Fraud Cases Could Spike Due to COVID-19

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) may not be the only thing that continues to see an increase in cases this summer. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), there are a variety of fraudulent schemes actively occurring as people try to exploit the pandemic to their benefit. In this article, we will discuss several of these COVID-19-related fraud schemes. If you have been accused of a fraud-related crime, consult a fraud defense attorney in Tampa at The Rickman Law Firm.  

According to a March memorandum issued by U.S. attorney general William Barr, the spread of COVID-19 has “only served to increase the number of stimulus, healthcare, bank, elder, and government fraud schemes.” As of May 28, 2020, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported that they had received nearly the same amount of complaints in 2020 (about 320,000) as they had for the entirety of 2019 (about 400,000). IC3 announced that approximately

“75 percent of these complaints are frauds and swindles.” Let’s review some of the most common complaints IC3 has received in 2020. 

Related: Uncertain Times May Lead to More Wrongful Convictions

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Schemes

Many small businesses raced to file their application for a PPP loan when it was announced in March 2020. The relief program under the CARES Act has led to many individuals fraudulently applying for a loan or targeting small businesses or the banks that allocate the funding from the federal program. In some cases, credible businesses have reported that they cannot apply for a loan because their Employer Identification Numbers were used in a fraudulent application. In other cases, individuals set up fake websites claiming to be a facilitator of the federal program. These websites then steal the information of any employer that unknowingly applies for a loan through the website. There have also been cases in which a fraudulent party made up a nearly identical email address to that of the CEO of a company that received funding and then requested a bank to deposit the PPP funds directly into a separate account listed in the email. 

The FBI recently formed a PPP Fraud Working Group to address any schemes being deployed for PPP-related crimes. As of the time of this article, the FBI announced that they had initiated nearly 100 PPP-related investigations, with over $42 million in potential fraud crimes identified. These investigations have identified a wide net of potential perpetrators, including bank insiders, felons, identity thieves, and dormant or shell companies trying to obtain payroll funding despite not having a workforce.   

Counterfeit Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Crimes

The current demand for PPE and other supplies has created supply chain issues as the businesses that produce these resources try to meet consumer demand. Unfortunately, with a gap in the supply chain, many individuals will look to exploit consumers’ demand through a variety of email compromise schemes that essentially steal personal information from the victim. For example, the victim may receive an email offering masks, hand sanitizer, ventilators, and other in-demand products at an affordable price. The victim then prepays for these goods to be delivered to their home, and they either receive counterfeit supplies or nothing at all. Even worse, they now have sent personal information to the individual to use for their own criminal purposes. 

Related: The Impact of COVID-19 on Domestic Violence

Unemployment and Work From Home Schemes

With millions of Americans out of work, there has been a spike in schemes related to unemployment claims, “work from home” opportunities, and other scams that target individuals in money mule schemes. Credit unions nationwide have reported seeing an increase in unemployment insurance fraud cases as individuals are stealing the victim’s identity to use the information to file a false unemployment claim. There have also been a variety of money mule schemes that occur when a criminal, who obtained money through illegal activity, launders the money by moving it through other people’s (mules) personal bank accounts. The money is then processed or transferred back to the criminal by being deposited into a third-party bank account. This is often done through cashier checks, virtual currently, or a prepaid debit card. It’s illegal for both the person orchestrating these transactions and the mule that is complicit with the scheme. Money mule schemes can also open the mule up to jeopardizing their own financial security. 

Healthcare Schemes

Due to challenges with finding effective treatment and a cure for COVID-19, the healthcare industry has seen its share of fraudulent schemes involving individuals selling unapproved treatment options through a variety of platforms, including websites, social media pages, telemarketing calls, and door-to-door sales. The most common example is individuals selling an unapproved COVID-19 testing kit. For many of these schemes, these individuals are attempting to obtain access to personal and health insurance information from victims. Although these types of schemes aren’t new to the criminal world, they are focused on taking advantage of older, at-risk populations that are interested in additional medical supplies to combat the spread of COVID-19.  

