There are a great many differences between Federal and State prosecutions, which an Oklahoma Criminal Defense Attorney like our team at Jacqui Ford Law could dwell upon for hours upon hours. However, for the sake of brevity, only a few items will be discussed in this blog.
Everyone has heard the old saying: “The Pen is mightier than the Sword.” If one gives some thought to the saying, it becomes self-evident, especially in a nation that has a very active First Amendment right.
There is a version of the above saying, utilized by Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys: “You can steal more with a Pen than you can with a gun.”
Tax evasion and Fraud (note: it is not a crime to avoid taxes, but it is a crime to evade filing and paying your State and Federal taxes)
False and fraudulent filing of claims with private employers and Government agencies
Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security fraud
Workers’ compensation fraud and false claims
The list goes on and on.
What is the difference between State and Federal White Collar Crime?
The first and most important difference between State and Federal white collar crime is the jurisdiction.
The Federal Government’s jurisdiction over white collar crime is one of limited jurisdiction. Usually, the Federal government does not prosecute “hot checks,” and leaves that to local authorities. The exception is when there is “aggravated identity theft or an organized group conducting fraudulent transactions involving many different banks over state lines.”
For example, money theft from an FDIC licensed bank by a teller will bring a swift reaction from the Secret Service or the FBI because this is a Federal crime, with virtually exclusive jurisdiction by the federal government. Most importantly, the banks MUST report the theft to the appropriate law enforcement authorities, regardless of the fact that the money was paid back in full and the employee was terminated.
The same goes for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, The United States Postal Service, and ALL Military institutions. (Very few criminal defense attorneys realize that you can be issued a DUI by a Federal Agent on a lake patrolled by Federal law enforcement. The DUI is handled in Federal Court, just like any other Federal Crime. Many Federal Criminal defense attorneys have appeared in Federal Court with their clients charged with DUI, from a weekend of fun on a lake patrolled by Federal Agents, after driving their boat while under the influence of alcohol. Unfortunately for them, it really does turn into a “Federal Case.”)
It is safe to say that Federal law enforcement and prosecutors more often than not will decline to file on a questionable jurisdiction rather than try to stretch the facts to bring a case into federal jurisdiction.
The second difference between State and Federal white collar crime is the treatment of individuals who are convicted of a white collar crime.
In 1984, the United States Congress passed the United States Sentencing Guidelines (USSG) which attempted to achieve uniform sentences for all individuals convicted of a Federal Crime. Congress felt that there was a massive disparity between sentences across the United States between different Circuits and attempted to create a uniform sentencing regime.
To date, there have been over 100,000 cases involving the USSG and their sentencing. The U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Booker ruled that the USSG was “advisory” and not mandatory, thereby giving United States District Court Judges the ability and discretion to give a sentence that achieved the original purpose of the Federal sentencing regime.
The USSG created a schedule of “losses” based upon a dollar amount that was then assigned an “enhanced point amount” that increased the sentencing range of a person convicted of a “financial crime.” The dollar amount ranged from “zero to $25,000,000” and enhanced an individual’s sentencing range accordingly.
What else do I need to know about white collar crime in Oklahoma?
As is always the case with schedules and charts, they are subject to interpretation.
An example: an individual was convicted of stealing credit cards, and using those credit cards in the amount of $5000. The District Court added the credit limit of the credit cards and the potential loss and used the scheduling chart to enhance the individual’s prison sentence. In this example, the “actual” loss was $5000, but the credit card had a credit limit of $50,000. The Court increased the “loss” to $50,000 rather than $5000 because it had the potential of having a loss of $50,000, and sentenced the individual according. The Appellate Court agreed.
Under federal law, aggravated identify theft — which involves the actual “stealing of another person’s identity” — carries a minimum mandatory sentence of two (2) years, which is consecutive to the regular sentence a person would receive. Congress felt that if a thief actually stole someone’s identity, then they should be punished more harshly than a common thief that just used the credit card as it was printed.
The system established by the USSG leaves little room for any type of probation for a white collar crime. It is safe to say that all federal white collar crimes WILL result in actual prison time.
Additionally, the USSG virtually eliminated any type of probation or paper time. And while in federal prison, you must serve 85% of the sentence because there is no parole in the Federal system.
Contact Jacqui Ford Law today
If the federal government is after you for any type of white collar crime, you must obtain the professional services of an experienced federal criminal defense attorney, and you must do this as soon as possible.
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At Jacqui Ford Law, we’ve been defending our Oklahoma City clients against criminal accusations for more than 15 years. If you’ve been accused of embezzlement, you’ve come to the right place.
What are some examples of embezzlement?
Embezzlement can happen in many different situations. Examples include:
A bank teller who has access to money in the bank steals from the vault.
A family member is caring for a relative and steals money or property from the relative.
An investor who is handling client investments takes the money for his or her own gain.
A computer technician who steals laptops from his or her company’s supply room
In many cases, the person accused of stealing money manipulates or alters financial records in an attempt to conceal the theft.
There are different “levels” of embezzlement. For example, taking some pens and paper from an office – though a criminal offense – is not punished the same way as stealing thousands. Regardless, without the help of Oklahoma defense attorney Jacqui Ford, penalties resulting from embezzlement could affect your life for years to come.
What are the penalties for embezzlement in Oklahoma?
Embezzlement is considered a serious crime, and it can end with jail time, a hefty fine, or both.
In most states, the seriousness of the crime depends on the following:
Property value – how much money was stolen? What was the value of the property that was stolen? Was it less than $500? More than $20,000?
Type of property – Was it furniture? Or was it an assault rifle that was stolen during a hurricane? These are the types of questions that will have to be answered before it can be determined just how serious of a case it is.
Fraudulent intent – If you’re going to be convicted of embezzlement, the prosecution has to prove that the defendant knowingly defrauded the victim. In some cases, loved ones will prove or try to prove that they had the right to that money. If that is proven, then there is no embezzlement.
How does restitution factor into an embezzlement case?
In many cases, the state will make people who are convicted of embezzling pay restitution to their victims. Restitution is simply the act of giving back something that is owed or compensating for injury or loss.
In criminal cases, restitution is typically added onto the fines that are handed down, and also any prison sentence given to the defendant.
Contact Jacqui Ford today
Are you or someone you love accused of embezzling? Your first step is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney like Jacqui Ford. Our firm has successfully defended clients in a number of different money-related matters, including embezzlement. In each case, we apply diligent investigation practices and build a case that allows us to challenge the prosecution at every step of the way – many times preventing the case from ever reaching court. Contact Jacqueline Ford’s office today for help.
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B: Good. Well we have been in white-collar crimes over the past four podcasts. Four editions. A few podcasts ago we also talked to Jack Dempsey on federal white-collar crimes. Right? Anyway, I just wanted to give him a shout out. If we could, let’s talk about federal white-collar crimes. Correct?
J: Right. So, there are a great many differences between federal and state prosecutions which an Oklahoma federal white-collar defense lawyer could dwell upon for hours and hours. But, we’ll just take a few items and discuss how you find yourself in federal court, versus state court.
J: All right? Everyone’s heard the old saying “a pen is mightier than a sword.” You give some thought to that, and we understand why that might be. In Oklahoma federal white-collar defense “world”, we like to say, “You can steal more with a pen, than you can with a gun.”
J: Basically, what that means is white-collar theft is oftentimes much greater in values than even a bank robbery.
