Federal crimes cross all economic, education and social barriers. As the internet expands business opportunities, it also expands opportunities for authorities to decide what constitutes a crime, often with no legal precedent. Many people who are charged with federal crimes aren’t even aware that they’ve broken the law. In addition, many people who are under investigation by the federal government don’t understand the seriousness of potential federal charges. It can be a serious mistake to even speak with a federal agent about a criminal matter without an experienced federal criminal lawyer by your side.
Scheiner Law Group, P.C. is a Houston federal criminal defense firm that has effectively represented many people in federal criminal cases throughout the state of Texas. Not all Houston federal criminal Lawyers have the experience in federal court. Our team of Houston federal criminal Lawyers has the experience you need to protect your rights in federal court. It’s your future. Trust it to the federal criminal defense team with a reputation for integrity, grit, and determination throughout the federal criminal justice system.
If you have been charged with a federal criminal offense, contact the federal criminal lawyers of Scheiner Law Group, P.C. We will put our passion for providing the best legal defense to work for you or your loved one. It is important to protect your legal rights and to have someone on your side that will orchestrate the best legal defense possible to ensure the best possible outcome no matter how serious the charges may be. Call and talk to one of our lawyers today.
Federal Crimes We Defend
Aircraft Hijacking The crime of Aircraft Hijacking also referred to as Air Piracy or Aircraft Piracy is the unlawful seizure of an aircraft by a group or individual where the aircraft is flown by either the hijackers or the pilot is forced to fly according to the orders of the hijackers. On September 13, 1994 death penalty provisions were established in Title 18 by Title VI of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act which makes any death during the commission or attempted commission of a hijacking a statutory aggravating factor. The death penalty shall not be recommended without the approval of the Attorney General.
Bank Robbery Federal laws against Bank Robbery prohibit the taking or attempted taking by intimidation, force or extortion, any money, property, or anything of value belonging to, in the custody, control, care, management or possession of any credit union, bank or savings and loan association. Also, anyone who enters or attempts to enter a building that is used as a savings and loan or bank association with the intent to commit any felony affecting the financial institution or any larceny is subject to a fine, twenty years imprisonment or both. The statutory minimum penalty for any violation of Section 2113 of the US Code of the Federal criminal bank robbery statute is ten years. If death results during the criminal episode, the statute provides for the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Computer Crimes The encompassing term Computer Crimes is something that includes a long list of offenses that simply involve a computer or the internet during the commission of these crimes. This is basically a new way to commit an old crime such as identity theft or embezzlement. Also, crimes such as cyberbullying or hate crimes are of special interest to the FBI, who prosecutes and maintains statistics on the proliferation of forms of civilian terrorism. Child pornographers and child molesters who prey on children have a vast network of internet use and the Department of Justice has a task force that targets these predators and harsher sentences may result from these crimes.
Conspiracy Charges Conspiracy charges may be alleged if two or more people conspire to commit an offense to orchestrate a plan to do something unlawful or harmful. A conspiracy does not need to have been planned in secret to meet the definition of the crime. In cases where the target of the conspirators is the United States Government statute 18 U.S.C. § 371 defines these acts as primarily cheating the Government out of property or money, but it also means to interfere with or obstruct one of its lawful governmental functions by deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest. Conspiracy to commit murder is perhaps one of the most serious forms of this crime. It is also an option for prosecutors when bringing conspiracy charges, to decline to indict all members of the conspiracy if they may be unknown or if the prosecution is concerned only with particular individuals among the conspirators.
Counterfeiting The charge of counterfeiting is defined as imitating something with the intent to take advantage of the superior value of the product or item being imitated. This is most commonly associated with American currency where counterfeit money is produced without the legal sanction of the government. This is also widely seen in the production of consumer goods like handbags, shoes, clothing, pharmaceuticals, watches, electronics, and movies. The perpetrators often use the original company logos and brands that have been trademarked. Laws against such activity include The Trademark Counterfeiting Act of 1984 and the Anticounterfeiting Consumer Protection Act of 1996. Extenuating circumstances include the deaths of many people as the result of automobile and aviation accidents and non-working drugs which contain the wrong compound.
