Category Archives: Criminal

What is Money Laundering?

Although it is probable that most people have heard of the term “money laundering,” many people are still unsure as to what constitutes money laundering.  Money laundering occurs when a person attempts to denominate money derived from illegal sources as having actually come from a legal and legitimate source.  The primary purpose of money laundering is to disguise the origin or manner in which certain money was obtained.

Money laundering is a popular conduit that criminals use to hide the real source of illegally obtained money. Money that is obtained either from an unlawful source or in an unlawful manner, generally as a result of criminal activity, cannot be used. In most jurdsdictions, law enforcement agencies are legally authorized to seize money that was a product of money laundering. When money is laundered, it gives the appearance that it was obtained by legitimate means and thereby has the ability to be used.

How Does Money Laundering Occur?

Money laundering usually occurs in a three stage process as follows:

(1)  Placement occurs when money launderers insert the unlawful money into financial institutions such as banks. This is the riskiest step as a function of what has progressively become stricter federal financial reporting requirements for large scale transactions. Red flags can be and are often raised whenever either a single large deposit is made or a series of smaller deposits adding up to a large amount of money are made in a relatively short amount of time.

(2)  Layering is perhaps the most complex step for money laundering. Here, launderers attempt to make the money untraceable by making multiple transactions  in different financial institutions, making large purchases, or even altering the money’s currency.

(3)  Integration occurs whenever the laundered money reenters the economy. Typically, this is disguised as a legal transaction–whether the purchase of property, the investment in a company, or some other manner–and is designed with the intent of leaving no connection the launderer(s).

Where Does Money Laundering Occur?

While money laundering is not limited to any specific industry, it is most famously known by its connection with drug-related businesses, terrorist activity and with organized crime activities.   The common denominator is that many of these activities deal almost exclusively with cash.

Still, money launderers are not just the organized crime gangsters found on television shows about mobsters.  Money laundering is also often found in white collar criminal endeavors.   Professionals such as bankers, traders and politicians are frequently engaged in corrupt practices that require money laundering to “clean” the “dirty money” that’s been obtained through some unlawful practice.

Call 718-575-3900 today for a consultation.

Regardless of whoever is engaging in money laundering, one common constant remains the same: money laundering is unlawful and being caught laundering money is likely to result in serious legal repercussions. Still, if you are charged with laundering money, you have a right to a defense. Challenging a money laundering charge requires developing a sound legal strategy. At The Law Office of Stephan Jacob Siegel, you will find the years of experience necessary to fight those charges against you. Call a New York criminal defense attorney at (718) 575-3900 and schedule your consultation today.

Unique Forgery Case

Although startups are more commonly associated with innovations in tech, they can also bring promises of improving every day, non-technology focused undertakings. Even legal services are jumping in on the trend. Companies such as LegalZoom and QuickLegal offer innovation when it comes to what many consider to be an unnecessarily complex and attorney-saturated world of legal services. Clients see these ventures as an opportunity to more easily obtain legal services without the hassles and fees that come with hiring an attorney.

Just how safe and reliable are these legal services? Well, when looking at the recent news regarding QuickLegal, one may reconsider using startup legal services.

Derek Bluford, the CEO and founder of QuickLegal, recently agreed to a legal judgment being entered against him. Bluford had previously been named in a lawsuit and charged with impersonating an attorney, forging legal documents, and fraudulently swindling two clients. The settlement agreement calls for Bluford to pay $559,330 in damages.

The lawsuit paints an interesting picture of both Bluford and his legal services. According to the complaint, Bluford was fraudulent and deceitful for nearly one year, leading to a swindling of almost half a million dollars from clients. It is alleged that Bluford fraudulently misrepresented himself as an attorney and led clients to believe that he was acting in their best interests. Instead, Bluford manufactured court and government documents, wrote up fictitious court orders, and wholly fabricated claims and hearings in an effort to swindle clients out of money.

While Bluford settled the case against him, he has vociferously denied the veracity of these allegations against him.

This unique case of forgery and deceit serves to illustrate a point that the easier alternative is not the wiser alternative to avail oneself of. Although internet-based legal services startups do provide easier access to legal advice and even “legal services,” these internet based legal service companies come with a risk. While every lawyers has an ethical duty of care and must reasonably ensure the confidentiality and security of a client’s information, there is no such responsibility for a non-lawyer, even if he or she masquerades as a lawyer. Lawyers face serious professional and legal repercussions when they fail to meet their duty of care. Legal startups and its employees–many, if not all, of whom are not attorneys–do not have the same ethical obligations.