J: It’s usually taking place over a long period of time, and the values the money at that rate are much much higher. Right? So, when you use the term “white-collar crime”. Everybody thinks like hot checks, bonus checks, and bounced checks. But white-collar crime comes in a number of different forms in federal court. You talk about embezzlement fraud, Ponzi schemes – both public and private, check-kiting schemes, tax evasion, you know, false and fraudulent claims filing for Medicare fraud or Social Security fraud, workers’ compensation fraud, filing false claims with any one of these agencies could really get us in some pretty serious federal trouble.
The first and most important difference, I think, between how you find yourself in state versus federal court is jurisdictional. Right?
J: Who has jurisdiction to prosecute you? And jurisdiction isn’t something we’ve really talked about, but the crime has to be committed against the federal government, for the federal government to maintain jurisdiction over it. In most cases, you know, you think about, “Well, every hot check would be federal because every check is backed by FDIC, thereby giving rise to federal jurisdiction.” That is true, however, the federal government is a lot more cognizant of the use of their time and resources in prosecuting cases, and they’ll almost always leave hot checks and bogus checks to local authorities. Unless, we find that it’s big scheme that’s been going on, and we’re talking about large sums of money that have been written. Then, most of the time, they leave the smaller-scale violations to local government.
The exception is when you have an aggravated identity theft. Or, an organized group conducting the fraudulent transactions involving many different banks, and oftentimes, over state lines. So, you think of the big money scheme, and the federal government is going to jump in.
The theft of money from an FDIC-licensed bank, which is basically every bank that you and I might find ourselves in in today’s world. So, if a bank teller steals money, from an FDIC-licensed bank, you better expect a swift reaction from the Secret Service, or the FBI. Because this is, in fact, a federal crime, and it carries virtually exclusive jurisdiction by the federal government. Most importantly, banks must report the theft to the appropriate law-enforcement agencies. It’s part of their agreement in being insured, is that they are mandatory reporters. Regardless of the fact, whether or not the money was paid back in full, and the employee was terminated, they still have to report upon themselves.
The mandatory reporting for fraudulent activity is very vast. For Medicare-Medicaid, Social Security, U.S. Postal Service, any military organization, all of these places are governed by the federal government. So, a federal court would maintain jurisdiction. Jurisdiction just is simply, many lawyers don’t even know you can have federal DUI. You can have a federal DUI if you’re arrested by federal agent who is patrolling federally enforced land. Many of our lakes here in Oklahoma, could find ourselves with federal jurisdiction. It doesn’t happen often, but, it in fact happens.
So, it’s safe to say, that federal law-enforcement prosecutors, more often than not, would decline to file on questionable jurisdiction. If it’s hard to prove that they even have a right to prosecute, they’re probably not go to that trouble. They’re going to leave it to state agencies.
The second difference between state and federal white-collar defense is the treatment of the individuals were convicted. Right? If you’re convicted in Oklahoma of a federal white-collar crime your punishment will be governed by the United States sentencing guidelines that were passed by Congress in 1984. Basically, the purpose of the uniform guidelines was to achieve uniform sentences for individuals convicted of federal crimes. Congress felt that there was a massive disparity between the sentences across United States, and between different Circuits, and they attempted to create a uniform sentencing regime. Why is that important? Because the United States sentencing guidelines are going to directly affect how much time you’re sentenced to, and those matters are going to be directly affected by how much money you take.
So, it’s a table, and you go down the list, and then you go across to how much money, and it’s going to give you a range of punishment. The United States sentencing guidelines created this schedule of losses based upon a dollar amount that was assigned an enhanced point amount to increase your sentencing range. So, that’s anywhere from zero to $250 million. Okay? And, is always the case when you deal with schedules and charts, they’re subject to interpretation by the court. So, for example, an individual convicted of stealing credit cards, and using those credit cards up to the amount of $5000. Well, they’ve only taken $5000. So, many would argue that their punishment should be in the zero to $5000 range. In this example the District Court instead, added the credit limit to the credit card, and the credit card had a credit limit of $50,000. Therefore, there was a potential loss of $50,000, and by actually taking that credit card the defendant deprived the lawful credit card user the use of that line of credit. And the judge increased the total loss from $5000 to $50,000 – greatly affecting the sentencing of that individual. In that case, the Appellate Court agreed and said that that was appropriate.
Further, under federal law, you’ll have an aggravated identity theft which generally involves the actual stealing of another person’s identity. It carries a minimum mandatory sentence of two years, which would be run consecutive, which means on top of, in addition to, be run consecutive to the regular sentence of the person might receive. Congress again is letting us know that it feels that identity theft. stealing someone’s identity, should be punished harsher than just regular theft or regular credit card. So, me stealing your credit card out of your wallet is not going to have the same punishment as me taking the numbers from that credit card, and having a new credit card with my name and my address put on it.
And you can kind of understand the idea behind that. Especially in today’s technological world where everything is done electronically, it’s become increasingly easy to steal people’s identities. The system established by the United States sentencing guidelines leaves very little room for probation on white-collar crimes. If you have taken enough to ring the bell for federal court jurisdiction, then there’s a strong likelihood that you’ve taken enough that probation isn’t going to be something they’re inclined to give you. It is not out of the range of possibilities. Even though we have our sentencing guidelines, they are not mandatory. They are advisory only. And, if we do the right things, you find yourself in an Oklahoma federal white-collar defense lawyer’s office early, we can work around some the requirements that we know the judges are going to have. And we can put you in a position to where we can at least make a good-faith argument for probation.
And I’ve been successful in doing that in white-collar crimes were nobody believed my clients would not serve a day in prison. And based upon the work that we did, and it was a lot of work. And it was long periods. My very first ever white-collar embezzler walked out of the courtroom with me a free person, and was simply placed on probation. It’s important that you find someone who knows what they’re doing. And the sad thing is, in Oklahoma, we’re not allowed to specialize. So, anybody can claim to be an Oklahoma federal white-collar defense lawyer, but they’re not. And why that’s important is because assuming you don’t get the benefit of that probation, if you’re serving federal time, you’re serving 85% of that time. There’s no “good-time” credit in federal court. There’s no parole in federal court. You discharge the sentence that you’re given. So, basically, you if the federal government’s after you for any type of white-collar crime, you have to obtain the services of an experienced Oklahoma federal white-collar defense lawyer.
B: All right. Anything else on that?
J: I don’t think so.
B: You’ve been listening to Your Best Defense podcast. Join us for our next edition.
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Brad Post, Host, Create the Movement: Welcome to Your Best Defense podcast. We are speaking to Oklahoma City embezzlement defense lawyer Jacqui Ford. Jacqui, how are you doing today?
Jacqui Ford, Oklahoma City Criminal Defense Attorney: I’m doing great Brad. Thank you.
B: Good! We are in a series on white-collar crimes. We’ve talked about larceny, we’ve talked about fraud, and now we’re going to be talking about embezzlement. So what are some things that the listening audience should know about embezzlement?
J: All right. Embezzlement is kind of one of those fun white-collar crimes. It’s generally not the kind of person that you might expect it to be. Oklahoma law defines embezzlement as, the fraudulent appropriation of property, of any person or legal entity, legally obtained, to any use or purpose not intended or authorized by its owner. What does that mean?
B: What does that mean?
J: Basically, what it means is you’ve been entrusted with someone’s funds, and that you have some fiduciary duty to them to use those funds in a manner in which they were intended. So, that might be that, you know, you’re the CFO of an organization. It might mean that you have check writing authority for a nonprofit agency. But, basically embezzlement means that you have legal authority to use those funds, but you’ve used them outside of your scope of authority. You used them for manner, or in a manner, that was not approved or appropriate.
