Articles Tagged with white collar crime

Healthcare fraud has been raised as a matter of concern not only in Chicago but in the country as a whole. It raises the costs of providing healthcare and also means that vulnerable people who need support are left behind. The cases in this category are unique because they often provide a corporate entity that is tasked with the role of distributing healthcare services. The large scale Medicare fraud occurs within the modalities of overcharging the state or alternatively charging it for services that were never delivered. In either case, the consequences for those involved can be dire. They could lose the license to practice and may be banned from government contracts for a considerable period of time.

Over time, a number of fairly consistent patterns of offending have emerged. First of all, there are three main modalities including Medicare Fraud, Medicaid Fraud, and Kickbacks. Each of these modalities are united by deceit and illegal benefits. For example, overbilling has been a persistent problem in Medicaid and Medicare programs, despite the stringent protective measures that were adopted by Congress and local legislatures. In some cases, the service provider is so overwhelmed by paperwork and bureaucracy that they end up making inadvertent mistakes. Obviously the courts will take into consideration both the act and the intention behind it before passing judgement.

Damaging the Integrity of the System

jack-young-143113-300x200The adage of “The Chicago Way” has been used to stereotype the city as a hub of crime. Bribery is a part of corruption and mismanagement, but its subtlety means that the crime is hard to prosecute. The fact that it erodes public confidence in the system means that the jail sentences for the crime are increasing. Most of the relevant cases focus on the behavior of politicians and public officials yet bribery can also lead to questions about the conduct of the person that is offering the bribe. In some cases, the bribe is not monetary but rather influences insidious levels of influence peddling, nepotism, and cronyism. The courts will have to untangle the web of deceit that is involved in cases in which a sophisticated criminal deliberately exploits a culture of bribery.

Chicago is unfortunate in having two former governors serving jail time for bribery-related criminality. The worst affected departments include justice, law, and administration because that is where the real power is. Bribery essentially involves asking people to pay you extra for doing your job or not doing your job. In some of the worst cases, bribery leads to other forms of criminality because the public official becomes negligent or corrupt in the execution of his or her duties. The belief that officials are powerful means that the courts are harsh on defendants who commit a breach of trust. The defense attorneys typically attempt to present their clients as low-lying officials who are at worst incompetent or naïve.

The Bribery Law as it Stands Today

igor-ovsyannykov-208345-300x200It used to be that currency creation and distribution was the sole responsibility of state agencies, such as the central bank. However, the advent of non-official and bespoke currencies has meant that there are many people who are inadvertently breaking the law. The definitions of currency have expanded so much that the law sometimes appears to be contradictory. Some of the industries that are affected in Chicago include staffing agencies and factories. Moreover, there are some online currencies such as Bitcoin that lie outside the traditional strictures of currency controls. In the worst case scenario, there is an actual factory of illegal tender. Some of these crimes can lead to significant terms of imprisonment.

Key Ingredients of the Crime

The first criterion relates to how the currency was manufactured or distributed. As stated earlier, the expectation is that only the state can make currency. It is for this reason that the federal agencies might be involved since states do not currently have the right to make currency. The case law indicates that currency schemes are sometimes considered to be a much more serious offense than counterfeiting of even forgery. Some of the constituent aspects of the crime are legislated under the instrument number 720 ILCS 5/17-0.5, but that instrument also talks about other forms of deception and fraud which may not necessarily relate to currency schemes.

les-anderson-207333-300x196The pyramid scheme has become one of the favorite conduits for confidence fraudsters to make illicit money on a grand scale. That is why organizations like the Federal Trade Commission were set up to fight this type of crime. Chicago, like many parts of the USA, is not immune to this scourge. For the defense attorney, pyramid scheme cases in Chicago present unique challenges which, although difficult, are not insurmountable. The fraudsters are always coming up with new ways to mask their true intentions and hoodwink an unsuspecting public. A case in point are the chain letters that ask for group contributions. There will be some people at the top who have the highest culpability as the masterminds of a criminal enterprise. The middlemen and middle women will have a range of roles that may determine their level of culpability once before the court.

The Criminality of Recruiting Unsuspecting Victims

The pyramid scheme may be deemed a form of confidence fraud because it promises that which is impossible to deliver. Like the Ponzi scheme, it is marketed on the basis of profit levels that are just not sustainable. The crime therefore reduces public confidence not only in the judicial system but also in the other structures that are designed for societal functionality, like the economic system. The requirement may not necessarily be monetary. Sometimes it is a call for your time or expertise in a particular field. Therefore, the crime focuses on the implicit deceit rather than merely restricting the jurisdiction to money alone.

greg-rakozy-203292-225x300The Ponzi scheme deservedly has a very bad name in Chicago because it inevitably leads to the process of bankrupting investors. It is confidence trickery at the highest level and with grand impact. The best definition of a ponzi scheme is one in which investors are only paid through the investor’s own money. Therefore, the investor is simply giving money to the leader of the scheme and making no discernible profits. The fraudulent investment has been made famous by the likes of Madoff but before that, there were very many victims that went unaided. The courts have classified it as a white collar crime based on the financial implications of its enactment and the fact that it inevitably involves a level of fraud.

For the defense attorney, the person accused of a Ponzi scheme represents unique opportunities and challenges. First of all, it is more than likely that the prosecutor will have a long list of victims with impact statements to sway the jury. Secondly the evidence is there but the last remaining ingredient is to prove the mens rea or the thought process that goes into committing fraud. Some defendants argue that promising great profits is not a crime but rather a sign of misguided ambitions. However, the courts are of the view that promising profits that are clearly unrealistic and knowing that they are unrealistic is a fraudulent activity that must be punished accordingly.

