White Collar Crimes

What are the Different Types of Fraud?

By Peek & Toland on November 9, 2018

In general, fraud is an intentional attempt to deceive another person, typically for financial personal gain. Fraud often involves the usage of misleading statements or false information in order to gain access to money, goods, services, information, or credit. Most commonly, fraud occurs when individuals use dishonest tactics to deprive others of money or other property that rightfully belongs to them.

For the most part, fraud offenses are non-violent crimes; thus, many refer to these crimes as white-collar crimes. However, in the event that the fraudulent scheme involves the use of firearms or results in serious bodily injury or death to another, the charges and penalties predictably become more severe.

 

What Are the Different Types of Fraud?

Texas Penal Code Chapter 32 defines several different types of fraud-related criminal offenses and their potential penalties. Each crime is categorized according to the specific type of fraud that it involves. Some of the different crimes classified as fraud under Texas law include the following:

·         Forgery

·         Making false statements to obtain property or credit

·         Fraudulent transfer of a motor vehicle

·         Issuance of bad checks

·         Credit card fraud

·         Health care fraud

·         Identity theft

·         Deceptive business practices

·         Commercial bribery

The severity of the penalties for fraud offenses in Texas depends upon the nature of the crime, the individual’s previous criminal history, and the value of the funds, goods, or services involved in the fraudulent scheme. The most minor fraud-related charge may be a Class C misdemeanor, which typically results in a $500 fine, whereas the most serious fraud-related charge may be a first-degree felony, which is punishable by incarceration ranging from five to 99 years and a $10,000 fine. Individuals who commit fraud also may have to pay restitution to those who suffered losses as a result of the fraud.

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have the experience and knowledge that are necessary to represent your interests when you are facing criminal court proceedings on any type of charges. We are here to gather evidence on your behalf, build a strong defense in your case, and develop the best strategy for achieving your goals. Take the first step by contacting us today and learning what we can do to help.

Posted in Criminal Defense, White Collar Crimes

How Does a SEC Investigation Work?

By Peek & Toland on October 24, 2018

There are various triggers that may lead to a SEC investigation. The SEC may notice discrepancies during its typical review of SEC reports, whistleblowers may tip off the SEC about illegal conduct, other government agencies may refer cases to the SEC, or the SEC may discover information in the course of its investigation of another matter. Whatever the case may be, SEC investigations can very quickly lead to federal charges for insider trading and other white-collar crimes.

SEC investigations are not public matters, and the first stage of any investigation process is an informal investigation referred to as a Matter Under Inquiry. In these investigations, SEC officials have no subpoena power; rather, they depend on the voluntary cooperation of a business to provide them with the requested information and documents. In some cases, the informal investigation ends the matter, but in other cases, it leads to a recommended enforcement action or a formal investigation.

How Does a SEC Investigation Work?

At the formal stage of investigation, the SEC Division of Enforcement investigates reports of securities violations pursuant to formal Orders of Investigation. These orders allow them to subpoena a broad range of information, documents, and even witness testimony in order to aid their investigation. An Order of Investigation contains a general description of the investigation and what securities law may have been violated. The Division of Enforcement has no prosecutorial powers, but instead will refer appropriate matters to the U.S. Attorney’s office for a criminal investigation and/or prosecution if necessary.

Following a formal investigation, the SEC may choose to begin an enforcement proceeding by issuing a notice of enforcement action. Those who receive the notice may respond to the notice within 30 days, but they are not required to do so, and sometimes, responding is ill-advised, depending on the situation. This notice can result in a civil action in federal court, an administrative proceeding in front of an administrative law judge, or, in some cases, no further enforcement action at all. If enforcement action is taken, the matter becomes public. The outcome of the action depends entirely on the severity and nature of the conduct at issue. A defendant could have assets frozen, large fines and monetary penalties, restitution of ill-gotten gains, and a referral for criminal prosecution in extreme cases.

The federal criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have the experience and knowledge that are necessary to represent your interests when you are facing criminal court proceedings on any type of charges. We are here to gather evidence on your behalf, build a strong defense in your case, and develop the best strategy for achieving your goals. Take the first step by contacting us today and learning what we can do to help.

Posted in White Collar Crimes

Embezzlement in Texas

By Peek & Toland on October 1, 2018

Embezzlement is categorized as a form of theft under Texas Penal Code Sec. 31.01 et. seq. Generally, embezzlement is theft for financial gain by an individual who has been entrusted, by an employer or another, to safeguard money or goods. Embezzlement often involves elements of fraud, in that individuals deliberately deceive a business, employer, or other entity for the purposes of their financial gain. This type of fraud can involve making false statements, falsifying records, or engaging in other sorts of misleading or deceitful conduct. Some common examples of embezzlement are:

·         An employee stealing money from a cash register.

