Articles Posted in Theft Crimes

The holidays are fast approaching and with them comes an increase in car burglaries. A guest blogger was kind enough to give us tips in how to avoid being a crime statistic this season.

More than ever, car theft is becoming more and more prevalent. Many societies view cars as an indication of someone’s status. Because of this, cars are regarded as a luxurious commodity. Many dishonest people and organized crime rings make their living through stealing cars. However, there are simple tips that you can employ to lower the chances of your car being stolen. Here are a few of them:

Park In Well Lit Areas
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Whenever you are out with your car, park in a well it area as much as possible. Furthermore, if you can park in an area with a lot of foot traffic, the odds of your car being broken into decrease dramatically. Stealing a car, depending on the skill of the thief, may involve tools and maneuvering. That is why thieves like dark and deserted places since they have a bigger window of opportunity when it comes to stealing your car.

Car Security

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Whenever you can, purchase a security system for your car. You have already invested a lot of money purchasing a vehicle. The next logical step is to increase its security as much as you can. Car security systems come in a wide range of prices, features and uses. You will have no problem finding something that will be right for your budget and situation. An expensive and advanced car security system is able to monitor the position of your vehicle at all times through GPS.

Furthermore, once you report your vehicle as stolen, part of the security system is triggered and relays the position of the vehicle to the police immediately.

Secure Your Car Garage

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Have a garage? Well then use it! It is always best that you have a closed garage for your vehicle. This can significantly lower the chances of a luxury car being stolen. If you do not have a closed garage, then you can install motion sensor lights in your house. Once you have properly installed these lights, they will automatically light up whenever it detects motion. These lights will lower the chances of your car being stolen.

Do Not Leave A Running Car

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Never leave your car running even if you are only planning of leaving it for a short time. This is a perfect opportunity for car thieves since it will only take a couple of seconds for them to leave with your car. This usually happens in convenience stores, ATM’s and gasoline stations.

Do Not Leave Valuables

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Leaving valuables in your car is a big no! This will only give additional reasons for a car thief to run off with your car. You will also be preventing your car being broken into, if not entirely stolen, by following this simple tip.

Make Sure You Locked The Doors

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This tip might sound very obvious, but make sure that you double check that you have locked your car doors. Statistics have shown that a good number of cars being stolen are due to the car doors being unlocked.

Completely Shut The Windows

Some people have a bad habit of opening a few inches of their car windows. Do not do this; you are simply making the job of a car thief easier.

Author bio – Bradley Taylor is a freelance UK writer who writing about all aspects of the automotive industry. You can connect with Bradley on Twitter and Google+.
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Florida criminal defense.bmpWhile the president and congress go back and forth in Washington over the spending bill and the national debt ceiling, many worry that this standstill in the nation’s capital will begin to have a host of unintended effects on the American public. Some of these are already coming to light as in the highly publicized case of Michelle Langbehn who’s clinical trial to treat her rare form of sarcoma was put on hiatus due to the impasse. While we have already begun to see some of the immediate consequences of the shutdown, some worry that the longer it continues the likelihood of increased crime becomes more of a reality.

While the 1995 shutdown lasted 21 days (from December 15th to January 6th) the American economy was in an arguably much better state than it is now. Advancements in technology and a nearly 2% climb in unemployment rates create a fertile ground for an amplification in criminal activity.

As we grow ever closer to that October 17th date when America may officially hit the debt ceiling and defaulting on our national debt becomes a reality, criminal defense attorneys recognize that the plausibility for fraud, identity theft and mortgage crime may escalate (especially at the federal level) as criminals perceive that there will be less government oversight and as a result, an increased likelihood that they will be able to get away with their misconduct.

Florida criminal defense attorney John P. Contini warns of the long term ramifications of the shutdown,

“Unfortunately, this isn’t just a political battle between President Obama and the Republican leadership, or one over healthcare. Criminals out there will see this as an opportunity to exploit government programs like food stamps believing that no one will be watching. That’s what criminals do.”

Pinellas criminal defense.jpgThe impact that the shutdown will have on legal services is highly contingent on the duration. Washington legal firms have already noted a slowdown in things like subpoenas or Inspector General Investigations, two areas that drive a lot of billable hours to certain sectors of the law industry.

