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b2ap3_thumbnail_financial-fraud-affinity-scam-white-collar-crime.jpgThere are many types of money fraud that affect a wide variety of professions, places of work, and institutions. After the financial downturn of 2008 and front-page scandals involving prominent bankers engaged in fraudulent activity—particularly Bernie Madoff, who orchestrated a $65 billion Ponzi scheme that has since been categorized as the largest Ponzi scheme in American history—one may think that the rate of financial fraud would be decreasing. On the contrary, incidents of financial fraud continue to plague the U.S. business system, in some areas at an even higher rate than before the financial downturn and epic scams like Madoff. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission reports that there was a 62 percent increase in financial fraud claims between 2011 and 2012, with just over 1.5 million people filing such claims. Not all of these are so-called “affinity” scams, such as Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Some are much more personal, involving incidents such as one in which a person willingly hands over a personal check to a fraudulent cause.

Understanding Affinity Fraud

An affinity fraud is an investment scam that targets members of one specific subset of the population. Quite often, victims of such fraud are those involved in a religious group, for example, or an elderly community. In the most severe instances of affinity fraud, the perpetrator may actually pretend to be a part of this group. These types of scams can be particularly devastating because they erode trust and human relationships as well as bank accounts. Punishment for this type of fraud can be equally as devastating. In instances in which a person impersonated another, or alleged to have qualifications he or she in fact did not, may carry additional charges of fraud unrelated to money.

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juvenile crime, Stamford criminal defense attorneyAlthough the number of youths charged with crimes has been on the decline, statistics show that the juvenile justice system still processed more than one million teens and children for crimes in 2014. Their charges, which range from simple drug violations and vandalism to murder, often carry hefty penalties, particularly in more conservative, heavy-handed states. When paired with poor rehabilitation programs, the probability of recidivism increases exponentially. All of this makes one thing very clear: something must change if we hope to save our youth.

How America’s Juvenile Justice System Is Failing Its Youth

Experts have long argued that youths in the juvenile justice system are treated unfairly, especially when their lack of maturity is taken into account. Some states – Connecticut, for example – have responded accordingly and managed to improve conditions and shift the focus to rehabilitation rather than punishment. But others fail miserably and, despite research and scientific studies, fail to recognize that young people are less likely to be able to self-regulate and make sound decisions.

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forgery, counterfeiting, Fairfield County criminal defense attorneyThe crime of forgery may refer to large operations in which a person purposefully lies about the origin of a high-end luxury good in order to sell it at supposed market value. It may, in this case, bring to mind images of people hawking forged goods on the street corner or in discount stores. However, it may also refer to any instance in which a person signs another person’s name, such as for a package delivery, or accepting someone else’s mail.

Yet it is not just the act of selling a forged product or pretending to be someone else in order to sign for him that is considered under law to be an act of forgery—any step in the counterfeiting process is subject to criminal punishment. This includes the manufacture of any analog or digital images, impressions of tools, or possessing such tools for counterfeiting purposes, no matter where in the world a person is at the time of the crime. That is, it is technically against the law for any person outside of the United States to manufacture, deal, or possess any counterfeit security of the United States—however ambitious this is to enforce on the ground.

Forged Certificates and Written Instruments

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property crime, Stamford criminal defense attorneyViolent crime has seen a marked decrease in the past decades, leading many U.S. citizens to feel more secure than ever before. Just as violent crimes—such as rape, murder, and assault—have decreased in recent years, the rate of property crime has as well. Despite a national economic climate that some would say leads to a higher rate of non-violent property crime, over the five-year period between 2006 and 2010, there was more than a 12 percent drop in property crime. The 2010 rate of property crime (how many incidents per number of 100,000 residents) was about 2,9400—a marked decrease from 3,660 in 2001 and 3,350 in 2006.

