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New York Criminal Defense Blog

How are hate crimes defined?

While criminal wrongdoing is always taken seriously by law enforcement, hate crimes combine criminal wrongdoing with a motivation spurred by a bias towards another group. As a result, they cause a ripple effect that can potentially impact all members of a certain group, whether united by race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or country of origin. For this reason, hate crimes often entail harsher penalties than other types of crimes, even those that involve violence.

Despite what the name implies, hate crimes do not always involve hatred of another individual or group. While that certainly is a factor in many of these types of crimes, the perception that a group is different from or somehow less than others is sufficient for a hate crime conviction. In terms of criminal wrongdoing, these crimes often involve vandalism, assault, arson, and even murder. Even threats of possible wrongdoing can be considered a hate crime. 

Mom and daughter accused of defrauding housing authority

It may be easy for people in New York to think of fraud as a type of offense that is well-defined and fits neatly into a proverbial box, yet in reality, alleged fraud schemes can be incredibly complex and involve elements that many people might not even be aware of. For all of the different types of fraud, however, at the heart of each case is an apparent degree of deception. Any example of a person using questionable means to secure money (either from an individual or an organization) might be viewed as meeting the definition of fraud. 

“Questionable means” might often be open to interpretation. Sometimes it may be very clear, as it appears to be in a recent case involving a mother and daughter in California. Authorities recently arrested the pair for allegedly bilking the local housing authority of hundred of thousands of dollars. The assistance they received was meant to benefit disabled persons who could not work, yet law enforcement officials claim to have evidence that show that the pair were not at limited in their activities. In fact, they are accused of using the money the received to go on lavish vacations. Neighbors also claim they drove expensive sports cars. It was reported that the two used false birth certificates and identification cards in order to further their scheme. 

Is catfishing a crime?

In recent years, the term catfishing has been a subject of much concern when it comes to online interactions. This refers to a person impersonating another by using their pictures, which are usually obtained from social media profiles. The reasons behind catfishing can range from romantic pursuits to an intent to obtain money or other goods from a person using nefarious means. The legality of catfishing is up for debate and usually depends on the reasons behind the endeavor. 

There are established laws in New York that prohibit a person from impersonating another. According to the New York State Unified Court System, Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree involves knowingly taking on the persona of another in an effort to obtain some sort of benefit or with the intent to injure another party. These elements must be present for a person to be convicted of criminal wrongdoing. Criminal impersonation can also involve other elements as well.

Distinguishing multi-level marketing from pyramid schemes

No one ever wants to be accused of fraud, and like most in New York, you likely do not believe that you ever will be. Yet there are potential pitfalls in almost any line of work where disputes can often lead to such allegations. Many have come to us here at Sapone & Petrillo LLP having been accused of a specific kind of fraud: a pyramid scheme. These are often closely associated with multi-level marketing. If you happen to work in a field that incorporates the latter, you should know what distinguishes them. 

According to the office of the New York Attorney General, multi-level marketing involves both the sale of products directly to consumers without and the recruitment of new salespeople. When your recruits sign on to participate in the business, you typically make a commission off their sales (on top of the money you already make for your own). 

Defining "entrapment"

Defenses to accusations or embezzlement may seem few and far between; indeed, many come to us here at Sapone & Petrillo, LLP having been accused of this crime convinced that their guilt is assumed. Yet even in cases where a prosecutor claims to have evidence of you using your company's funds to finance your own separate endeavors does not necessarily mean that you have embezzled that money. Rather, in cases where government entities were involved in a case, the possibility of entrapment is ever present. 

Entrapment occurs when a government agency compels or prompts you to commit a crime. Typically, such a case begins with a suspicion that you may present the potential to embezzle funds (either through interpretations of your past actions or your position within your company). Representatives of said agency then typically contact you with the opportunity to get involved in an embezzlement scheme. If your cooperation is perceived in any way, then you may be charged with embezzlement. 