Credit Card Fraud Credit card fraud includes the physical use of a stolen card or the use of compromised data to illegally obtain goods or services without paying or unauthorized funds from an account. This crime is generally associated with identity theft and costs merchants and banks billions of dollars annually. Other ways of acquiring a credit card through fraudulent means include skimming – getting private information about somebody else’s credit card used in an otherwise normal transaction, account takeover when criminals pose as a genuine customer and gain control of an account, and application fraud where stolen or fake documents are used to open an account in someone else’s name. Many of these situations are committed overseas and in 2014 the Department of Justice announced it will seek tougher laws to combat credit card trafficking.
Drug Possession or Distribution The laws that regulate Drug Possession and Intent to Distribute are seen under the Controlled Substances Act CSA which follows closely the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. These substances include narcotics, hallucinogens, stimulants, and depressants. The sentencing may vary based on the actual controlled substance that is involved as well as the prior criminal history of the accused. The Act categorizes controlled substances into five schedules based on their potential for abuse, statutes in international treaties and any medical benefits they may provide. The crime of possession with intent to distribute requires that the possession and the intent to distribute must occur at the same time. Under Federal Law Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute must meet three elements, possession, intent to distribute, and possession with the intent to distribute and is punishable by fines and imprisonment.
Embezzlement The law defines Embezzlement as the fraudulent appropriation of property by someone who has been entrusted with the property or into whose hands the property was legally acquired. This is often associated with employees or manager of funds who has taken these funds during the course of their job. It differs from Larceny it that the felonious intent must have existed at the time the property was taken. The Federal Law specified in 18 U.S.C. 666(a)(1)(A) states that the crime must establish there was a trust or fiduciary relationship between the defendant and the organization or government agency, the property came into the possession or care of the defendant as a result of employment, the defendant’s dealings with the property constituted a fraudulent conversion or appropriation of it to their own use and the defendant acted with the intent to deprive the owner of the use of this property. It should also be noted that intent to return the property still constitutes embezzlement.
False Statements The Federal law that outlines the specifics of False Statements can be seen under 18 U.S.C. 1001. In it, a False Statement may be written or oral, sworn or unsworn, voluntarily made in regard to information sought as or required by law, signed or unsigned. One instance includes knowingly making a false statement in response to an inquiry by an FBI or another Federal agent. Under Section 1014 of Title 18 cover the knowingly overstating the value of any property or security with the intent to influence in any way the enumerating agency or organization. One example is giving a false statement to a lending institution such as the FHA which is backed by Federal funds.
Federal Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) In 1970 the Organized Crime Control Act became law in the United States. Title IX was established to eliminate the infiltration of organized crime and racketeering into the legitimate operations and interstate commerce by organizations. This title is commonly referred to as RICO – Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations and is considered to be broad and includes any illegal activity that affects foreign or interstate commerce. Title 18 allows the Attorney General to designate any department or government agency to conduct an investigation authorized by RICO. In the cases of a violent crime under section 1959 which include murder, kidnapping, maiming, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault resulting in serious bodily injury or threatening to commit a crime of violence may be a violation of State and Federal law. Attempts to commit these crimes, as well as conspiracies, are also covered. The penalties for such crimes range from fines and three years imprisonment to fines and six years imprisonment with the exception of a case involving murder where the death penalty may be considered.
Federal Sex Trafficking Crimes One of the worst crimes infiltrating our society today the trafficking of people for various reasons that include forced labor and sexual acts. The law that criminalizes these sex acts is 18 U.S.C. subsection 1590 that states anyone who knowingly recruits, harbors, transports, provides or obtains by any means any person for labor or services is in violation of federal law and subject to fines and imprisonment of no more than 20 years. In the instances of kidnapping or aggravated sexual abuse the sentence may be much stiffer and can be fines and any number of years of imprisonment or both. Sex Trafficking of Children includes any sex act where something of value is given during the use of force, coercion or fraud involving someone under the age of 18 and is punishable by any term of years or life in prison. For cases where the victim is 14 to 18 the term of 40 years imprisonment may be given.