Call 718-575-3900 today for a consultation.

The accessibility of technology has made it much easier to conduct white collar and cybercrimes. If you are charged with a white collar or cybercrime, you too have a right to an attorney and to legal defense. If charged, it is important that you see the legal advice and counsel of an experienced and skilled attorney. New York criminal defense attorney Stephan Jacob Siegel has the experience and knowledge necessary to help identify and develop for you the strongest legal defense possible. Schedule a consultation today by calling (718) 575-3900.

Queens Gang Recently Indicted for Murder

Numerous violent gang members and criminals have been indicted in Queens according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, who recently announced the indictment of 18 members and associates of a gang known as “Pop On Site” (POS) by a Queens County grand jury. The gang – which is also known as “Fully Loaded Outta Control Crips” (FLOCC) and “Young Flocc Boys” (YFB) – were charged with counts of conspiring to murder and assault rival street gang members as well as to acquire firearms in order to control a section of Rockaway, which the gang considers its territory. The grand jury also indicted the 18 members on charges with respect to seeking revenge for a shooting of its members.

The 90-count indictment is a response to the area’s increased gang-related violence. POS has been accused of perpetuating a “war zone” on the Rockaway streets between 2014 and 2015. Collaboration between police and prosecutors helped obtain the grand jury indictment. It also was a big step in working to reduce and eliminate gang violence that threatens the area. The POS members indicted range from ages 16 to 22. Their territory of operation is confined mostly to the NYPD’s 100th district.

The indictment comes on the heels of a long-term collaborative investigation. Investigators used various different techniques to monitor and gather evidence regarding the gang members’ activities and conversations. Gang members are alleged to have openly discussed their illegal activities over the phone and via social media posts. The gang members attempted to better disguise their conversations by using a series of coded language and phrases. Additionally, POS members sought to keep its members in jail informed of news, events, and even acts of violence.

Investigators were obviously able to decipher the coded communication between members. After pouring over thousands of conversations, prosecutors were able to piece together sufficient information that would ultimately lead to the 90-count indictment.

The indictment does not mean that the members are guilty or will serve any jail time. Each of those charged will continue to be considered innocent until proven guilty. The indictment allows for the prosecutor to officially bring charges against the 18 members for some or all of the counts and charges included in the indictment. The charged members will have a legal right to representation and criminal defense.

Call 718-575-3900 today for a consultation.

Our legal system is designed to protect defendants’ rights. Although a defendant may ultimately be found guilty, he or she does not give up his or her right to legal counsel. If you have been charged with a crime, you should seek the advice and legal counsel of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. New York criminal defense attorney Stephan Jacob Siegel has the experience and knowledge necessary to help formulate a strong legal strategy and preserve your rights. Schedule a consultation today by calling (718) 575-3900.

Famous Gotti Namesake Arrested on Drug Charges

It is not every day that one hears of a person with connections to the mob being arrested by the New York Police Department. The late John Gotti, perhaps one of history’s most recognizable mobsters, is likely turning in his grave after the NYPD’s latest arrest — the mobster’s grandson and namesake, John Gotti.

John Gotti III was recently arrested in his Howard Beach home after a police search in which detectives were able to seize $40,000 and 500 Oxycodone pills. The money and prescription medicine were found inside a bedroom safe.

The arrest comes on the heels of a drug probe known as “Operation Beach Party.”  Investigators executed a series of undercover activities in order to obtain sufficient evidence for purposes of a warrant.

According to the Queens County District Attorney, the Homorable Richard Brown, John Gotti and drug dealers were selling Oxycodone in both Howard Beach and Ozone Park. The Oxycodone, sold for between $23 and $24 per pill, allegedly helped net Gotti a hefty profit.

Police used wiretaps to record Gotti. He allegedly stated that his pill-pushing endeavor allowed for sales of nearly 4,200 pills per month netting him nearly $100,000 a month. Police investigators pulled audio from a listening device that was secretly installed in Gotti’s Infiniti sedan, almost echoing how his grandfather was caught several decades earlier.

In addition to using the wiretaps in order to procure evidence against Gotti, undercover cops allege that they made 11 purchases of Oxycodone from Gotti purchasing an estimated $46,000 worth of Oxycodone. Some of Gotti’s associates were also arrested in the bust. It is believed that $200,000 in drug proceeds being held for Gotti were seized from an associate’s Howard Beach home. If convicted, Gotti faces up to twenty-five years in prison for his crimes.