So, it’s a misappropriation of funds. It’s not stealing of your own money, obviously. But money that you’ve been entrusted to. Oftentimes, you would find that the money would be held in trust for another person, maybe, or for an agency. The idea, basically, is that you’ve got access to this money, and that you’re using it, oftentimes, for your own personal gain.
J: Different from larceny – which means you didn’t have the right to have it in the first place. Different than fraud. Fraud – meaning that you were deceiving somebody, in some way, to get access to that money. Now, we haven’t taken that which didn’t belong to us. We haven’t use fraud to have access to it. We’re actually legally entitled to use and distribution of that money in some way, and we’re using it outside of what we’ve been authorized to do it.
Oftentimes, embezzlement cases, much like a number of our white-collar crimes, come from a place other than malice intent. Right? Unlike fraud, that requires purposeful meaningful deception, embezzlement, more often than not, is an otherwise good person engaged in activity that seems on its face not necessarily that offensive, usually with good intentions. If we’re guilty of the allegations, oftentimes, what we’re doing is taking the money with the intent to put it back. And, either the problems snowballed out of control, and we couldn’t ever get the money back. Or, we got caught prior to putting the money back, or something to that effect.
What can we do? You know? If you’re rightfully accused of embezzlement, the first thing you need to do is get in contact with an Oklahoma City embezzlement defense lawyer. Reaching an Oklahoma City embezzlement defense lawyer early does two things for you. It allows us to hopefully step in early in the investigation, and either cut the investigation off, or start facilitating and working along with law enforcement, so that we can ultimately come to a positive resolution.
So, as your lawyer, there are a number of things that I can do on a pre-filing basis. I can interject myself, because everything you say all the people are investigating can be used against you. Oftentimes, people get confused about what their rights are. If you’re accused of taking money from your employer, and your employer calls you into his office and start asking you questions. One, he’s not law-enforcement. He is not an arm of the government. And you have no rights to Miranda. Okay? So, people say, “They didn’t even read me my rights!” Well, they don’t have to. All right? What they have to do is best meet their shareholders’ needs, and that’s their ultimate goal.
And you don’t have any of the Constitutional protections that we think of. If you hire an Oklahoma City embezzlement defense lawyer early, that’s one of the things that I do. I can sit down with your employer and either negotiate your exiting the company. I can help negotiate some sort of “mending of the fences” probationary period moving forward.
Or, we can do whatever we have to do to prove up our innocence. Which is oftentimes, what we do too. Just because you’re accused of it, doesn’t mean you’re guilty of it. Right? So, how we handle it, is going to be determined based upon whether we’re factually guilty or not. And if we are factually guilty, that’s okay. That’s not the end of the day, either. The first thing we need to do is see what we can do to replenish the funds. Whether the money was taken from a checking account of a corporation or a nonprofit. At the end of the day, public policy insists that we make the victims whole. I want the victims made whole. The government is going to want the victims made whole. And most likely my clients, by the time they find themselves in this position, ultimately want them made whole anyway, because it wasn’t from a malicious, dark, deviant place.
And that’s one of the things I think people sometimes misjudge. You know? The kind of person who is charged with embezzlement isn’t the kind of regular criminal we think of. We’ve already established that their entrusted by somebody to being in charge of money that isn’t theirs. There is a level of trust that exists. This person is working within their community, hopefully for the betterment of the community. And when you violate that trust, the reputation sting is really bad. The guilt, the shame, and the embarrassment.
So, when you contact an Oklahoma City embezzlement lawyer early, not only do I get to help you with your employer, I can also help you mend those relationships within the community. If this is a high profile thing, we can sometimes shape that story a little bit differently than law enforcement might shape that story. We can sit down with your friends and family, and explain how we find ourselves here.
Every single one of these cases that I’ve had where my clients were factually guilty, I’m going to tell you something, they never came from a place of evil or malice, or even entitlement. Also, it almost always comes from a good place and good intentions that just spiraled out of control. When you know you’ve done something wrong, and you’ve been caught, and you’re feeling that shame, and that embarrassment, and that humiliation to your reputation, it’s hard to defend yourself.
J: Number one, you think my excuses don’t matter. Nobody is going to understand. And excuses probably don’t matter. An explanation of how we find ourselves here does. An explanation of how the family, together, is going to move through the public humiliation, the criminal justice system, and hopefully come out whole again, on the back-end, is something that we can help facilitate too.
So, we’ve got embezzlement at all kinds of levels – at the state level and the federal level. And one of the things that is important for people to realize the value of the money that is taken is going to directly affect the punishment assessed. Much like with larceny, anything under $500 was petty larceny. Anything over is grand larceny. With embezzlement the money value is important too. Greater than $500 but less than $1000, is going to be one set of punishment. Greater than $1000-$25,000 is another set of punishment, up to five years. $25,000, or more, carries up to 10 years in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
So, the value of money that’s taken is directly related to the punishment. Certainly your role, if you are a public officer or legislator, that holds an even greater level of trust within the community, your range of punishment is going to be even greater. It’s going to be up to 20 years.
A lot of times we’ll see people charged with embezzlement when they’re the trustee of an estate.
J: You know? If you’re the trustee of an estate, and you’re embezzling from an estate, you’d better bet you’ll lose your share of that estate. And any fiduciary obligations that you have are going to be removed from you as well.
So, there’s a lot of things to think about with embezzlement charges. But one of the most important I think, is figuring out how we find ourselves here. If a good person, who is not engaged in otherwise bad things, is doing this kind of crime, something’s going on. There’s a strong likelihood that we can identify the underlying issue being one of the following three things: 1) a drug and alcohol abuse issue, 2) a gambling issue is oftentimes an underlying concern of people charged with embezzlement. And if it’s not one of those two things, I can promise you their personal life is in absolute disarray.
Embezzlement, and crimes like this, are crimes of desperation. It’s either trying to keep up with the Joneses, maintain a lifestyle that you had prior to your divorce, being able to present yourself to be worthy of those to who you owe this duty to. You know? And so people are trying to, without being flippant, keep up with the Joneses. Right? Keep up appearances so that people don’t recognize that maybe you aren’t smart enough to be in this position. You know? And it rarely has to do with that. Those are our own self-perceived things that we think people think about. And if those things are going on with you, those are very normal things. You know? People don’t ever come into my office because they’re having a great day. They come into my office because they’re either accused of something horrible, or they’ve done something horrible. And they want help coming out on the other side of it.
And we can do that. Identifying the underlying issue is just one of the things that we do. And then getting you to a place that can help facilitate that treatment. If it’s gambling, we need to get you to gamblers anonymous. There’s counselors and psychiatrists that really specialize in people with gambling addictions. They’re different than people with other kinds of substance abuse addictions. I’m not going to send a gambling addict to a drug and alcohol counselor. I’m not going to send an alcohol addict to gambling counselor.
B: Right. Right.
J: You know? If it comes down to the overall personal life is in disarray, then there are people that can help us fix that, too. You know? And these are slow processes. But certainly, if you are accused of embezzlement, and you’ve engaged in activity that makes you factually guilty, one the first things we’re going to have do is start coming up the money to make them whole. Make them whole, and make you whole. That’s my ultimate goal at the end of it. We can avoid jail time. I mean, that’s “cake”. Right? But it’s one of those myths that people think white-collar crimes don’t include jail time. Just pony up the money, and everybody goes home. I think Martha Stewart would strongly disagree.
