Theft Crimes

Court Rules States Can Impose Their Own Penalties on Immigrants who Commit Identity Theft

By Peek & Toland on June 27, 2016

Tough penalties imposed on undocumented immigrants in Arizona have been upheld in a federal court in a case that appears to give the green light to states to impose their own sanctions on those engaged in identity theft.

The ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in May is seen as another victory for the hardline approach of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona who has pioneered new ways to punish illegal immigrants. The hardline approach of Arpaio was recently profiled in Rolling Stone magazine.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said that while there are still some questions about how prosecutors and police interpret Arizona’s identity theft laws, they do not appear to violate the Constitution, or impede the powers of the federal government to set its national immigration policies.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Arpaio’s identity theft law “stretched the crime of identity theft to include everyone from forgers to people simply seeking employment without valid documentation.”

Identity theft by immigrants leads to serious penalties

The Washington Times reported that the judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Arizona’s laws are acceptable as long as they apply to everyone. That means they include U.S. citizens and it’s, therefore, immaterial if the legislature intended them to be used as a way to attack one of the symptoms of illegal immigration, namely identity theft.

The decision raises the prospect that other states that have taken an uncompromising line on immigrants in the past, such as Texas, may bring in their own set of hardline, Arizona-style laws.

The unanimous U.S. Court of Appeals decision was written by Circuit Judge Richard C. Tallman, who stated:

“In this case, Arizona exercised its police powers to pass criminal laws that apply equally to unauthorized aliens, authorized aliens, and U.S. citizens. Just because some applications of those laws implicate federal immigration priorities does not mean that the statute as a whole should be struck down.”

The law is just the latest piece of legislation in Arizona that’s tough on immigrants. Others include:

Requiring Businesses to Use E-Verify

The E-Verify program allows employers to check the work authorization of employees. It’s mandatory for businesses to use it in Arizona. The move to force businesses to use it was upheld by the Supreme Court.

SB 1070

Arizona brought in stiffer penalties for illegal immigrants for crimes but the Supreme Court struck these down. However, the justices upheld a section of the legislation that mandates police to check the legal status of people they encounter in their regular line of work, if they suspect they are in the United States illegally. The ACLU complained that most of the people who were checked followed routine traffic stops or other minor infractions.

Arizona brought in changes to the state’s identity theft laws eight years ago. They are intended to punish anyone with a false identity or a fake social security number who is seeking employment in Arizona.

While Texas has a conservative leadership like Arizona, it has not followed Arizona in enacting hardline anti-immigrant laws to the same degree.

In 2010, former governor Rick Perry said Arizona’s tough immigration stance would not be right for Texas. He said Texas has a long held tradition of rejecting harsh anti-immigration laws. Austin became a majority minority city back in 2005. Its undocumented immigrants live in fear of deportation and hope for reform of the immigration laws, rather than harsher legislation being enacted.

Our Austin immigration attorneys have helped hundreds of undocumented immigrants as well as those accused of identity theft. If you fear deportation or are facing criminal charges, call Peek & Toland today for help at (512) 474-4445.

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Texas is at the Center of Health Care Fraud Investigations

By Peek & Toland on June 16, 2016

Cracking down on health care fraud is an avowed aim of the Obama administration, and some of the largest investigations have been here in Texas.

The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association points out as much as $2.27 trillion a year is spent on healthcare and more than four billion insurance claims are processed annually. The financial losses due to health care fraud run into tens of billions of dollars a year.

Last month, a federal jury in Dallas found former Rockwall doctor Jacques Roy guilty of what the Dallas Morning News described as the largest home health fraud in the nation that involved a single doctor.

Texas is at center of health care fraud

Roy and his associates were accused of enticing Medicare patients by offering them food stamps, cash, and groceries as part of the $400 million scam. Prosecutors said he recruited fake patients, including homeless people, to make false health care claims.

A jury convicted Roy and three owners of home care agencies of heath care fraud, making false statements related to health care matters, conspiracy to commit health care fraud and obstruction of justice. When Roy was arrested in 2012, federal investigators said they had busted the largest Medicare fraud scheme ever discovered.

The FBI makes no secret of its commitment to uncovering health care fraud and new investigators have been drafted into these probes across Texas and elsewhere. On its website the FBI states.

“Health care fraud costs the country tens of billions of dollars a year. It’s a rising threat, with national health care expenditures estimated to exceed $3 trillion in 2014 and spending continuing to outpace inflation.”

Just a month before the Roy verdict, A Dallas anesthesiologist was convicted of defrauding about $10 million from the federal government.

The Dallas Morning News reported Dr. Richard Ferdinand Toussaint Jr. was convicted of seven counts of fraud. He admitted submitting bogus claims in 2009 and 2010 to United Healthcare, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas and other programs.

Given the fact there are federal investigators whose sole job is to look for health care fraud, you should contact an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney immediately if you are accused of these serious offenses. Doctors and other health care professionals who are convicted of these charges will lose their livelihoods and their reputations overnight.

Our highly reputable Austin-based criminal defense attorneys have a long track record in helping those charged with fraud and other white collar crimes. Call us to schedule a free no obligation consultation with one of our experienced lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

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What are the Penalties for Theft in Texas?

By Peek & Toland on January 21, 2014

Generally speaking, “theft” occurs when a person takes something that does not belong to him or her, without permission of the owner, with the intent to permanently deprive them of the object. Texas law recognizes several different types of theft crimes. An experienced Austin criminal defense attorney can explain the specific types of theft prohibited by Texas law and the penalties that come with a conviction.

The penalties for each type of theft depend on how severe the law believes the theft was. Severity is usually defined by the dollar value of the goods stolen, with the severity going up as the amount does. For instance, a person who steals a $50 prepaid cell phone will likely face less severe consequences than a person who steals a $50,000 diamond ring. Read the rest »

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