There are several types of property theft as defined by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. These include (but are not limited to): burglary, larceny, theft, and motor vehicle theft. Burglary is the forcible breaking and entering to an unauthorized location, and usually involves charges of theft as well. Motor vehicle theft is the stealing of a car or other type of motor vehicle. Larceny is the unlawful taking of property—other than a motor vehicle—without force. That is, pickpocketing or shoplifting would be considered larceny. A charge may be increased to grand larceny depending on the value of the stolen items.

Beginning in the 1990s and continuing today, increased incarceration rates seemingly have deterred many from committing non-violent property crimes. Other reports attribute the decline in this type of crime to more effective law enforcement. And yet many statisticians say that, while these types of crime have continued to decrease while incarceration rates increase, the correlation is not so simple. The aging population may influence this as well, as may the fact that the number of police on the street continues to grow. Some reports note that the increased incarceration rates only accounted for 6 percent of the property crime decline in the 1990s, and only 1 percent in the 2000s. There is also the issue that some statisticians are drawing conclusions by making a comparison between two disparate cities or communities, leading to a simplistic or incomplete analysis.

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false rape allegations, Stamford criminal defense attorneyIf you are accused of rape or forcible sexual assault, it is an allegation that has the potential to stay with you forever, even if you are acquitted of the actual crime. This is especially true for young people in universities, because of the sensitive nature of alleged sexual assault in public or private institutions.

Growing Concerns

Due to several recent highly-publicized crimes in which university officials did not necessarily respond to allegations of rape with the fullest severity required by law, some colleges have attempted to go the other way, meaning that allegations of rape are treated more seriously than ever before. This is good for legitimate victims, but it can also mean that false accusations are not investigated to the fullest and dismissed as such. Often, the accused is not given a fair chance in court or campus society. While it may be particularly difficult to disprove allegations of rape on campus, this is an issue that affects all accusations of sexual assault.

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threatening emojis, Stamford criminal defense attorneyEmojis and emoticons – little symbols used to communicate on mobile devices and on the Internet – have become a language all their own. This is especially true for millennials and the up-and-coming generation, many of whom have yet to even hear the word puberty, let alone actually reach it. With this new picture-speak, there comes an entire array of challenges, some of which may extend into the justice system - so much so that some may be wondering if they really could face criminal charges just for using them.

The Language of Emoji and Emoticon

Like words, emojis and emoticons are used to communicate. But, unlike words, which are usually pretty straightforward in their meaning, the cartoonish symbols could mean almost anything. Take, for example, a seemingly harmless wink: in one conversation, it could be interpreted as flirtatious or ironic; in another, it could be intended as an actual threat. Unfortunately, because the inferred meanings are different from one person to the next--and often even from one conversation to the next with the same person--police officers, judges, and juries have no reliable way to tell the difference between the two.

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threats, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyWith more than 160 school shootings since 2013 – 52 of which occurred in 2015 alone – lawmakers are looking for a way to deter further violent acts and threats. This is the goal behind their latest proposed bill. If passed, it would increase penalties for those found guilty of even simply making a threat against any school, including preschools, primary schools, high schools, and higher education schools.

Recent “Wave” of Threats Prompted New Bill

According to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Stamford Democratic Representative William Tong, several bomb threats have recently been made against schools throughout the state of Connecticut. All prompted complete evacuations, causing needless panic among students, staff, and police. Senator Tony Hwang of Fairfield, also in support of the bill, says the threats have gone above and beyond simple childhood pranks.

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money laundering, Stamford Criminal Defense AttorneyThe idea of money laundering can seem like a very complex crime left mostly to the mafia or executives of high-powered companies. It does not seem like a crime that would be one commonly perpetrated by everyday people or workers. In fact, money laundering encompasses several different types of financial crimes, which are often committed by everyday citizens. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is responsible for investigating allegations of money laundering, though cases are prosecuted in the judicial district in which the defendant was accused of the crime.

Hidden Revenue Streams

The obvious type of money laundering is when large organizations, usually criminal in nature, hide profits from unsavory businesses, such as the drug trade, prostitution, or the black market for stolen goods. This money is often hidden in offshore accounts or in assets such as expensive cars and property.