This situation becomes further compounded when you begin to consider the significance of the time tested theory of supply and demand. Where there is deficiency there is of course opportunity. As firms that work closely with government entities come to an impasse of their own, some private defense lawyers have been left to fill in the gaps where no specific industry expertise is necessarily needed.

While this may initially seem like a good thing for firms who were already struggling to meet financial targets during the final quarters of 2013, this ultimately leaves a shortage at the end of the hypothetical law food chain. As private defense lawyers become more and more involved in these sorts of scenarios, your everyday average Joe seeking run of the mill legal help may begin to feel the pressure of the shutdown.

This coupled with the potential for increased crime has many wondering what sort of residual effects the United States is facing as congress and the president continue struggle to arrive at an agreed upon spending bill.

About the author: Eli Murphy is an editor who works with AbacusLaw.
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St. Pete theft crimes defense.jpgFrom an online Jacksonville newsite, an infamous burglar, who had stolen from celebrities like Ivana Trump, athletes and politicians was arrested in Florida last month. He had been featured on television shows and an article in the New Yorker. The defendant had a flair for the theatrical, even going so far as leaving thousands of dollars behind during burglary jobs, just to taunt the police…

51-year-old Blane Nordahl, the “silver fox” was arrested in Nassau County, Florida on burglary charges from out of state.

His downfall appeared to be his inability to stop his stealing…and the retired detective who tracked him down over 20 years and dozens of burglaries. Now retired, detective Lonnie Mason firste dealt with the “silver fox” on the east coast in the 1980s. Even after the defendant was caught and sent to prison the detective was sure that he would go right back to committing crimes when released.

With that in mind Mr. Mason assembled a group of retired detectives and a retired federal marshall. These men all worked on seperate cases involving the cat burglar Connecticut, Pennslyvania and New Jersey. They began tracking Nordahl, convinced that it was only a matter of time before he went back to theft crimes. The retired detectives watched the defendant go back to his life of crime everytime he was released from jail for his numerous burglary offenses.

Numerous they were. In 1997 after being caught, the “silver fox” admitted to over 140 burglaries. As a result he was sentenced to five years prison in 2000 but was paroled after just over one year. He was sentenced again to two years in prison for additional thefts. Finally, in 2004 he was sentenced to eight years of prison and placed on probation in Florida in 2010.

Once in Florida, the defendant got a driver’s license and moved in with his girlfriend and appeared to be on a good path, even becoming a vice-president of a local pool cleaning company. Behind this exterior, the thief was always planning just one more job…798514-burglary.jpg

Nordahl wasn’t always a master thief but his small stature allowed him to slither in places most adults couldn’t fit in. He was also a quick learner, and rarely made the same mistake twice. He would wear gloves to cover his fingerprints and would destroy his shoes he wore during his burglaries to avoid being caught via shoe prints. He would also avoid credit cards, paying only in cash making him hard to track down.

What finally caught him the last time was good old fashioned police work along with the modern computer. The retired detectives, knowing where the defendant lived would scan the internet for reports of burglaries near the defendant’s new home. On a whim they broadened their internet search and found several articles about a series of silver thefts in Georgia. More police work uncovered similarities between these thefts and the M.O. of the “silver fox”.

The detectives contacted law enforcement in several states including South Carolina and Georgia, soon followed by Florida. The law enforcement finally confronted the defendant he took off running and was arrested on the spot. He is currently in custody on Georgia warrants for burglary.
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Clearwater criminal defense.jpg From the Tampa Bay Times online, a Clearwater couple were arrested on multiple charges after a video of the crime sparked a city-wide outrage…

It started with the video. The video, which shows a couple who appear to encourage a young boy to steal multiple items from an employee breakroom and a store was released to the public by the police. The police were hoping for a tip to identify the suspects and a few days ago they got one.

On Tuesday evening the Clearwater police department arrested the couple from the video. 31-year-old Julio Torres and 37-year-old Janet Soto were charged with multiple offenses including child neglect, burglary, grand theft and credit card fraud. In addition, Mr. Torres was also charged with a violation of probation.

On Tuesday police received a tip from someone who saw the video and recognized the suspects. At first glance, the evidence does not look good for the two of them. The police arrested the couple in a St. Pete bowling alley and seized their car. Inside the car police found a large amount of cash as well as numerous stolen purses and credit cards.

The suspects were with their two children, a 10-year-old boy that was seen in the video and a two-year-old daughter. Both children were placed in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families.

