October 29, 2010

Anna Nicole Smith's Former Lawyer/Boyfriend Convicted of Conspiracy

Howard K. Stern, former boyfriend and lawyer to Anna Nicole Smith, was found guilty of two conspiracy charges by a Los Angeles jury…conspiracy to prescribe prescription drugs using fraudulent means and conspiracy to furnish prescription drugs to an addict. Both charges were based on incidents that ultimately led to Smith’s death in early 2007.

One of Smith’s former doctors, Khristine Eroshevich was also convicted of the same two charges, as well as two counts of obtaining a prescription for opiates using a false name. The two are scheduled to be sentenced on January 6, 2011. Both face at least three years in the California state prison.

A third defendant, Smith’s former doctor Sandeep Kapoor was cleared on all counts.

October 27, 2010

California Broker Sentenced to 68 Years in Prison for Real Estate Fraud

Kathy Chen, an Orange County real estate broker, was sentenced last week to 68 years in California state prison for committing $17.5 million worth of real estate and mortgage fraud between 2005 and 2007. Chen’s charges of California real estate and mortgage fraud included 136 felony counts involving allegations of conspiracy, grand theft and forgery.

Chen, her boyfriend and his brother…who are believed to be hiding in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico…conspired to commit this fraud by using stolen identities to purchase 35 properties where they would intentionally default on the loans and ultimately collect more than $17 million in proceeds.

California’s laws regarding mortgage and real estate fraud are far reaching. Penalties include substantial fines (that often include paying back victim restitution), lengthy prison sentences, and…if you are a state licensed real estate agent or broker…the potential (and probable) loss of your professional license.

October 22, 2010

The Relationship Between California Identity Theft and Using Another Person's I.D. Card

Identity theft is a rising crime, not only in California but across the nation. As a result, police and prosecuting agencies are quick to arrest and prosecute individuals suspected of this offense. But identity theft encompasses a variety of conduct, not all of which should necessarily subject an offender to this serious type of fraud charges. A classic example is Vehicle Code 13004 VC California’s law against unlawful acts with identification cards.

Vehicle Code 13004 VC California’s law against unlawful acts with identification cards is a misdemeanor that only subjects you to six months in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine. While many “kids” violate this offense by posing as friends who are over 21 so that they can gain entrance to bars/nightclubs, many people violate this offense for more serious reasons. These may include posing as another person to cash that person’s check, to avoid being arrested pursuant to a warrant, or to obtain other benefits that are due another person.

This is where having a savvy California criminal fraud defense attorney comes into play.

He/she knows the most effective ways to convince a prosecutor/judge to exercise leniency with his/her client. This type of lawyer can help persuade the prosecutor to charge a client with Vehicle Code 13004 VC California’s law against unlawful acts with identification cards rather than identity theft…a crime which could subject an offender to up to 25 years in the state prison.

Plea bargaining for less serious charges should never be overlooked in any case…especially an identity theft case where the lesser charge of Vehicle Code 13004 VC could be charged in lieu of the more serious offense.

October 21, 2010

Californians Beware: Make Sure You Report All Income to Avoid Being Charged with Unemployment Insurance Fraud

There are a lot of negative connotations that go along with the phrase California unemployment insurance fraud. We typically think of unemployment insurance (U.I.) fraud in terms of someone unlawfully cashing another person’s unemployment check; someone creating a fictitious company and listing themselves as an employee who is eligible to collect benefits; and sitting back while collecting unemployment insurance benefits instead of actively looking for work.

But the fact is that California unemployment insurance fraud is much broader than these typical types of scenarios. You could be charged with this offense even if you innocently don’t report freelance income that you collect while receiving benefits.

Let’s say you were working for a company and you were laid off. You apply for and obtain U.I. benefits. While collecting benefits, you do some irregular freelance work on the side, not making nearly what you were while with your company. Because the work isn’t steady…and because you’re not earning much…you don’t think that you need to report that income to California’s Employment Development Department (EDD). Think again. You must report all income (and, to be on the safe side) any pension, additional state benefits, etc. to ensure that you are in compliance with all applicable guidelines.

If in doubt, consult with the EDD or a local California criminal fraud attorney so that you’re not forced to seek representation at a later time due to an arrest.

October 18, 2010

When Possible, Try to Negotiate for an Infraction

Although an infraction is technically a crime under California law, a conviction only subjects you to minor penalties. When convicted of a California infraction, you face no jail time, no probation, and a maximum $250 fine.

The most common examples of infractions are moving violations…speeding, unsafe lane change, failure to yield, etc…the everyday offenses that cops issue tickets for on a regular basis. However, there are some infractions that are more serious. These offenses can be charged as misdemeanors or as infractions, and include crimes such as disturbing the peace and trespassing. But even with these more serious infractions, the penalties remain the same…a maximum $250 fine…period.

This is why whenever possible, you should try to negotiate for an infraction rather than a misdemeanor offense. Even if you negotiate for one or more infractions that are unrelated to your charged misdemeanor, you will be doing yourself a HUGE favor…avoiding probation, incarceration, and much more substantial fines.

If there were flaws in the criminal investigation, insufficient evidence to support the charge, mitigating circumstances, or if perhaps this was your first criminal offense, it is definitely worth a shot to try to have the charge reduced to an infraction.

October 15, 2010

The Reality of Coerced Confessions

We commonly associate the phrase “coerced confessions” with what could only take place in either renegade countries or in thriller/drama television shows and movies. But the sad (and scary) reality is that coerced confessions are all too common right here at home.

For as long as there has been law enforcement, police have coerced confessions out of suspects by lying to them, beating them, and otherwise torturing them.

