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A South Florida man has been convicted in a $100 million scheme to defraud a Puerto Rico bank.

According to court records, the 55-year-old man was convicted in Miami federal court Monday of eight counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution. His sentencing is scheduled for April 30.

Prosecutors believe the man served as chairman and CEO of a pharmaceutical company from 2005 to 2007 and caused Westernbank to grant a series of loans in exchange for a security interest in the company’s assets in 2005. According to reports, evidence showed Western Bank agreed to advance money based on fake customer invoices, which allowed the man to divert tens of millions of dollars.

Westernbank declared the loan in default in 2007 and lost more than $100 million, leading to the bank’s insolvency and collapse.

Wire fraud is a federal offense and if convicted, you face heavy fines and serious jail time. Since this man was found guilty of committing wire fraud against a financial institution, jail time can be up to 30 years. These are very serious charges, and you should not wait to seek help. In fact, the sooner you obtain legal representation the better.

A person can be found guilty of wire fraud if they knowingly and willfully devised a scheme to defraud, or obtain money or property under false pretenses, and knowingly transmitted or caused to be transmitted by wire in interstate commerce in some capacity for the purpose of executing the scheme to defraud. This crime is centered around “intent,” and you do not have to actually defraud someone to be convicted of wire fraud.

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A federal jury convicted a Lake Worth man of sex trafficking women and girls during a decade in South Florida, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced.

The 42-year-old was accused of trafficking multiple women and two girls for commercial sex from 2008 through 2017.

The women lived at the man’s homes and traveled to hotels and other locations to meet men and engage in sex for money, which the man kept, prosecutors said.

The man used violence to force the women to participate, authorities said.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office human trafficking task force arrested the man in November 2017 after one of the women’s father contacted them, the agency said then.

The federal jury handed up its decision on Dec. 20. The man was convicted of three counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion; two counts of sex trafficking of a minor and one count of obstructing a human trafficking investigation.

He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 26. He could face a prison sentence of 15 years to life.

Society considers sex crimes to be some of the most heinous crimes. A conviction for a sex offense can result in serious penalties, including mandatory registration as a sex offender on the Florida Public Sex Offender Registry. In the court of public opinion, the mere accusation of a sex offense can make you appear guilty in the eyes of others, including jurors. This bias often leads to false convictions and harsh sentencing.

If you have been convicted of a sex offense, like human trafficking, you may think your fate has been sealed. However, that is not necessarily true. The prosecution, juries and judges can make mistakes, legal errors, and new evidence may come to light, which all award you the right to pursue post-conviction rights.

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A former Colombian anti-corruption official is facing prison time after pleading guilty to U.S. money-laundering conspiracy charges as part of a bribery scheme.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled Thursday in Miami federal court for the former director of the anti-corruption office for Colombia’s chief prosecutor.

The man faces up to 20 years in prison.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says in court documents that the man sought to obtain thousands of dollars in bribes from a former governor of Colombia’s Cordoba region who was under a separate corruption investigation.

Bribery is defined as the act of offering money in order to influence the actions of another. The crime of bribery usually arises in the case of public officials, where a private citizen may offer something of value as a means to influence how the public official carries out their public duties. Most bribery cases are charged as conspiracies. In a conspiracy, the government believes that two or more people agreed to engage in criminal conduct.  

With extremely harsh penalties on the line, anyone facing accusations of bribery needs a powerful federal criminal defense attorney on their side to protect their interests, their livelihood, and, most importantly, their freedom.

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A woman who was on a first date fell off a motorcycle somehow and was run over several times on I-95 Friday, according to reports.

The 33-year-old was picked up by a man on a motorcycle Thursday night. They were headed to downtown Delray Beach for a night on the town.

The tragic incident, which happened just south of Atlantic Boulevard in Pompano Beach, is being investigated as a traffic homicide, Florida Highway Patrol officials said.

Several drivers accidentally ran over the woman around 1:30 a.m. Friday. Some drivers stopped and stayed, and others kept driving, according to FHP.

Some witnesses said they had seen a man on a motorcycle standing near the woman’s body, and then take off.

