Articles Posted in White Collar Crime

According to an online story on SunSentinal.com, a Coconut Creek man accused of posing as a doctor and offering free door-to-door “breast exams” has reached a deal with prosecutors, lawyers told a Broward County judge on Tuesday.

Phillip Winikoff, 81, was accused in April 2006 of carrying on the ruse with women at an apartment complex in the 3200 block of Northwest 40th Street in Lauderdale Lakes. Investigators said two (2) women took Winikoff up on the offer, allowed him into their apartments and realized something was amiss only after the phony “breast exams” started.

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Winikoff was charged with three (3) Felony counts of Sexual Battery, two (2) counts of Practicing Medicine without a License, two (2) counts of Simple Battery, and one (1) count of Using the Title of Doctor without a License.

If tried and convicted, he could have been sentenced to more than forty-five (45) years in the Florida State Prison system for the Sexual Battery charges and another ten (10) years for Practicing Medicine without a License.

It was not revealed Tuesday whether the deal Winikoff reached with prosecutors will keep him out of prison.

Winikoff, who was in court with a half-dozen family members, was scheduled to enter a plea of either Guilty or No Contest, but by the time the prosecutor and Winikoff’s lawyer arrived, Broward Circuit Judge Sandra Perlman said she had a Trial to oversee and needed to reschedule the Winikoff plea. No firm date was set.

At the time of Winikoff’s arrest, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said he carried a little black bag to lend credibility to his claim of being a doctor. The first victim, 36 years old at the time, told detectives he started the exam by fondling her breasts, and she knew something was wrong when his hands wandered elsewhere.

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By the time the victim called 911, Winikoff had already found a second victim, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said.

LADIES, PLEASE TAKE NOTE: The next time a man shows up on your doorstep claiming to be a doctor who performs free door-to-door “breast exams,” think twice about accepting his offer. Yes, even if he’s got a black doctor’s bag.
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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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The widely-reported case against former Speaker of the House Ray Sansom came to an abrupt end on Friday when State prosecutors dropped all criminal charges.

In a dramatic end to a Jury Trial nearly two (2) years in the making, criminal charges against Sansom were dropped, in Court, Friday after prosecutors said a judge limited evidence of an alleged Conspiracy to get $6 million in state funding for an airport building a developer wanted to use.

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Flanked by friends and his lawyers, Sansom, 48, said it was vindication.

“First I want to thank God,” he said, then praised his attorneys. “When I first met with them, they said ‘Ray, the truth will set you free’ and we saw that today.”

Asked if he would have done anything differently, Sansom replied, “absolutely not.”

Leon County State Attorney Willie Meggs also dropped the case against Sansom’s co-defendant, developer Jay Odom. Both men had been charged with Grand Theft and Conspiracy to Commit Grand Theft. According to the prosecution, the $6 million was steered to Northwest Florida State College, where Sansom took a job (coincidentally) on the same day he was sworn in as speaker of the Florida House in 2008 .

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Sansom and Odom agreed to pay about $103,000 each to Northwest Florida State College — two-thirds of the amount the college spent on planning the airport building. The trustees scrapped the project after Grand Jury indictments were handed down in April 2009 and then-Governor Charlie Crist asked for the money back.

The State’s case unraveled on the fifth day of Sansom’s Jury Trial, just before a lunch break.

The jury was out and defense lawyers raised objections to testimony State Attorney Meggs planned to introduce to establish a Conspiracy. He was going to bring up a key witness, former college president Bob Richburg, who was also criminally charged but two (2) weeks ago agreed to testify (otherwise known as “snitch”) against Sansom and Odom.

Richburg, Meggs later said, would have described conversations with Sansom and Odom about the airport project prior to Sansom getting the money. Meggs also planned to introduce e-mails showing conversations about the building.

But the defense mounted a challenge, saying the state had to prove there was an illegal agreement.

“There’s no evidence of conspiracy because there’s no evidence of an illegal agreement,” attorney Larry Simpson said.

After a lengthy discussion, Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said, “I don’t think you have enough to show a conspiracy.” He said several college employees and an architect said they were aware of the private use.

Meggs had argued that college trustees did not (two testified during the trial) and neither did other legislators.

But if he could not lay the ground for the conspiracy — the planning for a hangar and attempts to conceal its nature that he said were clear before Sansom got the money — Meggs said his case was damaged.

What’s more, Meggs said he was limited because the proposed jury instructions would have said, “the passage of legislation, including an appropriations bill, by itself, cannot constitute theft by any of the defendants.”

So during lunch, Meggs offered “a plea deal” to both defendants. He would drop the charges if they agreed to wrongdoing, did community service and paid restitution (otherwise known as buying their way out of the criminal charges?).