Sometimes these coerced confessions are revealed. The falsely arrested/convicted go free and the unscrupulous cops get punished. However, many times the suspect’s allegations of coerced confessions go unheard or even ignored. They are simply swept under the rug or believed to be a necessary part of the job.

So what can you do if you are the victim of a coerced confession? Immediately speak with an experienced California criminal defense lawyer who can help prompt a proper investigation into your claims. A savvy attorney knows the most effective ways to bring these allegations to light to reveal the truth.

October 13, 2010

More on Forging or Counterfeiting Fake Driver's Licenses and I.D. Cards

Last week, we blogged about the seriousness of carrying a fake I.D. or driver’s license (even though it’s a common offense among underage college students). Following up on that blog is the seriousness of being the individual or group who is actually forging or counterfeiting fraudulent driver’s licenses or identification cards.

Depending on the extent of involvement, you could face charges under Penal Code 470a PC California’s law against forging or counterfeiting fraudulent driver’s licenses or I.D. cards, for forging or counterfeiting a fraudulent public seal (like the one found on the forged or counterfeit license or I.D. card), conspiracy, manufacturing or selling fraudulent identification cards, etc…

The end result? You could face as many as three years in a California state prison for each charged offense. And government agencies are on the lookout for this type of criminal activity, which means if discovered, they will invest a number of resources into trying to make sure their efforts result in conviction.

October 12, 2010

Nevada Has Most Child Deaths Per Capita Due to Child Abuse

A 2001 study by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention maintains that Nevada ranks number one for child-abuse related child deaths per capita. The Clark County Department of Family Services claims that the majority of these cases occur in families with money or drug troubles. The Nevada Assembly is currently reviewing a bill that would allow judges to decide whether certain child abuse court hearings would be open to the public.

Nevada child abuse law is largely similar to California’s in that both states require that the prosecution prove the defendant acted willfully for a court to find them guilty. Furthermore, accident and self-defense are complete defenses in both California and Nevada child abuse law. The big distinction between the states is that California has a separate child endangerment law, whereas Nevada consolidates endangerment and abuse into one statute.

Penalties for violating Nevada child abuse law turn upon the circumstances of the alleged crime, including whether the defendant acted willfully or permissively, whether the abuse was sexual, the age of the child, whether the defendant is a repeat offender, and whether the abuse resulted in substantial harm. This substantial harm may be physical or mental. Depending on these factors, child abuse may be brought as either a gross misdemeanor or a felony in Nevada.

For more on this story, go to: http://www.8newsnow.com/story/1162845/nevada-1-in-child-deaths-due-to-child-abuse?redirected=true

October 8, 2010

Parents Beware: If Your Child Has a "Fake" Driver's License, He/She Could Face Serious Charges

It’s a fact. Many (if not most) “underage” college kids obtain fake driver’s licenses so that they can go to clubs, bars, and the liquor store to buy booze. For a small fee almost anyone can get their hands on a fake license so that they appear to be 21 years old. And let’s face it, this seems like a relatively harmless offenses. The problem is that it’s not.

Aside from the social ramifications and liabilities an underage person faces from being given premature access to alcohol, possessing a fake license could additionally lead to forgery charges. This is because Penal Code 472 PC California’s law against forging, counterfeiting, or possessing a fraudulent public seal can be charged under these exact circumstances.

Penal Code 472 PC California’s law against forging, counterfeiting, or possessing a fraudulent public seal, among other things, punishes anyone who knowingly possesses a counterfeit public seal (such as the seal that appears on a California driver’s license).

This means that if you possess a fake license that bears a counterfeit seal, you could ultimately face a three-year prison sentence and a maximum $10,000 fine. What’s more is that this serious charge…one necessarily involving dishonesty…will appear on your permanent criminal record and undoubtedly stand in the way of employment, housing, education, and professional opportunities.

So please, before you “look the other way” at what you believe is a relatively harmless act that your child may be engaging in, take a moment to look at the bigger picture. Make sure your child knows that it’s not just about having the license revoked at a club…the consequences are potentially much more serious.

October 5, 2010

California Crimes Involving Disability Placards

California has two prominent laws that deal with illegally using disability placards and counterfeit or fraudulent disability placards. And while these crimes may seem relatively harmless, both are misdemeanors, punishable by up to six months in jail and by fines of up to $2,500.

Probably the more common of the two laws is Vehicle Code 4461 VC California’s law against illegally using disability placards. Prosecutors may charge you with Vehicle Code 4461 VC California’s law against illegally using disability placards anytime you either (1) lend or allow another person to use your disability placard when that individual is not otherwise entitled to such a privilege, or (2) you misuse another person’s disability placard when you are not otherwise entitled to such a placard.

The more serious of the two laws is VC 4463 sections (b) and (c). These violations involve counterfeiting disability placards and possessing counterfeit placards. Not only does this law subject you to the jail and fines noted above, but it also potentially exposes you to California fraud charges as well.

October 1, 2010

Lying to the DMV Can Land You in Serious Trouble

Let’s say that for one reason or another, you decide to apply for a second driver’s license. You use a false name or a false birth date and submit your application to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. You figure you’re not really hurting anyone, so the offense can’t be that serious, right? Wrong.

By providing false information to the DMV, you subject yourself to a misdemeanor under Vehicle Code 20 VC California’s law against making false statements to the DMV or CHP and to a felony under California’s perjury laws.

Vehicle Code 20 VC California’s law against making false statements to the DMV or CHP is specific to this type of offense. If convicted, you face up to six months in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.

California’s perjury laws are much more comprehensive and include making false statements under penalty of perjury…a statement that you sign when applying for any DMV-related document. This means that by simply providing a wrong name or birthday to the DMV under penalty of perjury, you potentially subject yourself to a felony, punishable by two, three, or four years in the state prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.

Lying to the DMV is a big deal…you might want to think twice before doing so.