Internet Crimes Expected to Increase

Whether it’s attempting to sell counterfeit PPE items online, filing fraudulent unemployment insurance claims, hacking into a company database, or engaging in inappropriate messaging online with a minor, fraud crimes and all internet-based crimes are expected to continue to increase as more individuals remain at home and communicate through online platforms. If you have been accused of fraud or an internet-related crime, consult a fraud defense lawyer in Tampa. At the Rickman Law Firm, our knowledgeable and experienced attorneys will review the details of your case and provide you with the accurate legal counsel you require. To learn more about our services, pick up the phone and call the best federal criminal defense lawyer in St. Petersburg at the Rickman Law Firm. 

For a free consultation with the best federal criminal defense attorney in St. Petersburg, please contact The Rickman Law Firm today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation. 

How a Domestic Violence Conviction Can Turn Your Life Upside Down

Domestic violence accusations often come out of nowhere to blindside alleged perpetrators. Little do they know that the effects of an accusation last far beyond a court hearing and time spent in county jail. The effects can last for the remainder of their life. In this brief article, we discuss how a domestic violence accusation can have far-reaching repercussions. Although your first instinct may be to ignore the issue, the best chance you have at clearing your name is to educate yourself on Florida laws and consult a domestic violence defense lawyer in Tampa for assistance. 

The Immediate Penalties for Domestic Violence 

At first glance, it would appear that the penalties for domestic violence are nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Under Florida law, a person found guilty of domestic violence must spend a minimum of 10 days in the county jail. However, a state prosecutor could charge an offender with other criminal offenses, such as battery. Because battery is a first-degree misdemeanor, those found guilty could face up to a year in prison and be fined up to $1,000. And that’s assuming this is a first offense. Repeat offenders could face a felony charge of battery. 

Related: Possible Defenses Against Battery Charges 

Further complicating matters is the fact that an alleged victim can easily file for a domestic violence injunction, a restraining order, preventing you from coming into contact with them or visiting a location they frequent. You may not even be permitted to enter into your own home. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of your troubles if you are found guilty. 

Related: False Domestic Violence Accusations: What to Do When You’re the Real Victim 

The Lifelong Consequences of Domestic Violence 

A domestic violence conviction can follow you for the rest of your life, especially if it leads to a felony conviction. Although employers are gradually becoming more sympathetic to workers who have made past mistakes, they are going to be less understanding of someone convicted of domestic battery. Even more damaging is the effect a domestic violence conviction can have on a person’s relationship with their family and friends. In situations like these, it can be expected that people will take sides, pitting loved ones against each other. This can be an especially difficult experience for children to go through. 

For these reasons and many more, it’s in a person’s best interest to obtain experienced legal representation if they are accused of domestic violence. This isn’t something that goes away overnight. If you’ve been accused of domestic violence, don’t sit around while the alleged victim builds their argument. Hire an experienced domestic violence defense lawyer in Tampa who will take your side and fight to clear your name. 

For a free consultation with a domestic violence defense attorney in Tampa, please contact The Rickman Law Firm today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation. 

Theft Laws in Florida: The Line Between Misdemeanor and Felony

The state of Florida is notorious for having strict anti-theft laws. It was only just recently that the threshold for grand theft was raised from a meager $300 to $750 — the first time it was raised in 35 years. But despite this needed adjustment, the nuances of theft laws in Florida can easily result in an accused being charged with a felony and unprepared to defend themselves in court. 

Below, we discuss how Florida categorizes theft and where the line between a misdemeanor and felony charge lies. Even if no one was hurt in the incident, even if the property was amassed over a long period of time, these laws are designed to significantly punish those who commit theft. Consult a criminal defense lawyer in Tampa if you need assistance. 

Theft, Robbery, and Related Crimes

Under Florida law, “A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently” deprive the other person of their property or appropriate the property for their own or someone else’s use. The severity of theft goes all the way from petit theft (a second-degree misdemeanor) to first-degree grand theft (a first-degree felony). 

Related: Uncertain Times May Lead to More Wrongful Convictions 

The line between misdemeanor and felony is crossed with third-degree grand theft. A person can be charged with grand theft if the stolen property is valued between $750 and $20,000, a firearm, a motor vehicle, or any number of other items listed in the Florida statute. 

