Fraud Bankruptcy Fraud

Several child pornography-related offenses are recognized and heavily penalized according to Florida’s legal code. Possession and transmission of child pornography are two offenses of which Floridians may find themselves accused despite lacking intent or even knowledge of possessing the prohibited material. These charges are serious felonies that carry well-defined maximum prison sentences for each count. Those accused of possession or transmission need the assistance of a skilled child pornography defense lawyer in Fort Lauderdale or Naples.

Any image that depicts a person under the age of 18 engaged in any type of sexual activity is generally defined as child pornography in Florida. Sexual conduct includes deviate sexual intercourse, actual sexual intercourse, simulated sexual intercourse, sadomasochistic abuse, sexual beastiality, and masturbation. Florida law treats each illegal image possessed as a distinct count. Therefore, the judge who applies sentencing will generally do so for each count, which may result in very long prison sentences stemming from a single incident in which the child pornography was found. A person may be charged separately for having tens or even hundreds of prohibited images of children. Possession of Child Pornography is a Third Degree felony; an individual who is convicted may be sentenced to a maximum of five years imprisonment, five years on probation, and a $5,000 fine for each count of possession. Therefore, anyone who is wrongfully accused of possession of child pornography should immediately contact a child pornography defense attorney in Naples or Fort Lauderdale.

Defenses against possession

There are cases in which child pornography may be found on an individual’s computer or digital device without the person’s knowledge that the prohibited material was present. In some cases, an person may have allowed a friend, family member, or neighbor borrow his or her computer, at which point, the explicit material depicting a child may have been downloaded. The owner may establish his or her innocence by proving he or she was not in possession of the computer at the time the pornographic file was accessed and downloaded. In other cases, a computer or device may be shared communally or otherwise located in an area to which multiple people have access. The state may have a much more difficult time establishing the accused person possessed the image if someone else also had free access to the computer when the image was downloaded. In other cases, someone may receive an illegal image in email spam or by clicking on a link without knowing the link will direct them to illegal pornography. Even if the individual attempts to delete the pornographic image in these situations, a thumbnail version may remain on the computer without the owner’s knowledge. Still, some people receive unsolicited illegal images from people they know. A knowledgeable Fort Lauderdale child pornography defense lawyer can help by enlisting experts to gather all the necessary evidence to help the accused present and establish his or her case in court.

Transmission of child pornography defenses

Distributing or transmitting child pornography is viewed as a severe offense and is sentenced accordingly. This offense is covered under Florida’s law against promoting a sexual performance by a child. To obtain a conviction, the state must prove:

  • The accused produced, directed, disbursed, or advertised any visual representation of available to be witnessed by spectators,
  • The visual representation depicted sexual activity by a child under the age of 18
  • The accused knew the visual representation constituted child pornography and still distributed it

Transmitting child pornography is also a third degree felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment, $5,000 fine, and five years probation per illicit image. However, if the accused is an authority figure at a school, and the pornographic image depicts a child who attends his or her school, the accused may face enhanced sentencing.

Transmission defenses

Although it may seem less plausible than accidentally clicking on a link that leads to a pornographic image, it is also possible to accidentally transmit images that depict child pornography. Similar to a wrongful accusation for child pornography possession, a wrongful accusation of transmission or distribution of sexual images of minors may also arise from the use of a public computer or cases in which the accused allowed someone to borrow his or her computer. An individual whose computer has been the target of hacking or a virus may also be accused if illegal images are sent from the computer while under control of the virus or hacker. An experienced Fort Lauderdale defense lawyer can help the accused party effectively raise the applicable defense and provide evidence that he or she did not knowingly distribute the illegal pornographic images.

Contact a lawyer as early as possible

Florida’s bankruptcy process requires that all owned property as well as any assets that are transferred to others within a specified period be listed. If a Naples or Fort Lauderdale resident files for bankruptcy, but omits information regarding assets, he or she may be investigated and charged with this type of fraud, a white collar crime that is categorized as a federal offense. The seriousness of related charges make it imperative that you retain an experienced bankruptcy fraud defense attorney who specializes in federal cases.

