top of page
  • What is a conspiracy?
    A conspiracy is an agreement among two or more persons to commit a crime. Under federal law, there are two types of crimes: (1) substantive offenses, like bank robbery, or distributing illegal drugs, which require that the accused actually commit the crime charged or make an attempt to do so and (2) conspiracy. So, two or more people can get together, plan how to break into a bank, and later be arrested for conspiracy without actually robbing the bank. A conspiracy to commit a crime is illegal because when more people are involved, there is a greater chance that more crimes will be committed, a greater likelihood that someone will get hurt, and more pressure on each conspirator to actually go through with the crime. Where the substantive crime is charged, the defendant can commit the crime alone and be prosecuted and convicted. Conspiracies come in two flavors. There is the general conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. §371. That statute can be used to charge a conspiracy to commit any federal crime. But a §371 conspiracy requires the commission of an “overt act.” An overt act can be something entirely legal, like renting a car. The purpose of an overt act is to make sure that innocent people don’t get charged for just talking about a crime they don’t intend to commit. Another feature of a §371 conspiracy is that the maximum sentence is five years in prison. That means that the most a defendant can receive for conspiracy to commit any crime is five years. Many federal offenses have their own conspiracy provisions. Unlike §371, they do not require the commission of an overt act. Under these statutes, there is a greater danger that someone who doesn’t really intend to commit a crime could be prosecuted. Also, a person convicted of one of these conspiracies can receive the exact same sentence as if they had committed the substantive act. So, if someone runs a laboratory and charges Medicare for tests their lab did not perform, like a blood test, they could be charged with health care fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1347. The maximum penalty they could receive is ten years in prison. If they entered into an agreement with a doctor to share the Medicare payments in exchange for patient Medicare numbers, both the lab owner and the doctor could be charged with conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. § 1349. If convicted, the maximum sentence they could face is also ten years in prison. Sometimes a defendant can avoid a maximum sentence under § 1349 if defense counsel and the prosecutor agree to a plea to a §371 conspiracy, such as a conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Even though health care fraud has its own conspiracy provision and the maximum sentence a defendant could receive is ten years, if the defendant is sentenced under § 371, they could only receive five years in prison. This is just a brief introduction to conspiracy. Depending on the case, the law can become very complex. There are a host of other issues that come into play when one is actually charged with this offense: questions regarding the statute of limitations, admissibility of hearsay evidence, jurisdiction, the sentencing guidelines. If you are under investigation or facing charges for this or any other offense, you should consult with counsel experienced in representing defendants in federal court. You can find information on selecting a qualified attorney on my website,
  • What are mail and wire fraud?
    Mail fraud is prohibited under federal statute 18 U.S.C. § 1341. The maximum sentence for mail fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Wire fraud is prohibited under federal statute 18 U.S.C. § 1343. The maximum sentence for wire fraud is 20 years in prison. Both statutes make it a crime to engage in essentially the same illegal conduct: cheating someone out of their money or property. The difference between the two statutes is that mail fraud requires that the accused use the mail or a common carrier to convince someone to part with their money or property whereas wire fraud requires the use of telephones or the internet to achieve the same goal. In many cases, the crime is committed using the mail and wire communications so a defendant is charged with both offenses. The language of these two statutes is confusing. And how these statutes apply can differ depending upon the circumstances of the crime charged. To be guilty of either crime, the accused must say or email or text or write something false or misleading. But that alone is not enough for a conviction. The accused must also intend that their communication cause a victim to part with their money or property. So, it is not enough to just try to mislead someone unless the intent is to cheat them out of their money or property. Usually that means not giving the victim what they expected in return. For instance, it is not a crime for someone to initiate a romantic relationship by sending an email falsely representing one’s marital status. But if the false statement is intended to induce the other party to send $500 for a plane ticket from Miami to LA, and the person uses the money to pay their rent instead, or buy their spouse a new watch, that would be a crime. To be convicted of this offense, it is not necessary for the victim to be fooled or that the defendant actually receive the money or property they sought. All that is required is that the defendant use the mail or wires to mislead another into giving the defendant their money or property believing that it would be used for a particular purpose. Another statute makes it a crime for an employee to defraud an employer of its right to the employee’s honest services, such as taking a kickback for purchasing substandard or overpriced goods, or when a government official deprives the government of their honest services such as by taking a bribe to pass certain legislation. 18 U.S.C. § 1346. If you are under investigation or facing charges for this or any other offense, you should consult with counsel experienced in representing defendants in federal court. You can find information on selecting a qualified attorney on my website,
  • What is healthcare fraud?
