Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Husband Faces Hacking Charges For Checking Wife's Email!

Have you heard the news? Various news outlets have reported that a Michigan man faces felony anti-hacking charges because he checked his wife's email on a family computer! The emails reportedly revealed that she had been having an affair. What is your opinion about a prosecutor bringing criminal charges in this divorce context?

As divorce attorneys, (and criminal defense attorneys), in Augusta, Georgia, we have warned you before about this very possibility. You must be careful about how you attempt to prove adultery. In other words, even if you suspect your spouse of committing adultery, we have always recommended that you should carefully discuss with your own divorce lawyer the proper ways to obtain the evidence of infidelity. More simply put, as any attorney will tell you, you should always use legitimate means to prove your worthless spouse, "Sluggo," is cheating, because he isn't worth going to jail over!

Of course, it remains to be seen whether or not the Michigan man violated any anti-hacking laws or did anything wrong. His criminal defense attorney reportedly maintains that his client had legitimately accessed a family computer. His criminal lawyer also has reportedly raised a good question: Don't Michigan prosecutors have better things to do than to bring criminal charges like this one in this divorce case!?

What do you think?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Grave Robbers and the Depravity of Some White Collar Criminals

For most good people, the Christmas season is a time of good cheer and "good will toward men."  But not for everyone.  Have you heard about the thieves who have reportedly stolen 500 bronze urns from graves in a Stone Mountain, Georgia cemetary?  How low can some people go!?  Hopefully, these morally depraved grave robbers will be caught and punished.  And hopefully, the good Lord has reserved an especially hot place in Hades for grave robbers!
This white collar crime illustrates that nothing, including churches and cemetaries, is safe or sacred any more.  Don't you agree?  As you will recall, even churches have often been targeted, in recent years, by arsonists.  And I have read recently that even some Salvation Army kettles have been targets of thieves this holiday season.  Have you heard of such crimes occurring in your community?
But hopefully, all hope is not lost!  While these horrible crimes are occurring, at the same time, you can read about reports of "Secret Santas" dropping large sums in kettles, along with countless other illustrations of kindness and good deeds also occurring "out there" during this holiday season!  Maybe you and your family members have found ways to help others in need, too!  So, for most of us, hopefully, this still remains a time of peace and good will toward others!     

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Special Challenges In White Collar Crime Prosecutions

As a former federal prosecutor who primarily handled major white collar crime prosecutions, I enjoyed the challenge of putting together a "mega case."  However, trust me, being a federal prosecutor isn't all fun and games!  In this blog, I have periodically described some of the special challenges faced by federal prosecutors in high profile cases.  Today, I want to focus on just one of those challenges:  the day-to-day stress and psychological challenges faced by Assistant U.S. Attorneys in long-term criminal investigations.
I realize that was a mouthful!  Let me try to explain this challenge more simply like this!  In a long-term federal criminal investigation, which can last for months, or even years, a federal prosecutor must deal with a host of issues.  For example, an A.U.S.A. may face, on a daily basis, among other issues, inter-agency squabbles, agent egos, a nosy news media, or supervisory pressures, and all without any end to the ordeal being in sight!  When you begin a mega case, you have no idea how long it may take.  It will end, perhaps months, or even years later, only when you, the lead prosecutor, decide you have enough evidence to seek an indictment. 
In contrast, most state prosecutions are of short duration.  In other words, as a state prosecutor, you quickly get your cases over and done with, and then go on to the next criminal case.  Put another way, as a state prosecutor, you fry your small fish and, win, lose, or draw, at least you get closure.  However, a lengthy federal prosecution, which may involve a federal grand jury investigation, can sometimes seem like a long, never-ending nightmare with no closure in sight! 
For example, I once led a task force of federal and state agents while investigating a high profile white collar crime target.  This one case was basically my full-time job for a couple of years.  But for much of the first year, I had almost daily arguments with one of the agents assigned to the case.  It was very stressful!  In my opinion, the agent was lazy and refused to follow directions.  And until my other agents took up the slack, and got the job done, I was forced to deal with this stress of dealing with that lazy agent on a daily basis. 
But please don't get me wrong!  In spite of all the stressors inherent in leading the charge as a federal prosecutor, I loved the job!  There are no other jobs in the world with the same unique challenges and in which you can sometimes make a real difference!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's Bill of Rights Day!

Did you realize that today is National Bill of Rights day!?  Yes, today, on December 15, 1791, our first ten amendments to the United States Constitution were adopted as our Bill of Rights. 
As you know, these important rights guarantee to each American the right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, among other enumerated rights.  In the criminal law arena, these important rights also include freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to reasonable bail, the right to an attorney, and the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses.  In addition, each American is guaranteed the right to notice of charges, along with the right to a public trial.
Maybe we should celebrate and appreciate our Bill of Rights every day!  Don't you agree!?

The Federal Grand Jury, Julian Assange, and Leaks about the Leaker

Yesterday, a criminal lawyer for WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, announced to the news media that he had heard that his client is currently being investigated by a federal grand jury in Virginia.  Who or what is the source of this information about the grand jury and Mr. Assange?  In other words, who could be leaking about the leaker!?
As a former federal prosecutor, I can attest to the fact that government entities, (including federal agents and prosecutors), are generally very careful about avoiding leaks to the news media, particularly concerning the federal grand jury.  However, in a high profile case, such as this one, involving the internet disclosures of war secrets and diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks, it could be difficult to keep things completely under wraps.  For example, while prosecutors and agents cannot disclose matters occurring before the grand jury, there are generally no prohibitions against witnesses, or witnesses' attorneys, telling others what has happened.  In addition, I have seen, or heard of, instances in which the grand jurors themselves may have disclosed what transpired before the grand jury.
Of course, no matter how you view Mr. Assange, whether or not someone has leaked information about a grand jury may be the least of Mr. Assange's problems right now, don't you agree? 
United States Attorney General Eric Holder has disclosed nothing about a grand jury investigation, but he has announced that he has authorized significant action in the matter.  It will be interesting to see what else unfolds in this case in the new year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy News for The Goolsby Law Firm!