One does not need to be a mob boss in order to be charged with a drug crime. It is a sad reflection on our society that many individuals turn to selling illegal drugs such as Oxycodone. More arrests are likely to occur as law enforcement continues to ramp up efforts in order to keep these substances off the street.

Call 718-575-3900 today for a consultation.

Do not let the fear of drug charges prevent you from protecting your rights. New York criminal defense attorney Stephan Jacob Siegel, Esq. has significant experience in representing and protecting the rights of clients charged with virtually all of the crimes contained in the New York State Penal Law.  If you or a loved one are charged with a drug crime, schedule your initial consultation with the Law Office of Stephan Jacob Siegel by calling 718-575-3900 today.

NYPD to go Easy on Drinking in Public in Manhattan

If you have spent any time in Manhattan, it may come as a surprise to you that drinking in public is actually against the law. While it is a daily occurrence, the police can and often do arrest people for violating the law, especially if it is done in a flagrant manner or a person is causing a disturbance.

Earlier this year, the New York County District Attorney’s Office issued a press release indicating that certain low-level offenses, such as drinking in public, will no longer result in an arrest unless there is a demonstrated public safety reason to do so. Additionally, the DA’s office has indicated that it will not be prosecuting most violations and infractions.  Examples of other offenses that are covered by the policy include the following:

  • Taking up two seats on the subway
  • Littering
  • Public urination

City officials hope that the change in policy will free up resources to focus more on violent crimes in the city. According to the press release, the change is expected to result in the diversion of about 10,000 arrests that would ordinarily be prosecuted in Manhattan Criminal Court.

No Changes to Current Law

Before you head over to Central Park and crack a cold one, keep in mind that drinking in public is still technically against the law. While you may not be arrested, receiving a summons will still require you to plead guilty and pay a fine or appear in court to argue your case. If you choose to do the latter, it will result in a conviction on your criminal record that could come back to haunt you at a later date, especially if your offense is related to the consumption of alcohol. While you may be able to walk out of the courthouse just by paying a fine, a guilty plea could affect your ability to get a job, rent an apartment, obtain certain state-issued licenses, or attend a particular educational institution.

Contact a New York Criminal Defense Attorney Today for More Information

While the NYPD may be taking a more lax approach to enforcement of low-level offenses, it is still important to speak to an attorney if you receive a summons for drinking in public or any other offense or violation. To schedule a free consultation with New York attorney Stephan Jacob Siegel, call our office today at 718-575-3900 or send us an email through our online contact form.

How to Prevent False Eyewitness Identifications

False eyewitness identifications are the leading cause of wrongful convictions in the United States. Approximately 1 in 4 eyewitness identifications are incorrect. Despite a high rate of error, eyewitness testimony is considered to be some of the most powerful evidence against a suspect. Surveys show that the majority of jurors rely heavily on eyewitness testimony when deciding if the defendant is guilty.

Why is there a high rate of false identifications?

There is a common misconception that the human memory works like a video recorder: the brain records events and then plays back an exact replica of them on cue. Contrary to this popular belief, psychologists have found that memories are reconstructed each time we recall them.

It is impossible for the brain to remember everything we encounter. The human memory takes bits and pieces of information and processes the important aspects. The brain fills in the missing details to recreate a full picture.  During a trial, questioning by a lawyer can often alter a witness’s testimony. The witness may unknowingly combine fragments of the specific event with information provided by the lawyer, which may be inaccurate.

There are many factors that increase the risk of false identifications. Here are some circumstances that may lead to inaccurate testimony:

  • Extreme stress or trauma. When an individual is in a high-stress situation, the ability to accurately observe and recall events correctly is diminished.
  • The suspect lacks distinctive characteristics, such as tattoos or extreme height.
  • The presence of weapons. Witnesses tend to focus on the weapon during a crime. When a weapon is used, a witness can often recall the details of the perpetrator’s gun or knife, but they are unable to remember the suspect.
  • The suspect used a disguise, such as a wig or mask.
  • Suggestive identification.
  • Brief viewing time during the identification lineup.

How can we minimize faulty eyewitness testimony?

A mistaken conviction can have serious consequences on a person’s life. Your defense attorney should take measures to minimize eyewitness errors during your case.

Science is the best way to improve the accuracy and assessment of eyewitness identifications. The New York Court of Appeals has agreed that expert witnesses should be allowed to inform juries about research regarding factors that can affect a witness’s memory.