Bankruptcy fraud often takes place in one of four general forms:

  • The filer attempts to hide assets in an effort to avoid forfeiting them.
  • The filer deliberately submits false or incomplete documents.
  • A person files multiple times using false or real information, or a combination thereof, in multiple jurisdictions.
  • The filer bribes a court-appointed trustee.

Concealment

Approximately 70 percent of bankruptcy fraud cases involve the concealment of assets. Some people who file a bankruptcy claim are tempted to hide certain assets because creditors can only liquidate items that are disclosed by the debtor in the bankruptcy paperwork. A filer may illegally transfer assets to friends, associates, and family members in an effort to keep assets that would otherwise be liquidated. In some cases, a bankruptcy lawyer may also be accused of bankruptcy if he or she is alleged to have intentionally filed paperwork that included false information. Similarly, creditors may also be convicted of bankruptcy fraud if they provide false information in an effort to recover more money than the they are owed. Even trustees sometimes commit fraud by raiding bankruptcy funds for their own personal gain. Regardless, bankruptcy fraud is treated as a very serious crime with severe penalties.

Petition mills

Another form of bankruptcy fraud that is on the rise in the U.S. is the use of petition mills to defraud individuals. Petition mills present themselves as consulting agencies that can help tenants avoid eviction. The petition mill will file for bankruptcy in the tenant’s name and drag out the process while charging inflated fees. In the end, the tenant is left with bad credit and no savings.

Multiple filing

An individual may commit fraud by filing for bankruptcy in multiple jurisdictions by using the same name in some locations and aliases or other false information elsewhere. Filing in multiple jurisdictions delays asset liquidation by slowing down the entire bankruptcy process. While multiple filing does not alone constitute a criminal act, it is typically used as a tactic to facilitate concealment, which is illegal.

Punishments for bankruptcy fraud

The most immediate consequence of being convicted of bankruptcy fraud is the judge will typically refuse to discharge the individual’s debts and throw his or her case out of court. The court may also liquidate the person’s assets to pay creditors. In some cases, the plaintiff may agree to accept half of the payment owed in a deal that allows the debtor to reduce his or her imprisonment time by half. Bankruptcy crimes are investigated by the FBI. If the agency believes a crime took place, the case is then transferred to the Department of Justice for prosecution. If convicted, the defendant may be required to be monitored or go on probation, go to prison for up to twenty years, pay a fine of up to $250,000 for each count, pay restitution, and/or complete a required amount of community service. Bankruptcy fraud often takes place in combination with other crimes which may include perjury, tax fraud, bank fraud, wire mail fraud, identity theft, and conspiracy, each of which are charged as separate and distinct violations that carry their own sentencing.

Defense options

There are several defenses an accused person may raise in response to being accused of bankruptcy. Perhaps the most obvious defense is to claim he or she provided false information or failed to disclose certain assets by mistake. A defendant may submit evidence that his or her attorney knew about the undisclosed assets or information that was omitted and argue that he or she simply did not notice prior to submitting the documents to court that there were omissions or false information. Similarly, a defendant may prove he or she did not intend to commit fraud by producing paperwork that was submitted to correct the false information or omission once discovered by the defendant. In some cases, the defendant may argue that his or her actions were actually done for a legitimate purpose despite appearing to be fraudulent. For example, he or she may have sold an asset to take advantage of a tax break or transferred the asset to help a family member who needed assistance at the time. Bankruptcy cases are also subject to statutes of limitations; therefore, if the action is brought after the deadline has elapsed, the defendant may argue that he or she cannot be convicted because the case was filed outside of the legally permissible time frame.

Retain a skilled attorney

Anyone who is under investigation for bankruptcy fraud should immediately contact a Fort Lauderdale or Naples bankruptcy fraud defense attorney. While it may be tempting to talk to someone about the investigation, defense lawyers strongly advise against discussing the pending case with anyone other than an attorney. Conversations between the person who is the subject of the investigations and potential witnesses may become a point of focus at trial. Speaking with someone else about the matter may also lead to that party being subpoenaed when they otherwise may not have been contacted. Joffe Law, P.A. stands ready to help with your federal case.