Retail Theft 

Florida law defines retail theft as “the taking possession of or carrying away of merchandise, property, money, or negotiable documents; altering or removing a label, universal product code, or price tag; transferring merchandise from one container to another; or removing a shopping cart, with intent to deprive the merchant of possession, use, benefit, or full retail value.” Like grand theft, retail theft is considered a third-degree felony when the value of the stolen property is $750 or more. But there is one clear distinction: the value of the stolen property can be aggregated within a 30-day period, meaning that a person can still be charged with a felony if the value of property stolen in one month adds up to $750 — one of the many reasons why it’s important to consult one of our criminal defense attorneys in Tampa if you’ve been accused of retail theft. 

Related: Can Your Criminal Sentence Be Reduced or Modified? 

Aggravating Circumstances 

In cases where the accused is charged with grand theft, retail theft, and even petit theft, there can be what are known as aggravating circumstances that can result in more severe penalties. For instance, petit theft is usually not considered a felony; however, a person who has previously been convicted of theft two or more times and commits petit theft can face a third-degree felony conviction. Although the laws discussed throughout this article provide a basic understanding of theft laws in Florida, the specifics of a person’s case can drastically alter the severity of the charge and punishment. 

This is why it’s so important to consult a criminal defense lawyer in Tampa if you’ve been accused of theft. An experienced attorney can review the specifics of your case and work to have your charges reduced or dropped, regardless of the type of theft you’ve been accused of. 

For a free consultation with one of our criminal defense attorneys in Tampa, please contact The Rickman Law Firm today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation. 

Understanding Drug Trafficking vs. Intent to Distribute

The state of Florida has some of the strictest drug laws and penalties in the United States. Therefore, being accused of drug trafficking or possession with intent to distribute can lead to devastating consequences for both the charged individual and their loved ones due to the loss of their job, significant fines, and prison time. 

In this article, we provide a brief overview of the differences between drug trafficking and possession of drugs with intent to distribute. If you’ve been accused of drug trafficking or possession with intent to distribute, consult with an experienced drug trafficking defense lawyer in Tampa with The Rickman Law Firm.

The Basics of Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking is the crime of transporting, manufacturing, or illegal import of illegal controlled substances, such as cocaine, marijuana, PCP, methamphetamines, heroin, and LSD. In order for the prosecutor to win a conviction, they must prove that the defendant was knowingly involved in drug trafficking activities. First, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant intended either to bring the drugs into the state of Florida or engage in drug trafficking. Then they must show that the seized materials are, in fact, controlled substances as defined by Florida state laws. 

Generally speaking, controlled substances are illegal drugs with the capacity to have a harmful effect on a person’s health or welfare. Controlled substances are broken down into five categories under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970:

  • Schedule I: Ecstasy, LSD, heroin, and marijuana
  • Schedule II: Cocaine and methamphetamine
  • Schedule III: Anabolic steroids, ketamine, testosterone
  • Schedule IV: Ambien, Xanax, and Valium
  • Schedule V: Lyrica and cough suppressants 

Related: The Misperception of Drug Trafficking Laws

Penalties for Drug Trafficking

In the state of Florida, drug trafficking cases carry minimum mandatory penalties. You can expect a minimum three-year incarceration and a $50,000 fine for possession of any of the previously listed illegal drugs. If their amount exceeds specific weight, the sentence will be increased accordingly. For example, if prosecuted as a first-degree felony, drug trafficking can result in a maximum sentence of 30 years. The terms of imprisonment, however, ultimately depend on the type and quantity of the drug involved in the trafficking activities. 

Related: Fighting a Drug Trafficking Charge

The Basics of Possession With Intent to Distribute

Possession with intent to distribute generally carries a lesser penalty than drug trafficking because drug trafficking requires no proof of your intent to sell. Simply the possession of large amounts of the controlled substances is enough to prove that you were engaged in drug trafficking. For lesser amounts, prosecution in Florida may charge you with possession with intent to sell. 

