Articles Posted in Larceny

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Recently, Matthew Galluzzo obtained an excellent result for a client in federal court. One of four co-defendants in a conspiracy to ship stolen cars to Africa, our client was charged with violating 18 USC Section 2312. As alleged in the indictment, the group shipped millions of dollars of stolen and fraudulent-obtained cars to Africa (primarily Ghana). Galluzzo’s client pleaded guilty and faced a sentencing range of 10-16 months under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines (offense level 12 and Criminal History Category I).

Mr. Galluzzo submitted to the court a detailed sentencing memorandum describing the client’s difficult upbringing and hard work providing for his family. Mr. Galluzzo submitted character letters from the client’s family, friends and pastor in support of his good character and reputation. The court reviewed these submissions and, after a sentencing hearing in the Southern District of New York, decided not to impose an additional prison sentence upon him. The client will be on supervised release and able to continue with his current employment. (The client spent about six days in prison before arranging for the posting of his bail at the outset of the case and following his arrest.)

In addition, the client could have been subject to millions of dollars in restitution, meaning he might have been ordered to pay back money to the conspiracy’s victims to compensate them for the crimes. However, Mr. Galluzzo argued to the Court that such an award would have been unfair in his client’s case, given his minor role in the offense and his limited finances. The Court agreed not to impose any forfeiture or restitution penalties, as well.

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This week, American law enforcement officers arrested Aurelien Michel, a French national living in the UAE, as he passed through JFK International Airport in New York City. He has since been arraigned before a federal magistrate judge in the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn) on federal wire fraud charges, pursuant to 18 USC Section 1343. A complaint unsealed in federal court alleges that Mr. Michel advertised and marketed a series of Mutant Ape NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and collected nearly three million dollars in sales of various cryptocurrencies from numerous buyers and investors. However, it is further alleged that Mr. Michel never delivered the NFTs to his investors, but instead transferred this money to various accounts controlled by him. The complaint alleges that he later apologized on the platform Discord for the “rug pull” (i.e. a slang term for failing to deliver after receiving funds) because the community had become too “toxic.”

It would appear from the complaint that Mr. Michel has an obvious defense that he did not intend to defraud anyone, and that he fully intended to give his customers their NFTs eventually. He may have received the funds and then encountered difficulty in acquiring the NFTs for his customers due to volatile market conditions or other issues.

It is always difficult to estimate sentencing exposure at this stage of a criminal case, but preliminary estimates might suggest the following for Mr. Michel:

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The criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo have successfully represented many people charged with wire fraud in federal court. This serious accusation can result in very significant penalties, including huge fines and lengthy prison sentences. However, these charges are also frequently quite defensible, too. As such, if you or a loved one have been accused by federal prosecutors of money laundering, you should strongly consider contacting The Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo’s team of former prosecutors.

The crime of wire fraud occurs when someone voluntarily and intentionally uses an interstate communications device (such as a telephone) as a part of any scheme to defraud another of property, or anything else of value.

The main criminal statutes that apply to wire fraud are 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 1349. Those statues refer to fraud by wire, radio, or television.

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Arrests for thefts from employers

Our attorneys have defended many individuals arrested for allegedly stealing from their employers. Many of them were responsible for their employers’ payrolls and were accused of writing fraudulent or fictitious checks. Others were accused of concealing personal purchases or transfers of money using company bank accounts or corporate credit cards.

When confronted by an employer in this situation, individuals should understand that anything they say to their employers can be used by law enforcement against them in later criminal prosecutions. Many people accused of stealing from their employers face a unique dilemma. Sometimes, an individual in this situation may be able to avoid having his or her employer report him or her to the police by repaying the allegedly stolen money. Of course, returning stolen money (or agreeing to do so) conversely also tends to prove that the money was, in fact, stolen. Thus, an offer to repay the money may help avoid a suspected embezzler avoid arrest, but if it fails to persuade the employer not to complain to the police, that offer to repay the money will make it very difficult to avoid a criminal conviction at trial. Thus, offering to repay the money is a risky move for a person in this situation, and can backfire. Sadly, some people agree to repay money that they didn't even steal, or agree to repay more than they actually took, and then get arrested and find themselves in very difficult and unfortunate situations.

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New York City owes much of its energy and excellence to the foreign citizens living and working here. Unfortunately, a visa or green card holder’s right to remain in the United States can be seriously jeopardized by a Desk Appearance Ticket, even when the charges are comparatively minor misdemeanors. Many visa holders fail to take these arrests sufficiently seriously because the charges seem minor (like marijuana or subway fare theft) or because the arresting officer tells them “it’s no big deal.” Truthfully, though, career, educational, and family plans can be completely devastated by even a minor case of walking through the subway gate without paying, so it is absolutely critical that a foreign person arrested and issued a Desk Appearance Ticket retain competent counsel immediately.