A wrongful death suit may arise from an accidental death, like a motorcycle crash or an intentional violent act, such as assault and battery. Sometimes, a death may result in both criminal charges and a wrongful death lawsuit being filed. The lawsuits will be filed separately; a criminal prosecution is intended to punish a wrongdoer and is brought by police and government prosecutors, whereas a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action filed by surviving family members to obtain monetary compensation.

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The answer is yes. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) does make mistakes. While this should never happen, it is definitely a possibility.

This was the case when a Florida man was detained by ICE in the Keys. The man is now suing the local sheriff who’s deputies arrested him on behalf of federal agents who wanted him deported to Jamaica, even though he is a U.S. citizen.

The man filed the federal lawsuit on Monday, accusing the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in the Florida Keys of violating his constitutional rights.

The man, who lives in the Keys, wasn’t deported after a friend provided the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency with proof of his citizenship.

He was arrested last April by deputies at the request of ICE agents. He says he repeatedly told deputies he was a U.S. citizen and offered to produce a birth certificate showing he was born in Philadelphia.

If you are a U.S. citizen, and you are detained by ICE, assert your citizenship as loudly and as often as possible. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the search and/or seizure of a U.S. citizen not charged with a crime, however, this does not apply to undocumented immigrants. Because of this, ICE does not grant you the right to consult an attorney or to see an immigration judge if their agents believe you to be undocumented. Sadly, you are at their mercy; an ICE agent may grant you a phone call or contact your attorney or they could ignore your rights.

Do not consent to any searches or any kind of transport elsewhere. Try not lose your temper, but refuse any requests to come to the station or be searched without an attorney present. Keep repeating and asserting your rights.

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A distracted driver hit a cycling group along a South Florida road, killing a 53-year-old woman and injuring six others.

The 33-year-old driver told investigators she was distracted by something in the passenger compartment. She also said the sun was shining directly in her face, contributing to the Sunday morning crash.

Police said there are no signs the woman was impaired or speeding. She was cooperative with investigators, allowing them to download potential crash data from the car as well as contents of her cell phone. She has not been charged, pending the investigation.

Our South Florida Auto Accident Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton cannot say this enough: distracted driving is dangerous. In 2016 alone, the most recent year of statistics available, distracted driving claimed 3,450 lives. In 2015, 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

Distracted driving is classified as any activity that takes attention away from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system, etc. You cannot drive safely when something other than driving has your attention. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and only increases your risk of crashing, which could harm passengers, other motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians sharing the road with you.

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A Miami man was arrested Tuesday, a year after he allegedly raped a 17-year-old girl who was seven months pregnant at the time, authorities said.

According to an arrest report, the teen was sitting alone at a bus stop on Sept. 29, 2017, when the 48-year-old man pulled up in his vehicle and asked her to get in.

Police said the teen didn’t know the man and refused, so the man parked his car and approached the teen on foot.

The teen apparently got into the man’s car, authorities said.

According to the arrest report, the man drove the teen to a secluded location, forced her to get in the back seat and then raped her.

DNA results from the teen’s rape kit apparently traced back to the man on Tuesday, police said.

The man was arrested on a charge of sexual battery on a minor. He is being held at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center.

Rape is one of the most serious criminal offenses a person can be charged with. The potential penalties are quite severe. If you have been accused of rape, or sexual assault, there is a good chance that some of the key evidence the State of Florida will introduce against you came from an examination, more commonly referred to as a “rape kit.”

A “rape kit” is also known as a Sexual Assault Evidence Collection kit. While it is a “kit” containing evidence collection tools, including swabs, combs, envelopes and bags, administering a rape kit is a procedure for documenting sexual assault allegations. The purpose of the examination is to gather physical evidence of the alleged assault. Evidence the exam may turn up includes:

  • Pubic hair, facial hair, other body hair
  • Semen
  • Saliva
  • Fibers
  • Blood
  • Skin cells

All of these types of evidence will be used by police and prosecutors to try and obtain a conviction. Hair, bodily fluids, and skin cells can all contain a person’s DNA. If your unique DNA is matched to the DNA found on a sexual assault victim, it almost always proves that there was some type of physical contact between you and the victim.

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A school security guard in Miami was arrested at his home Monday on multiple drug charges.