That being said, possession with intent to distribute is still a serious crime and controlled substances are subject to be charged as a felony offense. Once again, as the weight of the controlled substances increase, you may be charged with a felony of the first degree. However, in order to be convicted under Florida law, the prosecutor must prove not only that the substance is what it is alleged to be but that you fully intended to sell the drugs. 

Penalties for Possession With Intent to Distribute

Penalty for possession of illegal controlled substances with intent to distribute depends on a number of factors including but not limited to the type of drug, quantity, and the context in which you intended to sell it. The penalties can range from a minor misdemeanor all the way to a first-degree felony, as with drug trafficking.

If you or a loved one has been charged for drug trafficking or possession with intent to distribute, it’s crucial that you seek the legal counsel of an experienced drug trafficking defense attorney in Tampa with The Rickman Law Firm. We can quickly act to review your case to get your charges dropped, dismissed, or reduced.  

For a free consultation with a drug trafficking defense lawyer in Tampa, please contact The Rickman Law Firm today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation. 

Common Defenses for Assault and Battery

In the state of Florida, assault and battery are two separate but closely related crimes. Assault refers to the threat of imminent bodily harm, while battery is defined as the physical impact inflicted on another person. As a rule of thumb, assault generally precedes battery, which is why the crimes can be paired together as one offense in certain jurisdictions. That being said, first-degree assault and battery is a felony, and although exact punishments vary by jurisdiction, these are not crimes you want to be charged with. 

If you have been accused of a violent crime like assault or battery, the most important thing you can do is contact an experienced attorney with the Rickman Law Firm. An assault and battery attorney in St. Petersburg can review your case, locate inconsistencies, and immediately get to work on building a strong defense that best fits your circumstances. In this brief article, we’ll provide a brief overview of some of the defenses that may be employed. 

Related: Exploring the Differences Between Assault and Battery

Self-Defense

By far, one of the most common defenses in assault and battery cases is self-defense — a claim that acknowledges a violent act has occurred but excuses the act on the grounds that the person reasonably believed their actions were necessary to defend him- or herself against another’s imminent use of force. The law presumes that the defendant had a reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm if the victim unlawfully entered or remained in a person’s property or attempted to remove another person against their will from his or her home or vehicle. 

However, the presumption of reasonable fear of bodily harm does not apply in the following circumstances under Section 776.012 of the Florida Statutes:

  • The victim has the right to be in the home or vehicle
  • The person(s) sought to be removed is a child or grandchild of the victim
  • The person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity
  • The victim is a police officer who enters or attempts to enter in performance of official duties

In evaluation of your case, the jury will determine what a reasonable person would have done under your circumstances and if there is any evidence to support your claim of self-defense. Exceptions exist in the case of forcible felonies and in a case when the defendant initially provoked violence against him- or herself. To make use of one of the most versatile of Florida’s affirmative defenses, contact the best assault and battery lawyer in St. Petersburg with the Rickman Law Firm. 

Related: What You Need to Know About Claiming Self-Defense in Florida

Defense of Others

Under Section 776.012 of the Florida Statutes, a person is justified in using non-deadly or deadly force against another if he or she believes that such force is necessary to prevent the imminent bodily harm to another person. This is yet another circumstance in which the defendant has no duty to retreat and a right to use force if he or she was not engaged in unlawful activity and was attacked in a place such as their house or their car that he or she was allowed to be.

Related: Possible Defenses Against Battery Charges

Defense of Property

Defense of property differs from the other defenses on this list because it’s a subcategory of justifiable use of non-deadly force in protection of a person’s vehicle, land, home, or other personal property. In order for a person to be justified in resorting to violent or forcible acts, three conditions must be proven:

  • The other person was trespassing or wrongfully interacting with real property or personal property
  • The real or personal property was lawfully in the possession of the defendant or the defendant’s immediate family
  • The defendant reasonably believed that his or her use of non-deadly force was necessary to prevent the other person’s wrongful behavior

Related: Common Reasons Why Battery Charges Are Dropped

Consent

Last but not least, consent may be available as a defense to an assault and battery charge if the individual in question voluntarily consented to the violent act. Generally speaking, there are very limited circumstances in which consent may be used to provide a defense to assault and battery, as the individual cannot consent to circumstances that involve the possibility of serious bodily injury. Second, the risk and harm must be reasonably foreseeable, and third, the individual must receive some sort of benefit from the conduct to justify the consent. 

