white collar crime

Prosecutors Want to Overturn Attorney General Paxton’s Judge Removal

By Peek & Toland on October 18, 2017

The ongoing white collar prosecution against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been noteworthy for its twists and turns. In the latest development, prosecutors have asked the highest court in the state to overturn a ruling supporting his push for judge removal

Paxton is the subject of a securities fraud case. His lawyers recently scored a success when a state appeals court ruled the judge earmarked for the trial, George Gallagher, lost jurisdiction when he changed the venue to Harris County from Paxton’s home county Collin County.

The Texas Tribune reported prosecutors in the case against Paxton asked the state’s highest criminal court to overturn the ruling that backs his push for a new judge in the case.

AG Paxton's judge removal is challenged

They have requested the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to reverse the ruling. The prosecutors suggest the 5th Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction to make its decision in the first place.

Secondly, they took issue with the court’s interpretation of a part of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure that Paxton’s team relied on its motion for a new judge.

The prosecutors requested oral arguments before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

We noted earlier this year, how Paxton’s fraud trial has been repeatedly delayed.

A trial was originally scheduled for Collin County in the spring of 2017. However, white collar charges of this nature are notoriously complicated. We have seen many cases like this in which public officials have faced expensive and lengthy court proceedings, only for the cases against them to collapse.

Paxton is accused of convincing investors in a company to purchase stock in the North Texas technology firm while omitting to disclose that he was being paid by the firm. He faces criminal charges based on the allegations that go back to a time before he was the state’s attorney general.

The Attorney General’s lawyers have sought to remove Gallagher from the case ever since he moved the case out of Collin County, where Paxton resides. They refused to give him written permission that they say is needed for Gallagher to follow the case to Harris County.

Paxton has been fighting the corruption charges for more than two years. If convicted, he could face up to 99 years in prison.

At Peek & Toland our experienced Austin criminal defense lawyers can help you if you are charged with a white collar crime. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

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Former Texas Congressman Steve Stockman is Hit with Corruption Charges

By Peek & Toland on August 7, 2017

Texas is no stranger to corruption charges in businesses and the political arena. Recently, former congressman Steve Stockman was hit with these white collar charges.

In March, the former Texas congressman along with an ex-employee were arrested on a 28-count indictment claiming they stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from charities.

Steve Stockman denies corruption charges

Former Texas Congressman Steve Stockman pleads not guilty to corruption charges

The indictments alleged some of this money was used to finance political campaigns and pay personal expenses. Stockman along with his former aide, Jason Posey, are accused of seeking to cover up the operation. Stickman served twice in Congress – from 1995 to 1997 and again from 2013 to 2015.

A report in the Texas Tribune detailed the indictment. Stockman is accused of seeking out $1.25 million in donation under misleading pretenses.

The indictment says from May 2010 to October 2014, he allegedly diverted some of the money for campaign expenses and personal purposes.

Stockman was investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice. It said funds were allegedly used to finance a covert surveillance project that targeted a political opponent.

Stockman is maintaining his innocence. At first, he blamed his arrest on political adversaries in the federal government. His lawyers distanced themselves from these claims.

The former congressman is just the latest prominent politician to face corruption charges.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is facing a trial over charges relating to alleged securities violations before he was in his present office.

Recently, the judge in the securities fraud case ruled that Paxton’s trial should be moved out of Collin County and delayed once again.

The change of venue was seen as a victory for prosecutors. They argued Paxton and his friends had tainted the pool of jurors in his home of Collin County.

The change in ruling followed concerns from special prosecutors that they had not been paid because of an ongoing action in Collin County.

As illustrated by the Paxton case, white collar prosecutions are complicated and can drag on for months. The sanctions for such crimes are also very severe.

Paxton has denied charges of misleading investors in a company before he became attorney general. The legal deliberations have continued for more than a year. Although Paxton beat a federal, civil case involving similar allegations, the state charges remain. They carry a potential prison sentence of up to 99 years.

If you have been charged with a white collar offense in Austin, Round Rock, San Antonio or elsewhere in Texas, please call our experienced criminal defense lawyers at (512) 474-4445.


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Texas Lawyer Acquitted on Fraud Indictments Over BP Damage Claims

By Peek & Toland on September 15, 2016

A high profile white collar crime trial of a Texas lawyer and six co-defendants who faced fraud indictments over the BP Oil spill six years ago ended in an acquittal.

In August, a jury acquitted Mikal Watts, a San Antonio lawyer, two associates in his law firm and two BP claims workers. They faced 66 charges of conspiring to commit fraud, identity theft, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

They were accused of making false compensation claims in the wake of the BP oil spill six years ago.

An earlier report in Insurance Journal said federal prosecutors reduced the number of indictments against Mikal Watts, a lawyer from San Antonio, and six co-defendants from 95 to 73.

Lawyer faces fraud indictments over BP scandal

A BP gas station

They allegedly faked 40,000 damage claims in the wake of the BP oil spill in 2010.

The report stated Jury selection for the case began on July 18 in Gulfport, Miss. The Insurance Journal report said U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. stated the charges dropped from the docket seemed to be the same alleged offenses as the 22 counts of aggravated identity theft on the indictment.

The seven defendants in the case faced 73 charges claiming they conspired to file false claims over the 2010 BP spill and stole the identities of victims who did not agree to be represented by the law firm. Federal prosecutors accused Watts and his associates of fraudulently submitting to the petroleum company the names of 40,000 people with claims that totaled more than $2 billion.