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vehicular manslaughter, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyDetermining the most common causes of death in the world is a challenge, one that varies wildly depending on the reporting agency, year, and country. Yet vehicular manslaughter is one that consistently makes the lists year after year, even as other major health crises are addressed and subverted.

Vehicular manslaughter is defined as the unintentional murder of someone while behind the wheel of a car, usually caused by reckless driving or gross negligence. Driving over the speed limit may be considered gross negligence, and thus the vehicular manslaughter charge could be treated as a misdemeanor. Conversely, if the person behind the wheel was drunk at the time of accident in which someone was killed, the charge will likely be a felony because the circumstance in which the person was driving was illegal from the beginning.

In Connecticut, a vehicular manslaughter conviction automatically carries a one-year license suspension and a two-year period in which the person must use an ignition interlock device in his or her car. A large percentage of vehicular manslaughter cases are the result of drunk driving. In Connecticut, this is considered second degree manslaughter, and carries the punishment of a Class C felony, punishable by one to ten years in prison and/or up to a $10,000 fine. Between 2001 and 2010, there were 191 second degree manslaughter convictions of this nature in the state.

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shoplifting, retail theft, Connecticut criminal defense lawyerSome people steal merchandise from a store because they are unable to afford the item they want or need. Others do so for the thrill, excitement, or adrenaline rush. And then there are those that shoplift for the sake of committing another crime, such as selling the goods in exchange for cash. Whatever the reason behind the act, shoplifting (otherwise known as larceny) is a crime with potentially far-reaching implications for those convicted.

Shoplifting Defined

Although shoplifting might seem like a pretty straightforward charge, it actually covers a large array of potential acts, including:

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racial disparity, police violence, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyAlthough efforts have been made to decrease the police-related racial disparities, new information indicates they are still present. In fact, according to the Associated Press, preliminary data indicates that officers fired stun guns at blacks and Hispanics suspects at a rate higher than white suspects last year. Officers are warning citizens not to be overly alarmed at the information because differences between departments and cities can make it difficult to compare percentages, but experts say they are still concerned.

Stun Gun Risks

For the most part, stun guns cause only minor injuries, including the need for removal of the prongs that deliver the shock. However, Amnesty International reports that at least 540 people in the United States have died after being shocked by a stun gun between the years 2001 and 2012. In Connecticut, 17 people have died since 2005, and 12 of them were minorities, the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut now says. So, while this is, overall, a very small percentage, the information does indicate a very real risk of stun gun death, particularly among minorities.  

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disabilities, hate crime, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyHate crimes are largely considered those perpetrated against certain groups or individuals, motivated by the victim's religion, race, or sexual orientation. Indeed, the most widely-publicized incidents labeled as hate crimes are those in which a person is distinctly vocal about his or her disdain for a certain group of people and its beliefs, creeds, or private activities. Yet hate crimes can also be perpetrated against groups of people with disabilities, whether they are primarily physical. mental, or emotional in nature. In fact, studies show that people with learning disabilities are more vulnerable than others to experience bullying, harassment or to be victims of hate crime. In 2007, for example, 79 of the total hate crimes reported nationwide were committed against people with disabilities, a marked increase from the 44 hate crimes against people with disabilities that were reported in 2003.

Historically Few Protections

This group of people includes any person who has mental or emotional issues, including but not limited to: development delays, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and other mental impairments. For much of the 20th century, people with disabilities were often marginalized from so-called “normal” society, and there were no laws specifically forbidding discrimination against them. The Americans with Disabilities Act, the nation’s first civil rights law prohibiting the discrimination of people with disabilities in the workplace, public accommodations, and public services, was not passed until 1990. It may be little wonder, then, that the rate of hate crimes perpetrated against this particular group continues to be an issue.

