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Federal crimes like identity fraud can come with steep penalties

Getting caught up in a difficult predicament could happen unexpectedly. It may come as a shock to some California residents to learn that they are under investigation for federal crimes, and they may understandably worry about what that could mean for their future. If a person learns that authorities suspect him or her of identity fraud, it may be a smart move to start considering legal options.

Identity fraud is covered by state and federal laws. In some cases, any resulting charges range from misdemeanors to felonies. The activities associated with identity fraud often include a person using another individual's personal information for financial gain. In some cases, that could mean using a person's credit card number to make online purchases, taking over a bank account for unauthorized transactions, using someone else's information to obtain a credit card and more.

Woman pleads guilty to embezzlement charges

Accusations of financial crimes can have detrimental effects on a person's life. If a person is accused of stealing money from a company for which he or she works, that individual could be fired, face criminal charges for embezzlement and have a difficult time finding employment in the future. If a person faces this type of predicament, various options for handling it may be available.

One woman in California recently pleaded guilty after being taken into custody. The woman worked as a bookkeeper for a construction company, and in 2016, management for the company contacted authorities due to suspicion that the woman was embezzling funds. Management had allegedly discovered that the woman had written company checks to herself and forged the necessary signatures. The company later audited its finances and found that the woman purportedly embezzled nearly $60,000.

Intent matters in a tax evasion case

Many people worry about getting everything right when they file their income taxes. This is with good reason because the government doesn't act in a favorable manner when it finds out things weren't accurately reported. It's important to always double check your return before you file so that you can catch any possible issues.

Even if you have a difficult return, it is imperative that you do get it completed and sent in by the deadline, or by the extension deadline if you apply for one. If you don't turn one in or have blatant misstatements on your return, you can face tax evasion charges.

Woman gets jail and a fine for federal crimes in admissions case

Certain California legal cases generate substantial publicity and involve people who are well-known or wealthy. Often, these cases are white collar. They can warrant extensive penalties. Such is the case with the ongoing college admissions scandal. One person involved is an heir to a significant fortune and has received a prison sentence and hefty fine.

An heiress to the company that invented Hot Pockets will be incarcerated for five months and pay a fine of $250,000 for her role in the college admissions scam. The woman, 49, faced a lengthier term of 21 months. However, the judge gave her less time while rejecting a request to be placed on probation. She had paid $300,000 as part of the scheme intended to help her daughters' college aspirations.

Tests used at trial may be less than reliable

Judges in California and throughout the United States may be allowing less than reputable scientific data to be used in their courtrooms. The results of IQ and other tests could be used to determine whether a person is competent to stand trial or is competent to raise a child. In some cases, potentially unreliable tests might be used to decide if a person should get the death penalty.

A study published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest found that most tests used in courtrooms weren't reviewed by reputable manuals. Roughly a quarter of those that were reviewed by a manual were deemed unreliable. The validity of tests used in court was challenged in only 3% of the 876 cases researchers analyzed. The results of the study mirror the results of a 2009 study that called for reforms in how forensic science is used during a trial.

How is embezzlement discovered?

Employers hire employees whom they believe will be trustworthy hard workers. While it is possible to find individuals who fit that bill, there are also employees who cause employers to have doubts about employee conduct. In some cases, previous experiences might lead employers to scrutinize the behavior of current employees.

One issue that can make it more difficult for companies to trust the people who work for them is embezzlement. In many cases, a person who's embezzling a business' funds won't be caught through direct observation. Instead, actions like audits or reports of employees are often what leads to the discovery of embezzlement.

21-year-old Nintendo Switch hacker pleads guilty

Nintendo Switch fans in California may be interested to hear about a hacker who pleaded guilty to computer fraud with the popular video game system. The 21-year-old is believed to have gained access to Nintendo Switch developer information with a phishing scam in 2016. He also pleaded guilty to child pornography charges.

Investigators first became aware of the hacking after a 2017 FBI investigation into the man. He was warned by FBI agents to stop hacking and made aware of the consequences of further hacking. According to court documents, he continued to download confidential information from the Nintendo server through June 2019. He then purportedly leaked this information. He is also believed to have bragged about his hacking on several social media accounts.

Woman faces 20 years in prison for filing false tax returns

A 42-year-old woman has admitted to stealing mail to obtain confidential information and then using that information to file fraudulent tax returns. The woman entered guilty pleas to single counts of mail theft, wire fraud and filing a false claim in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Jan. 9. She was indicted by a federal grand jury in April 2016 on 14 counts of filing false claims, three counts of aggravated identity theft and three counts of wire fraud.

U.S. prosecutors say that the San Anselmo resident fraudulently obtained the names and Social Security numbers of Marin County residents and then filed false income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service. The woman is said to have submitted false tax returns electronically between 2010 and 2012. Federal prosecutors say the woman received more than $90,000 in refunds on a falsely declared income of $219,635.89.

Warrants, evidence and arrests in federal criminal matters

Being the subject of a federal criminal investigation is a troubling event. Whether you are fully innocent or realize that you did something afoul of the law, it is imperative that you understand some basic points about a federal investigation.

You need to ensure you understand your rights and responsibilities. Missteps when you're the subject of the investigation can lead to increased legal issues as your case moves through the federal criminal justice system.

Federal employee sentenced for fraud

On Jan. 6, a Social Security Administration employee received a 15-month federal prison sentence for fraud. The 36-year-old California woman was accused of stealing $176,015 in Social Security payments while she had access to the beneficiaries' computer records. She was taken into custody in September 2019 and pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud the next month.

The woman began working for the SSA as a customer service representative in 2007. While working in the Fountain Valley office, she had direct contact with benefit applicants and recipients. While performing her normal daily job duties, she was able to access SSA computer databases. From April 2017 to August 2019, federal prosecutors say that the woman replaced benefit recipients' direct deposit information with her own personal bank account information so that she would receive their Social Security payments.

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