Posted On: November 26, 2010

Third Circuit Criticizes Child Porn Sentencing Guidelines

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed a New Jersey U.S. District Judge’s decision to impose a sentence of less than the mandatory minimum for a defendant convicted of child pornography charges. In United States v. Grober, the defendant pled guilty to six child pornography charges. Under the sentencing guildelines set forth by the Department of Justice, the judge was advised to sentence the defendant to a term between 235 to 293 months imprisonment. Calling the guidelines “draconian”, the judge instead sentenced the defendant to 60 months imprisonment, the mandatory minimum sentence.

The Department of Justice appealed the sentence, arguing that the District Court rejected the guidelines without adequately addressing the prosecution’s arguments about the rationales of Congress and the Sentencing Commission, embodied in the guidelines. However, they did not argue that the District Court lacked the authority to disagree with the guidelines on policy grounds, or that the sentence imposed was substantively unreasonable. Upon review, in a 2-1 decision the Third Circuit rejected the government’s appeal, noting widespread dissatisfaction amongst federal judges as the sentencing guidelines for child pornography crimes have grown increasingly harsh.

All persons charged with crimes are entitled to the protections afforded by the United States Constitution. An experienced criminal defense attorney helps to ensure that a defendant’s rights are protected before, during and after a trial. If you have been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney immediately. For a confidential consultation, contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff at (215) 563-9800 or via email at marc@nefflawoffices.com.

Posted On: November 24, 2010

Peer-to-Peer Networks Remain Target of Child Pornography Investigations

Although a federal judge ordered peer-to-peer (“P2P”) network LimeWire to shut down last month due to copyright infringement issues, investigations continue by law enforcement officials into the use of older versions of LimeWire and other P2P networks as forums for the distribution of child pornography.

Since 2003, federal law enforcement agencies have undertaken a major initiative against the distribution of child porn over peer-to-peer networks. Unlike traditional computer networks, which use a central server to exchange files, peer-to-peer networks like LimeWire allow users to connect their computers directly to one another. Once a user installs a peer-to-peer software application on his or her computer, he or she can access it directly to search for and download files designated for distribution on any computer using the network at that time.

Investigators and agents from participating state and federal agencies continue to infiltrate P2P networks to identify those who have distributed and taken possession of child pornography. Sophisticated computer programs have been developed to identify child pornography stored in folders shared through peer-to-peer applications. These applications work by searching for and identifying the “fingerprints” of known child pornography files. Every computer file, regardless of name, has a unique “fingerprint” that distinguishes it from any other file. Known child pornography files have been recorded in a national database. The investigator’s software searches for the digital fingerprints of these known child porn images on LimeWire, and then reveals the location of the computers trading the illegal images.

Although the Fourth Amendment generally requires police to have a valid warrant to seize a computer from a person’s private home, several federal courts have recently ruled that the police do not need a warrant to search publicly accessible files from a private computer on a peer-to-peer network. The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Except for several well-noted exceptions, the police must have a valid warrant prior to conducting a search of a person or their private property. If the police do not have a valid warrant, any evidence seized during the illegal search is generally inadmissible at trial. Recent decisions have held that individuals do not have reasonable expectations of privacy in content made publicly available on LimeWire; therefore, law enforcement need not have a warrant to search and download content from the peer-to-peer site.

All persons charged with crimes are entitled to the protections afforded by the United States Constitution. An experienced criminal defense attorney helps to ensure that a defendant’s rights are protected before, during and after a trial. If you have been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney immediately. For a confidential consultation, contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff at (215) 563-9800 or via email at marc@nefflawoffices.com.

Posted On: November 22, 2010

“Mini-Madoff” Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison

Florida hedge fund manager Arthur Nadel recently was sentenced to 14 years in prison, stemming from a $162 million Ponzi scheme. Nadel, 77, had pled guilty to 15 counts of securities fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud. According to prosecutors, Nadel had defrauded investors by falsely claming that he was a successful attorney and trader, only later to spend their money to furnish his lavish lifestyle.

Nadel will serve his sentence at the same federal prison in North Carolina that houses famed inmate and Ponzi mastermind Berni Madoff. Madoff, 72, pled guilty to fraud charges last year after cheating investors out of billions of dollars. He is currently serving a 150-year sentence. Prior to surrendering to authorities in 2009, Nadel went on a two-week, cross-country trip, during which time he communicated in a letter to a family member that he anticipated that the press would call him “mini-Madoff”.”

All persons charged with crimes are entitled to the protections afforded by the United States Constitution. An experienced criminal defense attorney helps to ensure that a defendant’s rights are protected before, during and after a trial. If you have been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney immediately. For a confidential consultation, contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff at (215) 563-9800 or via email at marc@nefflawoffices.com.

Posted On: November 19, 2010

“Massive Frauds” on the Rise

An FBI official recently reported to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that the bureau has uncovered “massive frauds” in its continuing effort to fight financial crime. Kevin Perkins, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, reported that new corporate fraud cases, including newly identified Ponzi schemes, are up by 111 percent. In addition, high-yield securities frauds have grown by more than 200 percent.

Several high-profile securities fraud cases have surfaced in just the past few months alone. In June, former chairman of Taylor, Bean, and Whitaker, a large mortgage origination company, was charged with a $1.9 billion fraud that contributed to the failure of Colonial Bank, one the United State’s largest banks and the sixth-largest bank failure in the country. In July, a managing partner at WG Trading and Westridge Capital Management pleaded guilty to his participation in a $700 million scheme that defrauded charitable and university foundations as well as pension and retirement plans. In September, the owner and former chief executive officer of Capitol Investments pleaded guilty to an $880 million Ponzi Scheme involving his New Jersey Firm.

