September 23, 2008

U.S. Court of Appeals takes Broad View in NY RICO Case, Reinstates Convictions of Two Defendants

Louis J. Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa are former New York City Police Detectives who in 2006, were both convicted on Federal Racketeering charges. The former detectives were convicted of working closely with some of New York’s organized crime families, partaking in conspiracy, kidnapping, bribery, obstruction of justice, leaking police information, and the killing or assisted killings of at least eight people. The Detective’s work with the New York Mafia took place mostly in Brooklyn, and occurred during the 1980’s and 1990’s. The duo was arrested in 2005 in Las Vegas on charges of money laundering and narcotics distribution. The prosecutor used these charges to bring the Detective’s prior criminal activity under the umbrella of an ongoing criminal enterprise, so that they could be prosecuted under the Federal RICO statute. Eppolito and Caracappa were convicted by a jury and sentenced to life imprisonment by the trial judge; however, despite overwhelming evidence of guilt, the trial judge set aside their sentence because he determined that the RICO statute’s 5-year statute of limitations had run. He ruled that the criminal activity which occurred in Las Vegas was unrelated to the Detective’s work with the New York mob, and therefore they could not be tried for their activity during that time.

Setting aside the conviction opened an exception to the double jeopardy rule, allowing the prosecution to appeal the trial court decision. In an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the Court found that the Detective’s actions were intertwined in that all of the activity was for the same purpose; making money. Eppolito and Caracappa were compensated for their work with the New York Mafia. They continued to commit criminal acts in Las Vegas for the same purpose. Taking a broad approach, the Court disagreed with the trial court’s assertion that the Las Vegas acts were “singular, sporadic acts of criminality” and ruled that the acts were part of a criminal enterprise which in fact did not end before 2000. Due to this finding, the statute of limitations for the RICO statute was found not to have tolled, and the Court reinstated the convictions and life sentences for Eppolito and Caracappa.

RICO

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act is a federal law that provides for extended penalties for criminal acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. Under RICO, a person or group who commits any two of 35 crimes within a 10-year period, and has committed those crimes with similar purpose or results, can be charged with racketeering. Those found guilty of racketeering can be fined up to $25,000 and/or sentenced to 20 years in prison for each count they have been charged. In addition, the offender must forfeit all profits and interest in any business gained through a pattern of "racketeering activity."

RICO charges are extremely serious and carry severe penalties if convicted. Generally, charges stem from long federal investigations. If you are the subject of a RICO investigation or have been charged, it is absolutely imperative that you contact a criminal defense attorney with experience in these areas. The Law Offices of Marc Neff has successfully defended people against such charges for over 20 years. If you feel you are under investigation, or have been indicted/charged, contact our offices immediately so that we may assist in your defense.

September 4, 2008

Prosecutors Given New Guidelines for Investigating White Collar Crime

On the same day that the United States Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal charges against 13 former KPMG executives due to a finding that their constitutional rights had been violated, the United States Justice Department announced new guidelines for the prosecution of white collar crime. In the KPMG case, federal prosecutors would not allow KPMG to pay the legal fees of its executives. This was just one of the many tactics used in the past by federal prosecutors to compel cooperation from corporations and its individuals. The department faced criticism from corporations, attorney groups, and legislatures over its practice of “cooperate or face indictment”. Often times, cooperation would involve compelling privileged information and testimony from corporate officers, attorneys, etc., and as seen in the KPMG case, restriction on the company from paying legal fees for its officers.

The new guidelines set forth that prosecutors may not undermine attorney-client privilege, consider whether the company is paying the legal fees of its employees, officers or directors being investigated for wrongdoing, and whether a company has made joint defense agreements with other firms or individuals. Prosecutors may also only consider whether a corporation has disciplined employees “that the corporation identifies as culpable, and only for the purpose of evaluating remedial measures or compliance program”, whereas before prosecutors could consider whether a corporation disciplined or fired employees for the purposes of evaluating cooperation. Some critics have called for permanent legislation rather than simply guidelines, including Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, but agree that this is a step in the right direction. Corporate law groups also hope that similar guidelines are adopted by other government agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission.

There are many types of white collar crime, ranging from RICO and Money Laundering to all types of Fraud. Attorney Marc Neff has over 20 years experience successfully representing corporate and business executives, professionals, public officials, and others charged with federal white collar crimes. For a confidential consultation, contact our office via phone at (215) 563-9800 or via e-mail at Marc@nefflawoffices.com.

July 8, 2008

MONEY LAUNDERING CASES NOW POSE GREATER BURDEN FOR PROSECUTION

The Supreme Court of the United States decided two cases on June 2, 2008, pertaining to charges of money laundering. In the first case, the charge of money laundering could only be applied to profits from an illegal gambling ring, and not payouts to bettors or employees. In the second case, the Court held that money laundering charges cannot be applied to a person simply hiding a large amount of cash in the trunk of a vehicle; the driver was stopped on the way to the Mexican border.

According to the Associated Press, the government brings money laundering charges against nearly 1,300 people every year, and the Court agreed with defense attorneys that the bounds of the law have been stretched too far. The Anti-Money Laundering law was passed in 1986 intended to remedy problems associated with organized crime and drug-trafficking. The law has frequently been applied in the world of white-collar crime; often tacked on to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which applies to American’s who bribe foreign officials.

The intention of the Anti-Money Laundering was for law enforcement to fill a gap and prevent the concealment and reinvestment of money derived from criminal activity. Between $8 billion and $25 billion dollars of Mexican and Columbian “drug money” is transported out of the United States every year. The Court’s rulings increase the government’s burden in money laundering cases. Specifically, prosecutors must show that money transported in money laundering cases was done so to conceal the defendant’s ownership, source, or control.

Money Laundering

Money laundering is the practice of engaging in financial transactions in order to conceal the identity, source, and/or destination of money. A violation of the law carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence, along with heavy fines upon a conviction.

If you have been charged with the crime of money laundering, contact an experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney immediately. There are defenses available to you, and a Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney will assist in developing your defense.