Articles Posted in White Collar Crimes

Black jack is fun. At least, I enjoy it…in Las Vegas. Some people like to play poker. Others simply put money – big and small dollars – on NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB games. Toss in college sports, there is no shortage of gambling opportunities. While some jurisdictions allow or permit gambling, others simply do not. In New York State there are many criminal statutes in the New York Penal Law that are both felonies and misdemeanors. Simply, New York State regulates, enforces and prosecutes illegal gambling. Vegas New, York City is not.  One of the offenses prosecuted by local District Attorneys is Second Degree Promoting Gambling, New York Penal Law 225.05. This class “A” misdemeanor is punishable by as much as one year in jail. A person is guilty of PL 225.05 if he or she knowingly advances or profits from an unlawful gambling activity. What makes this crime a felony of First Degree Promoting Gambling, New York Penal Law 225.10, is that the accused either engages in bookmaking by accepting at least six bets with a total value in excess of $5,000.00 in one day or receives money or written records from another person who is not a player who’s playing or chances are reflected by these records or monies or this person receives more than five hundred dollars of money being played in any given day. A long run on type sentence? Maybe, but that is the law in the State of New York that you and your criminal defense attorney will face when or if you are charged with Either First or Second Degree Promoting Gambling. For the purpose of clarity so you can better understand the crime or crimes, this blog entry will address what it means to advance from an unlawful gambling activity.

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While I am not in possession of any statistics, there is little doubt that over my years as a Manhattan prosecutors and criminal defense attorney, a significant amount of crimes involving New York Penal Law 170.20 and New York Penal Law 170.25 relate to some form of a fake identification or ID. Sometimes these arrests involve large scale rings where fake passports, drivers licenses and other IDs are created for nefarious reasons to perpetrate greater frauds involving credit card scams, identity theft related crimes or other schemes. Although still criminal, other times arrests merely involve college and high school aged kids under 21 who are looking to get into a bar, club or other event, but are under 21 years of age. On their respective faces, no matter what your purpose, as long as you have the intent to defraud, possessing a fake passport, drivers license or other fraudulent state or federally issued identification is a felony. Yes, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree is a Felony. If there is any good news, many times where the accused is clearly a “kid” with a fake identification at a bar or similar scenario, the NYPD at least will issue a Desk Appearance Ticket for the misdemeanor offense of Third Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument. Whether you are issued a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) or you are held in jail to see a judge for your arraignment, the degree or level of the crime does not change.

Now that you have spent thirty seconds to a minute reading about fake ID arrests in New York, if you want more information on these crimes I encourage you to read through this blog or on the websites below. This entry, however, will deal with Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument but address the ease by which prosecutors and police can establish the minimum threshold necessary to draft a viable and legally sufficient complaint. Why does this entry address legal sufficiency? The answer is that before you pocket your fake ID or any fraudulent instrument you should be fully aware the ease by which the District Attorney can prosecute you with a minimal degree of evidence. If nothing else, you have now been warned.

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A somewhat infrequently used section of the New York Penal Law, First Degree Falsifying Business Records is nonetheless not only a serious crime, but on where an arrest can land you in prison and with a felony record. Is Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree as serious as Second Degree Grand Larceny or, for that matter, Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument? The short answer is no. These two crimes, PL 155.40 and PL 170.25, are class “C” and “D” felonies respectively while PL 175.10 is a class “E” felony? What does this all mean you ask? Grand Larceny in the Second Degree is punishable by as much as fifteen years in prison, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree is punishable by as much as seven years in prison and First Degree Falsifying Business Records is “merely” punishable by up to four years in prison. That said, unlike the aforementioned crimes, PL 175.10 is often associated with more significant crimes and each time there is a falsification a new criminally chargeable offense has occurred.

With your general grasp on the significance and severity of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, this blog entry will further address this crime while also addressing the elements of PL 175.10.

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Just as different facts and evidence can result in different arrests, charges and outcomes, different courts can analyze similarly charged cases and reach different conclusions as to legal sufficiency. In the realm of fake identification cases in New York, this could not be more accurate. Very briefly, you are guilty of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Third Degree, New York Penal Law 170.20, if you know that the instrument you possess is fake and fraudulent, it is fake and fraudulent and that you possess it with the intent to deceive another (review PL 170.20 for the actually legal language). The lowest of the Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument crimes, PL 170.20 is nonetheless a misdemeanor that is both punishable by as much as one year in jail and is not expunged from your criminal record upon conviction. That is correct. Having a fake ID or drivers license whether its to buy beer or something much more serious such as possessing a fraudulent passport, the crime is at minimum a misdemeanor and can be prosecuted as a felony Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument.

An issue that often pops up in arrests for fake IDs, drivers licenses and passports, is how the prosecution can prove each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt from the knowledge to the intent to deceive another person where the acts or statements by themselves do not reflect this knowledge or intent. In a recent blog entry I addressed People v. Hightower where the court concluded that by the nature of the particular fake military ID that had the defendant’s picture and depicted a computer chip instead of an actual one, the People satisfied their burden in establishing the defendant’s knowledge and intent to deceive another. Why else would one have such an identification? Fortunately, however, not all “hope” is lost. A similar case and decision ended up on the other side of the issue in finding that a fake international drivers license by itself did not satisfy the legally sufficient threshold.