Today is a happy day for us at The Goolsby Law Firm, LLC! As many of you know, The Goolsby Law Firm is presently composed of father and son attorneys, (Richard Goolsby, Sr. and Richard Goolsby, Jr.), who enjoy practicing family law, criminal law, and handling other legal matters in Augusta, Georgia, (including Richmond and Columbia County). The primary author of this blog is the dad, Richard Goolsby, Sr. I am a former federal prosecutor who has handled some of the largest, most complex criminal cases in Georgia history.
Our good news includes the fact that my second son has just completed the half-way point of law school! In other words, he will complete law school in only three more semesters!
But there's more good news! My third son, currently a senior at the University of Georgia, has just been accepted for admission to law school next fall by both of his top choices!
So, don't you see, in just a few years, we may very well be the only law firm in this state composed of a father and three sons! Now, you know why I am so happy and proud! The Goolsby Law Firm is truly a family law firm!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Senate Votes To Convict Federal Judge

The United States Senate voted today to convict and remove federal judge Thomas Porteous of Louisiana.  Porteous was accused of accepting money and gifts from attorneys and bail bondsmen, among other allegations.  Incredibly, Porteous, a Clinton appointee, was only the eighth federal judge to be removed by the Senate in U.S. history.
White collar crime hits high and low, doesn't it? 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

DOJ's "Operation Broken Trust" Targets Investment Fraud Schemes

According to "The Huffington Post," and other news sources, yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the preliminary results of a nationwide task force effort, called "Operation Broken Trust." According to Holder, the operation has reportedly targeted 343 defendants accused of various investment fraud schemes around the country and with over $8.3 billion in losses to crime victims.
Investment fraud scams, which are often ponzi schemes, in which the con artists frequently target and steal from elderly victims by promising, but never delivering, high returns on investments, are a pervasive, pernicious problem in this country. 
The President's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which is reportedly spearheading this operation, deserves credit for these accomplishments.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Judge To Actor Wesley Snipes: "Go directly to jail and do not pass go!"

The Christmas holidays can be a happy time or a sad time, depending upon your circumstances.  For actor Wesley Snipes, it appears it will be a sad time.  A federal judge has reportedly rejected his criminal defense attorney's "emergency" motion to delay Snipes' voluntary surrender - prison reporting date to begin serving his sentence for failing to file income tax returns.  Snipes had reportedly sought the delay so that he could be with his family and kids during the holidays.  However, the judge reportedly observed, in his order denying the request, that Snipes has had plenty of time to get prepared to report to prison and that being apart from one's family on special occasions is one of the inevitable consequences of all prison sentences.
Although every criminal case is different, as a former federal prosecutor, (and currently, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer), I would have bet the ranch that most judges would have denied such an "emergency" motion.  Don't you agree?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

No More "Dancing With the Stars:" A Public Corruption Conviction for Tom DeLay


Many of you probably remember watching former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's performances on last season's popular dance show, "Dancing With the Stars."  There was nothing "criminal" about that!  But Mr. DeLay won't be dancing again, at least not any time soon!  You may have read about his conviction, last week, in a Texas court, for laundering $190,000 in corporate campaign contributions to various state Republican candidates.
Following his conviction on money laundering charges, DeLay vowed to appeal and to obtain a reversal of this alleged "abuse of power" by the Texas prosecutor in the case.
But for now, Mr. DeLay's future doesn't look too bright, because he reportedly faces the possibility of many years in prison when he is sentenced.
What is your opinion about the DeLay case?  And what do you think about tough sentencings for white collar crime?  Should "crime in the suites" be sentenced as severely as crime in the streets?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Movies About White Collar Crime: "The Sting"

How about a little change of pace?! Let's talk about another one of our favorite movies involving white collar crime! One of my "top 100" favorite movies is "The Sting." This 1973 film starred actors Paul Newman and Robert Redford as grifters who pulled off a big sting against a Chicago mobster, played by Robert Shaw.
The movie was reportedly based on the true life escapades of con artists Fred and Charles Gondorff. Of course, one of the best parts of the movie is the music! The movie's well known score and other pieces are the work of famous ragtime musician Scott Joplin, as adapted for the movie by Marvin Hamlisch.
What are some of your favorite movies about white collar crime?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Justice Delayed is...A Case Dismissed!

Everyone is familiar with the old Gladstone adage that "justice delayed is justice denied." Well, the Supreme Court of Georgia has just given new meaning and some real "oomph" to this old quote.
The State of Georgia's highest court recently dismissed murder charges against two men, Maurice Gleaton and Antonio Clark, because the Fulton County District Attorney's Office took too long --four to five years-- to bring the case to trial. Gleaton and Clark had been charged in connection with the August, 2005 shooting death of a man at an Atlanta apartment complex. Can you believe it took nearly five years for the state to get ready?! Don't you agree that it is outrageous that it would take so long for the state to prepare a criminal case for trial?!
In dismissing the murder case, the Court was clearly focused on the prejudice to a defendant's constitutional rights when a speedy trial is denied. For instance, in this case, the location where the crime had occurred had apparently been condemned and torn down. As a result, no physical evidence could be retrieved.
This criminal case is illustrative of a serious problem facing our criminal justice system. And believe me, trial delays are not confined to Atlanta, Georgia. Our courts everywhere are generally bogged down and over-burdened with more cases than our criminal justice system can efficiently handle. In my opinion, (as a former federal and state prosecutor, and presently, as an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense attorney), prosecutors' offices must learn to more effectively screen their cases and develop better strategies to address criminal case backlogs. It can be done!
No matter where you stand on the poltical spectrum, hopefully you will agree that a five year delay beween a crime and trial is patently unfair and absurd. It is unfair to the defendant, just as it is also unfair to the victim's family members!
After all, as the Georgia Supreme Court has just re-affirmed, "justice delayed is justice denied!"

Friday, November 19, 2010

White Collar Crime: Size Doesn't Matter!

In addition to being a former federal prosecutor, (and currently, a criminal defense attorney), for many years, I have also been a part-time criminal justice professor at a local university. One of the courses I teach is aptly called, "White Collar Crime."
But I still haven't gotten to the point of this post. My point is that the textbooks for college courses dealing with white collar crime tend to over-emphasize size when they provide illustrations of fraud, corruption, and other white collar crimes. In other words, criminal justice textbook authors tend to focus almost exclusively on the "mega cases," such as the Enron corporate fraud case, or the Madoff investment fraud case.
But look around you. The simple truth is that most white collar crime cases are relatively small theft and fraud cases committed in every community around the globe. For instance, today, I read in the news about a student who was arrested in London for leaving upper scale restaurants without paying for meals. Also, closer to home, I read that four men have been arrested for operating a small-scale gambling operation.
Again, the point is that college textbooks, by focusing only on the big cases, fail to recognize that most white collar crimes are actually just "small potato" cases committed by ordinary folks. The textbooks make it appear that all white collar crimes are big crimes, but most are not. So, in one sense, size really doesn't matter, at least when you are defining white collar crime!
Don't you agree?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Maryland Executive Jack Johnson Faces Corruption Allegations

Did you hear the news out of Prince George County, Maryland? According to The Washington Post and numerous other news outlets, Prince George County Executive Jack Johnson and his wife were arrested yesterday by F.B.I. agents, who allege that the two had destroyed evidence in connection with an ongoing federal probe of public corruption and kickbacks in this Washington, D.C. suburb.
According to reports, the feds have been wiretapping Mr. Johnson for quite some time concerning alleged kickbacks which they claim he has received from real estate developers in connection with HUD grant money. Johnson maintains his innocence and asserts that he will be vindicated when the truth comes out.
Here's hoping that Mr. Johnson and his spouse get some good criminal defense lawyers who are experienced in federal criminal cases! As a former federal prosecutor, (and currently, as a criminal defense attorney in Augusta, Georgia), I can attest that, facing an F.B.I. federal wiretap case, they are going to need all the help they can get!

