which Manafort was convicted has a potential statutory sentence of between zero and thirty years in prison, 18 U.S.C. 1344). So, federal judges look to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, promulgated by the federal government.

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It can be somewhat dangerous for people to travel in and out of the United States with large quantities of cash. Section 5316(b) of the Title 31 of the U.S. Code requires individuals to file reports with U.S. Customs when “knowingly transporting [or] being about to transport monetary instruments of more than ten thousand dollars at one time.” The failure to file such a report is a violation of 31 U.S.C. 5361(a)(1)(A), and if a Customs officer discovers an individual who has misrepresented the amount of cash he or she is carrying, that officer will almost certainly seize the cash for forfeiture in addition to arresting the defendant. Those individuals arrested for failing to disclose their cash may also be subject to the charge of lying to a federal agent, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001.

The penalties for this crime can be significant depending on the amount of cash that was being concealed. For most “bulk cash smuggling offenses,” the federal sentencing guidelines set a base offense level of eight (meaning 0-6 months in jail), see U.S.S.G. 2S1.3(a)(2) and U.S.S.G. 2S1.3(b)(1)(B), plus enhancements based upon the amount of money. See U.S.S.G. 2B1.1. Accordingly, for illegally smuggling, say, $20,000, the federal Sentencing Guidelines might suggest a sentence of 10-16 months in prison for first-time offenders (though this figure is highly dependent upon other variables).

People are often wary about revealing the amount of cash they are actually carrying through Customs because they are afraid that the cash will be investigated. The cash may constitute the proceeds of a crime, or suggest that someone has failed to disclose all of their income to the tax authorities. Regardless of whether the cash is actually illegal or not, however, the Customs officer is likely to seize a significant quantity of cash (50-100% of it, normally) and keep it unless and until the legitimate source of the income is sufficiently proven. This process of contesting forfeiture can take months and typically requires the assistance of an attorney to stand a solid chance of success.

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Most people do not realize that it is a federal crime to lie to a federal law enforcement agent. However, 18 U.S.C. § 1001 makes it a federal felony, punishable by up to five years in prison (or 8 years for a case involving terrorism), to “knowingly and willfully falsify, conceal, or cover[] up any trick, scheme or device a material fact… or make[] any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation” in regards to a federal law enforcement investigation. It also prohibits the knowing and willful making or using of any “false writing or documents containing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry.” Thus, for example, a criminal suspect who lies when questioned by an FBI agent can be guilty of a serious crime, even if that suspect is not actually guilty of the underlying crime for which he was being investigated. This situation often arises when people who have received subpoenas from law enforcement agents unfortunately sometimes agree to speak with agents or prosecutors but then make statements that those agents later discover to be untrue.

Most of the time however, people accused of this crime are frequently also charged with other crimes, too. For example, this charge is frequently brought against those who lie to U.S. Customs officials about their possession of cash, in conjunction with a charge of 31 USC § 5361(a)(1)(A). It is also common in health care fraud matters for a defendant to be charged with violating both 18 U.S.C. § 1035 – making false statements relating to health care matters – as well as 18 U.S.C. § 1001. In any case, the additional charge for making false statements may not be as serious as the underlying crime for which the defendant was originally investigated, but the fact that the defendant lied to law enforcement can be viewed as an “aggravating factor” by the judge at sentencing, meaning that it could seriously increase the ultimate sentence that the defendant will serve.

Though the maximum possible statutory penalty for this offense is five years in prison, pursuant to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the base offense level for this crime is 6. This base offense level means that a person convicted of this crime (and this crime alone) is more likely to receive a sentence of between 0 to 6 months in prison.

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Delayed flights, crowded airplanes, rude people, and stressful rides to the airport can make airline travel particularly stressful. Sometimes, rude flight attendants or passengers fueled by alcohol can cause tempers to flare, and physical fights sometimes erupt during the flight. These fights or disputes can result in federal criminal charges, as “the special maritime jurisdiction” of federal courts applies to airplanes coming into the United States or traveling across state lines.

Federal assault charges can apply to any person who causes an offensive physical touching to another person on the airplane. Certainly, that can apply to physical violence, but it might also apply to unwanted sexual touching of another person as well. Assaulting another person on an airplane is normally a petty offense under federal criminal law, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(5). (Those accused of sexually assaulting others on airplanes can also be prosecuted with the more serious felony charge of 18 U.S.C. § 2244(b), however, and attempts to maim or murder can be prosecuted as felonies, as well). That means that the crime is a misdemeanor with a maximum prison penalty of six months and/or a fine of $5000.00. Also, it means that the defendant is not entitled to a jury trial. Instead, the defendant must have his case tried by a federal magistrate judge.

Locating and interviewing witnesses in these cases is of paramount importance to the defense. Occasionally, shaky cell phone video footage might be available of the incident or dispute, and it may actually vindicate the accused person. Sometimes defendants have even acted unknowingly or unintentionally, by virtue of intoxicated or sleep disorders, and such defense should be explored and developed if applicable.

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Galluzzo & Arnone recently earned an excellent result for our client in Brooklyn federal court (the Eastern District of New York). Our client was originally arrested at JFK Airport in 1990 and charged with lying to a U.S. Customs agent about a significant amount of cash that he had in his possession at the airport. Federal prosecutors indicted him for two criminal charges related to this deception, in violation of 31 USC 1536(b) and 18 USC 1001. However, rather than return to court and defend himself, he returned to his home country and remained there for the next 28 years (note: he was not our client in 1990). Later, in 2018, he attempted to come back to the United States to visit his family but was arrested at the airport pursuant to a 1990 warrant for failing to appear in the Brooklyn federal court as required.