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weapons, Stamford criminal defense attorneyThe rate of violent crimes has continued to decrease nationwide, though widely publicized events and acts of domestic terrorism—such as mass shootings—continue to rise. As this trend moves into the new year, the national conversation has moved again to gun control, an issue that promises to be of grave importance as we move closer to the 2016 presidential election. There are several restrictions already in place in the state of Connecticut regarding the possession, sale, and use of firearms, the violation of which can result in serious punishment, jail time, and even a mark on one’s permanent record.

The Connecticut state legislature requires that anyone buying or otherwise acquiring a gun in the state must obtain them and follow the proper legal authorization procedure to do so. This includes anyone interested in purchasing a gun at a gun show, online from a friend, or even if one is borrowing a firearm from a family member. The person selling the gun—even if this is a private exchange between two people who know each other—must have proper permits to sell firearms. Failure to do so could result in fines or jail time or both.

In the wake of the tragedies at the end of 2015 in which firearms played a central role, so does the dialogue revolving around the restriction of gun sales and ownership. In the state of Connecticut, there have long been restrictions in place regarding who may own or possess a gun. These include:

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death penalty, Stamford Criminal Defense AttorneyOlder than America itself (significantly older, really), the death penalty has always been largely supported by U.S. citizens. However, there is evidence that suggests that the tides may be shifting. In fact, if recent changes to state laws and a poll conducted by Gallup and the Pew Research Center are any indication, capital punishment may eventually become a thing of the past.

Support for the Death Penalty at Nearly a 40-Year Low

Support for the death penalty in the United States reached its peak in the 1980s and ‘90s. It now sits somewhere between 56 and 61 percent, according to the 2015 study. While still considered to be the majority, this number marks a steady and continuous decline since the peak period. And, according to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, this number also places support for the death penalty at nearly a 40-year low.

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age limit, juvenile system, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyIt is illegal to purchase alcohol or handgun until the age of 21. Congressional seats are unobtainable until the age of 25, as are most discounts on car insurance. Even rental cars have added restrictions for those under the age of 25. And yet, all throughout the country, children as young as 14 are tried and convicted as adults. Even in Connecticut, where the age of eligibility is quite progressive, most young adults are pushed out of the juvenile system the moment they turn 18.

Seems a little contradictory, does it not?

Interestingly enough, there are lawmakers and legislatures that actually agree; Governor Dannel Malloy is one of them. In fact, he recently proposed that Connecticut divert its youth from the adult correctional facility by raising its age of eligibility to 20, and that the state come up with alternative methods for handing non-violent offenders under the age of 25. As it turns out, there may be a number of benefits in doing so.

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Posted on in Assault and Battery

bar fight, assault, Stamford criminal defense attorneyThe idea that alcohol and violent assault are linked is nothing new. In fact, sometimes alcohol is blamed for incidents of assault in which it was not present, or did not play a contributing role. This is sometimes the case, for example, in the event of domestic violence: Assault is blamed on the effects of alcohol, rather than a deep-seated issue within the partner him or herself. In fact, there are several studies that call alcohol the most common “date rape drug,” because while a person may decide to drink, if she consumes more than was planning or more than she can handle, the chance of unwanted sexual assault or contact can increase. Yet the rate of assault of a non-sexual nature seems to be linked to alcohol as well. This is due in part to the commonly-known side effect of alcohol to make a person more violent and less able to control his or her emotions.

A large number of convicted offenders admit to having been under the influence of alcohol when he or she committed the crime. Out of more than 5 million convicted offenders who were recently surveyed, nearly 2 million (more than 35 percent) report having been drinking or drunk when the crime was committed. An example of this is the common bar fight. While bar fights may have been romanticized throughout history (think Old West saloons), assaulting someone at a bar while drinking can have very serious consequences that may go on a person’s permanent record.

The statistics around bar fights find that not every person is at the same level of risk for being involved in such an incident: Bar fights happen in darker, dirtier bars involving people who are heavy drinkers and usually unhappy to begin with. They also tend to happen in establishments in which there is a competitive game present (such as darts or pool), and in places in which there are more male employees/bartenders than female. Women, however, are not immune to the bar fight trap—it was determined that the women involved in bar fights had had roughly more than four drinks more than usual, meaning that their involvement in such an incident precluding excessive binge drinking at a higher rate than men.