J: When we start thinking about some our high profile people, and people will go to prison for white-collar crimes every day. So, don’t be fooled by believing that that’s not going to happen. You know? If you’re stealing money from an FDIC-insured bank, you better bet that they’re going to report you. They are mandatory reporters. There’s nothing I can do in negotiating with them to get them to not report. But, there’s a lot that I can do to limit the damage once they do report.
J: So, the biggest thing is don’t let the guilt, and the shame, and the embarrassment hold you back. The sooner you reach out to an Oklahoma embezzlement defense attorney, the better off you are.
B: Good. We’ve been in the series of white-collar crimes. We talked about the overview of white-collar crimes. We talked about larceny. And now, we’re going to be talking about fraud. There’s many different areas of fraud, but can we just cover a few of those in this podcast today?
J: Sure. So, when I think about fraud, and making it different than other white-collar crimes. When you think about someone engaging in deceptive practices. This is not an action of omission. This is an active act of deception. So, they’re going to be pretending to be somebody they’re not, or pretending to have something that they don’t have.
The easy one to talk about his forgery. Right? Signing someone else’s check, fraudulently claiming that you are that person and you have that authority to do it. That’s forgery. That’s a felony, that is fraudulent in nature. What we see even more now, is because of our technological advances and all the social media and everything buys online, what we see a lot of now is identity theft – self impersonation. People are impersonating you, using your identifiers, or you know, you’re using someone else’s identifiers as is being them. You’re presenting yourself in some way, deceptively, to another party, in order to gain something. It’s only a crime if you’re gaining something using someone else’s identity that you’re not entitled to. Does that make sense? At a real basic level, we joked about this ahead of time, I had fake IDs when I was growing up.
B: Yup, I did too.
J: At one point, I used my girlfriend’s ID that was an actual real ID. It had her name and her identifiers on it, but as I presented that ID, even though I didn’t fraudulently make a driver’s license, I was committing fraud on the person who is I was presenting it too. I was impersonating my friend.
It happens the other way, right? If I put my own picture on it, and we’ve changed some information, I’ve engaged in a deceptive practice – putting information that does not belong to me, and I’ve made a fraudulent identification card.
So, when we think about differentiating white-collar crimes, any active deception is going to sound in fraud. And there are lots of fraud statutes in the state of Oklahoma. I mean, it could be from anything. There’s crime under section 1531 that says you can’t impersonate another person for the purposes of getting married. Now, why we would ever do that? I’m not real sure. But, if your name is Tom Smith and your name is really Bill Johnson, and you want to go by Tom Smith, because Bill Johnson has this record. And you meet a be autiful lady, and you’ve identified yourself as this person. Oftentimes, there is big fat story behind it. That is a fraudulent act. You’re actively deceiving the person you’re engaged in business with.
Where we see other kinds of fraud are pawn shops. You know? People go into a pawnshop, and let’s say I just got this watch for Christmas. If I were to go in today and pawn this watch, the pawn guy is going to ask me if I owned it for six months or not. And if I say I’ve owned it for six months. That’s not a truthful statement, and what I’m doing is engaging in fraudulent statement to obtain goods or services back from the pawnshop guy. That’s a felony. Lying to a pawnshop guy is a felony in the state of Oklahoma. You cannot be untruthful to them. They have to rely upon you when they’re receiving your merchandise to know that it’s not “hot”, or stolen. So, even lying to what I like to call a “licensed-knowingly-concealing-stolen-property vendor” is a crime. Even though, he can possess all those things, lying to him is not okay.
With prescription drugs, and a lot of people are facing strong addictions to prescription drugs, so what we see a lot of is obtaining prescriptions by fraud. It happens in a lot of different ways. Sometimes, people steal a prescription book and fraudulently hold themselves out to be the doctor. Sometimes, we go in and use somebody else’s name, because we know we’re all the system. And I can’t get any more pain pills, and this pain-management system is going to know that. So, I go in and I use my sister’s name to fraudulently obtain CDS. Obtaining CDS by fraud. Also a felony in the state of Oklahoma.
Representing yourself to be someone else in order to gain some financial benefit, or even if it’s not a financial benefit or a good, it might be a reputation. Holding yourself out to gain something that you would not otherwise be entitled to is going to be fraud.
J: In the state of Oklahoma you can almost bet your tail it’s going to be a felony. There are a couple of fraudulent charges that might give rise to a misdemeanor, but almost all of them are felony in nature. Because I think the legislature recognizes different than writing a hot check or bogus check, which would sound more like larceny. Right? Taking of something without the monies, but actively deceiving the person. And that’s what kind of amps it up. It amps it up in the minds of the legislature, the judges, and our prosecutors. And unfortunately, if it amps it up in their mind, you can bet it gets amped up in the minds of the jurors as well.
I have said this before. I can justify a lot of criminal activity. I have interviewed a lot folks. I know people who understand and can comprehend why somebody might commit murder. They do not, however, understand and comprehend why someone would steal from somebody that which is not rightfully theirs. People have a very very strong taste in their mouth for a thief. Fraud charges carry with them that kind of icky-ness. You know? People are looking at you different. We have to figure out why. Why are we engaged in this activity?
So, one of two things has happened. Either we’re factually guilty of some sort of fraudulent activity. Even if it’s not as bad as what they say it is. But we’ve presented information to someone with an intention to receive benefit that isn’t completely true. So, maybe it’s not that you’re pretending to be somebody else, or pretending to have money that you don’t have.
A lot of times what we see, a big thing in Oklahoma, is workers’ compensation fraud. Someone who claims to have been injured on the job, and they’re going through a workers’ comp. proceeding. They say they can’t work. Their doctors are saying they’re not released to work. And these companies spend an exorbitant amount of money to investigate you. I f you have a workers’ comp. claim I can guarantee you somewhere, somebody is out following you around, on someday, to see if you’re at the baseball fields with your kids, swinging that shoulder that you can’t use. You know? People are going out to look to see. So, in that vein, you’re not holding yourself out of somebody that you’re not. And you’re not receiving something that isn’t yours because the workers’ comp. benefits would come to you. But if you‘ve submitted fraudulent claims – then that’s fraud as well.
We see it with Medicare-Medicaid fraud. A lot of times what I see there is nurses or doctors or even administrative levels of small agencies that are charged with taking care of people. Oftentimes we see it hospice situations or nursing home situations where there’s not a lot of oversight. You’re submitting bills to Medicare or Medicaid to be paid for services of been rendered, and then they find out those services, in fact, were not rendered. Or, their services weren’t necessary for the treatment of the individual. We have entire sections of our prosecuting agencies in the state of Oklahoma designed to do that. At the attorney general’s office, at the federal level, and at the state level – people who are geared up for no other reason than to investigate and convict for Medicare and Medicaid fraud. Investigate and convict for workers’ comp. fraud.
So, everything from passing a two-dollar check, to as big of a scheme as you can imagine of identity theft, submitting credit cards, printing bad cards, printing new checks. You know? Other forms of fraud are printing counterfeit money. You might be surprised; we still see that today. People engage in that kind of activity, and the government comes after them pretty fiercely. Those are all things sounding in fraud, and almost all of them carry jail time.
A lot of our fraud charges carry no minimum punishment. Which means that if we’re to go to jury trial, and there’s no minimum punishment up to five years, that the jury could convict, not send you to prison, but just give you a fine. So, oftentimes, statutes have a combination option – prison, fine, or both.