·         Transferring money from a corporate or business bank account to a personal bank account.

·         Altering business records to conceal employee theft of funds.

·         An individual acting as power of attorney for an elderly person takes some of the person’s monthly income and doesn’t spend it for the person’s needs or expenses.

Embezzlement in Texas

The penalties for embezzlement under Texas law vary according to amount of funds or value of the goods stolen. Embezzlement is a misdemeanor when it involves the theft of less than $1,500. The penalty for misdemeanor embezzlement can be as much as a year in jail.

If the embezzlement involves the theft of funds or goods valued at between $1,500 and $20,000, it is a state jail felony, which carries a jail sentence of between 180 days and two years. Embezzlement becomes a third-degree felony when it involves between $20,000 and $100,000, which can result in a prison sentence ranging from two to ten years. Embezzlement involving between $100,000 and $200,000 is a second-degree felony that can result in a prison sentence ranging from two to 20 years. If the embezzlement involves more than $200,000, then it is a first-degree felony with a potential prison sentence of five to 99 years.

As this post indicates, the potential consequences of an embezzlement conviction may be quite significant. We are here to ensure that your rights are not violated and minimize any negative consequences that you may face as a result of embezzlement or related charges. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.

Posted in White Collar Crimes

Medicare Fraud and Texas Law

By Peek & Toland on September 11, 2018

Medicare is a federally-administered health insurance program that provides medical benefits primarily to individuals who are retired. Healthcare providers who offer medical care to individuals with Medicare are responsible for filing claims for reimbursement from Medicare for the services that they provided. In some cases, however, medical providers or facilities knowingly overbill or fraudulently bill Medicare for services that it did not provide, or for services that it provide, but that were medically unnecessary. Another common form of Medicare fraud is for a medical provider to offer financial incentives for patient referrals in order to collect additional Medicare reimbursement funds.

When these situations occur, these individuals or entities could face Medicare fraud charges under federal law. Conviction on federal Medicare fraud charges could result in fines and up to ten years of imprisonment, or both. However, if the fraud results in serious bodily injury, the potential imprisonment increases to 20 years, and if the fraud results in death, the potential imprisonment increases to any number of years, or life in prison.

Medicare Fraud and Texas Law

Additionally, making any sort of false statement or claim associated with Medicaid or Medicare can result in a five-year prison sentence and fines of as much as $250,000 per offense. An organization who makes a false statement or claim with respect to Medicaid or Medicare can be fined $500,00 per offense.

The federal government also has stepped up its prosecutions of Medicare fraud. In June of this year, a federal jury convicted two Texas nurses and one doctor of federal healthcare fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud from their home healthcare scheme, which is estimated to have netted them as much as $11.3 million. This is just one example of the increased prosecutions of these crimes by the federal government.

An experienced Texas white collar crime attorney can help build a strong defense against criminal charges, regardless of the type of criminal offense involved. Taking steps to get you released from incarceration and fight for your rights at the beginning of your case is typically easier than waiting until it may be too late to remedy your situation. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

Posted in White Collar Crimes

Money Laundering

By Peek & Toland on August 3, 2018

Money laundering refers to a broad range of criminal offenses, all of which involve gaining assets from an illegal activity. For instance, you could have obtained money or other assets from the illegal drug trade, wire fraud, mail fraud, or illegal forms of gambling. Although many individuals assume that all money laundering involves false names and offshore bank accounts used to avoid taxes, that is not always the case. You can face money laundering charges simply for having large sums of money or assets that you have no proof of legally obtaining. Since money laundering always involves another illegal activity, money laundering charges often are accompanied by other felony charges.

Money Laundering

The severity of punishment for a money laundering conviction varies according to the amount of money or other assets involved in the scheme or series of transactions. For assets valued at $2,500 to $29,000, for instance, you would face a state jail felony with a potential jail sentence of six months to two years in jail, along with as much as a $10,000 fine. On the other end of the spectrum, assets valued at $300,000 or more could result in a 1st degree felony conviction, carrying a prison sentence of five to 99 years in prison, and up to a $10,000 fine. Additionally, any sort of money laundering conviction can trigger the federal government to take steps to seize any property that you own, including vehicles, bank accounts, and real estate.