An expert witness is a professional with extensive experience or knowledge in a particular field, allowing them to present their expert opinion without having been an eyewitness to any event regarding a case. Expert testimony is a reliable way to ensure innocent people are not wrongly convicted due to the natural flaws in identifications. Experts can testify in court to educate jurors about the reliability of identification testimony, which may lead to a more measured evaluation of an eyewitness’s testimony.

If you are facing criminal charges, the Law Office of Stephan Jacob Siegel, Esq. will ensure your case goes as smoothly as possible. Call for a consultation today at (718) 575-3900.

Statutory Presumptions: What are they and how will they affect your case?

A presumption is a conclusion of fact that is assumed to be true unless and until that presumption is proven to not be true.  The linchpin of the great American criminal jurisprudence is that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

A statutory presumption occurs when a proven or basic fact is established, some other fact must be deemed true, or presumed. Presumptions call for conclusions that are only possible based on the evidence presented. Theoretically, the jury should reach the same conclusion in the absence of the presumed fact. In a criminal prosecution, they function as shortcuts by allowing the prosecution to establish an element of a crime by establishing other facts.

Statutory presumptions are not available upon request in every criminal case. They are precluded in cases when the underlying facts needed to support the presumed fact are not present.

In most cases, they are used expressly for the sake of manipulating the burden of proof. A presumption shifts the burden of proof to the opposing party. In criminal cases, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution. It is the prosecution’s responsibility to provide evidence against the defendant to find them guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt. If a statutory presumption has been approved for the case, the burden of proof will fall on the defendant. They will be required to present all the facts, evidence, and elements to prove they are not guilty.

Many cases that involve the use of a statutory presumption deal with guns and drugs. For example, it may be presumed that all occupants of a vehicle knowingly possess a controlled substance found in the vehicle, if it was not concealed on a person. In another scenario, there may be a presumption that all occupants knowingly possess a controlled substance when it is found in plain sight in a room.

Presumptions are justified by the claim that when the underlying inferential facts are proven to exist, the ultimate fact is likely true. The problem with the use of presumptions is that claims are not based on empirical evidence, but rather hunches or guesses.

If you are facing criminal charges, you need an experienced defense attorney who is familiar with the various statutory presumptions that may apply in your criminal case.  The Law Office of Stephan Jacob Siegel is proud to provide you with skilled criminal defense that will thoroughly investigate all aspects of your criminal case to make sure that you are able to put forward your best possible defense.  To arrange for a consultation to discuss your case and learn how my experience can help you, call me today at 718-575-3900.

What does the Burden of Proof Mean?

In the United States, everyone hauled in front of a court of law on criminal charges is innocent until proven guilty. But, what does this mean exactly? In criminal cases, it is the prosecutor’s responsibility to establish the burden of proof. The defendant doesn’t have to prove their innocence. Rather, the state must prove they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Under the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and New York State Law, the prosecution is required to provide evidence against the defendant. The prosecution must convince the jury or judge that their version of the facts is true. When the burden of proof is on the state or prosecution, the state must present all the facts, elements, and evidence necessary to establish that the individual committed the crime. Additionally, all of the elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that if a jury or judge has sensible doubt about any element of the state’s case, then they can’t find the defendant guilty. It doesn’t have to be an absolute certainty.

New York Standards of Proof

Article 70 of the New York Criminal Procedural Law provides an explanation of the burden of proof.

  • 70.10 defines the terms:
  1. Legally sufficient evidence” means competent evidence which, if accepted as true, would establish every element of an offense charged and the defendant’s commission thereof;  except that such evidence is not legally sufficient when corroboration required by law is absent.

2. “Reasonable cause to believe that a person has committed an offense” exists when evidence or information which appears reliable discloses facts or circumstances which are collectively of such weight and persuasiveness as to convince a person of ordinary intelligence, judgment and experience that it is reasonably likely that such offense was committed and that such person committed it. Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, such apparently reliable evidence may include or consist of hearsay.

  • 70.20 describes the burden of proof for conviction:

No conviction of an offense by verdict is valid unless based upon trial evidence which is legally sufficient and which establishes beyond a reasonable doubt every element of such offense and the defendant’s commission thereof.

If you are facing criminal charges, you need an experienced defense attorney to defend and protect your rights. The Law Office of Stephan Jacob Siegel is proud to provide you with expert criminal defense. We will investigate all aspects of your criminal case to ensure the process as smoothly as possible. For a free phone consultation, call me today at 718-575-3900 to learn how my experience can be put to work for you.