    Each year the federal government pays over a trillion dollars for healthcare benefits and services. And each year criminals steal tens of billions of dollars from various healthcare programs such as Medicare. There seems to be no limit on the schemes criminals have come up with to steal from the government. Sometimes these schemes are committed by the healthcare provider and sometimes by the patient. Some of the ways government programs have been defrauded include: · A doctor billing for care that was never provided or was not necessary or outside legitimate medical practice, such as running a “pill mill.” · A laboratory billing for tests that were never performed. · A hospital “upcoding,” which is charging for a more expensive test or procedure than the one performed. · A doctor waiving co-pays, then charging an insurer for the difference. · An imaging company paying kickbacks for patient referrals and the doctor for receiving the kickbacks. · A patient making a false claim for treatment they never received. Among other statutes, the government prosecutes healthcare offenders under 18 U.S.C. § 1347, the substantive offense, and 18 U.S.C. 1349, conspiracy to violate § 1347. Someone convicted of either offense can be sentenced to a maximum of ten years in prison. If you are under investigation or facing charges for this or any other offense, you should consult with counsel experienced in representing defendants in federal court. You can find information on selecting a qualified attorney on my website,
  • What is CARES Act Fraud?
    In response to the COVID shutdown, the federal government created programs to prop up the economy and insure that people had enough money to live on. One of these programs was the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and another the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program. To receive money under either program, an applicant had to sign paperwork swearing they were an employer who could not pay his employees and keep his company open or an employee who had been laid off or fired. These offenses were very easy to commit since the agencies administering these programs had neither the expertise nor sufficient staff to verify the representations of the people applying for the loans. But today, the agencies investigating these loans, have both the expertise and the staff to identify and prosecute wrongdoers and the President and the Attorney General have made prosecuting offenders a priority. If you are under investigation or facing charges for this or any other offense, you should consult with counsel experienced in representing defendants in federal court. You can find information on selecting a qualified attorney on my website,
  • What are forfeiture and restitution?
    Forfeiture is a penalty, like prison or a fine, that a court can impose on a person convicted of a federal offense (there are state forfeiture provisions too). The intent of forfeiture is to remove the incentive for committing a crime by taking away a defendant’s ill-gotten gains. Thus, if a defendant has been convicted of bank fraud for stealing $10 million from the Sixth National Bank of Detroit, the court can order that the $5 million they put in their personal account at the Seventh National Bank of Pittsburg can be seized by the government. The government can also seize the defendant’s $5 million home, sell the house, and collect the money from the sale. If the defendant, in a fit of anger, burns his home down, the government can go after assets that were not purchased with money stolen from the Sixth National Bank. These are known as substitute assets. The yacht they purchased before the theft from the bank, the home in Maine inherited from parents, the Picaso, 401ks, money put aside for the kids’ college, are all fair game for forfeiture. Because forfeiture is a penalty, it is not intended to compensate a victim for their losses. Money realized from forfeitures can be kept by the government, but the government may, and often does, returns assets taken from victims to the victims. While forfeiture is intended to be a penalty, restitution is intended to compensate victims for their losses. It is also mandatory. Thus, in the example above, the court must order that the defendant pay Sixth National $10 million in restitution. By the time many defendants are convicted, most of the money or property they obtained illegally has been spent or has disappeared. Few are ever able to pay restitution to the victims. Some don’t even make an effort. But restitution is a judgment against them and such judgments often prevent the defendant from being able to obtain loans or even open bank accounts after they have completed their sentence.
  • What is corporate crime?
    Corporate crime comes in a variety of flavors. Sometimes a company’s management inflates or overvalues the company’s assets in order to obtain or maintain a line of credit from a bank. That is the crime of bank fraud. Sometimes a company wants to show that it is more profitable than it actually is in order to manipulate the price of it stock. That is securities fraud. Sometimes a company will pay a bribe to a foreign official to sell goods or services to the foreign country. That is a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In almost every instance of fraud involving a company or a corporation, it is necessary to manipulate the company’s books and records. This is accounting fraud. Because mail or wire communication is always used, the company and the individuals involved in these crimes can be charged with mail or wire fraud. A conspiracy can be charged as well. Accounting fraud by a public company can also be a crime under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act even if the fraud had nothing to do with bribing a foreign official. Not everyone knows that, until they are charged with cooking the books and face 20 years in prison.