The sentencing range for the original criminal charges under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines was 12-18 months (Base Offense Level of 13 with a two level increase for obstructing justice offset by a possible two level reduction for acceptance of responsibility following a guilty plea). Of course, the client also now faced the possibility of additional criminal charges and penalties for acting as a fugitive and failing to appear in court.  The prosecution initially submitted a proposed plea agreement whereby the client would receive a sentence of between 12-18 months in prison.

However, the attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone presented to the federal prosecutor considerable mitigating evidence of our client’s life story and family, as well as circumstances surrounding his original crimes. Ultimately, the prosecutors agreed to allow the client to plead guilty to the second count of the original indictment and avoid additional charges for acting as a fugitive. The second count of the indictment carried a 0-6 month Guidelines sentence, representing a considerable savings on the original 12-18. Then, we were able to persuade the judge to schedule an expedited sentencing hearing and ultimately to sentence our client to time served. Thus, instead of receiving a sentence of between 12-18, as it originally appeared our client would, our client received a sentence of less than four months. Obviously, the client is quite happy with the result.

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18 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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G&A defense attorney Matthew Galluzzo recently earned a stunning trial acquittal in a federal sexual abuse case that had been extensively covered in the press. The client, charged with one count each of sexual abuse on an airplane (18 U.S.C. 2244(b)) and assault on an airplane (18 U.S.C. 113(a)(5)), went to trial in Brooklyn federal court (the Eastern District of New York) before Judge Pamela Chen. The jury deliberated about a day and acquitted the client of all charges, accepting his defense that his touching of the complainant had been an involuntary act committed while asleep. Five eyewitnesses testified for the prosecution.

If you or a loved one have been accused of a sex crime, you should strongly consider contacting the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone. In particular, Matthew Galluzzo is a former Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor and widely recognized expert on the investigation, prosecution, and defense of rape and sexual assault charges.

Some articles about the case from the press:

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Foreign citizens and drug importation charges at JFK, Newark, and LaGuardia Airports (federal controlled substance crimes)

American demand for illegal drugs, combined with harsh federal and state laws prohibiting their sale and possession, has created a black market that can be extraordinarily lucrative for illegal drug traffickers. Enticed by the potential to make significant amounts of money very quickly, many foreign citizens make the mistake of attempting to import controlled substances into the United States through New York City’s international airports (JFK and Newark, and to a lesser extent, LaGuardia). Those individuals caught in the act of importing narcotics typically face federal criminal charges like 21 U.S.C. § 952 (importing controlled substances) or 21 U.S.C. § 841 (possessing controlled substances with intent to distribute). Indeed, one study concluded that approximately 75% of those individuals sentenced for federal drug convictions in 2014 were illegal immigrants or foreign citizens.

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/illegal-immigrants-responsible-for-almost-three-fourths-of-federal-drug-possession-sentences-in-2014/article/2567814

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Every year the FBI and federal law enforcement investigates a number of serious crimes that were alleged to have occurred onboard cruise ships. State police occasionally investigate these sorts of crimes, but generally speaking, crimes that occur on the high seas fall under federal jurisdiction (if pursued by American law enforcement at all).

The authority of the FBI to investigate criminal offenses and enforce laws of the United States on cruise ships on the high seas or territorial waters of the United States depends on several factors: The location of the vessel, the nationality of the perpetrator or victim, the ownership of the vessel, the points of embarkation and debarkation, and the country in which the vessel is flagged all play a role in determining whether there is federal authority to enforce the laws of the United States.

The principal law under which the U.S. exercises its Special Maritime and Territorial Jurisdiction is set forth in Section 7 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code. This statute provides, in relevant part, that the U.S. has jurisdiction over crimes committed on a ship if:

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Two indictments were unsealed today in federal court in New Jersey and Brooklyn charging nine individuals with having participated in a unique scheme to profit illegally from stolen insider information. Many of the defendants have connections to the Ukraine, and their names are Vitaly Korchevsky, Vladislav Khalupsky, Leonid Momotok, Alexander Garkusha (Brooklyn) and Ivan Turchynov, Oleksander Ieremenko, Arkadiy Dubovoy, Igor Dubovoy, and Pavel Dubovoy (New Jersey).

In short, it is alleged that this conspiracy included skillful computer hackers and securities traders working together to steal valuable information and then use it to their advantage. More specifically, the alleged computer hackers used brute force attacks and a variety of other computer hacking techniques (such as SQL injections) to access confidential press releases containing financial data for publicly-traded companies prior to the information being made available to the public. Knowledgeable broker-dealers on the team then allegedly used the non-public information to make advantageous “insider” trades ahead of the market during the brief windows of time between the press releases being written and being released to the public. All in all, it is estimated that they were collectively able to profit illegally to the tune of $30 million.

A press release from the federal prosecutors handling the matter is available here. The charges generally include securities fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud conspiracy, and money laundering. (18 U.S.C. § 1349; 18 u.s.c. § 1343; 15 U.S.C. §§ 78j(b) & 78ff, and 17 C.F.R. § 240. lOb-5; 18 u.s.c. § 371; 18 u.s.c. § 1030; 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(l); 18 U.S.C. § l 956(h); and 18 U.S.C. § 2). Copies of the indictments are accessible here and here via PACER.