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In the end, Sansom and Odom only agreed to pay the money, and Sansom’s attorney, Steve Dobson, said his client resisted that as well. Sansom blamed Meggs and the news media.

Dobson declared, “They were not guilty.”

Meggs maintained there was wrongdoing and attributed the defeat to “fundamental” differences in understanding of conspiracy law with Lewis.

“I agree the State was not able to carry its burden of establishing a conspiracy with the court,” Meggs said. “And so if I can’t establish a conspiracy with the court before the appropriation, I can’t get in statements of co-conspirators after the appropriation. And that’s what all our evidence is about, is what they did after the appropriation was put into place.”

The trial started Monday and more than a dozen witnesses had testified for the State of Florida, leading up to its primary witness, Richburg, who agreed March 11 to testify for the prosecution (“turn State’s evidence”).

Meggs had argued that the three (3) men worked together to accomplish Odom’s goal of getting an airplane hangar then worked to conceal it as an educational facility, contending that college officials scrambled to find a use for the building and even then planned to use half of the space. Meggs presented documents and testimony showing the bulk was for a hangar.

Noting that Meggs first charged the men with Official Misconduct then changed it to Grand Theft after the charges were mostly gutted in court, Dobson said, “I would say the state attorney lost big time.”

As if this wasted prosecution hasn’t cost the citizens of the State of Florida enough already, Florida law allows a public official who is charged with a crime to seek payment of legal fees if he’s not convicted when the charges arose from his public duties. Dobson said he plans to seek payment from the Legislature.

Dobson said he did not know yet what the total fees would be but “because of Mr. Meggs’ dogged pursuit, it’s going to be big.”

Federal investigators have been looking at some aspect of Sansom and Odom’s dealings (an FBI agent sat in on some of the depositions of witnesses in the state case). Asked about that, Dobson said “if they are charged in Federal Court, we’ll fight that, too. If I am retained.”

I particularly love how that last quote was quickly modified…
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According to a recent online story in the Bizarre Florida section of the St. Pete Times, a California adult entertainment company is about to make some south Florida husbands pretty upset with Federal lawsuits seeking up to $150,000 in damages (each) for copyright infringement.

As initially reported in the south Florida Sun Sentinel, married men who illegally downloaded the movies “Bootylicious Girls” and “Brazilian Babes” may have a really awkward conversation coming with their wife and/or girlfriend.

Adult entertainment company Elegant Angel filed a series of Federal lawsuits last week against 58 “John Does” in South Florida who allegedly pirated its movies. Elegant Angel, based in Canoga Park, California, has the Internet addresses of the computers used to illegally download the movies and wants Judges to allow it to subpoena the computer owners’ names through their Internet service providers (ISP’s).

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“I firmly believe that everyone has the right to protect their intellectual property,” said M. Keith Lipscomb, one of the Miami attorneys for Elegant Angel. “Right now, the adult entertainment industry is being tremendously damaged by the infringement of its copyrights over the Internet.”

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The adult entertainment industry has become more aggressive within the last year in pursuing copyright cases. In many instances, film companies have filed lawsuits against dozens–even hundreds–of “John Does” at a time, accusing them of downloading videos using BitTorrent, a file-sharing
program.

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According to an online story on The Street.com, Facebook investment scams are proliferating on the Web and investors should be on the lookout, the securities industry’s main self-policing organization warned on Tuesday.

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Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) warned in a a statement that con-artists have been pitching fake investments in Facebook and other “well-known social media companies.” The scams usually take the form of “pre-IPOs”, or the sale of unregistered shares in a private company to an investor prior to the initial public offering.

The release notes the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently settled a civil action against one trader “who allegedly bilked more than 50 U.S. and foreign investors out of more than $9.6 million in a series of pre-IPO scams involving purported shares of Facebook, Google and other well-known companies.”

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Among the tips FINRA is disseminating to the public, the release urges investors to ask themselves “why would a total stranger tell me about a really great investment opportunity?'”

The warning comes as Wall Street firms like JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs have climbed aboard a mini-Gold Rush in hot, privately-traded social media companies.

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As we enter another Holiday Season, the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. would like to wish you and yours a Happy and Safe Holiday weekend.

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With the support of all of our friends, family and clients, 2010 was another excellent year for the Blake & Dorsten, P.A.. And for that, we have much to be thankful for this Holiday Season.

To our family and friends, thank you for your patience and understanding when it was necessary to work late nights and/or weekends.

To our business colleagues and our outstanding network of fellow attorneys, thank you for not only your referrals but for the trust that you have placed in the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. to provide an experienced and aggressive representation to those that you’ve sent our way.

And to both our former and present clients, thank you for the trust that you have placed in the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. to protect your rights and to handle your important criminal and/or traffic-related matters.