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Goolsby "War Story:" Winning A Tough Murder Case

"We felt like we had to find him guilty. Even his own defense lawyer looked like he thought his client was guilty!"
I will never forget these words spoken to me by a jury foreperson in a case I had just tried. As a young Assistant D.A. in Augusta, Georgia, I had just gotten a conviction in a tough murder case. After the case was over, I was interviewing the jury foreperson.
The evidence in the case was largely circumstantial. The defendant was accused of strangling his girl friend to death. She was found dead in a local motel room. We could prove that the defendant had checked in at the motel with his girl friend and that she was found dead, in bed, by a maid the next morning. As I recall, the only other evidence we had was the testimony of a cell mate of the defendant, who testified that the defendant had admitted strangling the girl friend. That's about all the evidence we had! But the jury still convicted the defendant, in part, as the jury foreperson explained, because it appeared to the jury that even his own criminal lawyer thought he was guilty!
I learned several important lessons from this criminal case. First of all, it reminded me that you never know what a jury will do! Also, I learned to always tell my clients, (in my current career as a criminal defense attorney), not to talk with their cell mates, (or anyone else), about their case. Finally, I learned that, during a criminal trial, it is critical for a criminal defense lawyer to always maintain a "poker face," no matter how the trial is going.
After all, you never want a jury to convict a client simply because it appears to the jury that his own criminal lawyer looks like he thinks he is guilty!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Criminal Law "Joke of the Day"

We criminal attorneys have been far too serious for far too long in this blog about white collar crime in Georgia! So...don't you agree that it is high time for a ..."joke of the day!?"
The story goes that two people, a priest and a criminal lawyer, had died and were approaching the Pearly Gates together. They each identified themselves to St. Peter, who agreed, in turn, to take them to their assigned Heavenly accomodations. He took the priest to a humble house, but then he showed the criminal attorney a beautiful mansion. The priest was flabbergasted! He asked St. Peter, "Tell me, why does this money-grubbing, underhanded criminal lawyer get to live in this mansion, while I, a priest, who has helped the poor and the sick, am assigned a humble house?"
"Well," replied St. Peter, "We get preachers and priests here all the time, but this is the first criminal lawyer we have ever had!" Have a great day!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Voting and Election Fraud

As we approach election day, I remember some of my "war stories" from my days as a federal prosecutor, during which I prosecuted the largest vote-buying case in U.S. history. In that case, I successfully prosecuted a total of 28 defendants for buying votes in Dodge County, Georgia, including a sheriff and two county commissioners. I wish I could say that I "cleaned up Dodge," but the U.S. Attorney's Office was required to "make a little visit" there again and lock up some folks not too long ago!
Election problems and voting fraud continue to pose a serious problem in this country. Consider the following examples:
  • In Nevada, there have been reports that, when voters have gone in to vote, their ballots have already been marked for Senator Harry Reid;
  • In Illinois, election officials missed the deadline for mailing absentee ballots to soldiers overseas, so that they can vote;
  • In Daytona Beach, Florida, a city commissioner was arrested earlier today and charged with absentee ballot fraud in connection with his own re-election bid.

Election fraud is a serious problem which strikes at the heart of our Constitution. Don't you agree? Do you believe electronic (computer) voting is more safe, or less safe, than paper ballot voting?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Atlanta Attorney Pleads Guilty in Federal Court

Did you hear the news? An Atlanta area attorney, Michael Shaw, (not pictured above), just entered a guilty plea in federal court to fraud charges involving fraudulent invoices which he submitted to his old law firm between 2003 and 2009. And get this: the fraudulent invoices from fictitious vendors which he submitted to his employer totalled up to more than a whopping half-million dollars over the six year period! Shaw now reportedly faces up to thirty years in a federal prison, although his federal sentencing guidelines score will likely net him a much lower sentence.
Don't you agree that it is incredible that he got away with it for as long as he did? How often do you believe such crimes go undetected? Once again, this criminal case illustrates the importance of each business having adequate checks and balances concerning payments of invoices.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Indigent Defense in Georgia: The Costs of Justice

A war is currently raging in the State of Georgia. No, I am not referring to a political or sporting contest. It is a battle over whether or not the State's General Assembly will adequately fund indigent criminal defense. Funding for indigent defense refers to paying for lawyers for those who cannot afford to retain their own criminal defense attorney. Sadly, in this state, our legislators have constantly fought against having to adequately fund this necessary program. As a result, our state's criminal justice system appears to be melting down.
For example, the Daily Report has recently profiled one murder case, currently pending in Fulton County, in which the defendant has sat and sat, in jail, without bond, waiting for trial, for five years! That's right: FIVE YEARS! And one of the primary reasons for this unconscionable delay is the fact that there are no funds to pay for lawyers to defend him!
In my opinion, delays like this are outrageous! As the old adage goes, "Justice delayed is justice denied!" Georgia citizens deserve better! Hopefully, in January, our General Assembly will step up to the plate and address this important funding issue! Let's stop the war and fix the problem!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"It's A Mad, Mad World:" The Case Against Judge Jack Camp

For the past several days, I have been away, while trying a federal criminal case. You can imagine my shock, upon my return, to learn about news reports of the arrest of Federal Judge Jack Camp, of Atlanta, for allegedly buying drugs from, and for being "up to no good with," an Atlanta stripper! Such things just don't ever really happen, do they!? Of course, the judge is presumed innocent, but it will be interesting to see what happens in this salacious matter!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Iceland's Ex-Prime Minister Indicted

Have you heard the news today? According to The Huffington Post, Geir Haarde, Iceland's former prime minister, has been indicted for his alleged role in the world's financial crisis, which brought Iceland's economy to a screeching halt a couple of years ago. According to news reports, this is the first world leader ever to be charged in this manner. Of course, Haarde is entitled to his day in court and reportedly vows to be vindicated in this alleged "political persecution."
Can you imagine what would happen if other nations followed suit and began prosecuting corrupt or inept politicians in this manner? I doubt that there would be enough jails to lock 'em all up! Don't you agree!?