If you’ve received some monetary value, you can almost guarantee that any kind of plea or disposition from the court, is going to require making the victim whole. If you’ve stolen John Smith’s identity, and John Smith is out $45,000 because of it, part of your plea agreement or sentence after jury conviction is going to be make John Smith whole that $45,000. If you’ve defrauded Medicare, even though Medicare isn’t a person so to speak, they’re not a victim. That is a fund that is going to be expected to be replenished. So, part of any disposition in state or federal court on a Medicare-Medicaid fraud case is going to include reimbursement of funds that were taken fraudulently.
One of the things we haven’t talked about on any of the podcasts, and shame on me, but since we’re talking about it now, if you find yourself, especially in federal court, with some sort of fraud claim, you can almost guarantee there’s going to be a civil asset forfeiture attached to it. So, if you’ve taken a significant amount of money, and you’re incapable of being able to pay that money back, the government is going to ask the court to attach your personal assets. Especially, if they can show that those personal assets were gained as a result of your fraudulent activity. And they’re going to come in and try to seize those assets. Maybe it’s your home. Or your car. Or your airplane. Or your boat. Or whatever it might be, they’re going to attempt to seize that. Sometimes, I’ve see seizures on real property, as well as on personal property.
But these are the things that you want to think about as you either decide whether or not to engage in it. Or, realize that you purposefully or negligently engaged in fraudulent activity. These are the things you think about. You want to get with an Oklahoma City fraud defense lawyer early, and you want to start getting their advice so that you can start moving forward. Part of the process is always going to be making whole victims of those crimes. That can take a lot of time if we’re talking about large quantities of money. An Oklahoma City fraud defense lawyer can negotiate that time for you a whole lot better than someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. You’ve got to be able to put enough time between the incident, the charging, and the disposition of your case, for you to be able to show the court why it’s better for you to not go to prison, and to stay out on the streets.
Brad Post, Host, Create the Movement: Welcome to Your Best Defense podcast. We are speaking to Oklahoma City larceny defense attorney Jacqui Ford. Jacqui, how are you doing?
Jacqui Ford, Oklahoma City Criminal Defense Attorney: I’m doing great Brad! Thanks.
B: In the last podcast we talked about an overview of white-collar crimes. Today, we’re going to speak specifically on larceny.
J: Very good.
B: So, how would you define larceny, first of all?
J: Well, larceny is the taking of personal property, accomplished by fraud or stealth, and with the intent to deprive another thereof. Who talks like that Brad Post?
B: I don’t know.
J: Our Oklahoma legislature talks like that. And that’s how larceny is defined in Title 21. It’s a very vague statute. Before we did this podcast, I just did a quick count, and I counted 20 separate larceny statutes in Oklahoma.
J: Our laws have been on the books for a long time. You’ve got some really kind of specific larceny statutes, but in general, larceny is the taking of something, of personal property, that doesn’t belong to you. It can be anything from petty larceny. Which you and I might think of shoplifting, right?
J: So, you go into the store, and you take something out of the store without paying for it, and for so long that that thing did not have a value greater than $500, that is simply petty larceny. Petty larceny is a misdemeanor in the state of Oklahoma. Carries up to a year in the Oklahoma County jail, plus restitution and fines. Right?
So, all of the levels of embezzlement charges are going to include jail time, as well as possible fines. And in almost every case, if you are in fact got away with something, that the person was not able to recover, you’re going to have to pay restitution. And restitution is just making whole the victim who was taken from. So, if you stole $500, you pay back $500. If what you took had a value of $37.50, part of any plea negotiations is going to be paying that person back the $37.50. Or, the cost of fixing whatever you destroyed. You know? That’s what restitution is.
Larceny can be anything. It can be anything from taking a package of lip gloss from the Walgreens, all the way up to taking vehicles. You know? We’ve got grand larceny. And in Oklahoma, grand larceny is going to be the taking of anything that is valued at $500 or more.
The petty larceny is 500 or under. Grand larceny is 500 or over. That carries up to five years in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, up to a $5000 fine, and restitution, if it’s so ordered.
B: Grand larceny?
J: Grand larceny. So, you know, people, and we’ve talked about this in the past, think of white-collar crimes as not being that big of a deal. And we just pay the money back. Not in Oklahoma. They take these crimes very seriously. They’re going to include jail time. And it’s important for people to understand that. You know? Besides taking of money and a possible little personal items, we can take all kinds of things.
We’ve got larceny of an automobile. A lot of people call it grand theft auto. Okay? So, grand theft auto in Oklahoma is larceny of an automobile. It carries up to 20 years in the Department of Corrections. People don’t know that. Right?
We have other specific statutes dealing with larceny. One of the big problems we have in Oklahoma, and if you have ever been a victim of this, you understand why it’s got its own statute – larceny of copper.
J: So, copper has this incredible value on the black market. You can sell copper back. One of the things that we have found is that thieves figured that out. And they would break into places, buildings, a lot of times air-conditioners. So, now people lock up their air-conditioning unit. And that’s to keep people from getting in and stripping the copper. The street value of copper is very high. The problem is, the copper, as it was being stripped, didn’t have any real value of its own so it was petty larceny all the time. Right? And the legislators said, “No more of this.” It’s got its own statute now. And it carries up to five years in prison. A year to five years in prison for stealing copper; or breaking in for the purposes of stealing copper. And that really has to do with the amount of damage that’s done to the equipment that the copper is stolen from.
J: And the court didn’t have the ability to order a person to replace the air-conditioning unit. They didn’t take the air-conditioning unit. So, now they’ve increased the punishment for that crime, and restitution is very serious. And we’ve got some judges here in Oklahoma County, and this is one of their least favorite crimes. They’re very open and honest about that. This is not something that you want on your record. It really is frowned upon because of the damage that stealing copper does.
We have charges in Oklahoma for larceny of dogs. Stealing a dog is different than stealing an iPad. It carries up to five years in prison, up to $5000 fine. We’ve got larceny of horses and cows, which we would understand. Carries up to 10 years. Different than horses and cows, we have our own specific statute for larceny of exotic livestock.
B: Exotic livestock?
J: Exotic livestock. Carries up to 10 years in the Department of Corrections, up to a $20,000 fine. So, the taking something of someone else’s is really incredibly frowned upon. So, many people think white-collar crimes aren’t that big of a deal. I don’t know many people who love a thief. Right? Something I’ve repeatedly said over and over and over again is, I can understand and justify pretty much every criminal action that you could put in front of me – almost without fail. Of course, there are some shockingly horrible ones that I would not want to be on the other side of that bet. But, nobody likes a thief.
J: And why is that important today on this podcast? Because it’s hard to put you in front of 12 members of the jury. Knowing that each one of those people have had something taken from them at some point.
J: I have never heard of a jury where the judge asked, “Have you ever been the victim of a crime?” And not every single one of the jurors didn’t raise their hands and say, “My house was broken into,” or “My car was broken into,” or, “I was pickpocketed,” or something to that effect. That’s problematic because the people who have been victims of these crimes remember 1) what a pain in the butt it was to get their life back in order, and 2) they’re going to be casting judgment.
So, might not feel like a big deal, but I would tell the listeners like I tell all my clients, my nieces, my nephews, and anybody who will listen if you’re not engaged in behavior that you could do in front of a jury, a judge, and the public, you probably ought not be doing it. Even though they’re misdemeanors, they are highly offensive kinds of misdemeanors.