The couple and the boy were first noticed in a surveillance video at a Ron Jon surf shop in Clearwater last Sunday. They were seen hiding stolen goods in a baby stroller. They also entered a nearby Hooters restaurant where they took purses from a back room.

As of this writing the couple are still being held in the Pinellas County jail.
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LEGAL ANALYSIS

While the other crimes all seem self-explanatory, child neglect is a different issue. Child neglect is found under Florida Statute 827.03 and reads in part:

“827.03 Abuse, aggravated abuse, and neglect of a child; penalties.–

(1) DEFINITIONS.–As used in this section, the term:

(e) ”Neglect of a child” means:

1. A caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child; or
2. A caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.

Except as otherwise provided in this section, neglect of a child may be based on repeated conduct or on a single incident or omission that results in, or could reasonably be expected to result in, serious physical or mental injury, or a substantial risk of death, to a child.

(2) OFFENSES.–

(b) A person who willfully or by culpable negligence neglects a child and in so doing causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

(d) A person who willfully or by culpable negligence neglects a child without causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.”

Based on the facts above and if true, the parents have committed a third-degree felony. The act of encouraging the child to commit crimes may even rise to the crime of child abuse if the court determines mental abuse or harm of the child took place.
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Pinellas computer crime.bmpA guest post by another criminal defense lawyer, detailing computer crimes and steps one can do to protect themselves from theft or fraud…

Computer Crime and You: The Money Mule Epidemic

About the Author: Vincent Imhoff is a writer and Los Angeles criminal attorney who acts as a managing partner at Imhoff & Associates, P.C. He earned his law degree at Chicago-Kent College and his undergraduate degree at Lewis University. When he isn’t writing or practicing, Vincent finds time to ski on his favorite slopes and get some jogging in.

When we think of the Wild West, we think of cowboys and bandits, saloons and jailhouses, and a landscape filled with adventure and danger. The internet is not so different. The World Wide Web offers a landscape that is still largely untamed, with criminals loitering on the borders of the net, looking to scheme and scam their way to riches–much like the bandits that used to outrun sheriffs in our classic depiction of the time. One interesting parallel to be drawn is the bank heist, where the masked bandit would wave a gun around and leave with bags full of money. Even into the 21st century, bank robberies of this sort survived, though they are slowly being replaced by heists of a different kind. These heists don’t involve guns, masks, or getaway cars. Instead, they now fall under the category of computer crime, and employ the use of complex codes, swift keystrokes, and a willing participant: you.

SpyEye and Zeus

Instead of guns, hackers are committing computer crime using toolkits to send viruses out to computers all over the world with the aim of infecting the victim’s machine and stealing their credentials and banking information. The most commonly used toolkits are named SpyEye and Zeus, and they have recently become so available that authorities are having a harder time distinguishing who is carrying out these attacks. Generally hackers will secretly and remotely install these products onto your computer. They may steal from you, but generally they target large businesses, and run a program that will automatically withdraw money from their account. This is where they recruit outside help, posing as a legitimate business.

Christine Palmer

Bloomberg’s online magazine ran a story in August of 2011 (indicative of how long this has been going on) that centered on a woman named Christine Palmer, who was down on her luck and desperate for a job when she received a callback from a company called CS Office Services. What she didn’t know was that CS Office Services doesn’t exist and only served as a front for an elaborate hacking scheme that utilized the SpyEye/Zeus toolkits. Palmer’s job duties required processing online transactions, and she was able to perform them on one occasion. $98,000 was deposited into her Bank of America account in the morning on a Thursday, and she received instructions to withdraw and then transfer a large majority of it, though she was told she could keep $1,800 as a transfer fee. Bank of America caught on to what Palmer hadn’t and halted the operation, freezing her account and claiming that Palmer, though unknowingly an accomplice of the computer crime, was responsible for repaying $9,000 that she’d withdrawn and transferred overseas.

A Money Mule

In the past, the job that Christine Palmer was duped into taking would usually have been performed by an Eastern European students with a J1 visa, either knowingly or unknowingly. Some underground parts of the web even openly advertise the services of what is known as a money mule, a go between that helps to launder money for a percentage of the cut–just like Palmer did. Because of the way that laws regarding computer crime work, these money mules are held responsible for the funds that they move, being charged with crimes such as scheme to defraud. Meanwhile the original hackers generally sit back in a foreign country and let the money come in, untouchable due to anonymity and jurisdiction laws.

