Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyerIn mid-March, news of the college entrance scam involving Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman broke throughout the country. Loughlin is accused of bribing school officials at USC to allow her two daughters admittance into the university. Her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, was also arrested for his involvement in the alleged crime. Huffman meanwhile, was arrested for bribing school officials into giving her daughter more time during the SATs.

Now all three face charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. What do the legal statutes say these crimes involve?

What Is Mail Fraud?

Generally speaking, mail fraud is any scheme that involves the United States Postal Service to defraud someone or perform fraudulent acts. This crime is covered under Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1341. The Code also states that not only is committing the act of defrauding a crime, but an attempted act is as well. This means the act does not have to be successful in order to be considered mail fraud.

It is unclear how the three accused in this recent case bribed school officials. However, after understanding the definition of their charges of mail fraud, one could assume money in connection to the bribe was sent through the mail.

Mail fraud is one of the more common crimes committed against the United States government. It carries penalties of up to 20 years in prison in addition to high fines.

What Is Honest Services Fraud?

The more confusing of the two charges laid in this case was that of honest services fraud. Honest services fraud is a type of mail and wire fraud. As such, it is covered under the same legal statute as mail fraud.

Honest services fraud is a very broad term describing bribery or scheme that is intent on bribing or defrauding another person of honest services. Neither honest services fraud or mail fraud rely on damages or loss to a victim. The victim is also not required to have any kind of reliance, or dependence, on the perpetrator of the fraud.

In addition to this, the perpetrator may not even have to have awareness of the fraud, meaning intent is not an issue. As long as the fraud was committed, charges could apply, even if the person did not mean to commit fraud. This caveat of the law in particular sets mail fraud, wire fraud, and honest services fraud apart from other types of fraud.

Been Charged with Fraud? Contact a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney for Help With Your Case

A crime does not have to make the papers or involve celebrities for it to be very serious. Anyone charged with mail fraud or any other federal crime may face several years in federal prison, high fines, and a permanent criminal record. A skilled Chicago federal criminal defense lawyer can help. If you have been charged with a federal crime, contact the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel at 312-270-0999. We know the defenses available to these crimes, and we will use them to help you beat the charges and give you the best chance of success. Call today for your free consultation and we can begin discussing your case.


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Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyerIn February 2019, a man from Madison, Wisconsin was sentenced to one year in federal prison for bankruptcy fraud. Before a guilty plea was entered, it was found that the man lied about a real estate property on his bankruptcy claim, lied at the Meeting of Creditors, and then lied again while testifying in federal court.

While this man may have attempted to hide assets, what about those that simply make a mistake when filing for bankruptcy? Do they face the possibility of bankruptcy fraud charges, too? What exactly is bankruptcy fraud?

What Is Bankruptcy Fraud?

When a person is suspected of bankruptcy fraud, they are first investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They are then prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice in federal court and, if convicted, are sentenced to federal prison. The amount of time they spend is often at the discretion of the judge.

Most of these crimes are committed by the debtor, or the person filing the bankruptcy claim. There are times though, when creditors, bankruptcy trustees, court personnel, and other third parties are found guilty of bankruptcy fraud.

Types of Bankruptcy Fraud

Bankruptcy fraud is covered in the federal statute 18 of the United States Code, Sections 152 and 157. This statute identifies many different types of bankruptcy fraud including:

  • Failure to include assets in the bankruptcy claim;
  • Asking someone to help hide assets;
  • Not including a transfer of property that occurred before the claim was filed;
  • Filing an incomplete or inaccurate bankruptcy form;
  • Destroying records, or attempting to hide records;
  • Failing to use one’s own identity when filing for bankruptcy;
  • Filing for multiple bankruptcies in different jurisdictions;
  • Filing a bankruptcy claim for someone else, without their permission;
  • Offering bribes to a bankruptcy trustee or court official; and
  • Embezzling funds from the bankruptcy estate.