And the stores, you know? The Walmarts, and the Walgreens, and the Targets, and all that, have big lobbying agencies, and they’ve gone to a lot of trouble to enhance the punishment of even shoplifting. You know? What’s the harm in taking a lip gloss from Walmart? Like Walmart’s going to miss that $1.96. Well, Walmart says we do miss that $1.96. And because of the cost of that, it increases in our cost of security, we have to hire new employees. It’s going to increase the cost of that $1.96 lip gloss. It’s now going to be $2.96.
So, as much as it doesn’t seem, on its face, when you talk about larceny, to be all that offensive, it’s really treated pretty harshly. And people need to think about, you know, their actions when we’re dealing with this.
We have larceny from a person which is different than robbery. We have larceny of a house. People ask how is larceny of a house different than burglary in first-degree? Well, if I have a party, and I invite you to my house, but I did not invite you to take my iPhone or my iPad or my computer, but you’re an invitee in my home, and someone take something out the house – that’s larceny from a house. That is a felony in the state of Oklahoma. And it’s going to be prosecuted heavily. Why? Same reason – nobody likes a thief. Couple on top of that the idea of “a man’s home is his castle” and our laws and our legislature allows us to defend our home and our castle in Oklahoma with lethal force. Then we have to think about that before we’re engaged in picking up something that doesn’t belong to you. Keep your sticky fingers to yourself.
What happens when we have clients who are charged with these things and they’re guilty? What can we do to help them? It’s always the thing I think about it. If my client comes in, and what if they can prove them guilty? What can we do to help them? Because just going in and pleading them is never something that the excites me.
J: Some of the things we do, is we can, if we’re stealing for need, we can put you in a place that can sustain those needs. There’s absolutely no reason that you should be taking food to feed your children. There are a lot of places in Oklahoma City. I can help direct you to those. Those are clearly mitigating circumstances that I can work with.
If it’s something other than that, then we have to find out what’s going on with you. If you’re guilty of this, and it wasn’t because of a necessity, then what the heck are we doing? Do we enjoy the rush? And the answer to that oftentimes is “yes”. A lot of times what I see with clients for shoplifting, and larceny charges, and larceny from a retailer charges, is just entitlement. You know? For whatever reason, I just didn’t want to pay for it, and I was just going to see what happened. And you see that a lot. They’ve got the money in their pocket. And prosecutors and judges and jurors always want that question asked. If you’ve got the money, then why? And if we can’t answer that question. If you were incapable of answering that question for me at our first setting, then part of my job is to help you figure out why. Maybe we need to get into some classes. Maybe we need to go to a counselor and did a little bit deeper.
Because I understand how it happens. It’s not a crime of the century. But, oftentimes, it’s treated that way. So, I need to be able to help identify what’s going on with you, so that 1) we don’t find ourselves in that position again, and 2) hopefully I can mitigate those circumstances for the judge. Right?
A lot of times I see teenagers, and, “My parents wouldn’t buy this for me, and all my friends had it.” They just don’t know how to deal with that kind of peer pressure. There are things we can do for that. You know? Even if it’s more than just a swift kick in the butt. But maybe some counseling. Maybe we talk to them about the differences between right and wrong. A lot of times what I find is my client’s lack parenting at home. You know? Nobody’s really taught them the morality behind it. There’s a lot of people that believe that taking from a company isn’t really “taking”. The law just flat disagrees with that. So, part of it is figuring out why we did it. And the next part is how do we make them whole again. Do we have the merchandise? Can we bring it back? If it’s something we took from a person, have we pawned that merchandise? Where did we pawn it? Can we help get it back?
A lot of it is redeeming ourselves. Not just by paying restitution, but by helping the person who is wronged become whole again. That’s a lot of what we do as well. And if we can get some of these issues resolved, there’s a strong likelihood we can help you avoid jail time, and hopefully even avoid a conviction
J: Just because you did it doesn’t mean you have to go to jail. And just because you’re guilty doesn’t mean you need to be convicted. There are lots and lots of other options out there, but for me to be able to help you’ve got to get in and talk to us. And the earlier in the process that you do it, the sooner you’re charged with larceny in Oklahoma City, the sooner you need to get yourself into an Oklahoma City larceny lawyer.
Jacqui Ford, Oklahoma City Criminal Defense Attorney: I’m doing great Brad. Thank you.
B: Good. We’re going to be talking an overview of white-collar crimes. What do most people think about when they think about white-collar crimes?
J: When I first think about white-collar crimes, the things that come to my mind are bogus checks, or shoplifting. Petty types of crimes. And before I was a lawyer, that is kind of what I associated white-collar crimes with. Money crimes. I think that everybody can agree that generally comes to mind. Some sort of wrongdoings with money.
In Oklahoma, we have a huge variety of white-collar crimes, and certainly bogus checks are one of them, and larceny, which simply means taking of property of another person, And there’s a huge variety of different levels of even larceny charges in Oklahoma. From petty larceny, all the way up to grand larceny and 1000 different varieties thereof.
White-collar crimes also include embezzlement charges. If you’re accused of taking monies that you had some fiduciary duty of protecting, or being in charge of. All kinds of different fraud. You know? Forgery, obtaining money by false pretenses, signing documents with someone else’s name.
In today’s environment, in 2016, some of the biggest white-collar crimes we see now are true identity thefts. Different than identity theft 20 years ago. You know? And now we see it a lot more often. So, anything having to do with personal information, and obtaining, oftentimes, money, services, or goods with someone’s personal information.
So, when we think about white-collar crimes we tend to think of them being “victimless” – in the sense that there is not physical harm happening to someone. But, most definitely, there there’s almost always a victim of some kind. Whether it be shareholders of the corporation you have a duty to, the person whose identity has been stolen, the checking account that has been used.
A lot of times in federal practice, and we’ll talk more about federal court later, what we see is taking of monies that may belong to the government. We see a lot of Medicare fraud. You know? You’re providing services, and you’re billing the government. Maybe you’re billing them for services that aren’t being rendered. And we see that both at the state and the federal level. So, anything that has to do with finances and personal-identifying things should trigger to someone that we’re talking about a white-collar crime.
The confusing nature of white-collar crime is a lot of people think, “It’s just money. It’s no big deal.”
You know? Especially if it’s just an overall small sum of money. You know?
We see white-collar crimes in tax cases. Certainly, not a crime to try to avoid paying taxes, but doing it in a fraudulent manner against the government gives rise to some major problems. So, a lot of times, the victim in the sense that we think of victims, that might be “victimless”, but usually there’s someone there. Someone has been wronged. Otherwise, taking the money isn’t a crime. Right?
One of the fun things about white-collar crime, oftentimes, is it’s not the kind of person that you or I might think of that would engage in criminal activity. The clichéd image of what a criminal looks like. You know? Oftentimes, our white-collar crimes generally don’t come from poverty-stricken neighborhoods, and the poor and the uneducated. A lot more often, actually, what we see in white-collar crimes is your neighbor next door. A middle-class or upper-middle-class individuals, oftentimes they’re employed. They’ve got good jobs. They’re just a regular old “Joe”. And so, it’s not a crime that you can kind of look at, and say, “Oh! I bet that person’s a white-collar criminal.” It’s the people that you wouldn’t contemplate really being engaged in that kind of activity. And, because we don’t think of those people criminals in nature, oftentimes I think people failed to recognize the consequences of white-collar crimes. Because, it’s not what we think of when we think of criminal, we think that the punishment is probably much less. That is a mistake.