If it Sounds Too Good to Be True…

The good news is that many of the folks who actually are unwittingly duped are not slapped with harsh fines or charges, though their involvement in computer crime can affect credit standing and lead to criminal charges. The hiring of an experienced computer crimes defense lawyer may help ensure your punishment is minimal at best. It all depends. So how can you protect yourself from becoming a mule? The best rule to follow is: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” The internet is a wild and dangerous place at times. Protect yourself and your computer at all costs, and don’t get duped into becoming a money mule.
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cyber fraud.bmp A guest post by Joseph Peterson, writing about computer crimes the potential penalties…

Cyber Fraud: An Emerging Trend

Over the past few decades, the amount of information that we store in virtual databases has skyrocketed. Now, almost every aspect of a person’s life is available in some form or another in cyberspace. However, this can create the potential for others to use and exploit this information for personal gain, including impersonating others or otherwise committing fraud.

In order to combat this potential issue, legal regulations of cyber technology use have been developed throughout the country. The exact details of these regulations can vary significantly, both between different states (such as Florida) and between state and federal authorities. However, in many cases, cyber fraud is treated as a very serious crime, with penalties ranging from fines and community service to long prison sentences, depending on the nature of the crime itself.

Forms of Cyber Fraud

Cyber fraud, broadly speaking, is the use of internet technology to commit an act of fraud. This can encompass a wide variety of different acts, and in some cases, the line dividing legitimate use of the internet from fraud can be quite thin. However, a number of acts are generally recognized as being fraudulent in all or most cases. These include some of the most common forms of cyber fraud, such as:

• Use of another person’s identity to purchase goods • False or misleading online marketing • Identity theft• Health insurance fraud • Ponzi or pyramid schemes • Advance payment fraud
All of these potential criminal actions can put those who are accused of committing them in an extremely compromised legal position. For this reason, it’s important to be aware of the cyber fraud regulations and penalties in Florida.

Unfortunately, sometimes the language of the laws against cyber fraud can be so vague that it can create a potential situation in which a person may not be aware that what they are doing is against the law. Because of the serious implications that a conviction for the crime of cyber fraud may have for the rest of a person’s life, it’s important that those who have been charged with this crime speak with a qualified criminal lawyer to help defend themselves in this situation.
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drug 3.jpgAn article in today’s Tampa Bay Times talks about a former Tampa teacher who has been arrested for drug trafficking after he was accused of stealing over 9000 hydrocodone and 7000 alprazolam pills!

The man worked as a technician for CVS pharmacy and took these pills over a period of just over two months. Previously, he had been a teacher at a Lutz high school but the principal has already stated that the man would not be coming back to teach.

This article brings up two important considerations: 1. How this current “pill scourge” can trap anyone and 2. the role of sentencing guidelines for trafficking amounts of illegal drugs.

1. Drug addiction may be more common then you can imagine: As a criminal defense lawyer, I get to see the real cost and face of drug addiction everyday. The common myth is that most drug addicts were always poor, uneducated and from the proverbial “wrong side of the tracks”. In reality, drug addiction can and does strike rich, poor, unemployed, doctors, lawyers, teachers and all professions.

The state of Florida has spent millions of dollars studying the patterns of drug addiction. The most important trend they found was that drug use/addiction has been starting at a younger age. These stats found prescription drugs in particular were being abused at a much earlier rate then just a few years before. This early experimentation that often turns to abuse is what many experts believe is causing the rapid increases in pill addicition.

798516-drug-offenses.jpg2. Sentencing guidelines for trafficking and the “war on drugs”…what you need to know.

When most people think of drug trafficking, they often imagine a drug kingpin such as “Scarface” or a heavily organized empire selling illegal narcotics. In reality, a person can be charged with drug trafficking not just on a sale but by merely possessing a controlled substance in a sufficient amount to trigger the trafficking charge! With certain drugs, it does not take much at all to be charged with drug trafficking. Florida statute 893.135 goes into great detail about the weights and punishment that may result from its violation.