Felon in Possession of Firearm Federal law prohibits the possession of any firearm by someone convicted of a Felony. Under 18U.S.C. § 922 possession of an illegal firearm may be punishable by 10 years in prison and 15 years without parole if there are three or more prior convictions of the offender. Under § 924 specific charges may be made if the offender commits a violent crime or is engaged in drug trafficking. Sentences faced by violators may be increased significantly when firearms are used in the repeated gang-related activity if federally insured financial institutions or if commercial businesses engaged in interstate commerce are targeted. Here the offender could face twenty-five years imprisonment. In 1996 the Lautenberg Amendment to the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 bans the possession of firearms by anyone convicted of domestic violence even though it may be a misdemeanor. In cases that involve an assault weapon or a shotgun, ten years may be added to the sentence and thirty years may be added if silencers, automatic weapons or destructive devices are used.
Harboring Illegal Aliens The United States has defined this crime in Title 8, U.S.C. § 1324(a). It specifically prohibits alien smuggling, concealing or harboring unauthorized illegal aliens, domestic transportation of unauthorized aliens, engaging in a conspiracy or aiding and abetting any of the preceding acts and encouraging or inducing unauthorized aliens to enter the United States,. Subsection 1324(a)(2) prohibits bringing or attempting to bring unauthorized aliens to the US in any manner whatsoever, even at a designated port of entry into the US. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) OF 1996 prohibit the unlawful employment of at least 10 unauthorized aliens within a 12-month period. Penalties for violating Title 8 is a fine and a maximum prison term of 10 years or both. If the violation includes the death of a person by the offender may be the death penalty or any number of years imprisonment. Additional charges may be considered for anyone harboring aliens that are known criminals.
Health Care Fraud The problem of Health Care Fraud in the United States is a growing concern and costs taxpayers an enormous amount of money each year. For this reason, the Federal Government has paid special attention to the problem and in 1993 the Attorney General made this issue a top priority through focused investigations, increased resources and coordination between law enforcement agencies. Because large sums of money are often the incentive for offenders this crime can be prosecuted both criminally and civilly. The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General work through the Fraud and Abuse Program which is funded by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – HIPAA to combat the ongoing problem.
Identity Theft The crime of Identity Theft is very serious and can have adverse effects on the victim for many years as it may take some time to clear up all of the bogus accounts and charges made illegally in the victim’s name. The terms Identity Theft is also known as Identity Fraud and the main focus for the perpetrators is economic gain by using the victim’s personal data to open fraudulent accounts or access existing accounts. There are many ways that the data may be acquired and include shoulder surfing to get credit card and pin numbers to be used later. Also, the preapproved credit card letters that many of us get are often discarded but not destroyed can be used to open accounts as well. It is advisable to shred all documents with personal information. To combat this activity the Department of Justice passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act in 1998. In many cases, other specific laws are broken that pertain to mail, wire, computer, identification or financial institution fraud as these are often involved in the scheme. Each of these is considered a federal offense and carry up to 30 years imprisonment, fines and criminal forfeiture.
Illegal Reentry Under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) it is illegal to re-enter or attempt to reenter the United States after having been deported, denied admission, excluded or removed. The basic sentence is a maximum term of 2 years in prison, fines or both. Subsection 1326(b)(1) and (b)(2) relates to aliens that have been removed as a result of a criminal conviction which can have stiffer sentencing. In the cases where the removal was subsequent to three or more misdemeanors that involved crimes against another person, drugs or both or a felony the prison term may be as much as 1o years or as much as 20 years if the felony is aggravated.
Insurance Fraud The insurance industry faces many fraudulent claims in every sector of their business including health, auto, home and property where the insured attempts to gain some benefit that they are not entitled to. This usually happens when the insured makes false claims regarding the circumstances of an incident or overstates the value of something lost. The reverse is also an issue where the insurer knowingly denies benefits that are due to the insured party by denying a claim. In many cases, the insured stages accidents or intentionally destroys property which costs insurance companies billions of dollars a year. According to the FBI, the most common ways fraud is committed includes workers compensation, fee churning, premium diversion and asset diversion. Under section 1347 of Title 18 anyone convicted may be fined or imprisoned for 10 years or both and in cases where bodily injury results the sentence may be as much as 20 years. In the situation where death results from the “scheme”, a sentence of life in prison may be rendered.