J: White-collar crimes are vigorously punished in the state of Oklahoma. And there are divisions within our prosecuting agencies at the district-attorney level, at the state attorney general’s office they have divisions that are fully dedicated to prosecuting white-collar crimes, and those prosecutors take this job of theirs very very seriously. And to them, it’s rather offensive for you say something like, “It’s just money. What’s the big deal?” Our legislatures made it very clear that white-collar crimes will be prosecuted, and they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Meaning that is not “no big deal”. There is, oftentimes, jail time that is included, almost always if there’s a proven amount of money that’s been taken. Restitution is going to be a part of any disposition of the case.
So, the kind of idea that it’s not that big of a deal, I understand why people may misinterpret that, but is important to know the court system takes it very seriously. And the prosecutors take it very seriously. And this idea that it’s just money, “no harm, no foul”, flies in the face of the white-collar practice. If you, in fact, are guilty of one of these things, there has been a trust that’s been violated – a fiduciary duty of some kind. Whether it be that you are supposed to be taking care of grandma, and you’re writing grandma’s check to pay her bills, and every now and then you’re slipping yourself a nice check, or using her checks to pay your bills. You know? Is grandma suffering? Maybe. Maybe not. It doesn’t make the crime any less offensive. I think there are a lot of folks that would think that that is maybe even more offensive than just stealing from Walmart.
B: Right, right.
J: And the prosecutors are well-trained in that. When you find yourself in front of a judge or jury, the judgment that’s going to be assessed against you is not come from a place that “it’s no big deal”. It comes from the fact that a trust relationship has been violated and someone feels betrayed. And this is a big big selling point to juries and it’s a big incentive for prosecutors to move forward to make an example out of folks. A lot of times what I hear is if we just give them a slap on the wrist, and let them pay the money back, there’s no deterrent factor. So, and their goal, and their job, is to deter future white-collar crimes, then they’re going to punish, and oftentimes that includes jail time.
B: Now, a lot of times with white-collar crimes, you see that there’s some underlying issue. It’s not just they stole money because they needed it, it’s usually…
J: Right. So with white-collar crimes, much like with every crime, we have two classifications of clients. Right? We have the clients who are clearly falsely accused, and have done absolutely nothing wrong. And we’ll talk about them separately, in a minute, if that’s okay?
If we’re dealing with someone who is being accused, or is being investigated, and in fact they did do something wrong, the best thing they need to, the first you need to do if you think that you’ve 1) committed a crime, or more importantly, 2) you’re being investigated for a crime – you need to contact someone who’s experienced. You need to contact an experienced Oklahoma white-collar crimes lawyer. There are a lot of things that we can do.
One of the first things that we do, is kind identify what the underlying issue is. Now, there is a big difference between going into Walmart and stealing bread to feed your family, or getting necessities to move on through life. Although, that is actually a crime, and it is still prosecuted, that’s a different thing than what we’re really talking about here today. What I find most often with my clients, who are charged either rightfully, or some semblance of rightfully, my clients who are factually guilty of taking money, oftentimes, what I find is it’s not based upon need. Usually, there’s an underlying issue. Whether that be a drug or alcohol addiction problem, where people would tap into a different source of funds to be able to feed that need. Where if they’ve tapped-out all their other resources. Or, oftentimes, what we find they have the money in the bank, but they can’t let their spouse see it coming out, and things like that. So they’re taking money from other places to fuel that addiction.
One of the other major things we see, especially here in Oklahoma, is people who are engaged in criminal activity like this probably have a gambling problem.
J: That’s one of the first questions I ask in intakes. Do we have an underlying drug and alcohol issue that needs to be addressed? And I don’t always ask about gambling except in white-collar cases. Every single white-collar intake, and throughout my relationships with my clients, we talk about the gambling issue. You know? It’s important because the government’s going to know. If they are investigating you for a white-collar crime one the first things they’re going to do, if we’re dealing with large sums of money, is go hit all the local casinos and find out if you have a player’s card. And those player’s cards, as fun as they are to receive the bonuses, and get put into the drawings, and get all the freebies that come along with it, they do something else. They track every penny you spend, and every penny that you gain as long as you’re using that card. The government likes to be able to produce those as an “Ah-ha! Look! They must have a gambling problem.” Just because you gamble, and you have embezzlement charge, doesn’t mean you have a gambling problem. A lot of times we see there might be a correlation. It’s not causation, but there’s a correlation.
J: Some of the other things I oftentimes see is something in these people’s lives has turned upside down. Their personal life tends to be in some sort of disarray. There’s a divorce. An affair. There’s a deep-seated child custody fight, and people are doing anything they can to be able to do fund themselves in fighting whatever that fight might be.
Oftentimes, it has nothing to do with need, it has to do with keeping up appearances. You know? You have two people who have worked together in their lifetime, and they’ve got dual incomes being put into the family coffers, and those incomes are split up, and you have a lifestyle that you’re used to. And, a lot of times what we see is somebody trying to maintain that lifestyle where they don’t have the ability to do it with their own money.
B: Right. Can we talk about the wrongfully accused?
J: Well sure. For the people who are not factually guilty, or wrongfully accused of these crimes what we find is that oftentimes they’re the scapegoat. Right? And so, part of our job would be to uncover the truth behind what’s going on. If the money has gone missing, and it wasn’t you who took it, then they’re pointing the finger at you for some reason. And it’s either they believe you took it, or they believe you failed in your duty of monitoring in some way. That you knew, or reasonably should have known, that the money was being misappropriated.
Oftentimes, what we’re seeing in those cases is the continued cover-up of a deeper seated corruption, on some level. Whether it be in a corporate board room, or some government agency, or something. It is not uncommon to be falsely accused of white-collar crimes. Oftentimes, people think, “It walks like a duck. It talks like a duck. It must be a duck.” And we defend people all the time who are charged with white-collar crimes here in Oklahoma, that are not factually guilty. But our job then becomes to prove their innocence, as opposed to the government proving their guilt. And so, what we see is they just drop tens of thousands of document on us. You know? Here’s all the gambling receipts. Here’s all the checks. And we can’t account for all checks. And there was this much money at the beginning of the year, and now all the money is gone. It looks like somebody’s embezzling. So, they charge embezzlement, and then part of our job is to come in the back door and try to prove up the lack of embezzlement. That becomes problematic because if you are involved in this, and you are being scapegoated, there’s a strong likelihood that the “powers that be” are destroying the evidence that’s going to exonerate you. And they’re all getting their facts and stories straight, so that they can CYA, cover their own butt, while letting you take the fall for everyone. Oftentimes, what we see is, it’s just negligent oversight. You know?
J: We’re dealing with different boards of directors, and corporations, and agencies that have people who are in charge. And if the whole oversight committee fails, somebody’s going to have to take the fall. And that person is going to be someone in some leadership position. You know? Maybe it’s the president. You know? Whoever it might be is going to be placed the finger on it. And that’s scary because it’s hard to defend a negative. It’s hard to prove something didn’t happen.
But that’s what we’re here for. We’ve got great investigators that do that too. We employ some of the best in the state to come and represent our clients in this way, and go out and dig deep for us. It’s not impossible. It feels impossible. It feels hopeless. But it’s not. You know? We just have to get in there and get our feet dirty. And the only way you can actively defend them appropriately is getting an experienced Oklahoma white-crimes lawyer. And that’s what we do here.
B: Can we talk a little about state versus federal? You mentioned it earlier.
