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Westfield NJ Criminal Defense Law Blog

Union County couple awaiting sentencing on tax fraud charges

Allegations of tax fraud can result in charges of failure to reporting earnings and income with severe penalties and long-term consequences for a person who is convicted. Tax preparers who prepare fraudulent tax returns for their clients may also risk being caught up FBI and state investigations of tax fraud.

That is what appears to have happened to a Union County couple who prepared tax returns for a living. The husband faced allegations of tax fraud for having prepared and filed income tax returns with the IRS on behalf of clients. The government accused him of including information in the tax returns about businesses that did not exist and of inflating and fabricating deductions.

Child pornography charge could lead to decades in prison

There is a saying, perhaps cynical, that "Character is what you are in the dark." In a sense, the Internet is one way in which this notion can find expression, based on the sense of anonymity that it can create. People may be tempted to write or even to do things online that they might not otherwise if they knew that they were being watched.

The problem is, increasingly these days when you surf the web or engage in virtual conversations with others, you are indeed being watched. And if the content of your interaction leads toward behavior that federal or New Jersey law has made illegal, this can lead to a bad conclusion. 

Supreme Court breaks new ground in Internet crime defense

The proliferation of computers, smartphones and tablets has caused an explosion in the use people make of social media. Use of the Internet to share information with friends and acquaintances has vastly improved the ways in which people can communicate with each other. Unfortunately, social media has also given rise to Internet crime in the form of computer fraud, cyber terrorism, identity theft and cyber bullying.

A federal investigation into the activities of one Facebook user that resulted in criminal charges and a trial recently drew the attention of the United States Supreme Court. The criminal case focused on threats a man was alleged to have made against his wife and several other people and groups by posting violent lyrics from a rap song on Facebook.

Straw buyers and phony documents in massive mortgage fraud

A group of New Jersey residents were sentenced for their roles in a scheme that sought to take advantage of their knowledge of the real estate market and mortgages. The trio of co-conspirators received sentences ranging from 30 months to 63 months in federal prison.

The defendants were convicted of various white collar crime charges including wire fraud. According to facts established at their trial, the defendants purchased condominiums from builders and developers who were under financial pressure to get rid of the properties at bargain prices.

Alleged identity theft sparks multi-agency federal investigation

Identity theft can be a crime under New Jersey or federal law. Depending upon the means used to commit the violation, one or more federal government agencies may claim jurisdiction when it comes to investigating and prosecuting it. A recent case involving a Trenton man accused of using identity theft to steal federal tax refund checks amounting to more than $30,000 offers an example of how this can happen.

The accused was working as an employee of the US Postal Service during the commission of the alleged scheme, which involve the use of stolen identities of citizens of Puerto Rico and intercepting fraudulent tax returns while they were still in the mail. An undercover agent working for the Postal Service gained the confidence of the accused to the extent that the agent was able to provide him with fake addresses to have fraudulent tax return sent to as well as transferring to him fake treasury checks in exchange for cash.

What is copyright infringement?

If you have ever watched a movie on disc at home, then before or after the feature presentation you will see a notice warning about the perils of copyright infringement if you make an illegal copy of the movie. But what is a copyright, exactly, and what are the penalties if you are convicted of a copyright violation?

A copyright is more than just a © symbol. It has real significance, and is meant to protect an author's or other creator's rights in his or her original work. Copyrights can exist on many different kinds of tangible media, including literary, musical and dramatic works, motion pictures and sound recordings, architectural, pictorial, graphical and sculptural works, and more. The copyright does not protect ideas, it protects their physical expressions from unauthorized duplication and includes protection of derivative as well as original works.

The perfect storm: more government criminal laws and penalties

One of the earmarks of the steady expansion of government at the New Jersey state level and the federal level is that more and more laws and regulations make it easier to find yourself in violation of them. It is similar to walking through a minefield: the more mines that are laid in your path, the more likely it is that you will finally step on one of them.

But what can make matters worse in our legal minefield of state and federal criminal laws is that not only are there seemingly more mines being planted all the time, but the mines themselves are becoming bigger. What we are referring to is the trend toward increasing the jail or prison time, fines and other sanctions that you may face if you are convicted of crimes that are already serious in nature, such as white collar crimes.

The distinction between tax fraud cases and negligence

Most Union County taxpayers have no reason to fear a federal IRS tax fraud charge. The reason is that less than one percent of taxpayers are the subject of allegations of tax fraud that result in a conviction in any given year. But tax fraud does happen. In fact, 75 percent of income tax fraud charges are made against individual taxpayers.

An audit of a New Jersey resident's tax return that discloses under reported income or deductions to which the filer is not entitled may not be the result of an attempt to commit tax fraud. The complexity of the tax code and the tax laws can result in mistakes being made by taxpayers, accountants and tax preparers.

U.S. Supreme Court to decide "analogue drug" case

One of the challenges that courts in New Jersey and across the country face today in illegal drug cases is the introduction of so-called "designer" drugs, which are chemical compounds that do not appear among the definitions of illegal drugs under federal law but which purportedly mimic the mental and physical effects of those drugs.

At issue in a recent case, McFadden v. United States,  that was argued recently before the U.S. Supreme Court involving "bath salts" – a drug that if taken like cocaine is supposed to mimic its effects, was how a federal law (the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act, or "CSAE"), should be interpreted. 

Tax fraud charges comes with stiff penalties

Now that tax season is over, you may be worried about getting audited. Common mistakes, such as math errors, and red flags, such as filing a return as "self-employed," make it more likely that you will be audited. Still, the IRS understands that the tax code is complicated and that people make mistakes. As a result, the IRS distinguishes mistake or negligence from tax fraud, as discussed in an earlier post.

Essentially, tax fraud comes down to the taxpayer's intent. In other words, the IRS looks at whether the taxpayer willfully attempted to defraud the government by not paying taxes that he or she knows are due.