Internet Child Pornography There are serious consequences to being convicted of Possession or Promotion of child pornography and charges may be brought in state or federal court. The internet is probably the most prominent source offenders use to acquire and distribute child pornography and law enforcement agencies have several ways of targeting those involved in this activity. Tex. Pen. Code § 43.26 outlines specifically the details and includes Electronic Transmission of Certain Visual Material Depicting a Minor and Possession or Promotion of Lewd Visual Material Depicting a Child and states that possession of this material is a Third-Degree Felony and punishable by 2 to 10 years imprisonment and fines up to $10,000. The definition of Promote in the code includes anyone who manufactures, presents. exhibits, advertises, circulates, publishes, sells, gives, mails, transfer or transmit images that depicts a child under the age of 18 engaging in sexual conduct.
Kidnapping This crime is defined as the unlawful taking of a person and confined against their will. This is usually but not always conducted by fear or force. In some cases where the person is tricked to enter or go somewhere willingly that results in their abduction like a taxi cab, it is still considered kidnapping. The federal jurisdiction of Kidnapping includes these specific situations – the victim is transported in foreign or interstate commerce, the offense is committed within the territorial jurisdiction or special maritime or aircraft jurisdiction of the US, the victim is a foreign official, official guest or internationally protected person, is a federal officer or employee or if the victim is under the age of 16 and take by a parent in the commission of international parent kidnapping. Charges do not usually include the taking of a child by a parent with the exception of international parent kidnapping as seen in 18 U.S.C. § 1204.
Mail Fraud There are many people who use the Federally protected US Postal service or any other interstate mail carrier to commit crimes involving illegal activities. First, fraud which is defined as a scheme that is intended to deprive another person of their property or the honest service pervaded by the mail service must exist. To meet the requirements of Mail Fraud there must be a fraudulent act, and it must have been carried out with the use of the United States mail service. Mail Fraud is a felony and penalties include a prison term of up to five years and fines up to $250,000. In the case where a financial institution is involved the prison terms can be as much as thirty years and $1,000,000 in fines.
Medicare Fraud Medicaid is a program intended to provide health coverage to low-income people and is paid for by both the state and the Federal government. The state’s plan is first approved by the HHS – Health & Human Services Commission and there is some variance to each of the 49 state plans. Because Federal funds are involved the laws governing against fraud including 18 U.S.C. §§ 287, 1001 and 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b are Federal laws. These laws specifically state that submitting false claims, making false statements and being part of a kickback scheme is illegal and is punishable by imprisonment and fines. Medicaid Fraud Control Units are in charge of investigating and prosecuting not only financially motivated fraud but patient mistreatment and neglect.
Money Laundering – Money Laundering – is a serious offense which can ruin a person’s career and reputation. According to the statute, persons who knowingly participate in concealing, possessing, transferring or transporting the proceeds of criminal activity can be charged with such crime. An issue here is the widespread reach of agencies seeking to prosecute based on allegations. A wide net of people can be pursued and potentially charged. A big question from the legal perspective is the definition of knowingly. Quite often jobs are at large companies with numerous people constituting the business process. How many times is someone just doing their job without understanding the origin of the proceeds?
Obscenity Laws against Obscenity are outlined in 18 U.S.C. §§ 1460 through 1469 and guard against behavior, images, and language. By definition, it is anything that offends the prevalent morality of the time and is often associated with sexually based situations. The famous quote from Justice Potter Stewart “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced but I know it when I see it”. While Federal law prohibits obscenity in some situations such as public broadcasts. The Supreme Court has had some difficulty in truly defining it and has a deferred definition to two hypothetical entities “contemporary community standards” and “hypothetically reasonable persons”. The Obscenity Prosecution Task Force was established by the Department of Justice in 2005 to bring these cases to trial and prosecute the offenders.
Pharmaceutical Crimes These crimes can be extremely dangerous to the victims as it includes the falsification and counterfeiting of medical products that can have serious and even deadly consequences. Many of these fake goods are the wrong dose, may be expired or have been stored incorrectly making them a health risk. The crime generally included fraud, smuggling, illegal trade, trafficking and illicit diversion of medical products. The vast amounts of money created by this illegal activity are often laundered which only adds to the seriousness of the crime. The internet has helped those involved in the distribution of these falsified medical supplies by offering cheap goods without a prescription.