J: Well, sure. There are state charges that sound in white-collar crime. You know? The prosecuting agencies generally receive funding, federal funding, to prosecute certain kinds of crimes. After 9/11 a lot of these agencies are funded through a Homeland Security kind of thing, where they get to have a nice greater power. But also with the funding that they receive their hands get tied a little bit too on what they can do.
On a state level, what you’re going to see most of, is either the petty larcenies, the bogus checks, you know, on the lower scale, larceny from a house and things like that. And we’ll talk some more about those in the future. But you can see it all the way up to a massive scale – Medicare fraud, Medicare-Medicaid fraud, workers’ comp. fraud, submitting a fraudulent insurance claim. The state attorney general’s office has an entire division dedicated to, nothing other than, Medicare-Medicaid fraud. And they investigate, and go through documents of all the major agencies that receive and participate in the Medicare-Medicaid process. And they go through and audit those accounts, and make sure that what the government is paying for is actual services that are being provided.
So, lots of money is funneled into the prosecuting agencies to be able to prosecute these cases. It’s important for people to understand that because it’s not just a “money crime” that’s no big deal. In Oklahoma, paying back the money in full isn’t even a defense. There’s a statute that clearly indicates you have to pay all the money, in full, to the agency prior to charges being filed, before a court can even considered that as mitigation. That’s rather unfortunate, right? And the idea, I think, from the legislature is we’re not going to give beneficial rights to the rich who steal.
J: Just because you can pay back, doesn’t take away the crime. However, a lot of what we do on a pre-filing basis is, if you come to my office and you’re being investigated for embezzlement or fraud or larceny, and there’s some factual truth to it, one of the first things we’re going to do is start collecting the money to pay them back. I don’t care if the statute says it’s not a defense or not. It goes a long way with the court, and with my ability to negotiate with the prosecuting agency some leniency for you if we can get that money paid back.
I find clients that they aren’t even technically guilty who pay the money back, to be able to limit their exposure, if you will. And they’ll pay money back through a settlement negotiation process when they’re not even guilty of something just to avoid the risk of going to trial. So there’s a lot that we can do. The sooner you get us in, the better off you’re going be.
B: What are some things you guys do that you can help with, as an experienced Oklahoma white-collar crimes lawyer?
J: One of the first things we do, my first encouragement to everybody, whether it’s a white-collar crime that you’re being accused of or anything else, is the sooner you know you’re in trouble, the sooner you need to get ahold of a criminal defense lawyer. Because we’re going to be able to explain to you. Some of the things that I’ve done in the past is, I’ve sat down with a client and their employer, and helped dissolve that relationship if necessary, or mend that relationship on some occasions. Replaced funds that have been taken. A lot of times it starts out as something small. You know? You’re behind on the bills, and you’re waiting for your ex-husband to pay child support and he hasn’t done this, and one of the kids gets sick, and sure enough your car blows up, and everything just spirals out of control. So, you’ve got an account over here that you’re in charge of, that nobody else ever really pays attention to. So you take a little bit of money out of it, fulling intending at the time you to do it, to replace that money The interest is not to wipe out somebody else’s bank account. Almost never, are white-collar crimes coming from a place of evil or malice. It’s almost always one bad decision that leads to the next bad decision, and the whole thing spirals out control like a snowball.
So, one of the things we can do to help, sit down with whoever’s accusing us and see if we can help make it right. To make them whole again. Sometimes that’s paying restitution. Sometimes it’s sorting out how we find ourselves here. And there’s a lot to be said for understanding how we find ourselves here. I oftentimes tell my clients the “why” doesn’t matter. And a lot of times it doesn’t. But for some people, why we find ourselves here is the difference between them coming after you aggressively and coming after you with leniency and mercy in their heart. You know?
So, we can sit down with your employer, negotiate your departure from the place, or your probationary period. We can sit down your family. One of things a lot of people don’t understand is the far-reaching consequences of these kinds of crimes. The accusations. The allocutions. The pleas. When we’re dealing with otherwise good folks who haven’t been living a life of crime, they probably haven’t burned every bridge in town. Their family doesn’t understand it either. And if you’re sitting in my office and you’ve got a $50,000 debt we owe to someone, and I’m saying we’ve got to pay this money back, that money is going to have to come from somewhere. And if I’m paying it back to the government or anybody else, it’s coming from a legitimate source. Where’s that going to come from? Your husband’s retirement account? I’ve seen client have to wipe out their children’s college fund. These are new betrayals on top of the betrayal of the crime. This is now taking from your loved ones to be able to save your own tail. That’s incredibly emotional. It’s scary. I’ve seen these cases lead to divorce. Unfortunately, we can help facilitate those matters, as well.
It’s important to not feel like you’re alone. And to be able to explain the situation, not only how we find ourselves here, but the future consequences to those around us so they understand it. You know? I understand why somebody doesn’t want to write you a check for $50,000 when you’re accused of embezzling a $100,000. Maybe they don’t want to give that money to you. They can come to me. They sit down with me. I explain to them that it goes into our attorney trust account, and we refund those funds, they can have a full documented accounting of it. And it gives reassurances to the people whose trusts have been violated. And that helps you to rebuild those relationships. None of those things are going to happen in one meeting. You know?
Some of the other things that we do is we’ll sit down with law enforcement. If it’s a case that we decide it’s in your best interest to cooperate and replace those funds. Sometimes, only with the advice of a lawyer, can you ever sit down with law-enforcement and give an interview. It’s not out of the real, of possibilities that we’ll sit down and do that for you as well.
Our ultimate goal in white-collar crimes, as with any crimes, is to help you walk of our services a happier healthier version of the person that walked into our services. And like I said, these are otherwise good people. They’re family people. They have jobs. They’re members of the community. They have a reputation. And unlike, you know, our meth addict who’s been doing this for seven years, has burned every bridge and doesn’t have the reputation, his family might have some frustrations and his consequences are great reaching too, its completely different.
Sometimes we need to get people into counseling. You know? I’m not a licensed counselor. I take that part of my role as a counselor and an attorney very seriously, but a lot of my job is to identify what I’m ill-equipped to do, and get you in the right hands of someone. If it’s a gambling problem, we need to get you in Gamblers Anonymous. There’s meetings. They’re psychiatrists that deal specifically with these issues. If it’s my whole family falling apart, and my husband’s left me, and I have this sordid affair, and my kids aren’t speaking to me, that’s well beyond any problems that I personally can deal with with you. I put you in the hands of a good licensed counselor that can help work on some of these issues. If it’s drugs and alcohol, we get you into the drug and alcohol treatment. If it’s just that you’re a knucklehead and you need to beaten a couple of times, I’m not opposed to taking on that.
B: Right. This is an overview of white-collar crimes. We’re going to have a few more podcasts on larceny, fraud, embezzlement. Is there anything we missed on the overview part of this podcast?
J: I don’t think so. I think that at the end of the day, it’s important for people to know that if you made a bad decision, if you are in fact, factually guilty of taking something that didn’t belong to you, that it’s not the end of the world. There is hope. The worst thing that you can do is to ignore it, or to walk around your head held low, and go hire a cheap lawyer make it go away. What you need do is hold your head high, and let us help you journey through these scary waters of the criminal justice system, and come out on the other side, like I said, hopefully a better version of yourself.
B: You’ve been listening to Oklahoma white-collar crimes lawyer Jacqui Ford in Your Best Defense podcast. Join us for the next edition.
J: Thank you Brad!
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