Friday, September 24, 2010

"Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps"

As a former federal prosecutor, and currently, as a criminal defense lawyer, and quite simply, as a movie fan, I am really looking forward to the premiere today of the "Wall Street" sequel!
Who can forget the famous, provocative line spoken by Michael Douglas' character in the first movie: "Greed is good!" In the sequel, he adds that, now, "greed is legal!" Of course, since the first movie, we have all seen a lot of greed on the real Wall Street, haven't we? And sometimes, it seems that greed must be "legal," because there haven't been a lot of prosecutions since the 2008 Wall Street debacle. Maybe some U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors will see the movie, and get fired up to do their jobs!
Have any of you seen the old movie? Have you seen the sequel yet? Am I the only one excited about it!? What is your opinion of either movie?
What are some other good movies about white collar crime which you have seen?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Goolsby "War Story:" My First Grand Jury Case

If I practice law until I am 100 years old, I will never forget my first grand jury case. Here's why! Years ago, I was an Assistant D.A. in south Georgia. My boss, the D.A. had quickly taught me the drill about how to handle the presentation of grand jury cases. It went like this: the prosecutor takes the witness, usually a sheriff's investigator, into the grand jury room, swears the witness in, and then quickly gets the witness to tell the grand jury about the case. If there are no questions, then the prosecutor and investigator step outside the grand jury room while the grand jurors deliberate and vote either to "true bill" or "no bill" the case. I had watched my boss methodically indict scores of cases in this manner. Now, it was my turn to handle my own stack of grand jury cases.
I quickly realized that my first case was going to be just a little bit different. Inexplicably, no investigator was assigned to handle it. Instead, there was only a kind, blind, elderly man who had made a complaint that he was the victim of a residential burglary. I wondered how much proof existed, as I escorted the gentleman inside the grand jury room to the witness stand.
The blind gentleman proceeded to tell the grand jury about how his neighbor's son had entered his home one night and taken his property. Then, the old man added that, if we didn't believe him, we could ask his "friend," who had allegedly seen everything. This piqued my interest. I asked the man to tell us more about his eyewitness. I hoped that we could somehow salvage the case, and help this man, if another eyewitness existed.
Then, the bottom fell out of the case. The old man responded that his eyewitness was two inches tall and that he lived in the old man's mattress! "Go ask him," the old man exclaimed. "He saw everything!"
I never accepted the kind old man's invitation. But now you know why I will never forget my first grand jury case and my first "no bill!"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Healthcare Fraud: The Bogus Mammogram Scam

As a criminal defense lawyer in Augusta, Georgia, naturally, when I talk about pending criminal cases around the country, I probably should first emphasize that each defendant is entitled to a presumption of innocence, unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. After all, that is what our Constitution provides! And besides, we all know that we cannot believe everything we read in the newspapers, don't we!?
But laying all caveats aside, have you heard about the new criminal case in Perry, Georgia in which a former hospital employee is accused of submitting false mammogram test results? In other words, according to news reports, in over 1289 cases, women were falsely told that doctors had read their mammogram scans; whereas, they actually had never seen them! Sadly, according to reports, false test results were allegedly submitted by the defendant for ten women who were later re-tested and learned they actually had breast cancer. Isn't this a horrible crime!?
Don't you agree that white collar crime, or "crime in the suites," can be even more costly than "crime in the streets!?"

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Goolsby "War Story:" The Case of the Robber's Revenge

As a former state and federal prosecutor, I prosecuted literally tens of thousands of criminal cases, many of which were utterly forgettable. However, I will never forget some of the unique cases and defendants who I helped send to prison. Most criminals don't take it personally. Most know that the prosecutor is simply doing his or her job. But James Dodson was an exception. Here are some of the reasons why I will never forget this unique armed robber. He took it personally and here is what he did!
Almost immediately after his conviction, Dodson sued the investigators who had investigated the criminal case against him. Dodson claimed that they had stolen his personal property and suborned perjury.
Dodson then sued his own criminal defense lawyer.
Next, Dodson sued me, (his prosecutor), and the court reporter, together. He falsely claimed that I had somehow conspired with the court reporter to doctor the trial transcript to make him look guilty!
But Dodson wasn't through! He saved his best idea for revenge for the trial judge who had sentenced him to serve 20 years in prison. Dodson somehow obtained a postal change of address form, filled it out in the judge's name, and had the judge's mail re-routed to a bogus address in Colorado! It took the poor judge a couple of weeks before he realized what had happened and corrected the misdeed!
In the final analysis, the lawsuits which Dodson had filed, against me and the others, were all dismissed. And Dodson served his sentence. I learned from this case that, while most don't take it personally, some criminals simply have no sense of humor and cannot take a joke! And that is why I will never forget James Dodson and the case of the robber's revenge!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blago's Bloviating Blunder

By now, everybody has probably heard* that former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich nearly beat the federal criminal case against him earlier this week. In other words, there was a hung jury on all but one count against him--a charge of making false statements to a federal agent. But here are some valid reasons why, in my opinion, Blago is making a big mistake in making the rounds and boasting on the t.v. talk and news shows, while protesting his innocence and daring the government to re-try him on the "hung jury" counts.

First of all, Blago probably should be careful about sticking his finger into the eyes of the federal prosecutors in his case! Not only will they "make his day" by re-trying him, but also they will likely "make his day" by seeking the maximum sentence if he is convicted on the additional counts.

Second, did you know that, in federal court, the judge may consider, as "relevant conduct," even the conduct in acquitted counts in imposing sentence!? The bottom line is that, even though Blago was convicted only on one count, under the federal sentencing guidelines, the judge may zap him as though he was convicted on all counts!

Finally, as a criminal defense lawyer, (and former federal prosecutor), I would be afraid for such a client like Blago--afraid that the sentencing judge may see him boasting on t.v. and want to "make his day" by sentencing him to the maximum, too!

So, somebody out there, (hopefully, his own criminal defense lawyers), should, in my opinion, tell Blago to stop his boastful bloviating!
[*No, the use of the black and white picture of Blago above does not mean that he just got voted off the t.v. series Big Brother, too! It's just the easiest picture I could find! Besides, Blago could probably win Big Brother, don't you agree!?]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Roger Clemons: Grand Jury Leaks and Other Foul Balls

Do all of you know who Roger Clemons is? He is the seven time Cy Young award winning pitcher who won an amazing 354 baseball games. A lot has been written in recent years about whether various baseball stars, like Clemons, used steroids. But that is not the point of this post.
I'm sure we all would agree that it is a crying shame if baseball greats, such as Barry Bonds or Roger Clemons, used steroids in order to enhance their performances on the field.
And I'll bet we would also all agree that if, during his 2008 testimony before a Congressional committee, Roger Clemons lied about his having never used such substances, then that would be a crying shame, too.
But I hope we would also all agree that it is a crying shame that, today, the New York Times, and other news sources, are reporting that a federal graund jury has already indicted Clemons for perjury during his 2008 testimony.
Whether or not the report turns out to be true, it is outrageous, in my opinion, for there to be leaks from the government about what has already transpired before the grand jury!
And while I am still on the soap box, I have another "foul ball" I want to complain about, too! As a criminal defense lawyer in Augusta, Georgia, (and former federal prosecutor), I am still wondering about who made the decision, in the first place, for Mr. Clemons to testify without a grant of use immunity to protect him! While every situation is different, and while I admit I don't know all the facts in this situation, I can say that I would almost never allow my client to testify before a grand jury, or before Congress, without some sort of protection worked out in advamce!
What do you think about baseball stars who have used steroids, or about government leaks to the news media?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Old Courthouses and New Security Problems

Have you read the news reports about the plans to possibly scrap some of the planned security upgrades at the Fulton County Courthouse (which is located in Atlanta)? You will recall that, about five years ago, Defendant Brian Nichols, on trial there, seized a gun and murdered a superior court judge and two others, while making his escape from the courthouse. But it's sad how people forget such things! Now, five years later, it appears the local politicians there may scrap the needed security upgrades. Maybe a public plea by the deceased judge's widow, as reported in today's Augusta Chronicle, will force the politicians to restore the security changes.
We can hope.