Tax Fraud The Internal Revenue Service – IRS takes tax fraud crimes very seriously and will take action on those who have failed to pay their fair share of taxes. In most cases, an individual, company or even a trust will knowingly pay fewer taxes than they should by understating their real earnings or income or overstating deductions that will lower their tax liability. Small businesses account for much of the losses according to the IRS as the skimming is hard to prove without an investigation. Punishments for tax fraud include fines and imprisonment. Another type of tax fraud occurs when people posing as IRS personnel call or email unsuspecting taxpayers and try to get them to pay money they do not legitimately owe. Also known as phishing, this crime is defined in Titles 18 and 31 of the United States Code.
Terrorism A worldwide issue and one we have seen in the United States on many occasions. This crime is usually politically, religiously, or ideologically motivated and occurs when violence is used against civilians or the government to influence change. Quite often terrorism results in the death of the intended victims and in the years between 2008 and 2016, 176 people were killed by terrorism in the US. According to the Justice Department out of the 549 known preparators, 296 were either naturalized or natural-born US citizens. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ushered in a new set of laws which was passed as a result of the Oklahoma City bombing which is considered one of the worst domestic terrorist acts in our nation’s history.
Trafficking & Smuggling We most commonly associate these crimes with drugs being brought into the United States for sale on the black market but in more recently times we have seen a growing trend of human trafficking. The term trafficking is defined as dealing or trading in something that is illegal and usually includes exploitation while smuggling is the importing or exporting of contraband usually into the country contrary to the law and includes the avoidance of duty or taxes as part of the motivation. An estimated 90% of people who illegally crossed the border between the United States and Mexico are believed to have paid a smuggler to facilitate their border crossing. This can be especially dangerous to those crossing as they often face dangerous conditions in the process. In Houston there is a large amount of child trafficking with the victims in many cases being sold into sex slavery. Smuggling costs tax payers’ enormous amounts of money each year and is punishable under Title 18 Section 545 and includes fines and imprisonment of up to 20 years.
Visa Fraud Getting into and staying in the United States is very important to many people who would otherwise not be granted access. In the US most cases are related to immigrants providing false information so they can stay in the country or to seek refuge. The common points of visa fraud are the provision, sale or transfer of legitimate visas for the reason of traveling. Forgery and alteration of documents are most often seen and the Federal Government punishes visa fraud under 18 USC 1546 for misuse of visas and documents, 18 USC 1001 for false statements and 18 USC 1028 for fraud in association with identification. Sentencing ranges from 10 years in prison to 25 years if the crime is associated with international terrorism.
White Collar Crime If anyone remembers the Enron debacle a few years ago, this is a perfect example of a white-collar crime which included securities fraud, conspiracy, and false statements. Other white-collar crimes range from embezzlement, racketeering, mail fraud, money laundering to insider trading and the main motivation is the financial gain of just a few people who are involved, unlike a corporate crime where the corporation of business as a whole stand to gain. In most cases, the perpetrators are in high positions and use their position during the course of their occupation to commit the offense. After the Enron scandal, President George Bush signed the Sarbanes – Oxley Act of 2002 into law which further defined new crimes and increased the penalties associated with these acts. Sentencing includes imprisonment, restitution, fines, probation, and discouragement.
Wire Fraud Under 18 U.S.C § 1343 anyone that that devises a scheme to intentionally deprive someone of honest services or property while using wire communications has committed a federal crime. More specifically the acquiring of property or money by false promises or pretenses while using radio, wire, or television communications. Often the fraud includes the use of signs, writings, sounds or signals transmitted electronically. Under the code, those convicted of wire fraud are subject to fines and or a prison sentence not to exceed more than 20 years. In the cases where a financial institution has been affected a fine of up to one million dollars and imprisonment not to exceed more than 30 years with the possibility of both.
At Scheiner Law Group, P.C., we represent people and businesses charged with state and federal crimes. Houston criminal lawyer Grant Scheiner is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Texas Super Lawyers (Thomson Reuters publication) magazine has named him a “Texas Super Lawyer” in the categories of Criminal Law, DWI Defense, and Federal White Collar Defense. The National Trial Lawyers Association (www.TheNationalTrialLawyers.org 2007 – present) lists him among the “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” in the state of Texas. H-Texas magazine has named Grant Scheiner one of “Houston’s Top Lawyers” every single year since 2006.
Contact the Houston federal criminal lawyers at 713-783-8998 to schedule an office visit. To reach us after-hours and on weekends, please call 713-581-4540.