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December 2014 Archives

How is 'actual loss' calculated in a fraud case in federal court?

Answer:

One would think that in a case involving the theft of money or a financial fraud, the 'actual loss' would be the amount of money taken or stolen, right? It's not. 'Actual loss' is a term of art and it means not just real loss, but intended loss. Why does this matter? Because, under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the more the actual loss (or intended loss), the higher the sentence. But what if the actual loss is zero, that is, what if no one lost any money or had any money actually taken from them? As a Jacksonville criminal attorney, I have seen cases where prosecutors try to inflate loss figures, even when the real loss is minimal.

What is willful blindness?

Answer:

Willful blindness is a concept in federal law that says you cannot make yourself willfully blind, that is, ignore, an obviously illegal situation you are involved in. And if you do, you do so at your peril. Consider the prosecution of Annette Bongiorno, the 66 year old secretary of master Ponzi schemer and investment fraudster, Bernard Madoff. Bongiorno was a high school graduate with no skills other than shorthand and typing. She handled the books for hundreds of investment advisory accounts, most of them fraudulent. But, as she told a federal judge, she did what she was told by Madoff and didn't know what was going on. However, the judge determined that she should have known that her boss's financial success was a sham. She was told to fabricate and backdate a number of fictitious trades, which she did on her boss's orders. She claimed that she never figured out the truth of what was going on. As a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, I have represented people charged in criminal conspiracies that claimed not to have know what was going on.

Can I be held after I serve my sentence for a sex crime?

Answer:

Yes, you can, under Florida's harsh civil commitment laws. Those convicted of sex offenses are often detained indefinitely for crimes they haven't yet committed. After serving their sentences, they are transferred to the Florida Civil Commitment Center in Arcadia. It doesn't sound like a prison, does it? Well it is, only worse, because the inmates there never know when, if ever, they will be released. As a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney, I have represented those who have been subjected to involuntary civil commitment.

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