Times have changed. Years ago, when I first became an Assistant D.A. in South Georgia, courthouse security was virtually non-existent. There were no metal detectors and no security command centers. I will never forget an old theft case I tried, which kept the jury out deliberating until late one evening. I recall my looking around the courtroom and realizing that all the Sheriff's deputies had gone home for the day. Only the 83 year old unarmed bailiff, Mr. Sims, remained as "security." And he looked half asleep! Thankfully, the defendant and his family remained well behaved, even after the jury returned a guilty verdict.

But again, times have changed. Today, in most places, defendants are getting more and more violent and dangerous. Courthouse violence has, unfortunately, become much more common.
As a result, here's hoping that Fulton County officials will make the necessary security changes for their courthouse. And here's hoping, too, that Mr. Sims is still alert, and at his post, in that South Georgia courthouse! Hopefully, at least, times haven't changed there!

Monday, August 16, 2010

White Knights, Wet Hens, and Roof Tiles!

This is a blog written by a former federal prosecutor who is currently a criminal defense lawyer in Augusta, Georgia. In this blog, I try to post (hopefully) interesting articles about fraud, public corruption, and other types of white collar crime. I also attempt to describe what our criminal justice system is really like--on the inside -- at the sausage factory!
In this blog, I have always avoided discussions about any clients or about any pending criminal cases. And I will stick to that policy here now, too.
But that doesn't mean that I can't vent a little bit, in general, about the proper role of prosecutors! You see, as a former prosecutor, I've been there, done that! I know how prosecutors are supposed to act. But today, folks, (without discussing any criminal case in particular!), I am as mad as a wet hen about the way some prosecutors act! I am so upset that I could jump and bite a roof tile in half!
You see, I strongly believe in our adversary system of justice. Each side -- prosecution and defense -- has a proper role to play. I also believe that it is appropriate, as Justice Sutherland once said, for prosecutors to "strike hard blows, but not foul ones." But sometimes, it seems that a few prosecutors have the "white knight" syndrome. They appear to believe that they are entitled to strike hard, foul blows, in the cause of justice! But they are wrong to act this way! And, in my opinion, our adversary system, along with the cause of justice, suffer when this occurs.
I realize that I didn't really explain here exactly why I am so upset, or precisely how the government has struck a foul blow today. After all, I must adhere to my policy! But please allow me this forum and this opportunity to vent about an injustice! And please know that, while I will not stop believing in our adversary system, I will not give up the good fight against injustices either! There, I feel better!
Do you know of any examples of injustices in our court system? Do you believe our criminal justice system gets it right most of the time?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Former Illinois Congressman Dan Rostenkowski Passes Away

Another prominent former politician has died this week. Various news reports indicate that former long-time Illinois Congressman Dan Rostenkowski passed away at this home earlier today. The 36 year Congressman was noted for many positive things, including his support of the 1986 Tax Reform Act.
Unfortunately, Rostenkowski will also be remembered for serving 17 months in federal prison following a mail fraud conviction. The Congressman got into trouble for using the House of Representatives' post office as a means of funneling taxpayer money for gifts to friends and associates.
As to his federal crimes, the Huffington Post notes today that, at that time, noted author and columnist Mike Royko had essentially described his offenses as "nickel and dime" stuff, which would not have been prosecuted back when Rostenkowski had first come to Congress. However, in the mid-1990's, when the Congressman was prosecuted, times had changed. According to Royko, Rostenkowski made an inviting target for federal prosecutors looking for a "big trophy" to put on their wall! (As a former federal prosecutor, I found Royko's observations to be entertaining!)
In 2000, shortly before leaving office, former President Clinton granted Rostenkowski a full pardon.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Senator Ted Stevens Reportedly Dies in Airplane Crash

Various news reports today indicate that Senator Ted Stevens, the former long-time Senator from Alaska, has died in an Alaskan airplane crash. Whether you liked or disliked his politics, you must admit that Stevens led a remarkable life. In addition to being the longest serving Republican Senator in U.S. history, Stevens had a number of other interesting aspects to his life and career.
For instance, Stevens reportedly had survived another airplane crash a number of years ago.
In addition, the former Senator had also survived a prosecution by the federal government for alleged violations of the Ethics in Government Act, based upon his failure to report some gifts. Even though he was convicted by a jury, Stevens' convictions were later thrown out, last year, following the discovery of serious prosecutorial misconduct by the government prosecutors in his federal criminal case.
As a former federal prosecutor, I also appreciated Senator Stevens, in part, because he was a champion of rights and benefits for government employees.
At this point, not many details have been released about the airplane crash. Again, no matter what your politics, hopefully, we can all send well wishes to Senator Stevens' family and to all the others who are a part of this tragedy.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Interviews With Federal Agents: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Today, let's talk a little bit about what you should do if a federal agent comes into your place of business, shows you their credentials, and asks you for a few minutes of your time. What should you do?
As a former federal prosecutor, (and currently, as a criminal defense lawyer in Augusta, Georgia), I can tell you that you should, at a minimum, be careful about how you proceed. Naturally, if it's merely an F.B.I. agent who is canvassing the neighborhood for leads on a bank robbery, then you may feel comfortable in cooperating with them, (unless you are the bank robber, of course!)
In such circumstances, cooperating with law enforcement may often be a "good" thing. But there can, in some situations, also be some "bad" and really "ugly" possibilities, too!
For example, if you are not an innocent bystander, but, instead, you are a target of a federal grand jury investigation, then you should, in my opinion, always contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney before you talk with anyone. Let's face it, anything you tell a federal agent can and will be used against you. But there is more! Did you also know that if you knowingly make a false statement to a federal agent, then you could also be charged with the federal criminal offense of making a false statement. Also, you could, in some situations, even be charged with obstruction of justice!?
So, that's the good, the bad, and the ugly about talking with a federal agent! Again, in many of these situations, the point is that it would probably behoove you to consult with your own criminal lawyer BEFORE you talk with anyone else!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The S.E.C. and Government Fraud

