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Minneapolis Federal Criminal Defense Law Blog

Former controller enters guilty plea

People in Minnesota who are accused of multiple criminal offenses at once may end up opting to enter into a plea agreement with the prosecution. This is just one of the options that may be available to some defendants. While it is not necessarily always the best choice for some people, it may work very well for others.

One woman who had been the controller of a well-known and highly respected country club in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area was charged with multiple white collar crimes in the summer of 2017. She has recently entered guilty pleas in response to two of the charges. It is not known for sure if the actions involving the guilty pleas are related to a plea deal or not. The original charges included six counts of filing false tax returns and four counts of wire fraud.

How to tell mail fraud from legitimate business practices

The large number of products and goods that are delivered by mail in today’s economy means there a lot of people who conduct their business through the mail. However, in some cases, a Minnesota business may not be able to fulfill a mail order after a payment has been rendered. Assuming that the business refunds the money or does everything in good faith to compensate the customer, some people may wonder if the customer may turn around and accuse the company of mail fraud. 

Federal law establishes clear parameters for a person or entity to be accused of mail fraud. According to the Cornell Law School website, mail fraud takes place when an individual uses the United States Postal Service to gain money from customers in exchange for a promised service that the individual has no intention of keeping. A person engaging in fraud may promise to invest a client’s money in a certain way, only to take that money and put it away in a personal bank account, or use the money to pay off another client.

What can happen if you lie on your taxes?

If you count yourself among the many people across Minnesota who make occasional guesses or estimates when filing your taxes, you are not alone. Taxes can prove tremendously complicated, and unless you make your living working as, say, an accountant, you make an occasional error here and there when you file. Even if the errors you make are not intentional, though, you can still face stiff penalties for lying or providing false information when filing your taxes.

According to Credit.com, if you file your taxes and the Internal Revenue Service spots any red flags, such as missing information, inaccurate or inappropriate deductions or what have you, it may lead to an audit. During an audit, you can expect the IRS to go over your taxes with a fine-tooth comb, and this can lead you to owe more money if they find you calculated incorrectly or otherwise misled Uncle Sam. It is also important to note that, during an audit, the IRS can also review past tax returns from as many as six years ago, potentially leaving you on the hook for expenses you did not anticipate.

What is copyright infringement?

The mass transmission of digital data across the internet, including movies, images and literary text make it easier for such material to be copied and distributed. However, a lot of media is under copyright by a person or an entity such as a business. If copyrighted material is distributed unlawfully, a Minnesota copyright holder will possess grounds for a lawsuit.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright infringement takes place when a copyright holder’s rights have been violated. A copyright holder has the exclusive right to make copies of the copyrighted work. If someone else is making copies, and that person has not secured permission, copyright infringement is taking place. However, infringement is not limited to merely making copies of a work. A person can create derivative works, such as a sequel to a copyrighted book, which can also count as infringing on another’s rights if those works are not authorized by the original author.

Beware of phishing scams

Fishing is pretty basic. With a lure, usually a piece of bait, hooked onto the end of a fishing line, you can probably catch a fish or two and enjoy a well cooked meal at the end of the day. Unfortunately, there is another form of fishing on the net of a more sinister kind. Cyber scammers run phishing operations to try and steal personal data from unsuspecting net users. These scam artists use a number of techniques to get people in Minnesota to reveal their data.

According to Findlaw, phishing occurs when a party disguises their activities as legitimate inquiries by an actual business or entity. These inquiries typically show up in a person’s inbox in the form of an email. The email will usually carry a generic message that urges the user to click on a link to enter in information, such as credit card or Social Security numbers, to supposedly verify an account the user holds. Sometimes the phishing scam can take the form of a pop up ad that links to an apparently legitimate website.

Understanding money laundering

Money laundering sounds like a strange term to many people in Minnesota at first. We usually think of laundering as an activity to clean dirty clothing. In a sense, money laundering is the same thing. While laundering money is not literally the same as washing it with soap and water, money laundering does mean to take formerly “dirty” money and distribute it in a way that the money appears to be clean.

According to Cornell Law School, the aim of money laundering is to obstruct, conceal or otherwise hide the illicit or illegal origins of money. Generally, there are three stages to money laundering. First, the launderer receives the illicit funds. Next, the launderer will pass the assets through a complicated series of transactions that hides who had received the money from the initial criminal activity. Finally, the transactions return the money to the launderer in a fashion that is indirect and hard to detect. In essence, the money is laundered or cleaned.

How police and federal agents investigate cyber crimes

Whether law enforcement agencies are attempting to uncover evidence in international cyber warfare cases or discover people of interest in internet harassment issues based out of Minnesota, allegations of internet crime all involve similar investigatory processes. Understanding these techniques, along with what may go wrong in the process of investigation, is often a prerequisite for a successful defense against wrongful charges.

The Cyber Center, a joint effort of various law enforcement agencies, provides explanations of two major steps to explain how police investigate internet crimes:

  • Retrieval of information
  • Analysis and investigation

What is a Ponzi scheme?

When it comes to money, there are many people who have tried to set up scams to cheat you out of yours. One such scam you may run across in Minnesota is a Ponzi scheme. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission defines a Ponzi scheme as an investment situation where funds collected from new investors are used to pay current investors. The money is usually not invested at all. 

Signs of a Ponzi scheme include big promises about amazing returns, firms who do not have a license or are not registered and very secretive dealings with little information about the investments. You may also notice the returns you get are for a consistent amount. This is suspect because investment returns go up and down naturally, so it would be very odd for the returns to always be around the same amount.

What do federal counterfeiting laws cover?

In popular culture, counterfeiting is frequently associated with reproducing fake dollar bills or other currencies. While it is true the federal government outlaws forging paper currency, Minnesota residents should be aware that there are other documents and forms that cannot be counterfeited. Findlaw provides an overview of what kinds of documents are protected from counterfeiting.

Basically, federal counterfeit law forbids people from producing, possessing or otherwise using forged documents to defraud the federal government. Currency, including forged dollar bills and coins, are covered by federal law, as are fake securities or government documents. Forging postage stamps is also forbidden, as it deprives the government of revenue from the purchase of legitimate stamps. Additionally, counterfeit law forbids the use of fake military documents. This can include forging papers used on military ships. Other military papers include permits, discharge papers and military passes.

Get a head start on your taxes

At Joseph S. Friedberg Chartered, we help Minnesota residents from all walks of life with various criminal tax issues. We often handle common mistakes that might be avoided by dealing with tax challenges by the book rather than guessing at numbers, paying late or failing to file at all. These are examples of seemingly innocuous errors might carry serious consequences for your future.

For example, estimating your income or guessing at what a certain section means might lead to a charge of tax fraud. There are usually options available— paying minor fees, for example— if you make isolated or minor errors or omissions. Patterns of mistakes, however, might translate to harsh treatment. We find that many of our clients simply do not spend enough time working on their taxes to understand how to properly prepare the documents, leading to repeated errors over long periods of time. 

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