As many of you know, 2010 presented some different challenges for the Blake & Dorsten, P.A.. Without your support, we would not have been able to achieve the many successes that came our way.

On behalf of the entire Blake & Dorsten, P.A. team (Pam, Eryn, Oatie and myself), have a Happy, Healthy and Safe Holiday Season.

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As always, attorney Nicholas J. Dorsten will be available throughout the Holiday Weekend. In fact, we were very grateful to sign up a new Client today and make a Christmas Eve trip to the Pinellas County Jail.
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Earlier this week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (a Federal appeals Court) issued a landmark opinion in the criminal case of United States v. Warshak, finding that individuals have “a reasonable expectation of privacy in their email” and that the Fourth Amendment protects email held by an Internet Service Provider (ISP).

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In other words, “[t]he government may not compel a commercial ISP to turn over the contents of a subscriber’s emails without first obtaining a warrant based on probable cause.” United States v. Warshak, et al., No. 08-3997, Slip Op. at 23 (6th Cir. Dec. 14, 2010).

As a criminal defense attorney, I’ve been asked the following question many times: To what extent can the police secretly view/obtain your private email? This core question, namely – what are the limits of police surveillance – was answered this week by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in a lengthy opinion (that is hyperlinked above).

On one side of the issue, privacy advocates are pleased as punch with the opinion which holds that the government/police must obtain a search warrant based on “probable cause” before it can search emails stored by Internet Service Providers (ISP’s).

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The case involved a Federal Fraud prosecution of Steven Warshak, an Ohio executive, whose company sold an herbal supplement which was touted for its purported ability to increase a man’s, um, physical attributes. Perhaps you’ve seen a commercial or two for this product?

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As part of its Fraud investigation, the United States government obtained about 27,000 private emails from Warshak’s Internet Service Providers. Warshak moved to suppress/exclude the emails as evidence, contending that the U.S. government obtained them through an unreasonable search and seizure, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

People have a “reasonable expectation” that emails will remain private, the Sixth Circuit stated, using some colorful language. “Lovers exchange sweet nothings” and “businessmen swap ambitious plans” all with the click of a mouse button, the Court said. By obtaining access to someone’s email, law enforcement agents gain the ability to peer deeply into his activities. . . the Fourth Amendment must keep pace with the inexorable march of technological progress, or its guarantees will wither and perish.”

The Sixth Circuit held that Warshak’s constitutional rights were violated when investigators obtained his e-mails without a search warrant.

In a minor side note, the Court upheld his convictions. One of Warshak’s attorneys, Martin Weinberg, told the Associated Press that the Court’s ruling on email-privacy was helpful to his client; however, the Court should have also overturned his convictions.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation hailed the recent Sixth Circuit ruling, saying in a statement that it is the “only federal appellate decision currently on the books that squarely rules on this critically important privacy issue.”

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers also weighed in with praise. “Americans expect and deserve protection from government agents who would snoop into their private communications without probable cause and a court order,” the group said in a statement.

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Please remember, this opinion only applies to “government agents.” This opinion will not prevent your wife or girlfriend from snooping into your private email account.

BEWARE…….
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According to an online St. Pete Times story, Clearwater Police Department (CWPD) detectives seized more than eighty (80) computerized gaming machines and a new car last week after executing a search warrant at what authorities called an illegal gambling operation on U.S. Highway 19 North in Clearwater.

The search and seizure happened around 5:00 p.m. Friday at the Rio Arcade, located at 19042 U.S. Highway 19 North. Clearwater detectives began investigating the business after receiving complaints of illegal gambling. A quick look at the Rio Arcade’s website (hyperlinked above) gives the impression that this was more of a casino than an arcade.

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Detectives believe the establishment was operating an illegal gambling business with approximately eighty-four (84) gambling computers. During execution of their search warrant on Friday, they seized the computers, $10,000 in cash, a 2011 Hyundai and other electronic equipment.

No arrests have been made, but the Clearwater Police Department has forwarded criminal charges against the owner and several managers to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office, which will determine whether to prosecute.

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According to a humorous story in today’s St. Petersburg Times, a St. Pete resident, who was arrested on charges of Felony Battery and DUI early Friday morning, made the following last-ditch offer to the cops on his way to the Pinellas County Jail (otherwise known as the “Sheriff Coats Motel”):

He would give the arresting officer $300 to let the whole thing slide? According to St. Petersburg Police Department, Philip Charles Wood’s “offer” was not only rejected, but earned him an additional Felony charge of Bribery.

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According to police, Wood was first accused of Assaulting a man about 3:00 a.m. at 233 Central Avenue in downtown St. Pete. After that, officers noticed Wood driving by the scene of the assault and pulled his vehicle over.