In particular section (c) shows how few pills it actually takes before the “minimum mandatory” prison time and large fines become reality. This section reads as follows:

(c)1. Any person who knowingly sells, purchases, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state, or who is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of, 4 grams or more of any morphine, opium, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, or any salt, derivative, isomer, or salt of an isomer thereof, including heroin, as described in s. 893.03(1)(b), (2)(a), (3)(c)3., or (3)(c)4., or 4 grams or more of any mixture containing any such substance, but less than 30 kilograms of such substance or mixture, commits a felony of the first degree, which felony shall be known as “trafficking in illegal drugs,” punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. If the quantity involved:

a. Is 4 grams or more, but less than 14 grams, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 3 years, and the defendant shall be ordered to pay a fine of $50,000.

b. Is 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 15 years, and the defendant shall be ordered to pay a fine of $100,000.

c. Is 28 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 25 calendar years and pay a fine of $500,000.

In reality four gram’s weight worth of these drugs are not much. This is the weight of 5-6 pills, a weight that could put a person in prison for three years and give them a $50,000 fine! Another important point is that this weight is not just the drug itself, but any fillers it is combined with such as aspirin or mixers! For instance, if a person is caught with 6 MG of oxycodone pills they could be charged with drug trafficking. In reality, the actual amount of oxycodone that would be possessed would probably be well under a gram, the rest would be a combination of fillers and mixers.

Coming up, another blog post will go into more detail about drug trafficking sentences and possible ways to avoid or lessen these “minimum mandatory” sentences.
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A rather disturbing story was featured in today’s St. Pete Times about a Seminole mother who tried to sell her son for $2,000 because of her addiction to prescription drugs.

The 5-year-old boy was excited to start kindergarten Tuesday in Tampa.

Jim and Betty Gardner, who have helped raise the boy since he was an infant, were working hard to prepare him by establishing a morning routine.

Now, they’re worried how his first school year will begin.

The child was taken into protective custody Saturday after authorities arrested his mother and accused her of trying to sell him to the Gardners for $2,000.

Jessica Mickles Beers, 28, whose last known address was in Seminole, was charged with Felony Sale of Parental Rights along with a Violation of Probation (VOP) on her pending Grand Theft charge. At her First Appearance Hearing on Sunday, bail was set at $10,000.

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Gardner, 58, said he and his wife met Beers when the boy was just a few months old after she called their church for assistance. They took food and diapers to her.

Beers essentially was homeless, but was living with other people. She asked to move in with the Gardners and they agreed, Gardner said.

For the next five (5) years or so, the Gardners, who have fostered numerous children over the years, helped take care of Beers and her child.

About two years ago, Beers began talking about having the couple take guardianship of her son but never followed through with it. Early Saturday, Gardner said, Beers called him and offered to sign away her parental rights if the Gardners would pay her $2,000.

“It was money or else …” Gardner said. “I thought ‘Whoa, that’s illegal.’ ”

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He contacted the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO), which arrested Beers at a Seminole grocery store when she came to collect the cash.

The child was not with Beers, but she told authorities where he could be found, Gardner said. Gardner said he believes Beers is addicted to prescription drugs.
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As reported by BayNews9, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is at it again.

In another “cost-cutting” measure, the Polk County Jail will no longer provide free underwear to its inmates.

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Normally, when an inmate is booked in the jail, they are given an orange shirt, orange pants and underwear.

In order to save money, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd has proposed making males inmates pay if they want their “tighty whities.”

The cost-saving measure was part of the sheriff’s 2011-2012 budget he presented to county commissioners Thursday afternoon. Judd said it will save the county $45,000.

Although women behind bars will still be provided underwear, the men will have to pay.

“For those who don’t want to pay, they can let the breeze blow up one leg and out the other,” Judd said (in classic Grady Judd fashion).

The idea drew smiles from several county commissioners and laughter from the crowd.

“You and I buy it at the store. So, if they want it, they can buy it,” he said. Judd said they are also cutting eleven (11) positions, including six (6) supervisors.

Judd says while his department is doing more with less, his highest priority remains keeping the people of Polk County safe.

Judd said the new policy will not cause the quality of service from the department to go down.

“None of these cuts will keep us from answering the call,” Judd said.

FYI — As for the underwear, it’s about $2.50 for briefs and $4.50 for boxers. The choice is up to the inmates.

“We give our inmates choices at our jail,” he said.

The new underwear rule will breeze into effect Aug. 1st.
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