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Feds want 3 men accused in phone scam to forfeit over $2 million

Telemarketers have made many Californians wary of answering their telephones. Considering the telephone scam that was recently shut down by federal prosecutors, it's easy to understand that sentiment. An indictment against three men alleges that they ran a call center overseas for the purpose of posing as the Internal Revenue Service or a payday loan company. The U.S. attorney handling the case said that the men collected $2.3 million while committing their alleged crimes and that they should forfeit property of equal value.

Investigators claim that the men masked the overseas origin of their calls with domestic telephone numbers. The callers told victims that they were either collecting back taxes or offering payday loans for a "worthiness fee." These activities allegedly went on from August 2014 to June 2016.

Evidence suggests woman stole from school and athletic groups

When nonprofit organizations in California select treasurers, they entrust large amounts of money to those officers. A woman from Carmichael allegedly betrayed the trust placed in her by the Deterding Elementary School's Parent Teacher Organization, Carmichael Little League and an Orangevale baseball team. Authorities continue to hold her in Sacramento County Jail after her arrest following accusations of embezzlement. The court set her bail at $125,000.

The court system has pressed multiple charges against her after alleging that she embezzled over $138,000 from multiple organizations since 2015. Her charges include embezzlement, forgery, grand theft and illegally using personal identification.

Important facts about federal plea deals

Plea bargains play an important role in the criminal justice system. While state courts and other agencies might give everyone leeway in working out these deals, the federal court system is under strict guidelines.

When you are facing criminal charges in the federal system, you have to think carefully about your options. This is a bit different from facing state or local charges because federal prosecutors have vast resources.

Identity theft is a growing problem in California

Identity theft is a growing problem for authorities in California and around the country, and protecting the community is especially difficult because technology designed to make life easier is providing criminals with new ways to obtain confidential consumer information. Identity thieves use people's personal or financial data, such as their Social Security number or login details, without their knowledge or consent to commit crimes like fraud or theft. One of the chief problems faced by police officers and federal agents investigating identity theft is that victims often do not find out that their information has been used without their consent until they receive credit card bills with unusual charges.

Identity theft became a federal crime in 1998 when President Clinton signed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act into law. Congress revisited the issue in 2004 and increased the penalties for aggravated identity theft by passing the Theft Penalty Enhancement Act. The penalties for terrorism related offenses are particularly severe. Federal agencies that investigate identity theft and enforce these laws include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Federal Trade Commission.

California Humane Society executive pleads guilty to embezzlement

A 50-year-old California woman has admitted to embezzling almost $60,000 from the Lake Tahoe Humane Society. She served as the nonprofit organization's executive director between 2014 and 2017 according to reports. Her guilty plea, which was part of a negotiated agreement, was announced by the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office on Sept. 24. Under the terms of the agreement, the woman will serve six months in county jail followed by four years of formal probation. She has also promised to repay the $59,664 she allegedly embezzled and refrain from gambling.

Media accounts reveal that the woman was taken into custody by South Lake Tahoe Police Department detectives in July following an 18-month investigation. The investigation was initiated by concerns raised by the Humane Society after evidence of embezzlement was discovered following the woman's termination. The detectives investigating the claims say that their job was made more difficult by the nonprofit organization's sloppy bookkeeping practices.

Demystifying the federal criminal justice system

Federal drug charges are serious matters that can mean you are facing a lot of time in prison. If you are facing these, you need to learn about the federal criminal justice system because there are some differences between it and your local courts.

Here are some important things for you to remember about this court system and how it operates:

  • Crimes have to meet specific criteria to be charged on the federal level. Many crimes can be prosecuted under state laws, so the federal government will defer to the states for prosecution. This is considered on a case-by-case basis and depends on the circumstances.
  • Investigations for federal criminal matters can involve authorities from other jurisdictions, including state and local agencies. Once the investigation is complete, a determination can be made about how to proceed with charges.
  • People arrested by federal authorities will have their initial appearance in court within 72 hours of the arrest. This is followed by a bail hearing and an arraignment.
  • Many federal cases are resolved through the use of a plea deal, which requires the defendant to forego a jury trial. They will plead guilty or no contest to specific charges in exchange for a specific sentence or range. The judge must approve the plea deal.
  • If a jury trial is necessary, the jury is chosen in two phases, in some cases. The first phase is to determine the general suitability of the potential juror. The second is the death qualification phase in which the prosecution can excuse people who don't believe in the death penalty if it is a possible sentence for the crime.
  • When a person is convicted of a federal charge, the sentencing phase will come later. The convicted person and the victim have the right to be present. Both sides can present a case for this phase before the court decides on the sentence.
  • Appeals of federal convictions are possible as long as the case wasn't resolved through a plea deal. Plea agreements usually require a defendant to waive their right to appeal the matter.

CPA in California accused of embezzling $1.2 million

A 64-year-old man who is a licensed certified public accountant and employee of the Port of Long Beach has been charged with stealing from a merchant seaman organization and youth soccer league. He served in a volunteer capacity at both organizations and now faces 167 counts of forgery and 14 counts of grand theft. If convicted, allegations of property damage in excess of $200,000 and aggravated white-collar crime for over $500,000 could enhance his sentence. Potentially, his felony charges could produce a 130-year prison term.

According to court documents, between April 2008 and August 2014, he took $850,728.74 while volunteering at the youth soccer league. Almost simultaneously, he allegedly stole $372,330.07 from the merchant seaman group from August 2008 to November 2015. Altogether, the prosecutor said that the man embezzled $1.2 million. No money has been found, and investigators suspect that he sent it to associates in Central America.

California congressman indicted for mishandling campaign funds

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter appeared with his wife in federal court in San Diego for a hearing after a 60-count indictment detailed their alleged misuse of over $250,000 in political campaign funds. Hunter's lawyer requested another status conference because he needed more time to prepare motions prior to a trial. He wanted the judge to excuse the congressman from that hearing, but the judge refused the request.

The congressman, a 41-year-old former Marine, and his 43-year-old wife are expected to answer for charges of falsifying campaign finance reports to the Federal Election Commission, conspiracy and wire fraud. The indictment against them detailed their purported spending of campaign funds on private expenses. From 2009 through 2016, investigators reported that the couple illegally spent the money on family vacations to destinations like Italy. They also apparently dipped into the campaign money for school tuition, golf, dental work and even shots of tequila.

Be very careful when crossing the border with medication

You're on a well-deserved break south of the border with your family. On your way home from the restaurant, you step off the curb and painfully twist an ankle.

It's not broken, but even a mild sprain can considerably damper your vacation enthusiasm. A resort employee directs you to a Mexican doctor's office located next door to a pharmacy where you are able to get a month's worth of strong pain medication that would be almost impossible to obtain for the same injury back in California. It's all good, right?

Representative faces multiple criminal charges

A representative from California has been indicted on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy. He was also indicted on charges that he falsified records and violated campaign finance laws. According to the indictment, campaign funds were used to cover personal expenses such as dental bills that were past due as well as vacations and school lunches. Furthermore, it said that the representative and his wife engaged in a conspiracy to siphon campaign funds for their own personal use.

The congressman gave his wife a credit card to gain access to campaign funds despite the fact that she had no formal role in his campaign. In the indictment against him and his wife, there was evidence that expenses were incorrectly classified to make them seem like legitimate campaign expenses. For instance, clothes that were purchased at a golf pro shop were listed as golf balls for wounded warriors.

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