To ensure one is not charged with bankruptcy fraud, it is critical that when filing for bankruptcy, all forms are filled out as accurately as possible, and that they are complete.

It is easy to make a mistake though, as people are sometimes prone to do. This does not necessarily mean one will face bankruptcy fraud charges. For example, making a mistake when filling out the amount of debt one owes is a small mistake that will likely not result in bankruptcy fraud charges. Failing to list a real estate property, as in the most recent case, and continuing to not disclose that information, will likely result in charges.

Bankruptcy Fraud Penalties

Like any other crime, after conviction, a person will face several formal sentences. In addition to this though, their rights are sometimes also restricted. In some cases, these restrictions are set for life.

The formal sentences one could face if convicted of bankruptcy fraud include:

  • Monitoring, or probation;
  • Up to 20 years in federal prison;
  • Maximum fines of $250,000 for each count of fraud;
  • Restitution; and
  • Community service.

A judge may also remove some of a person’s rights after a bankruptcy fraud conviction. These include:

  • The right to vote;
  • The right to travel outside the country;
  • The right to own a firearm;
  • The right to serve on a jury;
  • The right to qualify for certain types of employment;
  • The right to qualify for certain security clearances; and
  • The right to obtain welfare and housing assistance.

Call an Experienced Chicago Federal Fraud Defense Lawyer

Even with a lower prison sentence, the penalties for bankruptcy fraud can remain with a person throughout their entire life. It is for this reason that it is so important that anyone charged with bankruptcy fraud speak with a skilled Chicago federal criminal defense attorney right away. If you have been charged with bankruptcy fraud or any other type of federal fraud, contact the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel today at 312-270-0999. We will build a solid defense to help prove your innocence so you can retain your freedom and your rights. Call us today for your free consultation.


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Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyerEmbezzlement is considered a white-collar crime. It occurs when one person entrusted with money or property on behalf of someone else misappropriates those assets for their own personal benefit. Many people think that embezzlement is automatically a federal crime. However, this is not true. There are both Illinois statutes pertaining to the crime of embezzlement, as well as federal statutes. The circumstances surrounding the crime will determine which charge is laid.

Federal Embezzlement Charges

Federal embezzlement charges are covered under Title 18 of the U.S. Criminal Code, Chapter 31. These charges are laid when the misappropriation of funds or property crosses state lines, as that falls under federal jurisdiction. In addition, if the embezzlement involved a federal agency such as the United States Postal Service, federal charges will also be laid.

Other considerations in a federal embezzlement case will involve the nature of the offense, the amount of money involved in the embezzlement scheme, and whether or not the accused took responsibility for the crime or took it to trial.

The penalties associated with federal embezzlement charges are severe if those accused are convicted. For any amount of property embezzled that falls under $1,000, those charged will face a maximum fine of $1,000 and a maximum jail time of one year. Penalties for embezzlement including funds or property over $1,000 include maximum fines of $250,000 and maximum jail time of ten years in federal prison.

Illinois Embezzlement Charges

The Illinois statute 720 ILCS 5/16-1 covers embezzlement charges within the state. In order for state charges to be laid, the crime must have occurred within the state of Illinois and not involved a federal agency. Although not a federal crime, the penalties for embezzlement in Illinois are still very serious.

Embezzlement in Illinois is only considered a misdemeanor if the amount of money or property embezzled was under $500 and did not include theft from a person. If convicted of this crime, a person will face up to one year in prison and a fine of $2,500. If the assets embezzled were under $500 but taken directly from a person, the crime is considered a Class 3 felony, which is punishable by two to five years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.

Class 2 felony embezzlement charges include theft between $10,000 and $100,000 and include sentences of between three to seven years in prison and a fine up to $25,000. Class 1 felony embezzlement convictions involve theft between $100,000 and $500,000 and are punishable by four to 15 years in prison and the maximum fine of $25,000.

The worst type of embezzlement crime in Illinois are those involving property valued over $1 million. These are Class X felonies and those convicted can face between six to 30 years in prison and a fine up to $25,000.