However, Watts and his associates denied the charges. The attorney opted to represent himself at trial over fraud indictments. Watts forged a reputation for earning millions of dollars in suing big corporations over injuries to his clients.

Additionally, Watts, two non-attorney members of his law firm and four contract field workers were accused of inventing the names of the victims or using the names of real people without their permission. Prosecutors claimed the move would allow Watts to gain a place on the BP litigation steering committee and to increase the legal fees he might collect from the case.

What Was The BP Disaster?

The BP oil spill of April 20, 2010, has been described as the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. It also led to a loss of life.

The disaster followed the failure of a final cement seal on an oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion claimed the lives of 11 oil rig workers.

The federal government estimates as many as 4.2 million barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf, reported CNN. For 87 days, oil and methane leaked from the wellhead below the surface of the ocean. The consequences for wildlife and the beaches were devastating.

The subsequent litigation after the Deepwater Horizon spill was extensive and ranged from wrongful death lawsuits to property damage and compensation for health issues. BP set up a $20 billion fund for losses. Some of the lawsuit claims are explained here by Nolo.

White collar crimes by their very nature are complicated and involve large amounts of evidence gathering. See our white collar resources here.

If you are facing fraud indictments, identity theft or another white collar charges, you could end up in jail for a long period. Call Peek & Toland for expert legal representation at (512) 474-4445.

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Five of the Biggest White Collar Frauds in History

By Peek & Toland on June 13, 2016

White collar crimes may not involve violence, but that doesn’t mean the investigators don’t take them seriously or hit the offenders with heavy sentences. Some of the biggest white collar frauds in U.S. history have involved millions and even billions of dollars and cost people their livelihoods and their financial futures. In this blog, we look at five of the largest scale fraud crimes in U.S. history.

If you are accused of a white collar crime, you may have been motivated by financial hardship or family issues. You may have been wrongly drawn into a federal investigation and should contact our experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible. These are some of the biggest white collar crimes in U.S. history.

top white collar criminals

The biggest white collar crimes (clockwise) Enron, Bernard Ebbers, Bernie Madoff, Allen Stanford and Jack Abramoff

1 Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff is a fixture in any list of the most audacious scams in U.S. history. Madoff was a Wall Street stockbroker who was accused of perpetrating the most extensive financial fraud in American history. His so-called “Ponzi Scheme” was set up to pay investors with other investors’ money. Those investors later lost billions of dollars.

Madoff made the word “Ponzi” a household name when he was arrested and charged with securities fraud. Although he had been suspected of fraud for 10 years before he came to the attention of the authorities, he wasn’t arrested until 2008 when his conduct was reported by one of his sons. In 2009, he pled guilty to 11 federal crimes including money laundering, securities fraud and theft from an employee benefit plan. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison and ordered to pay $170 billion in restitution.

2 Jack Abramoff

Jack Abramoff was a notorious lobbyist who illustrated the seedier side of Washington D.C. politics. A report on CBS revealed how he manipulated politicians and their staffers by giving them generous gifts as well as job offers that bought influence. His scandals implicated politicians and even the mob. They also landed him in prison for 70 months for using a fake wire transfer to qualify for a $60 million loan to buy a casino.

3 Enron

The scandal at the Texas-based energy giant became a byword for corporate white collar crime in the early 2000s. Enron grew rapidly to become America’s seventh largest company, employing more than 21,000 staff.

The firm’s rapid success was later revealed to be based on an elaborate scam. Enron set up about a dozen “partnerships” with companies it created, and then used its partnerships to conceal huge debts and heavy losses on its trading businesses.

The firm’s numerous crimes included manipulating Texas’s power market, bribing foreign governments to win contracts overseas and manipulating the energy market in California. Thousands of employees lost their pensions and livelihoods when the company collapsed.

Former chief executive Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his part in the fraud, but his sentence was later cut to 14 years. Former chairman Kenneth Lay was convicted of conspiracy and fraud and was sentenced to six years in jail. He died before he finished his sentence. Other executives were convicted of white collar crimes.

4 Allen Stanford

Texas-based businessman Allen Stanford was once hailed as a billionaire success story. In 2012, he was convicted by a Houston federal jury on conspiracy, fraud, and obstruction charges.

For more than 20 years he ran a $7.2 billion Ponzi scheme around the sale of high-yielding certificates of deposit through his Antigua-based Stanford International Bank, according to prosecutors. He was accused of using investor funds to make risky investments and finance his lavish lifestyle. He recently lost an appeal to overturn his conviction and 110-year prison sentence.

5 Bernard Ebbers

Known as the “telecom cowboy,” Bernard Ebbers embarked on an aggressive spate of takeovers at the helm of WorldCom, until he failed to take over Sprint.  As the tech bubble burst, WorldCom was revealed to be a sham that was falsely inflating revenues and fraudulently claiming normal expenses as capital expenditures. WorldCom artificially inflated assets to the tune of $11 billion. In 2005, the “telecom cowboy” was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 25 years in jail.

If you have been convicted of a white collar crime, we cannot guarantee we’ll win your case. However, we will bring our experience of these serious crimes to bear in your defense and work hard to ensure that your rights are protected, and that all evidence is correctly presented to the court. Call our office at (512) 474-4445.

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