In many ways, a Desk Appearance Ticket does not feel like such a big deal. The arrested person is usually handcuffed and taken to a police station where they are fingerprinted. They typically wait a few hours in a holding cell until they are given a piece of paper telling them the date and location of their appearance in court. Before Desk Appearance Tickets became routine, criminal defendants could expect to get “sent downtown” and spend the night in jail before seeing a judge. Obviously, Desk Appearance Tickets are preferable for criminal defendants because they spend less time in custody and also have the opportunity to choose counsel for themselves prior to going to court.

Make no mistake, however: the issuance of a Desk Appearance Ticket is in fact an arrest – it is not “just a ticket”. More importantly for visa holders, this event is not going to “fly under the radar” with the immigration agencies. If you were arrested and given a Desk Appearance Ticket, your fingerprints and the arrest charges have been sent to a New York state agency (the Division of Criminal Justice Services) and to the FBI, which maintains a federal nationwide law enforcement database of all arrest events across the United States (the Interstate Identification Index). Visa and green card holders should understand that the immigration agencies, in processing visa renewal requests, access this database to investigate whether the visa applicant has an arrest record. Indeed, some visa holders actually receive emails from Department of Homeland Security (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) agents after their arrests, because the agency was notified of the arrest via the fingerprint database.
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H1B visas (allowing foreign citizens with highly specialized expertise in the areas of math, science and engineering, among others, to live and work in the United States) are highly sought after and not easy to get due to the limit – or “cap” – on the number of such visas granted each year. There are many highly-qualified professionals working in New York thanks to the H1B visa program, and they are welcome additions and assets to the community.

Unfortunately, even a minor arrest can derail an application or renewal for an H1B visa. The attorneys at The Law Office of Matthew Galluzzo have represented many individuals with H1B visas who have received Desk Appearance Tickets for misdemeanor arrests, including, among other things: Theft of Services (PL 165.15), Petit Larceny (PL 155.25), Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree (PL 220.03), Criminal Mischief (PL 145.00), Unlawful Possession of Marijuana (PL 221.10), and Assault in the Third Degree (PL 120.00). Some of these cases are oftentimes resolved with adjournments in contemplation of dismissal (“ACDs”) that would generally be considered to be favorable dispositions. However, ACDs typically involve six month waiting periods before the cases are dismissed, and any people who need to apply for or renew their H1B visas during that six month period are precluded from doing so (and thus unable to remain in the United States at their chosen and hard-earned job). Put plainly, an H1B visa will not be renewed if a criminal case is pending or if the ACD waiting period is still outsanding. This effect has also been noted in the context of other visa applications, such as F1 and J1 visas.

While these are generally not considered the most serious of cases, for visa holders, even these comparatively minor criminal cases can impact your life, career and renewal applications in a number of other ways. For example, convictions for these crimes can result in job loss, permanent criminal records, deportation or inadmissibility, fines, and potentially even jail time. A criminal case should never be taken lightly, but foreign citizens with visas need to be even more mindful of the consequences of an arrest.

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Arrests for shoplifting are incredibly common in New York City, and many of those individuals arrested for shoplifting are being arrested for the first time. Though arresting police officers typically assure people that the arrests are trivial and will not have any lasting consequences, the truth is that these cases need to be handled carefully because even seemingly small cases like these can have tremendous negative implications for hardworking people.

Most people arrested for shoplifting are held by store security guards until police arrive. During that time, store security guards typically force or trick the people they've detained to sign written confessions (by promising not to call the police if they sign) and trespass notices acknowledging that they are no longer allowed to shop at the store. Store security guards do not have to read people their Miranda rights because they are not police officers, but anything said to them can and will be used against them in courts of law.

Police officers then take these detained people to the local precinct, where the arrest process begins. Fingerprints are taken and paperwork is completed while the arrestees typically wait in a cell for about three to four hours. Then, the alleged shoplifter is usually given a Desk Appearance Ticket, which looks like this, which directs the shoplifter to appear in court at a later date. Failure to appear in court on that date results in a warrant being ordered for that person's arrest.

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The Manhattan DA has announced a sweeping indictment of dozens of former NYPD and FDNY employees for allegedly participating in a massive multimillion dollar social security disability scam involving false claims for PTSD and other related injuries resulting from 9/11. Click here for more.

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