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A federal law enforcement investigation codenamed “Operation Varsity Blues” recently resulted in the arrests of dozens of people for allegedly conspiring to fraudulently obtain admissions into selective universities. Fifty people have been accused of working together to bribe university athletic coaches, submit fraudulent college applications, cheat on college entrance exams, and otherwise bribe college officials into admitting otherwise undeserving applicants. The accused individuals include two former Hollywood actresses – Felicity Huffman and Lori McLaughlin (who famously portrayed “Aunt Becky” on the TV show “Full House”) – as well as wealthy hedge fund managers and the chair of international law firm Wilkie Farr & Gallagher, among others. Wealthy parents paid as much as $6.5 million in bribes and fraudulent payments to get their children into the universities of their choice, including Stanford, Yale, USC and others. The case has seized the national attention as an example of the privileged elite abusing their power and influence, and the Department of Justice states that this is the largest college admissions scandal that it has ever prosecuted.

The case began as many federal investigations do – with an undercover cooperator. Somehow, law enforcement investigators with the FBI identified William Rick Singer, the founder and chief executive officer of a nonprofit “college placement organization” called the Key, as a person engaged in unlawful activity.  Though the precise details have not yet been shared, it is clear that they ultimately confronted him with the evidence of his illegal activity and made a deal with him: cooperate against the people who had enlisted his help in order to minimize his eventual punishment.

Mr. Singer then started recording his telephone calls and conversations with his criminal clients. Those calls apparently revealed a wide-ranging series of scams designed to get students into the schools of their choice. For example, Singer arranged for students who had struggled on the college entrance exams to get favorable disability diagnosis from an enlisted medical professional so as to get more time to take their tests. Then, he also arranged for the prospective students to take their college placement tests under the supervision of a paid-for proctor who either corrected their answers or permitted someone else to take their tests for them. Singer made arrangements to have students appear to be successful athletes when they were not, or flat-out bribed college athletic coaches into agreeing to tell the admissions office that they needed the students for their college sports teams. Some of the college coaches were allegedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to fraudulently accept students onto their teams (and therefore, into the school) without the relevant athletic credentials.

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The criminal defense attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone LLP have successfully represented many people charged with money laundering 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 Galluzzo & Arnone’s team of former prosecutors.

Money laundering charges typically go hand-in-hand with other related criminal charges brought by law enforcement. Individuals involved in narcotics trafficking, loansharking, racketeering, or Medicare fraud, for example, usually conduct their business in cash for understandable reasons. The problem that these people oftentimes face, however, is that they cannot use their criminal proceeds to purchase things that they want to buy, like real estate for example. This is when money laundering becomes relevant.

Typically, money laundering charges arise when a person with a quantity of illegally-derived cash wants to put the money into a bank account or buy assets with it. A criminal might seek to launder his or her own illegal money by depositing it into a bank account or wiring it to another account. He or she might also enlist the assistance of a professional launderer who takes a percentage of the laundered funds in exchange for depositing them into an account or investing them in some business or asset. The criminal with cash may also manipulate an unwitting novice into laundering it for them, so as to escape responsibility in the event the laundering is discovered.

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Perhaps someday, the New York Assembly will legalize sex work (several political candidates have recently promised to take steps toward legalization).  For now, however, it is still a Class B misdemeanor in New York to “engage or agree or offer to engage in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee.” Penal Law § 230.00. Similarly, it is illegal to patronize a prostitute, meaning that it is a misdemeanor to “pay a fee to another person as compensation for such person or a third person having engaged in sexual conduct with him or her, or to pay or agree to pay a fee to another person pursuant to an understanding that in return therefor such person or a third person shall engage in sexual conduct with him or her.” Penal Law §§ 230.02 and 230.04. Of course, it is also illegal to promote prostitution (i.e. be a pimp or madam), which means to “knowingly cause or aid a person to commit or engage in prostitution, procure or solicit patrons for prostitution, provide persons or premises for prostitution purposes, or operate or assist in the operation of a house of prostitution or a prostitution enterprise, or engage in any other conduct designed to institute, aid or facilitate an act or enterprise of prostitution.” Penal Law §§ 230.15 and 230.20.

Law enforcement has long sought, with mixed results, to combat prostitution offenses in New York City. Back when prostitutes used to walk the streets of notorious neighborhoods in Manhattan, police would arrest prostitutes for just “loitering for the purpose of prostitution” (basically, walking on the sidewalk dressed like a prostitute talking to potential customers about tricks). Police would also go undercover and pose as johns to get prostitutes to make illegal offers of sexual conduct for fees. Police officers continue to pose as prostitutes to entice johns to make illegal offers, though nowadays they are more likely to find a target inside of a nice establishment in the city instead of on the sidewalk.  Indeed, undercover police officers dressed as attractive prostitutes often target middle aged men alone at hotel bars and proposition them to see if they will “take the bait,” so to speak. These sting victims oftentimes have legitimate entrapment defenses, but not after already having been humiliated and having had their livelihoods placed in danger as a result of the arrests.

With the advent of the internet, much of the prostitution business moved online to websites like Craigslist and Backpage. Prostitutes and escorts would post ads on these sites and johns would simply call them to make appointments. The postings were so numerous that despite some law enforcement efforts to make undercover arrests of these prostitutes – and perhaps more effectively, arrests of johns via false prostitution ads – the sheer volume of ads on these sites made it impossible to realistically stop the trade via undercover operations. Ultimately, the “escort” sections of these sites were shut down by law enforcement threats to hold the managers of these sites criminally and civilly liable.