Understand these common white-collar crimes

White-collar crimes, named for the collar color of people in business in the early- to mid- 20th century, refer to financial crimes typically in the corporate sector. There are many kinds of white-collar crimes, but nearly all are motivated by the potential for financial gain.

Some of the most common kinds of white-collar crimes include:

  • Tax evasion
  • Money laundering
  • Fraud
  • Embezzlement
  • Ponzi schemes
  • Insider trading

What is a pump and dump scheme?

When you work in the financial markets, you quickly become familiar with just how volatile they can be. Communicating that to investors in New York can be a challenge, as they are often not acquainted with the subtle nuances that can lead to market fluctuations. Often all they understand is that you have invested their money for them based on what they may view as "a promise" of strong returns, when in actuality, while informing them of the potential benefits, you did indeed explain to them the risks. 

It is often this misinterpreting of "promises" and "potential" that leads to accusations of fraudulent activity. Take a "pump and dump" scheme. Per the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, such a scheme involves people pumping up the value of a stock to drive new investment. As new investments are made, the price of the stock rises. When that happens, the schemers then sell their own shares at a profit, knowing that doing so will drive the value of the stock down and cause new investors to lose money. 

Accidental embezzlement and other missteps

Whether you have a small business in New York or are an executive in a large corporation, the world of finance is complex, and missteps can be devastating. Unless you are a finance expert, small decisions that seem inconsequential at the time can result in an illegal action. At Sapone & Petrillo, LLP, our experienced attorneys often defend clients from embezzlement charges.

According to Entrepreneur Resources, mishandling corporate funds is incredibly easy. Even if you are a finance-savvy entrepreneur, you can stumble, accidentally committing fraud and opening yourself up to a lawsuit. Unfortunately, it is not only your mistakes that can drastically affect the company. Sometimes, an error by those working for you can result in embezzlement or fraud.

  • Giving a gift to an employee or another business owner/director may be misconstrued as a bribe, under specific circumstances.
  • Misusing a company credit card by purchasing something for yourself, unrelated to the business, is embezzlement.
  • Your attorney improperly registering a trade falls under trade fraud.
  • Claiming the full mortgage amount as a business expense if you work from home is tax fraud.
  • Telling friends or family about how well your company is doing before releasing the news to the public is insider trading.

How do adjusters identify insurance fraud?

Insurance fraud is a big deal. Because this type of white-collar crime happens so often, insurance companies take very specific steps to identify fraud in all its forms to ensure the person responsible is caught and brought to justice. explains some of the ways insurance adjusters look for fraud. 

The National Insurance Crime Bureau has compiled a list of red flags to help adjusters recognize a fraudulent claim. When claiming damage to property, you'll probably need to show a receipt to establish the value of an item. Submitting a handwritten receipt is an obvious red flag since there is no way to determine whether the number you've listed is accurate. Behavior can also be suspicious. For instance, a recent increase to your insurance coverage looks highly suspect when a claim follows shortly after. 

Examples of tax avoidance

You have likely heard how serious the federal government treats cases where people have not paid their taxes. At the same time, you have probably also seen advertisements detailing programs that teach you how to avoid having to pay tax. You might hear these and immediately dismiss them as scams aimed to take advantage of the general public's collective unfamiliarity with the tax code (some indeed are). Yet many come to us here at Sapone & Pertrillo LLP questioning whether the actions they have taken to avoid paying taxes are indeed legal. You may be surprised to hear that some actually are. 

The first thing to remember is that a distinction exists between tax evasion and tax avoidance. Tax evasion is knowingly not paying your takes. However, according to the Internal Revenue Service, tax avoidance is defined as any action aimed at limiting your tax liability. Tax avoidance strategies are perfectly legal, yet like many, you simply might not be familiar with them. Indeed, it is estimated that many overpay in tax when several options are available to help them lower their tax liabilities. 

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