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chicago federal criminal offenseOne of the most common questions we get asked at our criminal defense law firm is "What makes a crime a federal offense?" It is a good question, and one that deserves a thorough answer. In short, there are three primary factors that determine whether or not a crime is considered a federal offense: the subject matter of the crime, the location in which the crime took place, and the laws that were violated. Let's take a closer look at each of these factors.

Subject Matter or Substance of the Alleged Crime

The first factor to consider is the subject matter of the crime. Some crimes, by their very nature, are automatically considered federal offenses. These crimes include but are not limited to drug trafficking, money laundering, and terrorism. Other crimes can become federal offenses if they involve some sort of interstate activity (i.e., activity that takes place between two or more states). Interstate activity can be anything from using the mail to transport illegal drugs across state lines to committing fraud against a bank that has branches in multiple states.

Where the Alleged Crime Was Committed

The second factor to consider is the location of the commission of the alleged crime. Generally speaking, crimes that take place on federal property, such as national parks or military installations, or that cross state lines are going to be considered federal offenses. It is important to understand that federal property can also include federal office buildings, courthouses, and post offices, regardless of where they are located. Additionally, certain crimes that take place on Native American reservations may also be prosecuted as federal offenses.

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chicago white collar criminal defense lawyerWhite-collar crimes are non-violent offenses that are often prosecuted against business professionals. These crimes are typically motivated by gain and are characterized by deception or concealment. A goal of a white-collar crime is benefiting in regard to money, property, or services. In these cases, a prosecutor will typically rely on paper trails and digital history rather than physical evidence such as DNA. 

Understanding White-Collar Crime

The term white collar crime began to be used around 1939 and is a broad term for a variety of offenses. Since there are many violations that are considered white collar crimes, the consequences can vary. Possible penalties include fines, probation, community service, and imprisonment. 

Getting charged with a white-collar crime can ruin your reputation, business, and lifestyle, and it is important to understand the nature of the charges and the best way to respond to them. Some violations that are considered white collar crimes include:

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chicago fraud defense lawyerIn today’s digitally connected world, we tend to use credit and debit cards to pay for just about everything. Most of us do not think twice before pulling out a card to pay for nearly any size purchase or typing in our card info to buy something online. But what could happen if you use someone else’s card to make a purchase or pay a bill? The answer depends on many different variables, but you could potentially face federal charges for credit card fraud.

A Changing World

When customer-facing credit card processing pads were first installed at retail establishments, cashiers were generally trained to verify that the person swiping the card was, in fact, authorized to do so. In practice, this process was little more than a cursory glance to compare the customer’s signature to the signature on the back of the card, but some cashiers would ask for identification from the customer. Some customers might not have been thrilled with the minor delay, but the purpose of the verification was to prevent fraud.

Today, however, cashiers rarely check signatures, and with the rise of PIN-protected debit transactions, retailers are largely staying away from determining whether or not a customer is authorized to use a particular card. Online retailers, by comparison, might ask for a billing address or other identifying details, but they still have no way to know who is actually making the purchase in most cases.

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chicago criminal defense lawyerWhen you think of “getting busted” for the possession or distribution of drugs, you might think of a local police officer happening to stumble upon a “drug buy” and arresting the parties involved. Or maybe, the cops were called to an area where a loud party was disturbing neighbors, and the police found several people in possession of illegal drugs.

While these scenarios can and do occur, other arrests and subsequent prosecutions are the results of lengthy investigations by state and federal law enforcement agencies. In such cases, it is not unusual for those arrested to face many years behind bars if they are convicted. Last month, two Chicago area men learned this lesson the hard way when they were convicted for their roles in bringing illegal drugs to Chicago from Mexico.

Disrupting the Drug Pipeline

According to court documents and information released by the U.S. Department of Justice, two men from suburban Chicago were found guilty of federal drug conspiracy charges last month after a week-long trial in federal court in Chicago. Each man now faces a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years in federal prison with a maximum of life in prison. One of the men was also convicted on a federal drug possession charge, making his mandatory minimum sentence 15 years with a maximum of life in prison.

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Illinois federal criminal defense attorney

Originally Published: November 17,2020 ------ Updated: September 13, 2022

Defendant Pleads Guilty to Two Federal Crimes

In November 2020, we told you about a Chicago-area businessman who was facing federal charges of wire fraud and money laundering in connection with an alleged scam. According to federal prosecutors, the man’s scheme involved offering personal protective equipment (PPE) for sale to hospitals and medical facilities. The offer coincided with the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and prosecutors believed that the man was trying to take advantage of the international crisis.

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