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Annapolis Criminal Defense Law Blog

Government fraud costs Maryland taxpayers

According to a federal investigation, 60 government workers lied on time sheets over the last three years. It cost taxpayers an estimated $1 million, and the workers were reportedly gambling or traveling during times when they claimed to have been working. The employees worked at more than a dozen federal agencies, and a woman who worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a time sheet manager plead guilty to fraud in May 2015.

She accepted $15,000 in salary for hours that she never worked and was sentenced to jail and substance abuse counseling. An official who worked with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was convicted of playing golf and gambling while he was supposed to be at work. A media investigation revealed that workers at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs had lied about their attendance 17 times since 2012.

U.S. Supreme Court knocks down a vague criminal law

The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a portion of the Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984 enacted by the U.S. Congress. In an 8-1 decision, the justices declared the language "unconstitutionally vague." The Supreme Court's action displays a growing national sentiment against tough-on-crime or three-strikes laws that demand mandatory sentences. This latest decision could affect some Maryland residents who are facing federal criminal charges.

The law in question had been challenged by representatives for a neo-Nazi white supremacist who had been sentenced based on three previous felony convictions. In the case against the white supremacist, the man had received a 15-year sentence because of a firearm conviction for possessing a sawed-off shotgun. Before being struck down, the law counted previous convictions as violent offenses even if no violence occurred. A majority of justices deemed the language too vague because it offered no guidance on which crimes should be considered violent.

Using the insanity defense in Maryland

Maryland is one of the states that allows a defendant in a criminal trial to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, but states differ in how they define insanity from a legal standpoint. Insanity as a legal defense does not mean exactly the same thing as having a mental illness.

In fact, a person may have one or more diagnosed mental illnesses and be unable to successfully use the insanity defense. This was the case with a man who shot two other men on a gun range in Texas in 2013. The man had been diagnosed with PTSD and schizophrenia. However, because he admitted to a Texas ranger that he knew what he did was wrong, the man was not considered insane by legal standards. States use different rules for assessing whether a defendant is insane or not. In Maryland, individuals with a diagnosed mental illness who cannot control their impulses may be able to use the insanity defense even if they know their actions are wrong.

Pain clinic owners charged for unlawful drug distribution

Federal prosecutors in Maryland say four pain clinics were being used to distribute oxycodone for non-medical purposes. Sixteen people, including the owners of the pain clinics, were indicted for their alleged roles in the drug distribution conspiracy. Some of the drug-related offenses the individuals are charged for include conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and health care fraud.

The pain clinics that were named in the indictments are PG Wellness Center, First Priority Health Care and MPC Wellness Center, all of which are located in Maryland, as well as A Plus Pain Clinic in Washington, D.C. Prosecutors allege that the owners of these clinics used 'runners" to subvert drug monitoring programs by completing patient paperwork at their clinics and then filling fraudulent drug prescriptions at pharmacies. The runners would then turn over the pills to the drug distributors to be sold for cash.

ITT Educational Services accused of fraud

ITT Educational Services, a for-profit college operator, has been charged with fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission. In its federal lawsuit, the agency has alleged that the defendant concealed from investors the poor results of its earlier decision to to provide guarantees to lenders participating in two of its student loan programs. ITTESI operates ITT Technical Institute, which has students from Maryland and around the country.

The losses that ITTESI incurred allegedly amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars, but it continued to reassure its shareholders that all was well. In an attempt by ITTESI to cover the poor results, the SEC has alleged that the company made delinquent payments on the student loans to keep them from going into immediate default and kept this information from the company's auditor. Also named as defendants are the company's CEO and CFO.

Legal defenses for sexual assault cases in Maryland

In Maryland, sex-based crimes are held to the same letter of the law as any other criminal case. However, individuals facing sexual assault charges do have certain legal defenses that can be argued in court.

Innocence is a commonly utilized defense against sexual assault claims. If a credible alibi is given to the court, supported by evidence that bolsters the claim, a defendant may be able to prove they were not present during the alleged assault. An innocence defense may also be used when the accuser mistakenly identifies the accused. In some cases, a DNA sample may be able to validate the defendant's claim of innocence.

Overview of identity theft

People in Maryland may be charged with identity theft if they use another individual's personal information to commit fraud. Typically, a person is accused of identity theft if they profit or attempt to profit financially by using another person's Social Security number, PIN or other identifying information.

Congress classified identity theft as a crime after a case in which a man used another person's name to take out credit cards and rack up $100,000 in debt. The man had also taken out a federal home loan and purchased handguns and motorcycles using personal data that was not his own. Although the man served a short prison sentence for purchasing a firearm using fraud, he was not ordered to pay any restitution to the victim. Today, people can face much harsher sentences if they are found guilty of committing identity theft.

1 dead, 1 injured after shootout at NSA

On March 31, it was reported that two Maryland men were shot after they allegedly attempted to ram a police cruiser near the National Security Agency headquarters. One man, aged 27, died at the scene of the incident from a gunshot wound. The other individual involved was taken to a nearby hospital after suffering injuries that were not disclosed.

According to the authorities, the two men, both of whom were allegedly cross-dressing, left a party and a nearby hotel before attempting to ram the police cruiser. The deceased man was allegedly told to leave the NSA campus but refused, which resulted in the gunfire. The garrison commander reported that the vehicle they were driving was stolen and that they may have made a wrong turn when they got off the highway.

Corruption charges filed in Silk Road online drug bust operation

The integrity of a high-profile online drug bust has come into question after corruption charges were filed against two investigators. A pair of former federal agents based in Baltimore has been charged with money laundering and wire fraud based on their involvement in the Silk Road Operation.

Silk Road was an illicit online drug marketplace hidden in the “Deep Web.” Estimated to pull in more than $200 million in revenue, it became the target of a federal investigation that ultimately rendered it defunct. The ringleader was identified, charged and convicted.

Man sentenced to 20 years for federal drug conviction

A Maryland man was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison on charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine and two counts of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. In sentencing the 45-year-old man, the court increased the sentence based on the man's prior drug conviction as well as the amount of drugs recovered.

The man's convictions came at the end of a three-day jury trial on Dec. 11, 2014. At issue was the man's alleged distribution of 15 kilograms of cocaine over a less than two-month period. Some of the drugs were reportedly distributed while the man was on pretrial release for state drug charges. The man's co-defendants had previously pleaded guilty, receiving sentences ranging from 37 months to 140 months.

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