  • What is insider trading?
    The idea behind insider trading is very simple; prosecuting someone for insider trading can be very complicated. The stock market is intended to give every investor a fair chance of making a profit. But when “insiders,” that is persons working at, or for the company, possess information that is not known to the public, and they use that information to buy or sell stocks on the market, they have committed a crime. For example, if an engineer for an aerospace firm learns that the delivery of their new jet plane to Delta Airlines is going to be delayed because of a major programming error, and based on that information shorts his company’s stock because he knows that the price will fall, and by betting on the stock price falling, makes a huge profit, he has engaged in insider trading. In such a case it is easy for the government to identify the company employee and prove that they traded on insider information; which is why there are few such cases. Usually, the “insider” is also a “tipper.” Because they don’t want to get caught, they give the information to someone else to use to trade on the market, the “tippee.” They then split the profits from the sale. This is a slightly more difficult case for the government to investigate because they first have to identify all the persons who sold short then connect them to some employee at the company. This is where things get complicated. What if there was no financial arrangement between the parties. What if the employee just let it slip that there was a problem with their airplane and that it might not be delivered on time. If a person overheard the comment at a cocktail party and traded on this information, is that insider trading? Certainly, they benefited from information no one in the general public has. What if the engineer intentionally revealed the information to a friend because they wanted their friend to profit from their information? What if they told their spouse, not expecting she would mention the information to her father? If you are under investigation or facing charges for this or any other offense, you should consult with counsel experienced in representing defendants in federal court. You can find information on selecting a qualified attorney on my website,
  • What are security and commodity fraud?
    Securities and Commodities are both kinds of investments. With a security, you are buying a share of ownership in a company with the promise by the company that they will share their profits with you. But most people buy stock because they believe it will appreciate in value, and when it does, make a profit from selling it. With a commodity, you are buying the right to purchase a particular commodity, such as corn, at a future date, and at a guaranteed price. For example, a manufacturer of corn oil might enter into a contract, called a futures contract, to by 10,000 bushels of corn at $5 a bushel to be delivered in 90 days. Why would the manufacture do this, why not just wait till they need the corn. Because weather happens. Today’s price is a fair price, a price that the company can pay for corn and make a good price. But if a flood destroys corn fields in an entire corn producing region, and the price goes up to $8 a pound, the company may not be able to afford to buy as much corn and we consumers end up paying the price. By entering into a futures contract, the company has locked into a guaranteed price. This is where speculators come in. Speculators are investors who sell futures contracts believing either that the price will go up or down. So, let us say that they believe that there is going to be an abundance of corn grown this year. They agree to deliver the 10,000 bushels for $5 a bushel, expecting that there will be so much corn that when delivery comes due, the price is only $3 a bushel. If that happens, they buy 10,000 bushels for $3 a bushel, deliver it to the company, and pocket the $2 difference. But the downside of speculation is that if the corn is $8, they still have to deliver 10,000 bushels even if it is costing $3 a bushel more. This kind of investing is not for the feint of heart. Fortunes can be won or lost in a matter of seconds. Securities and commodities fraud come in many different flavors but a common one involves convincing a buyer to purchase a security that the seller doesn’t have. Another common crime is selling an investment that is supposed to be registered as a security in order to protect consumers but is not registered. With a commodity, the crime often involves selling a victim a commodity when the commodity is not actually purchased and the investor can only make money if the value of the commodity increases. In reality the victim has only purchased a futures contract which can only be purchased through a regulated commodities exchange.
  • What is white-collar crime?
    White-collar crime is not a crime itself. It is a term that is used to refer to offenses that generally involve fraud and deceit and don’t involve violence. Examples include securities fraud, embezzlement, corporate fraud, and money laundering. A murder committed by the CEO of a corporation would not be a white-collar crime. Possession of cocaine by a junior executive would not be a white-collar crime. Money laundering to promote an oil and gas fraud would be a white-collar crime, but not if it is to conceal the profits from a drug cartel, even if the money was laundered through a Swiss bank.
bottom of page