This blog, by a former federal prosecutor, (and currently, an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer), focuses primarily on issues involving fraud, corruption, and other federal and state white collar crimes. But news reports of a civil fraud complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission have also caught my eye.
Various news reports indicate that the SEC has filed a fraud complaint against two Texas billionaire brothers, Sam and Charles Wyly. The complaint accuses them of concealing $550 million in gains from the sales of stock. Allegedly, the brothers tried to hide stock ownership and trades through the use of off-shore, (Cayman Island), trusts and other entitities.
Now, I realize that not many of you will feel sorry for anyone who is a billionaire, particularly one who is accused of fraud! However, it is important to point out the lawyer for the Wyly brothers has maintained his clients' innocence. The attorney has also indicated that this complaint filing by the SEC comes only after years and years of endless, fruitless investigations by the government.
The Wyly brothers are well known both for their innovative skills in technology, energy, and investment, and for their incredible philanthropic work. Sam Wyly is also author of the book, 1,000 Dollars & An Idea, depicted above, which is an inspirational account of his achievements.
Look, I have no clue about the efficacy of this particular case. But frankly, it wouldn't surprise me to see that the Wylys' attorney is correct. As a former federal prosecutor, I know how government agents and agencies work. If they investigate somebody, and expend significant resources over a long period of time, then the bureaucratic tendency is for them to want to charge "somebody with something," even if it is not always justified.
It will be interesting to see what happens next in this case!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines and Sentencing Disparities in Federal Court

If you have followed this blog, then you know that I am a former federal prosecutor, (for over 20 years), in Augusta, Georgia. You also probably realize that I still like to follow what's going on in federal court, even though I am now a criminal defense lawyer. In other words, I still handle federal criminal cases; I just sit at a different table and represent a different client when I go to federal court now!
This week, the Daily Report has featured a new issue involving federal sentencing. The article involves a request by the Department of Justice for the U.S. Sentencing Commission to investigate sentencing disparities by federal judges around the country. The article also mentions that the disparities are perhaps the greatest in fraud and child pornography cases. For instance, federal judges imposed sentences of one to four years in the AIG fraud case, (which involved more than $500 million in losses), but another federal judge sentenced a defendant involved in a $40 million Ponzi scheme to a whopping 25 years in prison. Numerous other examples abound. The article suggests that what (sentence) you get may depend on who (which judge) you get.
You might recall that, back in the 1980's, Congress enacted the federal sentencing guidelines to eliminate such sentencing disparities around the country. But then, five years ago, in Booker v. U.S., the Supreme Court struck down the mandatory nature of the guidelines and made them advisory. In other words, federal judges still check the sentencing guidelines, but they now have more discretion about not following them.
Will this new call by DOJ for a study of guidelines sentencing disparities do any good? I doubt it. And frankly, in many cases, maybe it's not such a bad thing that judges have discretion and can take into account the unique facts of each case in imposing sentences.
What do you think? Should sentences be more uniform? Or should judges have more discretion?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How Realistic Are Television Courtroom Dramas?

How about a change of pace today!? Let's talk about t.v. programs! In your opinion, are t.v. courtroom dramas realistic? And which program, in your opinion, comes the closest to reality, i.e. what criminal lawyers and criminal trials are really like?
Over the years, there have been countless law-related t.v. programs. When I was a little boy, growing up here in Georgia, Perry Mason, (Raymond Burr), was one of my role models. I also liked to watch actor E.G. Marshall, in "The Defenders." Looking back, the most unrealistic feature of these shows, in my opinion, was that the stars, including Mr. Mason, almost never lost a criminal case!
But what about more recent t.v. programs? Did you watch "The Practice," or "Law and Order?" Surely, everyone also liked the recent show, "Boston Legal!" Do you recall others? Which comes closest to the real deal? I believe "Law and Order" comes closest to reality. But, in my opinion, one of the most unrealistic features of each of these shows is that the trial lawyers, (on t.v.), can yell at, and talk back to, the trial judges!
Trust me, you wouldn't get away with that in a Georgia courtroom! Here, you would find yourself in a very real jail cell!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Crime Lab Woes

Are you, like me, a fan of the CSI television shows? Each week, the C.S.I. teams of crime lab scientists and criminal investigators manage somehow to solve intricate crime mysteries.
But have you ever toured a real crime laboratory? As a former federal prosecutor, I was allowed to tour the F.B.I. Crime Laboratory, in Washington, D.C., along with most of the G.B.I.'s crime laboratories here in the State of Georgia. While their work may not always be as dramatic as depicted on the C.S.I. shows, the real crime lab scientists generally do amazing work, too!
But sadly, sometimes it seems that the state crime labs are treated like red headed step children of the criminal justice system by many state legislatures. For example, here, in Georgia, we have recently experienced the closings of several of our state crime lab branch offices. Also, I have just read that, in San Francisco, two recently purchased DNA machines sit idle because the crime lab there cannot afford to purchase the software, (and presumably, afford to pay the personnel), to run them.
There's no telling how many inmates are still sitting in jail simply because DNA tests, which could clear them, are not being done. And there's no telling how many rapists are still "out there" committing additional crimes for the same reason, i.e. because the DNA tests are not being done, due to funding problems. This is outrageous! Don't you agree?
Here's hoping that our crime laboratories will one day get the appropriate funding and appreciation for all the good work that they do! That's the real C.S.I. mystery that needs to be solved!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fraudulent Auto Injury Claims: Watch Out For That Other Guy!

Have you ever been driving down the road and it appears that the driver in front of you has slammed on his brakes simply to try to get you to hit him? Maybe there was a good reason for him to "stop short." But then again, maybe not.
As a former federal prosecutor, I prosecuted a number of defendants who engaged in the fraudulent practice of staging, or causing, automobile accidents. I will never forget one criminal case in which the despicable couple actually put their own baby in their car, while they drove around looking for other drivers to plow into them. They hoped to submit false injury claims for their baby, too, (whether he lived or died)!
Trust me, these are not isolated cases, either! For instance, according to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, fraudulent auto injury claims added another $4.6 billion to $6.8 billion to auto injury claims submitted to insurance companies in 2007.
So, please be sure to "watch out for the other guy!" Not only are there unsafe drivers out there, but also some con artists on the prowl who want to sue you!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Special Challenges in Major White Collar Crime Prosecutions