The victim of the assault later identified Wood. Officers also determined that Wood was Driving Under the Influence, according to his arrest report. Wood, however, refused to take a breath test or do field sobriety exercises (what’s known in the business as a “double refusal”).

Following his refusal to submit to FSE’s or a breath test, Wood was placed under arrest for DUI. Later that morning, around 4:40 a.m., as a transport officer drove him to the Pinellas County Jail (PCJ), Wood offered a $300 bribe to let him go and “drop the charges.”

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Let’s just say, in a nutshell, that did not work!

In the State of Florida, law enforcement agencies can charge suspects for the time their officers spend investigating them. This is usually done at Sentencing when the State Attorney’s Office requests “Investigative Costs” as part of an individual’s sentence.

According to Wood’s arrest report, two (2) St. Petersburg Police Department officers spent five (5) hours total on his case at their standard rate of $25 an hour, for a total of $125. Apparently, in Wood’s intoxicated condition, he used this amount to calculate the amount of his alleged bribe.

“[The] Defendant stated that I would only be getting $125 for Investigative Costs anyways,” the officer wrote in a report, “so he would make it $300.”

According to the St. Pete Times, Wood should have saved his money. If convicted, he’ll be responsible for paying that $125 in Investigative Costs, as well as the standard Fines and Court Costs that will be assessed in court.

Assuming this is Wood’s first DUI, he’ll be looking at over $1,000 in Fines and Costs (not including the price of an attorney, DUI School, an Alcohol Evaluation and any recommended follow up treatment, “cost of supervision” which will be payable for Probation, etc.). As I commonly tell many of my “first time” DUI offenders, “a first time DUI is a $5,000 cab ride” by the time you pay for your attorney and all of the above-listed fees, fines and costs.

A quick look at Wood’s address on his Arrest Report shows that he lives in northeast St. Pete (which, on average, is a $20-25 cab ride). Unfortunately, as we see way too often, alcohol consumption frequently leads to poor decision making.

Wood was being held in the Pinellas County Jail Friday afternoon in lieu of a $15,250 Bond. Making matters worse, Wood was already out on Bond on Burglary charges when he was arrested. Therefore, it can be expected that the Judge and/or the State Attorney’s Office (SAO) will move to “revoke” his previously posted Bond for violating the terms of his Pretrial Release.

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Tampa Bay: BEWARE
According to a story in tonight’s online edition of the St. Petersburg Times, a fifty-eight (58) year-old Pasco County man noticed something odd at a drive-thru ATM machine last Saturday morning. When he tried to insert his ATM card, there seemed to be an odd piece of plastic attached to the ATM machine that was loose.

Wisely, the man removed it from the ATM at the Bank of America branch at 5242 Little Road in New Port RIchey. Because that Bank of America branch was closed, the man took it to another location and showed it to a bank teller. That bank then called the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office has determined that what the man found was a “skimming device” — an increasingly popular (among thieves, at least), small machine that scans and stores debit card numbers. The “skimming device” was planted at the ATM by identity thieves, along with a small camera aimed at the ATM’s keypad in the hope of capturing (your) personal identification numbers. Once these thieves obtain your debit card number from the “skimming device,” along with your PIN number from the hidden camera, these crafty, high-tech thieves can access and drain your bank account and/or life savings in a matter of minutes.

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Kevin Doll, spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, said this is the first report he’s heard of a “skimming device” being used in the county in his 12-year-career.

After reviewing the actual Bank of America ATM video, Pasco County Detectives have determined that someone wearing a hat and driving what appeared to be a Dodge minivan installed the “skimming device” at 8:35 a.m. last Saturday. Working in tandem, a second suspect wearing a baseball cap followed in a four-door BMW.

Less than ten (10) minutes later, the suspicious (and wise) Bank of America customer removed the “skimming device” and more than likely prevented numerous weekend, drive-thru ATM bankers from becoming victimized by this scam

According to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, the two (2) suspects returned to the ATM machine at 9:45 a.m. and removed the camera, which the customer didn’t notice. The camera, without the “skimming device,” is useless — and vice versa, said Detective Natalie McSwane of the Economic Crimes Unit at the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. McSwane said these “skimming devices” are installed quickly and, unfortunately, are available for purchase online (Please finish this well-intended article before trying to find one online).

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To protect yourself from thieves, McSwane said to “look for devices on ATMs and other card-swiping machines.”

“If it removes, then it’s probably not supposed to be there,” she said.

She also urged people to always shield their PINs when entering them on keypads — at ATMs, gas stations, grocery stores, etc., even if no one seems to be watching.

Anyone who knows anything about this case or who might have witnessed suspicious activity at this New Port Richey Bank of America branch last Saturday morning is asked to call Detective McSwane at 1-800-854-2862.

Please be safe out there and follow these tips to avoid falling prey to this and other types of Identity Theft scams.
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