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holiday, DUI, Connecticut DUI defense attorneyThe holiday season is a busy time, with families getting together, going out to dinner after a long day of shopping, and spending time with friends at the local pub, restaurant, or bar. Police officers are busier, too, stopping drivers they believe may be intoxicated. In fact, it appears they are putting some extra manpower into catching more DUI drivers this holiday season.

Thanksgiving Marked Beginning of Efforts

For officers, the arrests begin Thanksgiving Day and continue on through the New Year; this year was no exception. According to a press release from the State Police, they made nine DUI arrests, as well as another 393 for speeding on the very first day of the effort. They also issued 56 tickets for seatbelt violations and another 894 tickets for moving violations that included unsafe lane changes, following too closely, using cell phone while driving, texting, and failure to signal.

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Posted on in Hate Crimes

hate crime, holiday increase, stamford criminal defense attorneyThe incidents of several different types of crime rises during the holiday season, likely due to increased stress levels, demands for money, and pervasive societal stress and expectations. Sadly, hate crimes are no exception to these trends. The rate of hate crimes spikes during the holidays both likely due to the aforementioned social quandaries, but also because of the holidays themselves—hate crimes against the Jewish community especially seem to spike during the holiday season, and this even more-so on the East Coast, where cities are comprised of large percentages of citizens who identify with the Jewish faith. In 2015, as terrorist attacks continue to infiltrate the fabric of everyday Western life, the rate of hate crimes against Muslims will likely keep pace as well.

More Than Faith-Based

Regardless, the highest rate of hate crime incident continues to be racially-motivated, at 47 percent nationwide. Hate crimes motivated by religious identification or sexual orientation are tied at second, each accounting for nearly 19 percent of all reported incidents of hate crimes. In Connecticut, a hate crime does not have to be defined as an act of physical violence or physical action. A hate crime can also be defined as a crime of intimidation, which includes criminal harassment or being threatened. A person can be charged with criminal harassment if the alleged victim can prove that he or she was being repeatedly followed, that the person repeatedly called the person’s place of work or home (either directly or through contacting a mutual acquaintance), or if a person receives threatening letters or emails.

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juvenile sex offender, sex offender registry, Stamford criminal defense attorneyFor years, states have been tightening the registry for sex offenders, and this includes juvenile sex offenders. But, as more evidence comes in, some states are starting to rethink how they handle their juvenile cases. Unfortunately, the changes are slow in coming, and this can mean some big issues for some juvenile offenders, even in the state of Connecticut, where juveniles are not typically registered.

The Truth about Juvenile Sex Offenders

Early information and thinking on juvenile sex offenders had been originally based on what was known about adult offenders. Over time, it has become clear that juvenile offenders and adult offenders are very different. For example, juvenile offenders are far less likely to reoffend than adults, especially if they receive quality treatment and intervention. In fact, some studies have found recidivism rates to be as low as one percent among juvenile offenders.

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Posted on in Assault and Battery

police, assault of an officer, Stamford criminal defense attorneyIn the wake of several headline-making events this year involving police brutality and allegations of systemic issues of bias by police departments, the issue of assaults perpetrated against police have somewhat taken a backseat in media coverage. This does not mean that they are not still happening, or that the issue is not a major one for most police departments across the country. In 2014, more than 48,000 police officers nationwide were assaulted, and of these more than 28 percent sustained injuries. This is a rate of officer assaults of nine per 100 sworn police officers.

Dangerous Interactions

The majority of assaults against police are perpetrated when a person is out of control, either on drugs or drunk or angry. This can happen in a heated emotional or tense situation when the police are called to handle someone who is posing a danger to himself or people around him. When the situation escalates to violence, police officers are sometimes caught in the middle and assaulted, either accidentally or on purpose. Whether the assault against an officer was intended or not does not matter in the eyes of the law.

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