This post is about another example of special challenges faced by federal prosecutors in handling major fraud, or other white collar crime, investigations. As many of you know, before I became an Augusta, Georgia criminal defense lawyer, I was a federal prosecutor for over 20 years. Today, I want to describe how lengthy federal investigations can really stress a federal prosecutor out! The real problem is that, in a lengthy federal criminal investigation, you can't get any real "closure," or sense of accomplishment, for a long, long time.
1. How Lengthy Federal Investigations Can Wear You Out!
Most criminal cases, especially on the state court level, are relatively simple to prepare and try. Even most murder cases involve just ten or so witnesses and a handful of exhibits. You try them and, win or lose, you put them to bed and go on to the next case. But it is really different when you are tasked with putting together a super-sized federal criminal investigation. For example, on one fraud and public corruption case, my team of agents and I interviewed several hundred witnesses over many months. Also, I nearly wore out my eyeballs by reading approximately a million pages of documents.
2. Lengthy Federal Investigations Are Also Like "Ground Hog Day!"
But the real problem with handling a really big case involves much more than just the tiredness and tedium inherent in dealing with so many witnesses and exhibits. The real challenge is that you also have to deal with the same case and the same problems, over and over again, every day, for many months, or even years. It's the repetition, and dealing with the same problems, and the lack of closure that can get to you. As a federal prosecutor, you sometimes feel like Bill Murray in "Ground Hog Day." For instance, if you have personality clashes with agents in your investigative task force, you might as well learn to simply live with them, because you will be seeing each other and working together on the same old stuff every day. In short, as the federal prosecutor in charge, you must deal with the problem that you won't get any "closure," or sense of accomplishment, for many months in the future, when the case is finally finished. And, at the beginning, you have no idea as to when that might be. In contrast, when you only prosecute small criminal cases, you can get them resolved, for better or worse, in just a few weeks, or months, and go on to frying other fish. But the psychology and stressors are much different when you have only one case to work on and there is no clear finish line in sight. I worked on some of my largest cases for a couple of years. So, the point is that I had to learn to cope and deal with the same problems and issues for that long, too.
3. So, Which Is Better: Prosecuting the "Big Fish" Or Prosecuting A Lot of "Smaller Fish?"
In short, learning to cope with the special problems inherent in big cases is one of the biggest challenges which a federal prosecutor must learn to face. Would you enjoy being a federal prosecutor, prosecuting the big "paper cases," and locking up the "big fish?" Or would you prefer to be a state prosecutor and handle a lot of "small fish?" Or, better yet, would you prefer, instead, to simply find another, less stressful, line of work!?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

White Collar Crime, Sentencing, and Upward Departures

Many of you probably recognize this photograph of Bernie Madoff, the "investment fraud king," who is presently trying to serve several lifetimes in prison, (i.e. he was sentenced to serve a whopping 155 years in prison!) But did you know that there are "miniature Madoffs" all over the country? And did you also know that the trend is toward enhanced sentencings in many of these white collar criminal cases?
For instance, here, in Augusta, Georgia, the local media are publishing reports about a local insurance agent who is slated to be sentenced in federal court soon. The agent pled guilty in federal court a few months ago after reportedly admitting to defrauding friends and customers, (many of whom are elderly), out of about $2 million. Just like Madoff, the agent reportedly promised to invest the customers' money, but then spent it on himself.
In this case, like many other fraud cases around the country, the government is seeking an upward departure from the agent's federal guidelines sentencing range. And believe me, while we may all pray for an "upward departure" when we die, an upward departure in federal sentencing is not a good thing! It means that this defendant may face a significantly higher sentence than in a typical criminal case. And again, this is the trend, for better or for worse, (depending on your perspective), for white collar criminal defendants. In other words, criminal defense lawyers are no longer assured of probationary sentences for their clients.
What do you think about this trend toward tougher prison sentences in white collar crime cases? I'll bet we already know Bernie Madoff's opinion on this subject, don't we!?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Goolsby Law Firm: Check Out Our New Sign!

If you have followed this blog, then you probably already know that we are father and son lawyers who practice law together at 233 Davis Road in Augusta, Georgia. I am a former federal prosecutor, (for over 20 years), who has been fortunate to have tried some of the largest, most complex criminal cases in Georgia history. I now practice criminal defense, divorce law, personal injury, and other general litigation.
But that's enough about us! Today, I mainly just wanted to show you our new "GOOLSBY LAW FIRM" sign on our building! I hope you like it!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Tale of the IRS, the House Buyer's Tax Credit, and How the Inmates Ripped Off Both of 'Em

According to various news reports, the U. S. Treasury Department has just reported that the I.R.S. has discovered that 1,295 prison inmates around the country have ripped off Uncle Sam to the tune of $9.1 million in bogus house buyer tax credits on their fraudulently filed income tax returns. Incredibly, 241 of the inmates were reportedly serving life sentences when they were "allegedly" out buying homes and taking advantage of the incentive!
Reportedly, the I.R.S. is busy trying to reclaim the fraudulent tax refunds! Lotsa luck trying to get money back from these prisoners, right!?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Will DOJ Ever Bring Wall Street to Justice?

A Washington Post article published today raises an interesting question: Will the Department of Justice ever "bring to justice" the greedy Wall Street banks and bank executives who were responsible for nearly ruining the U.S. economy in late 2008? Attorney General Eric Holder has promised that such prosecutions will be forthcoming, but, after a year and a half since the financial meltdown, no noteworthy prosecutions have occurred.

However, as a former federal prosecutor, I can sympathize with the DOJ prosecutors entrusted with this responsiblity. For instance, can you imagine the enormous paper trail that the government agents and prosecutors must follow in such an enormous bank fraud investigation? There would be literally millions of documents to examine and just about as many witnesses to interview and rabbit holes for the investigators to jump into, in order to ferret out the fraud! In addition, government prosecutors would face difficult charging decisions. In other words, it's easy to lambast and rail against big banks and bankers, (and slow-moving prosecutors), but it can be difficult to decide, on an individual basis, whether or not sufficient evidence exists to charge an individual who may have simply been following orders, or following the status quo.

So, as to this question about whether or not DOJ is taking too long to bring the Wall Street "fat cats" to justice, I am willing to cut them, (i.e. the prosecutors), some more slack! In this case, government agents and prosecutors have an incredibly difficult task and I would prefer that they do their jobs right, instead of rushing to judgment!

What do you think?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

How Corporate Email Can Put You in a Federal Prison

As you know, I am a former federal prosecutor for over twenty years, (and currently, a Georgia criminal defense lawyer). This blog is generally about fraud and white collar crime. I also throw in a few "war stories" from the courtroom from time to time! This blog is not about how to avoid criminal liability! (And, of course, if you are currently the target of a federal grand jury investigation, you should consult with your own attorney about your own situation!) However, the current investigation by examiners of millions of emails at Lehman Brothers--who are attempting to determine who knew what and when, and who drove the large securities firm into bankruptcy--should provide some important lessons on how to avoid letting your email send you to federal prison!
For example, if you work for a corporation, it is critical that you never get careless or take email for granted. In other words, always remember that email lasts forever! It can be forwarded, printed out, and even retrieved after you press "delete." And it can come back to haunt you, months later, during a federal criminal investigation. In other words, always be circumspect: never say stupid things in email, such as joking about liability, or admitting fault, (especially when you really aren't at fault), unless you are willing to accept the consequences. Also, if you have warned your bosses about your concern about the legality of the company's course of action, you might want to document it in an email, and then print it out and save a copy.
In short, as the current Lehman Brothers investigation illustrates, email can be your best friend, or your worst enemy!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