Preparing a Convincing Defense breach of trust in insider trading is not as obvious as other forms of breach of trust. The basic premise of the law is that there is an implicit trust by members of the public that financial institutions will follow the letter of the law. However, there are those whose interest in fast profits far outweigh any moral considerations. They make use of their privileged access to information in order to make decisions that are advantageous to them whilst simultaneously expecting the public to take up the cost of their mistakes. The public is effectively being asked to gamble with all the odds stacked against them. This is the essence of insider trading and it is precisely the behavior that the courts try to punish.

Understanding the Basic Premises and Assumptions that Underpin the Law

The basic premise of a functional market is the freedom to trade and that requires information that is readily available, or at the very least legitimately acquired. The inside traders tend to skip this important step, with devastating impact on their business rivals. A classic case in point is where a trade is able to get a tip off a potential merger, acquisition, or redundancy. He or she then shares this vital information with favored accomplices so that they can make a quick profit or alternatively cut their losses. There have been some defendants who have pleaded innocence, arguing that they did not know what they were committing a SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) violation.

tim-evans-88330-300x200The crime of bank fraud is sometimes thought of as being harmless given the fact that it involves big powerful corporations and rarely involves any violence. However, the courts take it seriously and are quite capable of imposing significant penalties for it. The technical definitions of the crime include the illegal acquisition of assets, money or property by any entity or institution through deceit and dishonesty. Given the concern about an implied leniency against white collar offenders, bank fraud has sometimes been elevated to the level of a federal crime.

According to the Bank Fraud Act, the prosecution is free to label and pursue the crime depending on the amounts involved and the method that was used. A level of sophistication as well as conspiracy will always be aggravating factors. On the other hand, the court will also consider the victim impact statements. Although the media coverage may often be sensationalist, the courts are at pains to demonstrate that they are bound by the sentencing guidelines as well as the facts as examined from the viewpoint of giving as much weight as possible to the intention of the legislature when the law was enacted.

Developing a Theory and Practical Basis for a Defense

W._S._Gilbert_The_Duke_of_Plaza-Toro_BriberyChicago has never been able to quite shake off its sometimes unwarranted reputation as a corruption center in the USA. Take the case of a city insider who has been sentenced to 10 years in jail for taking bribes in a scandal that ironically involved jumping red light cameras. The appropriately named John Bills is not alone in the long list of high ranking and low ranking government officials who soon find that they are in need of an excellent criminal defense attorney. The scale of the case and the sentencing are fairly atypical. The court heart that Mr. Bills took up to $2 million in euphemistically labelled “gifts.” His services included sending large red light camera contracts to Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., a company based in Arizona.

If you are looking for the key ingredients of bribery then this case is as good as any in terms of demonstrating them. First of all you have someone in a position of authority who uses that authority to illegally secure pecuniary advantage in exchange for abusing his offices. There are elements of discriminatory and unlawful behavior which means that certain bids for tenders are never treated fairly for no other reason than the fact that they did not pay the authorizing officer a bribe. Such a crime reduces public confidence in the system and judges are particularly harsh in exercising their discretion. Of course it is possible to reduce the maximum sentence if there are mitigating factors. Some of those mitigating factors include an early confession, cooperation with the police, restitution, and examples of good public works.

The Dangers of Plea Bargaining

800px-One_US_dollar_note_0127_22Whenever another story comes in, there is shock from the legal and non-legal community. Even as the defendant desperately seeks an attorney; the prosecutor is working full-time to ensure a conviction and an exemplary sentence. The annals of embezzlement in Chicago include the relatively recent case of Caryn Benson, a former Field Museum employee who managed to embezzle up to $400,000 without getting noticed. Even as the case its case made its way through the courts, there was a lot of interest from the legal community in terms of establishing the technicalities of the crime and the responses of the court. Museums are normally places of leisure and cultural enlightenment. One would not expect large-scale and sustained thefts to be taking place there over a period of ten years.

Interestingly, Benson admitted to only half a million whereas the employer protested that the figure was closer to one million. In the event a compromise was reached on the understanding that the culprit would be spending some time in jail. The guidelines are in the range of 35-40 months, a penalty that some may consider to be harsh given the fact that the courts have handled cases of large scale corporate fraud that has led to the loss of millions. The aggravating circumstances in this case include the fact that the crime took over a long period of time and the defendant had been in a position of trust. The negotiation for a plea agreement is an interesting lesson for defense attorneys where the facts of the case indicate that a long drawn out trial may not yield the results that the prosecutor is looking for. This puts the defense at an advantage and in this case the attorney got the best possible deal for the client.

Understanding the Legal Ramifications of Embezzlement

800px-USMC-05469Credit card fraud is becoming the crime of choice for offenders in Chicago who are not particularly inclined to violence. If undetected, the crime can be staggeringly lucrative and often does not carry the stigma of outright theft, sexual depravity, or violence. It is tempting to cast credit card fraudsters as low-level miscreants who do not deserve the worst approbation of society. However this is not a victimless crime, as residents of Minooka will testify. The South West side of Chicago seems to have developed a particularly affinity for this specific economic crime. Although the law enforcement agencies have already sent out the alarm to the local population; they are not clear about what exactly causes this locality to have a higher than usual propensity for the crime.

The fraud will take a number of forms which are increasing in their complexity and scope. For example some people engage in identity fraud and impersonation. Unsuspecting victims will only realize that they have been caught in the web when they are sent a bill for goods and services that they never purchased. The fraudster will have used the victim’s identity in order to make a fraudulent application for a credit line and will proceed onto an expansive spending spree. At other times the perpetrator is far more subtle; getting the details of the card and using it to make online purchases. When the card is physically stolen, most victims will make a police report, but hardly anything ever comes out of that process because of the difficulty of tracing the culprits and the relatively low individual amounts that are involved in each incident of credit card fraud.

It is a Systemic and Structural Issue