If you find yourself charged with money laundering or any other type of criminal offense, you need legal advice that only experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys can offer you. The consequences of a money laundering conviction can be serious, no matter what type of criminal charges you may be facing. As a result, you should immediately contact a skilled defense lawyer for help if you have been accused of a criminal offense. Peek & Toland provides strong legal representation on a regular basis for adults who are charged with various crimes. It is our priority is to represent your interests and protect your rights.  Call us at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment to speak with us today.

Posted in Criminal Defense, White Collar Crimes

What Constitutes Tax Evasion?

By Peek & Toland on August 1, 2018

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines tax fraud as a taxpayer’s intentional wrongdoing with the specific purpose of evading a tax known or believed to be owing. The taxpayer both must owe taxes and have a fraudulent intent. Tax fraud or evasion is not simply making a mistake on your tax returns or using legitimate and lawful means to reduce the taxes that you owe, such as the usage of deductions or tax credits. Rather, it is purposely trying to defraud the government and commit tax evasion, beyond a reasonable doubt. Either an individual or a business has the ability to commit tax fraud.

What Constitutes Tax Evasion?

Some examples of illegal tax fraud include the following:

·         Intentionally misstating or underreporting your income

·         Claiming fraudulent or improper deductions, credits, or exemptions

·         Concealing assets to avoid paying taxes on them

·         Intentionally providing false information on your tax return

·         Failing to file your tax returns as required

·         Failing to collect taxes owed and pay them to the government

Tax evasion is a felony criminal offense under federal law. Generally, a person who commits tax evasion can face years in prison and steep fines. An individual convicted of tax evasion also is likely to have to pay restitution to the federal government for taxes that have wrongfully gone unpaid and be placed on probation for a period of time. If a business is found to have committed tax evasion, the business could face even higher fines, and the individuals responsible for running the business also may go to prison.

As this post indicates, the potential consequences of being convicted of tax evasion are severe. We are here to ensure that your rights are not violated and minimize any negative consequences that you may face as a result of a tax evasion conviction. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.

Posted in Criminal Defense, White Collar Crimes

What is White Collar Crime?

By Peek & Toland on June 15, 2018

White collar crime is a classification for a wide range of crimes; typically, white collar crimes involve some sort of illegal deceit or breach of trust by a business or government professional, and do not involve acts of violence. Nonetheless, white collar crime convictions can result in serious penalties similar to those for more violent crimes, including long terms of incarceration, high fines, and payment of restitution to any victims. White collar crimes can be state law violations or federal law violations, depending on whether the allegedly activities crossed state lines. Some common examples of white collar crimes are bank fraud, identity theft, tax evasion, money laundering, mail and wire fraud, consumer fraud, and bribery.

What is White Collar Crime?

One common element of many white collar crimes is evidence showing that one individual or business is liable for the actions of one or more other individuals or businesses. In many cases, white collar crimes involve an individual who engages in criminal action on behalf of another, such as a boss or a corporation. Under certain circumstances, a corporation may be liable for the actions of its employees under federal law and under Texas law. Due to differences in federal and state law, it is easier for a corporation to be held responsible for its employees’ illegal actions than under Texas law. However, it is relatively common for one employee to be liable for the actions of another under Texas law; for this type of criminal liability, there need only be proof that a person forced another to perform the illegal act, solicited, attempted, or aided in the action, or had a legal duty to stop or prevent the action when able to do so.

The consequences of a criminal conviction can be serious, no matter what type of criminal charges you may be facing. As a result, you should immediately contact a skilled defense attorney for help if you have been accused of a criminal offense. Peek & Toland provides strong legal representation on a regular basis for adults who are charged with various crimes. It is our priority is to represent your interests and protect your rights. Call us at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment to speak with us today.

Posted in White Collar Crimes

Would your business survive an Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) audit?

By Jessica Aries on January 10, 2018

Would your business survive an Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) audit?Some convenient stores and other business owners are about to find out. Today, agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) descended on 7-11 stores nationwide to perform immigration audits and interviews with employees and store managers.

“Today’s actions send a strong message to U.S. businesses that hire and employ an illegal workforce: ICE will enforce the law, and if you are found to be breaking the law, you will be held accountable,” stated Thomas Homan, ICE’s acting director in a statement to CNN.

Is your business prepared for an ICE audit?

Businesses cannot avoid an immigration audit, but they can take steps to ensure they are prepared for one. Our team of experienced immigration attorneys can walk your business through the entire process of preparation to ensure you are ready should ICE seek an audit of your business. Should your business be selected for ICE audit, Peek & Toland will help your business navigate what to do and how best to work with ICE to ensure your business can continue to operate during the audit.

