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Criminal Defense Blog

Public corruption charges rock tiny Florida town

You can virtually travel the 130 miles from Orlando to Hampton, Florida, in a moment. With an online map, you can peer inside the city of 400, stopping at its one-story City Hall with a rusty tin roof and rolling by the modest houses dotting its tree-lined streets.

The tiny town rocked last year by allegations of public corruption finds itself shaken again, this time by the arrest of its former city clerk.

Dying is easy

The upsides of death can be plentiful: your spouse can collect on your life insurance policy, you can get out from under debt and you can leave any legal or other financial troubles behind. The downside of death is pretty obvious: you're dead.

But WKMG of Orlando says technology makes it easier than ever to fake your own death -- or to file paperwork that makes it appear as if a loved one or personal enemy has perished. A computer security expert says the faking of deaths can be used to commit a number of different internet crimes, including insurance fraud and revenge on a foe.

FATCA, FBAR: Unconstitutional, says U.S. Senator

He's hoping to become President, but first he would like to strip the Internal Revenue Service of some of its power. Sen. Rand Paul is suing the Treasury Department and IRS in federal court over the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. He says in his lawsuit that FATCA violates constitutionally protected privacy rights. The suit also seeks to strike down FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Account) filing requirements and penalties he deems unconstitutionally excessive.

Presidential candidate Paul argues that "FATCA deprives individuals of the right to the privacy of their financial affairs."

Controversial Orlando-area site: Is it a prank, porn or both?

Orlando's WKMG describes the website as appearing something like a yearbook, festooned with Central Florida high school logos and mascots. But clicking on a link changes everything.

The links take a site visitor to hundreds of photographs of nude female high school students from the Orlando area, both current and former students. The explicit photos have been posted by anonymous users.

After blaming Russian government for hack, officials pivot

After financial giant JPMorgan Chase & Co. was hacked last summer, bank and U.S. officials both said the computer crime was the work of the Russian government. Bloomberg News reports that in the aftermath of four recent arrests in Florida and Israel -- for securities fraud and money laundering -- that the original assessment appears to have been wrong.

While the suspects in the securities fraud arrests are allegedly linked to the hacking of JPMorgan Chase, they haven't been charged with the computer crimes.

Hastert case exposes flaws in banking laws

When the startling news broke in May that former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert had been indicted, it seemed to come out of nowhere. The soft-spoken former Speaker had been out of politics since 2007, living a quiet life as a lobbyist.

As you'll recall, Orlando news media was saturated with reports that Hastert had been indicted on suspicion of violating banking laws by illegally structuring withdrawals -- and that he had allegedly lied about the withdrawals to federal authorities. Hard on the heels of that news were revelations that Hastert had been making the withdrawals to pay off a former student who accused the politician of sexual abuse decades earlier.

Hastert has not been charged with any sexual offenses.

Emotional viral video raises a serious issue in criminal cases

When a judge is sitting in a criminal courtroom and controlling the process that will decide your fate, it is easy to forget that they also lead personal lives. Judges often live in the same community as the defendants in their courtrooms. A video recently went viral that depicted an unusual school reunion between a judge and a defendant in Florida.

It had been decades since the judge and the defendant last saw one another, but the judge tentatively recognized him as a former classmate and old friend. "Did you go to Nautilus?" she asked. When he replied in the affirmative, the man broke down in tears and she fondly told those present that the two had played football together and that he had been the "nicest kid in middle school."

Penalties for FBAR violations, willful and nonwillful

Regular readers will recall that in our previous post, we discussed a recent IRS memo in which the agency outlined penalties and processes for those U.S. taxpayers who don't file a FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts).

This time, we're going to dive into some of the numbers the IRS mentioned in the memo; dollar amounts and percentages that can be assessed against those who willfully fail to file a FBAR and those who did so nonwillfully. Those who did it nonwillfully could well be people who inherited funds held in overseas financial institutions or who simply were unaware that the reports had to be filed annually for overseas accounts holding $10,000 or more.

IRS outlines offshore accounts enforcement efforts

The Internal Revenue Service memo is written in the terse, dry voice of the bureaucrat, but its meaning becomes clear as a reader plows through it. The bottom line of the memo about FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) enforcement is that the IRS wants to improve its compliance efforts. It wants to make sure that those who have in the past failed to report assets in overseas accounts do so now, and that they pay taxes, interest and any penalties owed.

The IRS acknowledges in the memo that it carries the burden of proving that an FBAR violation took place, and when it alleges that the violation was willful, it carries the additional burden of proving that the act was indeed willful. It also describes the processes it will now go through in each open FBAR case to determine what penalties it shall impose and in which instances it will consider criminal referrals.

It's your call

Every business owner knows how tough it can be to inform Orlando residents of the existence of your services and products. Some use print media to inform consumers, other use TV, radio, the internet and some use telemarketing.

Few people truly enjoy calls from telemarketers, but clearly, if the calls didn't generate business for companies, the companies would soon stop making the calls. Unfortunately, some telemarketing firms aren't dialing people for legitimate business reasons, but are instead trying to scam folks. It's also unfortunate that legitimate telemarketing companies are tainted by association with those guilty of crimes involving misrepresentation of products or services, making false claims or otherwise defrauding consumers.

Law Offices of Mark L. Horwitz, P.A.
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Orlando, FL 32801

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