According to an arrest report, the 43-year-old was pulled over in his car soon after undercover detectives allegedly watched as he sold drugs to a man at a gas station near the Hammocks district campus during school hours.

Authorities were made aware of the man’s alleged activity through an anonymous tip, investigators said.

About 1 gram of cocaine and a THC cartridge was found in the center console of his vehicle during the stop, according to police.

Police said a search warrant was later obtained for Green’s home at 14232 SW 154th Court, where about 790 grams of marijuana were allegedly discovered in a drawer next to his bed. About 29.4 grams of cocaine were allegedly found in several areas of his room.

According to the arrest report, inside a safe in his bedroom, investigators found a digital scale with cocaine residue on it, 90 clear blue baggies, and $1,000 in cash. Inside a yellow watch case, there were three baggies containing cocaine, and $230 in cash. Investigators also said they discovered additional baggies of cocaine, and a small brown box on a shelf in the same room containing $660 in cash.

The man was charged with trafficking in cocaine, possession with intent of cocaine, possession of 29.4 grams of cocaine, and possession of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school convenience store. He also faces charges for possession of marijuana and possession of a THC cartridge.

Almost all drug charges are felonies and subject to prison sentences of at least one year in prison. The most serious drug crimes, when coupled with other serious charges, can amount to life in prison.

Certain factors can increase the penalties associated with drug possession. If you are arrested in possession of drugs within 1,500 feet of a school or church, it could double your sentence. If you are illegally in possession of a firearm at the time you are arrested, that can also escalate the penalties you face. Facing multiple charges can result in severe penalties that far exceed what most people expect.

Sentencing guidelines in drug cases can be downright shocking. That is why it is imperative to have a South Florida Drug Crimes Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton on your side as soon as possible after an arrest. We will do everything we can to obtain dismissals and not-guilty verdicts whenever possible. We will fight to achieve the best possible outcome for our clients.  

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The U.S. Coast Guard shut down the voyages of two party boats in Fort Lauderdale and Miami-Dade County this weekend over several safety issues, authorities said.

The Coast Guard ordered a 34-foot Sunset Stripp with 12 people aboard to return to shore Saturday because the boat did not have a valid certificate of inspection and lacked a drug-and-alcohol testing program for its crew.

The Coast Guard also stopped a 32-foot pleasure craft with 11 people aboard Saturday in Haulover Inlet in Miami-Dade County for similar infractions.

The charter boat operators could face tens of thousands of dollars worth of fines, the Coast Guard said.

Good advice before hitting the water is to carefully study Florida’s boating regulations and requirements and adhere to them fully. You can find boating regulations for Florida here. Just like automobile drivers can be ticketed or arrested for irresponsible behavior on the road, boat operators can be fined or imprisoned for negligent and reckless behavior. Even worse, carelessness can lead to serious injuries and death.

Charter boat/party boat accidents are frequently caused by negligent navigation, improper training of the crew, and unsafe equipment. Lacking safety equipment and little or no training in shipboard safety can result in preventable injuries and death.

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A football player who just signed on with the Atlanta Falcons this past May was arrested Saturday on charges of having sex with a 12-year-old girl.

Police clam Justin Crawford, 23, is charged with aggravated child molestation, sodomy and enticing a child for indecent purposes. He’s being held without bond in the Muscogee County Jail.

During Crawford’s preliminary hearing Monday, police said his wife awoke at 5 a.m. Saturday and walked into her living room, where she saw her husband had an erection as he stood over a 12-year-old girl.

The wife went back to sleep and later took the 12-year-old to the child’s mother, who asked what had happened. The girl reported she had been asleep in the living room when Crawford came in and had her perform oral sex on him before they had intercourse, according to police.

The girl was taken for a medical exam that included compiling a “sex assault kit” to collect any DNA evidence, according to reports.

When police questioned Crawford, he allegedly initially denied any sexual contact with the girl, but later admitted having oral sex and intercourse with her.

Crawford is being held without bond.

Sex crimes accusations can be quite scary, especially when they involve a minor. Police and prosecutors tend to side with the alleged “victim” in these cases and you can be found guilty in the court of public opinion long before you ever set foot in the courtroom to defend yourself. With that said, you must take these charges seriously and enlist legal help right away.

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