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New York Criminal Defense Blog

Former Mexican offical charged with accepting drug bribes

Federal prosecutors in New York have indicted a former senior Mexican government official on drug trafficking and conspiracy charges. The 51-year-old Florida resident is also charged with making a false statement on an application for naturalization he submitted in 2018. He was taken into custody by federal agents in Texas on Dec. 9. The indictment was unsealed in a Kings County district court on Dec. 10. The man faces penalties ranging from a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York, the man accepted millions of dollars in bribes from the Sinaloa drug cartel between 2001 and 2012 when he served as the head of the Mexican Federal Ministerial Police and then controlled the law enforcement agency as Mexico's secretary of public security. In return for the money, the man is alleged to have facilitated the transportation of significant quantities of illegal drugs into the United States and provided the Sinaloa cartel with information about law enforcement investigations and the activities of rival drug gangs.

Church official charged with embezzling $500,000

A New York man has been charged with embezzling more than $500,000 from a religious nonprofit organization. The 55-year-old Suffolk County resident was employed by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America from 1987 until his resignation in 2017. He now works as a consultant according to his attorney. The charges were announced on Nov. 25 by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

The man faces two counts of wire fraud and could be sentenced to up to 20 years in a federal prison on each count. The man appeared in a district court after being taken into custody by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. He did not enter a plea and was released after posting a $150,000 bond. Prosecutors say that the man ran two separate schemes to embezzle funds from his employer. Court papers filed in Manhattan reveal that prosecutors believe he began embezzling from the organization in 2011.

Prison guards for Jeffrey Epstein face federal charges

Two prison guards in New York are facing federal charges related to the death of Jeffrey Epstein while in custody. Allegedly, they ignored two mandatory checks per hour in the eight hours leading up to his death. Prosecutors say they browsed online and took naps instead of making the required checks. They also allegedly falsified records to make it appear as though they were monitoring Epstein.

Epstein was facing sex-trafficking charges at the time of his death, which the medical examiner ruled a suicide by hanging. Epstein's family believed the death to be a homicide, and they hired a forensic pathologist to investigate. However, security footage obtained by the prosecution indicates that no one entered the part of the jail where he was being held prior to his death. Allegedly, the footage also shows the guards sleeping. Around 6:30 a.m., when breakfast was supposed to be served, the guards found Epstein. The indictment says that one of the guards told their supervisor he had hung himself while another said they had messed up.

Professor in organized crime charged with money laundering

On Nov. 18, federal authorities in New York charged a Florida professor in organized crime with participating in an international money laundering scheme. The charges were handed down in a Manhattan federal court.

According to court documents, Bruce Bagley, a University of Miami international relations professor who co-edited a 2015 book called "Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime and Violence in the Americas Today," helped launder around $2.5 million in funds from foreign nationals. He is also accused of keeping $250,000 of the money for himself. Between November 2017 and October 2018, the 73-year-old allegedly opened multiple bank accounts in Venezuela and accepted 14 separate $200,000 deposits from accounts in Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. Apparently, he kept around 10% of each deposit and issued the rest via a cashier's check to an unidentified person in Colombia. Prosecutors say that individual let Bagley know the money came from foreign bribery and embezzlement schemes.

Former DEA agent accused of helping drug traffickers

A former Drug Enforcement Administration agent has been indicted for providing information and assistance to drug traffickers in New York. The indictment, which was unsealed on Nov. 5, alleges that the former agent accepted bribes totaling more than $250,000 from organized crime figures in the Buffalo area between 2008 and 2017. He faces a raft of charges including obstruction of justice, providing false statements to law enforcement, accepting bribes and conspiracy. He was released from federal custody after posting a $250,000 bond and surrendering his passport.

Federal prosecutors say the former agent helped criminals to distribute about 1,000 kilograms of cocaine and marijuana by informing them about ongoing law enforcement investigations. The information he provided, which was allegedly passed during regular meetings, included the names of potential witnesses and confidential informants and details about police procedures and techniques. He is also accused of using his influence within the DEA to shut down investigations that may have implicated the criminals he was allegedly involved with.

What is a pill mill?

People use the term "pill mill" to describe doctors' offices that help people get medication they do not need. This is illegal, as the medications in question are prescription medications and are only supposed to be used by those with a valid medical requirement. It's illegal even for people with a valid prescription to sell or share these drugs. That's how tightly this control runs.

At these so-called pill mills, doctors will write out prescriptions that people do not need or sell them pills that they want, even when there is no reason. But this can raise some questions.

New York man charged with embezzling union funds

A 48-year-old New York man faces up to five years in prison after being charged with embezzling more than $30,000 from a steelworkers union. The Chemung County resident could also be ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. The charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of New York on Oct. 30. The man's alleged activities were discovered during an investigation conducted by the Major Crimes Task Force of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Rochester field office.

Prosecutors say the man embezzled $33,224 while working as the financial secretary of Steelworkers Local Union 104M between September 2015 and August 2018. The union represents about 75 steelworkers at an Elmira glass packaging facility. The man's duties are said to have included collecting union dues, handling disbursements and writing checks. A local bank sent all union-related correspondence to a P.O. box. Prosecutors say that the man managed to conceal his alleged behavior because he was the only person with access to the box.

U.S. House passes bill making animal torture a federal crime

It could soon be a federal crime for people in New York and around the country to commit acts of animal cruelty. Currently, it is only against federal law to film and distribute videos of animal abuse.

On Oct. 22, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, or PACT. Introduced by Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., the bill would make it a federal crime for anyone to intentionally drown, impale, burn, suffocate or otherwise hurt non-human mammals, birds, amphibians or reptiles. The measure expands upon the 2010 Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act, which criminalized the creation and distribution of videos depicting animal torture.

New York state judge charged in MCU fraud case

Federal prosecutors have charged a New York state judge with conspiracy and obstruction of justice in connection with an investigation into fraud at the state's oldest credit union. The woman is accused of attempting to destroy evidence by deleting text messages and erasing the memory of a mobile phone. Her bond has been set at $500,000 according to media reports. She faces up to 20 years in a federal prison if convicted of all the charges against her.

The judge was appointed to the bench in 2006 and was presiding over the Commercial Division of the Kings County Supreme Court at the time of her arrest. She served as a voluntary member of the Municipal Credit Union's board between 2008 and 2016. The MCU has over 500,000 members and deposits of almost $3 billion. While she was not paid a salary by the MCU, the judge received reimbursement in the form of travel benefits and other perks.

Man pleads guilty in Ponzi scheme

Federal prosecutors have announced that a 39-year-old man has admitted to running a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors in 12 states out of more than $70 million. The man entered guilty pleas to felony counts of mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering on Oct. 9 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York. He is scheduled to return to court in March 2020 to be sentenced.

U.S. attorneys say the man collected $155.5 million from about 1,000 investors between 2012 and 2018. The money paid in by new investors was used to provide returns to individuals who had invested earlier. The man is said to have used hundreds of bank accounts to conceal his activities. Prosecutors claim that he also purchased respected investment advisory firms in states including Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and Ohio to make his scheme appear legitimate. He has been charged in Pennsylvania and New York as well and could be sentenced to 20 years in prison in both states. He also faces a fine of up to $500,000 in New York.

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