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A fake identification is grounds for arrest whether you’re a college student at Columbia or NYU, a high school kid visiting New York City or you are a foreign national in need of some form of ID to work. Simply, there is nothing found in New York Penal Law 170.20 or New York Penal Law 170.25 that mandates an evil intent to perpetrate a terroristic or immigration fraud crime. While prosecutors in a respective District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD or local police department may pursue a criminal case however they deem fit, as a preliminary matter whenever you have a fake passport or drivers license the crime technically is a class D felony pursuant to PL 170.25. As such, a conviction not only allows for up to two and one third to seven years in prison, but a felony conviction is life altering. Fortunately (relatively speaking), in the scenario of a young man or woman who may have that ID for the purpose of going to a club or bar, as opposed to some other nefarious reason, the crime is often prosecuted through a Desk Appearance Ticket in New York City whereby the accused must return at a later date to face arraignment with their criminal lawyer on the charge of PL 170.20, a misdemeanor.

Putting aside whether a Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument arrest is prosecuted as a felony for a second degree crime or as a misdemeanor for a third degree offense, what are the elements that must first be established with probable cause and ultimately beyond a reasonable doubt? Following the language of the misdemeanor PL 170.20 that is the baseline of these crimes prior to any felony enhancements, the language is as follows: You are guilty of Third Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument when you have knowledge that it is forged and you have the intent to defraud, deceive or injury another person, you possess or utter that particular forged instrument.

This blog entry will further analyze the crime of PL 170.20 in the context of a fake identification and the thresholds that much be reached by the District Attorney’s Office to secure a conviction.

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“Hate” is a relative term in this context, but its fairly reasonable to assert the NYPD (or any police department), District Attorneys and local, city and Supreme Court criminal judges hate Identity Theft. Its not such a great leap for a New York Identity Theft attorney, an accused or a bail bondsman to make. What is there to like about it? It costs New York City, New York State and the United States, both privately and governmentally, hundreds of millions or billions of dollars? And no, merely because you are accused of a New York Identity Theft crime amounting to merely a few hundred or a few thousand dollars will not give you a pass. To that end, one recent Crotty Saland PC client is likely ecstatic that multiple stupid mistake did not land the client in prison for a minimum of two to four years. Not only was this client arrested in Brooklyn (Kings County) and facing indictment for multiple counts of Second Degree Identity Theft (New York Penal Law 190.79), Second Degree Forgery (New York Penal Law 170.10) and a handful of misdemeanors including Petit Larceny (New York Penal Law 155.25), Fifth Degree Criminal Possession of Stolen Property (New York Penal Law 165.40) and Third Degree Identity Theft (New York Penal Law 190.78), but this client was previously convicted of Third Degree Grand Larceny (New York Penal Law 155.35) thirteen months earlier in Manhattan (New York County). While the New York criminal lawyers and Identity Theft attorneys at Crotty Saland PC did not represent the client on prior the felony conviction, due to this conviction any new felony plea would require a minimum of two to four years in prison and a potential maximum of three and one half to seven years in prison. Due to the diligence and advocacy of Crotty Saland PC, the crash and burn finality as mandated by law upon a conviction was completely avoided.

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Every which way you look, one prosecutorial agency is enforcing a Federal or State law that forbids, prevents or punishes illegal gambling. It may be a lucrative business if you don’t get caught, but as soon as you do it is not uncommon to find yourself charged with Money Laundering and Enterprise Corruption crimes that can take a relatively lesser misdemeanor or felony to a class B felony punishable by up to eight and one third to twenty-five years in prison. While this blog entry will not address those more significant collateral crimes associated with gambling rings that touch New York (even if the accused reside elsewhere), this article will review the critical difference between being a “player” and “promoter” when charged with New York Penal Law 225.30, Possession of a Gambling Device and how you and your criminal defense attorney may chose to attack the gambling related charges.

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The crime of Commercial Bribe Receiving in the Second Degree carries severe consequences including a year in jail and the decimation of your career. It should go without saying that it is crucial for the prosecution to prove every element of the crime charged whether you have been arrested in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens or anywhere else in the State of New York. In order for a judge or jury to convict you of Commercial Bribe Receiving in the Second Degree (New York Penal Law 180.05) the State must prove that an employee, agent or fiduciary, without consent of his/her employer or principal, solicits, accepts or agrees to accept any benefit from another person upon an agreement or understanding that such benefit will influence his/her conduct in relation to his/her employer’s or principal’s affairs. (Penal Law 180.05) The key to this crime is not the payment of money but rather the agreement or understanding under which the alleged bribe receiver accepts or agrees to accept a benefit.

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New York’s “Blue Sky Law,” The Martin Act, prohibits “[a]ny fraud, deception, concealment, suppression, false pretense or fictitious or pretended purchase or sale” in “the issuance, distribution, exchange, sale, negotiation or purchase … of any securities or commodities.” Codified by New York Business Law section 352, the Martin Act packs a punch in terms of punishment and consequences. Because of this, one of the critical components to any defense is to determine whether prosecutors can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you violated each element  and every of the crime or the offenses that are routinely prosecuted alongside the Martin Act. As addressed in a previous blog entry discussing the requisite intent to defraud (or lack thereof in Martin Act cases), courts have given prosecutors more room to prosecute securities crimes as opposed to confining or restraining them. This blog entry will address not whether one must have an intend to defraud as analyzed in the earlier entry, but the latitude given to law enforcement in defining what constitutes fraud.

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Its not likely that either New York State prosecutors or New York criminal defense attorneys see many of these types of offenses as they are more commonly prosecuted by Federal prosecutors, but New York State has a government defrauding statute on the books. Codified in New York Penal Law 195.20, it is a felony crime to defraud the government. Defrauding the Government is a Class E felony. Like all felonies of this severity or level, a conviction for this offense does not carry a mandatory term of incarceration, but due to the nature of the crime it certainly would not be surprising for a judge to sentence a convicted defendant to prison. If that happened, the exposure an accused would face would be as great as one and one third to four years in a New York State prison.

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