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Miami Tax Law Blog

South Florida man sentenced to 3 years for tax fraud

A Florida man will spend three years and four months in federal prison for stealing the identities of public school students to file false tax returns, federal prosecutors announced on Oct. 27. The 34-year-old pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and identity theft after his incarceration in May.

The man, a resident of Miramar, was employed at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport as a Transportation Security Administration worker at the time of his detainment, but also ran a part-time tax preparation business with a male co-defendant. According to authorities, the men obtained stolen student identities with the help of a Miami-Dade schools employee and used them to file illegal tax returns reportedly worth over $200,000 between 2009 and 2011.

What constitutes money laundering?

In Florida, people accused of money laundering may face felony charges and receive severe consequences if convicted. That is because money laundering is a serious criminal offense. According to state law, it is the deliberate act of using financial transactions to conceal the money generated by some form of unlawful activity.

In this sense, 'financial transactions" may include any type of currency and any form of economic activity, such as business sales, bank deposits, stock market investments, wire transfers and loans. Furthermore, 'unlawful activity" refers to any kind of felony crime under state or federal laws. In essence, individuals commit the offense of money laundering if or whenever they attempt to hide the proceeds of a criminal enterprise by passing it through some legitimate form of commerce in order to perpetuate the illicit activities.

Learning about money laundering and its defenses

Money laundering is a serious crime that comes with serious consequences if convicted. However, before a prosecutor can convict a defendant, he or she must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant's actions fulfilled the legal elements of the crime.

A conviction of money laundering requires a positive showing that the defendant knew that property was part of a financial transaction derived from some type of unlawful activity. This means that the person who is being charged must have known that the property was garnered from illegal activity. "Know" in the sense of this crime means that the person had actual knowledge or that the person should have known via reasonable inquiry that the funds were garnered from illegal activity. The individual does not need to know the exact source of the funds or illegal activity from which they derived. Additionally, the prosecution must show that the party intended to promote specified unlawful activity through the financial transaction.

Former bank executive indicted in Ponzi scheme

A Florida grand jury indicted a former TD Bank executive on Oct. 10 for allegedly taking part in a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme run by a convicted associate. He is charged with conspiracy and wire fraud.

According to the federal indictment, the 53-year-old executive used the prestigious reputation of TD Bank to dupe investors into believing their funds were in locked trust accounts with the bank. In reality, the accounts were unlocked and being raided by an attorney who is now serving a 50-year prison sentence for operating the Ponzi scheme. The executive is also charged with lying to investors over the phone about the amount of money in their accounts, telling them their balances were much higher than they actually were.

Couple sentenced to prison for tax evasion

A Florida couple was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to one count each for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. The alleged fraudulent activities involved the falsification of tax documents for a construction company owned by the couple. After receiving millions of dollars for hurricane repairs in 2004 and 2005, the couple was accused of attempting to conceal those funds so that they would not have to pay taxes on them.

As a result of the criminal tax evasion, the 49-year-old man was handed a 24-month prison sentence, and his 45-year-old wife received an 18-month prison sentence. Both spouses were also ordered to pay a combined total of $1.2 million in restitution and spend three years on supervised release after completing their prison sentences.

Financial crime in Florida

Business professionals in Florida may benefit from reviewing the state's 2014 statutes concerning offenses related to financial transactions. Chapter 896 of the 2014 Florida Statutes defines the Florida Money Laundering Act and describes laws pertaining to other transactions that are prohibited. The Florida Money Laundering Act focuses on people who knowingly conduct a financial transaction with property related to proceeds from unlawful activity that constitutes a felony under federal or state law.

Under state law, the term conducting includes participating, initiating or concluding a transaction. The transactions covered by the provisions include loans, sales, gifts and transfers, among others. Exchanging currency, deposits, withdrawals, purchasing stocks and other instruments of financial institutions are also covered by the Florida Money Laundering Act. According to state law, anyone participating in a transaction involving more than $10,000 is responsible for conducting a reasonable inquiry.

Protection for victims of white-collar crime in Florida

A concern for the increasing frequency of non-violent crimes against individuals, especially those designed to defraud elderly and other individuals, led to the enactment of the White Collar Crime Victim Protection Act by the Florida Legislature. These crimes can take place through a variety of means, but technology is becoming a more common tool of those committing these offenses. Significant amounts of money and property are involved in many cases.

The act defines white-collar crime as the actual commission of certain offenses or conspiracy to commit such actions. These may include computer-based crimes, forgery, theft, exploitation of elderly individuals, racketeering, and numerous other areas at a felony level. Aggravated white-collar crime may be considered in cases of involvement in at least two such actions.

Florida man pleads guilty in counterfeit card scheme

A 39-year-old Florida man who was accused of being involved in a payment card scheme pleaded guilty to the associated charges on Sept. 25. The man reportedly admitted that he was involved in selling counterfeit payment cards through a website that he ran.

In addition to selling counterfeit debit and credit cards, the website also reportedly sold holographic stickers for the purpose of making fake driver's licenses look more legitimate. It was estimated that the sale of these counterfeit cards and stickers amounted to an approximate $30 million in losses. The website reportedly sold about 69,000 counterfeit cards and 35,000 stickers, earning the man approximately $1.7 million.

Man charged for taking part in health care fraud scheme

On Sept. 26, a 61-year-old Miami man was taken into police custody for connections to an alleged heath care fraud scheme. In addition to the man's 10 counts for money laundering was an indictment from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida grand jury for conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering of health care fraud proceeds.

According to investigators, the man helped to commit acts of fraud and money laundering between April 2010 and July 2013. While operating a durable medical equipment supply company in Houston called Quick Solutions Medical Supplies Inc., the man is accused of working with other DME company administrators to submit about $24 million worth of false claims to Medicare.

How does Florida define white-collar crime?

Florida residents may benefit from reviewing the provisions listed under the White Collar Crime Victim Protection Act, described in Chapter 775 of the 2014 Florida Statutes. The intent of this legislation is to improve the sanctions against nonviolent swindles and fraud, and to assist with prosecuting white-collar offenders while protecting the public's property. The protection act was enacted due to frequency in which people, particularly elders, are victimized through the internet and other technologies. Many victims have lost a significant amount of property due to fraud and deceit.

Under the 2014 Florida Statutes, white collar crime is described as the conspiracy to commit or the commission of a felony offense that related to crimes cited in other chapters of the Florida Statutes. Amid the 11 crimes listed, many are related to theft, fraudulent practices, exploitation of the elderly or disabled, violations concerning financial transactions, racketeering, bribery, misuse of public office and forgery, among others. A felony offense committed with the intent to defraud may also be considered a white-collar crime.

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