While these are the most common charges in Illinois, they are elevated if the crime involved a place of worship or a school. This will result in even harsher sentences.

Contact an Illinois Federal Criminal Defense Attorney for Federal Embezzlement Charges

Of all the possible embezzlement charges, those involving the federal government carry the most severe punishments. Anyone accused of federal embezzlement needs to speak to a dedicated Chicago federal criminal defense attorney that can help. If you have been charged with federal embezzlement, contact the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel today at 312-270-0999. We know how serious these charges are, and we know how to build you the strong defense you need for the most successful outcome in court. If you have been accused or believe you are under federal investigation, do not wait another minute. Call us today for your free consultation.


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Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyerApproaching tax season, many taxpayers in Illinois and across the country are thinking about their tax return. It is a frustrating time, as some people may owe income taxes, but the Internal Revenue Code itself is extremely confusing. It is also changing all the time, making it even more difficult to keep up on all the different tax laws. Understanding these laws is crucial. The IRS may consider just one mistake on a tax return fraud, which could result in severe penalties for the taxpayer.

Below are some of the most common mistakes misinterpreted as tax fraud. These are sometimes referred to as “accidental fraud.”

Incorrect or Incomplete Information

 Before filing an income tax return, it needs to be double-checked and then checked again. Even a mistake in basic information such as a social security number or address can result in a charge of tax fraud.

Incomplete tax returns are easier to file than some may think. This is particularly true when someone is claiming a credit. Claiming credits often requires the taxpayer to fill out additional forms. When the credit is claimed but the respective form is not filled out, this makes the return incomplete.

Most of these mistakes will not lead to charges of tax fraud. However, if additional mistakes are made or there are extenuating circumstances around the return, even these simple errors could result in criminal charges.

Inaccurate Deductions

It is difficult for taxpayers to understand what counts as a valid deduction and what does not. When deductions for a business are involved, it is even more challenging. Any deductions claimed are subtracted from a person’s overall income. The more claimed, the less a person may owe in income taxes.

It is for this reason the IRS consider inaccurate deductions as tax fraud. They also understand it is difficult to know all possible deductions, which is why they have created a guideline of credits and deductions on their site.

Even the simple mistake of claiming a lunch as a business lunch when it was not can result in a charge of tax fraud. This is why it is so important to also double check any deductions, and ensure they are accurate.

Omitting Income

All Americans are required to fill out their income tax return completely and honestly. This includes detailing all income earned the previous year. When the IRS suspects a person of not claiming all of their income, that person is likely to get audited. If the IRS finds unclaimed income, they can then press charges for tax evasion. This mistake is also an easy one to make. Even a small oversight such as leaving tips unclaimed can result in a tax evasion charge.

Unlawful Tax Shelters

A tax shelter is a financial agreement a person makes in order to pay fewer taxes. They are legal, however, there are tax shelters that operate illegally. This is often difficult for the taxpayer, as they may not even know a tax shelter is illegal until it is too late. However, the IRS can still hold them responsible for creating or using the shelter.

Tax Return Preparer Fraud

The tax laws in the country are very confusing, which is why so many taxpayers hire a knowledgeable professional to complete their tax returns for them. In most cases, tax preparers are scrupulously honest and careful with these returns. Sometimes though, a tax preparer may inflate a person’s income so that they get paid more. Like unlawful tax shelters, a taxpayer that made the mistake of hiring the tax preparer may have no idea they are dishonest until it is too late.

Contact a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney for Help Today

Facing tax fraud charges, like facing charges of any federal crime, is very scary. It is extremely challenging for those that thought they were simply following the law by filing their tax returns on time. However, charges do not have to lead to a conviction. A dedicated Chicago tax fraud lawyer can help. If you have been charged with tax fraud, contact the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel at 312-270-0999 for a free consultation. We know the tax laws, and we know how easy it is to make a simple mistake. Do not go up against the IRS alone. Get the help you need by contacting us today.


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