Is your business in I-9 Compliance?

As part of I-9 compliance, it is illegal to knowingly hire or continue to employ unauthorized workers. A failure to comply with I-9 compliance may result in fines, forfeiture of company assets, and potential imprisonment. Those businesses that fail to comply may be criminally prosecuted or fined anywhere from $375 to $16,000 per violation. A penalty for failing to provide a Form I-9 can range from $110-$1,100 per violation. Can your business afford these penalties?

I-9 requires that employers complete an Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 (Form I-9) to verify the employees’ identity and eligibility to work legally in the U.S. This form must be completed with 3 business days of the employee’s first day in the position and employers are required to maintain this form for all current employees. Employers are also required to maintain former employee’s documents for at least 3 years for the day of hire or 1 year after the employee is no longer employed.

What is E-Verify?

To confirm the information on the employee’s documentation is correct, many employers use an online tool called E-Verify. Although E-Verify is currently voluntary for most employers, those businesses who maintain federal contracts or subcontracts that contain the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause are required to participate in E-Verify. It is anticipated that all U.S. employers will be required to use E-Verify in the near future.

What should business owners do?

The simple answer is to hire an experienced immigration attorney. If your business is worried about risk and a potential immigration audit, then hiring an experienced immigration firm like Peek and Toland to help prepare your business for a potential immigration audit is essential.

Should your business be selected for an immigration audit, it is paramount to hire an immigration attorney to advise your business right away.Our experienced immigration attorneys are well-versed in all areas of I-9 compliance and ICE audits.

Our legal services include:

  • Risk Assessment and Risk Avoidance
  • Internal and Third Party I-9 Audits
  • Reviewing and Correcting Mistakes on Existing I-9 Forms
  • Government Investigations
  • Internal Audits of Existing I-9 Forms
  • Obtaining and Maintaining I-9 Forms

To learn more about Peek and Toland can help your business or company with ICE audits, I-9 compliance, or E-verify, please call us at 512-474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Latest News, White Collar Crimes

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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 & Castañeda PLLC for expert legal representation at (512) 474-4445.

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What’s the Difference Between Tax Fraud and Tax Evasion?

By Peek & Toland on July 26, 2016

Tax fraud and evasion are taken very seriously by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Those who commit these white collar crimes may end up with a hefty fine or a jail sentence.

These crimes don’t always make headlines unless a famous person is convicted. A case in point is home and garden guru Martha Stewart, who was forced to pay $220,000 in back taxes and penalties to the State of New York for evasion of taxes on her mansion.

Tax fraud and tax evasion are different issues

The complexity of the taxation system means there is a fine line between criminal activity and negligence when it comes to unpaid taxes.

It’s also useful to know the distinctions between tax fraud and tax evasion.

Tax fraud is a general term which can touch on a raft of laws found in Title 26 (the Internal Revenue Code) as well as Title 18 of the United States Code.

To commit fraud, the taxpayer must have shown intent to defraud the government by failing to pay taxes that he or she was well aware were lawfully due.   You can face civil as well as criminal penalties for taxation fraud.

It’s possible for a taxpayer who has committed tax fraud to face civil penalties alone under 26 USC § 6663, without being charged with the offense of criminal tax evasion.

Why It’s Difficult for the IRS To Prove Tax Fraud

The IRS faces an uphill task in proving fraud of taxes because the burden of proof is on the department to show that the taxpayer deliberately defrauded the government out of revenue. It’s not easy to prove that a taxpayer willfully intended to defraud the government out of taxation dollars, which is why the IRS often takes the civil rather than the criminal course of suing the taxpayer for unpaid taxes.

You will usually successfully avoid being charged with a crime as long as you have a reasonable argument as to why you failed to pay your taxes.

What is Tax Evasion?

Tax evasion usually results in criminal charges. In these cases, the defendant is accused of deliberately misrepresenting taxable income to the IRS.

Examples of evasion include:

1 Failing to file tax returns;

2 Failing to declare sizeable additional earnings like a second job;

3 Making up false deductions or deliberately overstating them;

4 Using a false social security number.

You should be aware that there are legitimate ways to minimize or avoid paying taxes as described in this FindLaw article.

Our Austin criminal defense lawyers help people who are charged with white collar crimes. You can find out more here on our website.

If you are facing charges of tax fraud or evasion, it’s vital to act fast so as you can make a strong case against the IRS that you did not have criminal intent. Call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

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