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If you are reading this blog, you may be one of the many people under the impression that smoking and possessing marijuana in New York City is now legal. Or, perhaps you’ve been issued a summons accusing you of doing so. First of all, marijuana possession is still illegal in New York City and State, and such will be the case unless and until the legislature acts to amend the law.

What has changed however, is the New York Police Department’s approach to marijuana arrests. In short, you can absolutely still be charged with a crime if caught smoking or possessing marijuana in public. The NYPD, however, has announced that it will cease making full-blown arrests and instead will issue summonses in these cases with limited exceptions (if the person they stop is on probation or parole, has outstanding warrants or a history of violence, or is in violation of another law (ie, DWI drugs).

A summons is a pink ticket handed to you by a police officer which can charge you with a crime or a violation. If you receive one, it means you have been commanded to answer misdemeanor and/or violation charges in a Court of law. Failure to abide by the summons and appear in Court can and will result in a warrant being issued for your arrest. So you (or a lawyer who can go on your behalf – see below) must answer the ticket personally.

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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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“Can I seal my criminal conviction in New York?” For years, our answer to this question was generally “no,” but that’s about to change. New York has just enacted a piece of legislation which will greatly benefit people with criminal records: As of October, 2017, CPL § 160.59 will allow people to apply for judicial sealing of misdemeanor and some felony convictions. This is an unprecedented development for New York, and one which the attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone are looking forward to utilizing in order to achieve a fresh new start for our clients, both personally and professionally. Here are some of the highlights of this groundbreaking law:

  • People with criminal records will soon be able to apply for sealing for as many as two convictions, one of which may be a felony, except that sealing will not be available for convictions involving most sex offenses, and class “A” and violent felonies. CPL § 160.59(2)(a);
  • Anyone convicted of more than two crimes, or more than two felonies, will be ineligible. CPL § 160.59(3), as will those against whom any charges are pending. CPL § 160.59(5);
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Federal criminal charges for solicitation of a minor

It is a serious federal crime to for an adult to solicit a minor (under age 18) across state lines for sexual purposes. Pursuant to 18 USC 24221 and 2423, it is illegal to:

  • Knowingly persuade, induce, entice, or coerce any minor to travel between states or internationally to engage in prostitution or in any unlawful sexual activity, or to attempt to do so;
  • Use the mail or any facility (including the internet) or means of interstate or foreign commerce to knowingly persuade, induce, entice, or coerce any minor to engage in any unlawful sexual activity, or to attempt to do so.
  • Knowingly transport a minor between states or internationally with the intent to engage in unlawful sexual activity; or
  • Travel between states or internationally for the purpose of engaging in any unlawful sexual conduct with a minor;

Defenses against federal criminal charges for solicitation of a minor

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There are several federal statutes which prohibit the act of taking or giving a bribe to a governmental official.

The "general" federal bribery statute is set forth in Title 18 of the U.S. Code ("U.S.C.") section 201. The federal law prohibits any person from corruptly, whether "directly or indirectly" giving, offering, or promising anything of value to a public official (or their delegates) with intent to (i) influence any official act, (ii) influence that person to commit fraud upon the United States, or (iii) induce such person to act in violation of their lawful duty, whatever that may be. 18 U.S.C. 201(b)(1).

A mirror provision prevents public officials (or their delegates) from seeking such gratuities in exchange for favorable exercises of their public duties. 18 U.S.C.201(b)(2).

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One of the great things about New York City is that a fun night of partying can be had relatively safely because taxis are so readily available to drive residents home. The proliferation of Uber has also made it easier for people without cash on hand to get a ride home after a night of drinking. However, sometimes, people having a good time in the city get into taxis without realizing that they don’t have any way of paying for the taxi – either they don’t have enough cash on hand or they have forgotten their wallet at the bar. It is a common and honest mistake made time and again by law-abiding citizens and professionals in New York City. What is surprising to most people, however, is that this mistake routinely results in a criminal arrest that can have serious immigration and job consequences for the person that made the innocent mistake.

Though it seems like a simple and small matter that ought to be handled civilly, taxi drivers typically will call police or drive their passengers to police precincts for arrest. There, police officers will typically arrest the passengers and fingerprint them and give them Desk Appearance Tickets charging them with one count of Theft of Services, a class A misdemeanor in violation of Penal Law Section 165.15 (PL 165.15). Recently, the stepdaughter of Attorney General Loretta Lynch was arrested for this mistake (though the arrest was ultimately voided when her boyfriend came to the precinct and paid her fare), and the attorneys at Galluzzo & Arnone LLP have represented dozens of people charged criminally under this scenario.

A conviction for a misdemeanor gives a person a permanent criminal record and potentially carries a maximum jail sentence of one year. However, this is not a typical result for most individuals arrested and charged with Theft of Services (PL 165.15). It should be noted that a person is only guilty of this crime if he or she intends to withhold payment for taxi services – in most of these cases, the failure to pay is an accident, and not intentional. That being said, the arrest itself can have serious consequences for some professionals and non-citizens.

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gjllp.com/francais

De nombreux citoyens français se sont installés à New York pour y travailler, étudier ou fonder une famille. Les touristes français affluent également chaque année en masse vers la grosse pomme, attirés par le shopping, les restaurants et théâtres.

Malheureusement, certains français se font arrêter à New York et se retrouvent alors dans une situation inconnue, confrontés au système pénal américain intimidant et déroutant. (Pour un résumé détaillé de la procédure pénale de l'état de New York en français, cliquez ici.)