In Memory of Those Who Served: D-Day: June 6, 1944

I just wanted to take a moment to pause and reflect on the meaning of this day in history. On June 6, 1944, my late father, then a 20 year old young man, landed and fought on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. He lost friends on that beach. And today, all lovers of freedom owe to each of them an everlasting debt of gratitude. We will never forget! Thank you!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Former Florida GOP Chairman Charged With Fraud

Have you heard the bad news from Florida? No, I'm not referring to the approach of oil toward Florida beaches from the BP oil spill. Instead, I am talking about the reported arrest earlier today of former Florida GOP chairman Jim Greer on fraud, theft, and money laundering charges. According to numerous reports, Greer, a close associate of Florida Governor Charlie Crist, is accused of utilizing a shell company to steal money from the state party.
Now, I have no clue about whether or not Greer actually committed any crimes. Also, I believe he should be entitled to a presumption of innocence. But as a former federal prosecutor, (and currently, as a criminal defense lawyer), I have often seen schemes to defraud committed in which the perpetrator utlized shell companies in this manner. The key to success is often whether or not the perpetrator has unchecked authority to pay bills of such an entity. In other words, if the victim entity has no real checks and balances in place, it can be relatively easy for someone who controls the checkbook of that entity to created a bogus, non-existent company and then pay its fictitious invoices.
Now, that's enough bad news about white collar crime today! Let's all get back to worrying about the BP oil spill mess! (Of course, if other news reports are true, there may also be some white collar crime percolating to the surface in the BP oil spill fiasco, too).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Presidential Pardons, Denials, and Transparency

An interesting appeal is presently pending in federal court in Washington, D.C. According to the Daily Report, the appeal involves a petition by a retired Washington Post reporter who is seeking information via a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to the Department of Justice concerning cases in which pardon requests have been denied in the past. The reporter won in the district court, but, inexplicably, the Justice Department is now appealing the decision.
The Department of Justice has a process whereby convicted federal felons can apply for a presidential pardon through DOJ's Office of the Pardon Attorney. The retired reporter is apparently writing a book about the history of the clemency process. As you will recall, in the past, various Presidents have gotten into hot water for granting some controversial pardons or clemency petitions shortly before they have left office. For example, you will recall that, during his confirmation hearings, current Attorney General Eric Holder was forced to back-peddle and explain his support of a last-minute pardon granted by President Bill Clinton of fugitive financier Marc Rich.
Current DOJ policy provides that pardons which are granted are revealed, but pardon denials are not. Again, the Obama/Holder Department of Justice is fighting the reporter's request to reveal the additional information about the pardon denials. "Pardon me," but why is DOJ fighting this? I don't know and I don't agree. So much for transparency.
It will be interesting to see what happens in this appeal.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Sarah Ferguson Fiasco

Have you seen the "sting" video of Sarah Ferguson in which she demands/accepts money from an undercover reporter, ostensibly in exchange for access to Ferguson's ex-husband, the Duke of York? What do you think about this situation?
I have no idea whether or not she has broken, or even come close to breaking, any criminal law. As far as I am concerned, she is presumed innocent of any crime. And anyway, that is not the point of this post. Instead, here are some of my observations:
One point is that this situation illustrates that desperate people will sometimes take desperate action to alleviate their problems. And clearly, the Duchess of York appears to be in a desperate financial situation. In my opinion, this case also illustrates the point that, often, in life, it's not what you know, but who you know!
Also, this case illustrates that extortion, fraud, bribery, kickbacks, and pay-offs like this happen all the time, except that the folks doing it rarely get caught! Finally, this case illustrates that, if you are an average citizen, you will likely get nailed to the wall for your transgressions, but if you are the Duchess of York, you may be home free. We shall see!
I hope she gets help for her problems. What do you think?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Special Challenges in Major White Collar Crime Prosecutions

I want to start a new periodic series in this blog about what it is like to be a federal prosecutor and how, as a former AUSA, I "put together" some of my major prosecutions. Trust me, a lot of planning and hard work goes into many federal criminal investigations. I also want to discuss some of the special challenges I faced, as an AUSA, in prosecuting high profile criminal cases.

As a former federal prosecutor in Augusta, Georgia, I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right times to try some of the largest federal fraud and public corruption cases in Georgia (and United States) history! For example, I tried the largest home healthcare Medicare fraud case and the largest vote-buying case in American history. But big cases often bring big challenges. For example, consider the following:

1. No Precedents to Guide You:
Being a federal prosecutor sometimes feels like being a Star Fleet Commander in Star Trek. Simply put, you confront new problems and new worlds never seen before! Put another way, for some of my major fraud investigations, there were no precedents to guide me. Now, don't get me wrong. The U.S. Department of Justice provides excellent resources and unparalleled training opportunities for federal prosecutors. But my point is that, in some of my major criminal cases, there were no prior criminal cases, or precedents, just like mine, and I was pretty much on my own to face them.

For example, I once prosecuted a major home health care fraud case in which the home healthcare agency owner was accused, among many other allegations, of falsely billing the Medicare and Medicaid programs for tens of thousands of dollars for a luxury Georgia Dome stadium suite, liquor, and parties. I had to determine whether or not this constituted Medicare fraud, i.e. a criminal matter, or whether it was simply a civil matter. In that case, I decided to include some of the allegations, (e.g. billing Medicare and Medicaid for tens of thousands in liquor billings), in my indictment, even though I could find no clear precedent. Fortunately, I prevailed later at trial! I could give you countless other examples.

The point is that, because there were no precedents, as a result, I often had no prosecution models, or sample indictments, to guide me. Instead, I had to do my own research, lead my own task force of agents and auditors where I wanted to go, and draft my own indictments. In other words, as a federal prosecutor, you sometimes must first research and determine whether or not the target's activities are criminal before you can really begin to prove it occurred.

But frankly, I enjoyed this special challenge of federal prosecution. I had a unique opportunity, as an AUSA, to "boldly go where no one has gone before!"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Student Fraud: A Growing Problem?

Perhaps you have read about a new criminal case this week involving the Harvard University student who allegedly used fake documents to get into Harvard and to obtain over $45,000 in student financial aid. Of course, he is entitled to a presumption of innocence. But the question remains: Is "student fraud" a new white collar crime and a growing problem?
Frankly, I don't know. In my research, I couldn't find any clear evidence or statistics to answer this question. However, I did find some examples of other criminal cases involving fraud in obtaining student loans. For example, in a recent case in Alabama, two men have been indicted for conspiracy and mail fraud in connection with a scheme to obtain college loans while neither man was in college. Also, I am sure we all are familiar with recent cases in which people have been accused of falsifying their resumes and faking college degrees, in order to get jobs. So, while it might be difficult for a student applicant to accomplish the submission of an inflated SAT score, or letters of recommendation, to a university, I'll bet it wouldn't surprise any of us to learn that this actually occurs.
The point is that, even without statistics, each of these cases demonstrates that university administrators, along with lending institutions and employers, must be even more diligent about the possibility of fraud. Student fraud and student loan fraud are apparently here to stay!
What do you think?