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Criminal Defense Blog

Hands across the water

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article focused on helping expatriates understand the tax forms they need to file with the IRS. Just reading through the list and its jumble of numbers and acronyms is enough to GYAH2DF (give you a headache to die from).

However, the article is indeed helpful, so let's sort through a bit of what overseas Americans should know in order to stave off an IRS investigation.

IRS: when the whip comes down

Apparently inspired by the release of the movie "Fifty Shades of Grey," a recent, playful Forbes article likened the IRS to a dominatrix and taxpayers to those who need "safe words" to help escape the federal agency's punishments.

"Too bad," the writer notes, "because if you mess up in taxes there are no safe words."

Experts say computer crimes are easier than ever

Orlando TV station news reports have been filled in recent months with stories of computer hacking. From the famous breaching of Sony's Hollywood files (allegedly by North Korean agents) to the hacks of JP Morgan, the U.S. weather service, celebrity iCloud accounts, Target and eBay, the news is packed with hacking tales.

A recent hack reportedly involved millions of Anthem insurance accounts, exposing customer Social Security numbers, health care records and other data that could be valuable on the black market. According to one news report, stolen Social Security numbers go for as little as $3 to $5. Law enforcement officials say that when paired with a name, those numbers can enable someone to file a fraudulent tax return and then pocket the tax refund.

Medicaid fraud investigation over?

North of Orlando, investigators from the Florida Attorney General's Office, the Florida Department of Health, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Ocala Police Department all descended on a dentist's office.

They arrived at 9 a.m. and left six hours later, taking with them computers, paperwork and anything else inside the business that investigators believed might be helpful to them. Officers turned patients away and employees posted a sign that the dental office was temporarily closed.

Protecting your rights and your freedom

We recently saw a WFTV report about the arrest of a former Orlando municipal employee accused of downloading child pornography at City Hall. While there was little that was remarkable in the telling of the story, a couple of facts the reporter recited without emphasis struck us as interesting.

The first was that the suspect had reportedly declined to speak with law enforcement investigators and had instead asked to speak with a criminal defense attorney. That is exactly what anyone facing serious criminal charges should do: politely decline to talk to police or prosecutors and ask instead to speak with your lawyer.

Will Attorney General's change in policy matter in Florida?

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. recently ordered state and local police to stop using federal law to confiscate cash, vehicles and other assets without warrants or the filing of criminal charges against suspects. The move was widely hailed by civil liberties groups that had railed against government seizures of property for more than three decades.

It is not yet known how Holder's change of policy will affect Florida, however. Our state has its own asset forfeiture laws enabling state and local law enforcement agencies to seize property - even from people never convicted of any crime.

Taxpayer Advocate: stop treating foreign accounts as illegal

While many have never heard of the official IRS office of the National Taxpayer Advocate, its purpose is to assist taxpayers who are having problems with the IRS. Nina Olson, the current National Taxpayer Advocate, reports annually to Congress on taxpayer rights issues, speaking both to lawmakers and the IRS on behalf of tax-paying Americans.

This year, the voice of the National Taxpayer Advocate takes the IRS to task over what Olson characterizes as unfair treatment of citizens who have offshore accounts. She says too many innocent taxpayers are ensnared in complex tax-reporting regulations and then treated as if they are criminals. She calls on both Congress and the IRS to make changes to the severe Report of Foreign Banks and Accounts (FBAR) penalties people face.

Florida doctor sued for healthcare fraud by whistleblowers, feds

Whistleblowers are often portrayed in the media as selfless people pointing out wrongdoing. That might be, but it is also true that whistleblowers sometimes stand to reap millions of dollars for suing people accused of defrauding the government in what are known as qui tam cases.

Qui tam cases are a type of civil lawsuit filed by whistleblowers under the False Claims Act; a law that monetarily rewards the whistleblower if their suit recovers money for the government. One Florida doctor about an hour's drive northwest of Orlando is the focus of two such lawsuits, according to news reports.

Making the best of a tough situation

One instead of 20. Months instead of years. Those numbers are testimony to what an effective criminal defense attorney can do when a client has made a mistake and been compelled to strike a plea deal with prosecutors.

In this case, as WKMG of Orlando reports, the person who made the mistake is Rep. Michael Grimm, who has announced that he would plead guilty to a single count of tax evasion and that he would within days resign from Congress. 

Upholding the Fourth Amendment

There are times when it can seem to some Americans that the U.S. Constitution gets in the way of justice. For example, think of our First Amendment right to free speech. It sometimes protects people who say offensive things, just as it also protects the rights of organizations to "peaceably...assemble" and express their views, even if many consider the organizations hateful.

Sometimes the Fourth Amendment can irk people, too. Its protections against "unreasonable searches and seizures" sometimes mean that evidence can't be used by prosecutors in court against defendants. In all of these examples, our rights as Americans to have and express our opinions, and to be secure in our homes from arbitrary searches by government are protected by our Constitution and our willingness to uphold it.

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