Perkins also reported that in the last three years, the number of mortgage fraud cases seen by the FBI has steadily climbed from 1,200 in 2007 to over 3,000 in 2010. Of these cases, nearly 70 percent represent losses to financial institutions and other victims exceeding $1 million. In many of these cases, according to Perkins, “the loss far exceeds $1 million.” In response to the growing number of mortgage fraud schemes, the government has undertaken “Operation Stolen Dreams”, a take-down of mortgage fraud schemes throughout the country by President Obama’s interagency Financial Fraud Task Force.

All persons charged with crimes are entitled to the protections afforded by the United States Constitution. An experienced criminal defense attorney helps to ensure that a defendant’s rights are protected before, during and after a trial. If you have been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney immediately. For a confidential consultation, contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff at (215) 563-9800 or via email at marc@nefflawoffices.com.


Posted On: November 15, 2010

Facebook Fraud a Serious Concern

Hacking of Facebook accounts has become a “major issue” for the popular social networking site. Richard Allan, Facebook’s head of European public policy, recently addressed the growing concern, promising that the site would counter the problem through the implementation of “sophisticated methods of tracking unusual user behavior.” Concern over user’s privacy arose recently after hackers gained access to the Facebook account Ronald K. Noble, secretary general of international law enforcement agency Interpol. The hackers had sought access to access to highly sensitive information on wanted criminals via Noble’s account.

Although the hacking of Noble’s account has been the most high profile incident of “Facebook fraud”, a recurrent problem for the site has been the hacking of user’s accounts to contact friends and dupe them out of relatively large sums of money.

According to Allan, the company has launched a “site integrity” projected devoted to tracking suspicious activity. The site plans to add warnings if it is accessed from unusual locations or by different methods than usual, and to require users to verify the names of their friends to ensure that only the real user has access to their account.

All persons charged with crimes are entitled to the protections afforded by the United States Constitution. An experienced criminal defense attorney helps to ensure that a defendant’s rights are protected before, during and after a trial. If you have been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney immediately. For a confidential consultation, contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff at (215) 563-9800 or via email at marc@nefflawoffices.com.

Posted On: November 12, 2010

Charges Dropped Against Rapper T.I.

Prosecutors recently dropped drug charges against rapper T.I. stemming from his September arrest in Los Angeles with his wife, Tiny. Police had stopped the two after their vehicle made an illegal U-turn, at which time officers reported smelling marijuana as they approached the car. After searching the car and its occupants, police discovered tablets of the illegal drug Ecstasy.

Although the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office elected to drop charges against the rapper, his arrest and subsequent failed drug test violated the terms of his probation for his 2007 federal felony gun conviction. T.I. served nine months in federal prison after securing an usual plea bargain which required him to complete 1500 hours of community service and remain on house arrest in exchange for a lesser sentence. He was also required to complete a probation period, upon which he remained at the time of his September arrest. As a result of violating the terms of his probation, T.I. will return to federal prison for eleven months.

Unlike her husband, who avoided state court charges because of his federal probation violation and return to federal prison, Tiny could face up to one year in jail in California if found guilty on the state possession charge.

All persons charged with crimes are entitled to the protections afforded by the United States Constitution. An experienced criminal defense attorney helps to ensure that a defendant’s rights are protected before, during and after a trial. If you have been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney immediately. For a confidential consultation, contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff at (215) 563-9800 or via email at marc@nefflawoffices.com.

Posted On: November 10, 2010

Juror’s Use of iPhone Causes Mistrial in Manslaughter Case

The Florida Court of Appeals recently overturned a manslaughter conviction because a juror used his iPhone to look up a definition during jury deliberations. In 2006, Jose Tapanes was convicted of manslaughter after fatally shooting his neighbor during a heated argument. Tapanes claimed to have feared for his life at the time of the argument so as to render his decision to shoot his neighbor “prudent”, a term used both in closing arguments and in the jury instructions.

After Tapanes was convicted, a juror informed defense counsel that the jury foreperson had used his smart phone during a break in deliberations to look up the definition of “prudent”. Under Florida law, the introduction of external information into jury deliberations could be grounds for a new trial if a court finds that this information may have affected the verdict. Based upon the jury foreman’s use of his iPhone, defense counsel moved for a new trial.

Upon review, the Court of Appeals granted the defendant’s motion for a new trial, based upon a finding that the juror’s use of his smart phone to look up a definition and then share that definition with other members of the jury constituted misconduct that may have affected the verdict in the case. The Court emphasized that the juror’s use of the iPhone to access a dictionary was no different than referencing a bound dictionary, a material long recognized by Florida courts to be prohibited during jury deliberations. Further, the Court noted that the fact the juror was not physically inside the jury room when he accessed the definition made no difference, since he conveyed his recollection to other jurors once deliberations resumed, and that the concept of “prudence” was one that may have been key to the jury’s deliberations in the case.

Those accused of crimes are subject to the protections of the Constitution of the United States. An experienced criminal defense attorney ensures a defendant’s rights are protected. If you have been charged with, or convicted of an offense, you still have constitutionally protected rights which the Law Offices of Marc Neff will protect. For a confidential consultation, please contact our office at 215-563-9800 or via email at marc@nefflawoffices.com.