If you have been charged with a criminal offense involving a violent act, such as assault and battery, and reasonably believe that you were acting in self-defense, defense of others, defense of property, or received consent for the violent act, contact an assault and battery lawyer in St. Petersburg with the Rickman Law Firm. You may be able to avoid or minimize the harsh consequences of a conviction through the use of legal defense to contest or dismiss the charge.

For a free consultation with the best assault and battery attorney in St. Petersburg, please contact The Rickman Law Firm today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation. 

Anthony Rickman Selected to 2020 Florida Super Lawyers

TAMPA, FL, JUNE 2020 — Criminal defense attorney Anthony Rickman of The Rickman Law Firm has been named as a 2020 Florida Super Lawyer. Each year, only the top five percent of attorneys in Florida are selected to be named as Super Lawyers.

Super Lawyers, a Thomas Reuters business, determines the honorees through a patented multiphase selection process, during which each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. The result is a comprehensive list of exceptional attorneys to be published in Super Lawyers Magazines nationwide.

“It’s a great honor to be recognized by my peers with such a prestigious designation,” said Rickman. “This award signifies my dedication to provide my clients with superior legal representation.” This isn’t the first time Mr. Rickman has been selected as a Super Lawyer. He’s been selected as one of Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars multiple times throughout his career, and is honored to once again be recognized by the prestigious publication.

Courts and bar associations across the United States have recognized the legitimacy of the Super Lawyers selection process. The list has been previously lauded as a comprehensive, good-faith attempt to highlight attorneys that have demonstrated achievement in the field and attained high peer recognition.

Mr. Rickman is licensed in Florida State and Federal Court and is an AV Preeminent rated attorney with over 14 years of experience in Criminal Defense. He has successfully represented clients charged with murder, manslaughter, and other serious crimes.. Mr. Rickman also contributes legal analysis to several local and national news outlets, including NBC, ABC, CNN, and FOX.

ABOUT THE RICKMAN LAW FIRM

A graduate of the Florida State University College of Law, Mr. Rickman began his career as a prosecutor, which has contributed to his success as a criminal defense attorney. The Rickman Law Firm provides superior representation to individuals arrested or accused of crimes in State and Federal Court. Mr. Rickman, an AV Rated Lawyer, has a 10.0 star rating from AVVO, has been named as a Florida Super Lawyer, been selected as a Top 40 Trial Lawyer under 40 by the National Trial Lawyers Association, and has received a “Superior” ranking by the National Advocacy for DUI Defense organization. The Rickman Law Firm, with its main office in Tampa is dedicated to representing clients throughout the state of Florida.For more information, visit https://therickmanlawfirm.com/

ABOUT SUPER LAWYERS

Super Lawyers is a rating service of attorneys from over 70 practice areas. The renowned magazine recognizes lawyers who have attained an impressive caliber of professional achievement. Attorneys are selected using a rigorous process that includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations. For more information, visit https://www.superlawyers.com/

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MEDIA CONTACT

Anthony B. Rickman, Esq.

The Rickman Law Firm

(813) 999-0502

ARickman@therickmanlawfirm.com

Case Results

POSSESSION OF CANNABIS CHARGE NOLLE PROSSED/DUI REDUCED TO RECKLESS DRIVING

The Client was charged with Possession of Cannabis and Driving Under the Influence as well as a Traffic Infraction. Attorney Anthony Rickman succeeding in getting the State to Nolle Prosse the Possession of Cannabis charge
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CHILD ABUSE CHARGE DISMISSED

The Client was arrested for Child Abuse after an incident where an individual under the age of 18 exploded firecrackers under the Client’s vehicle and a conflict ensued. Attorney Anthony Rickman immediately contacted
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FELONY GRAND THEFT CHARGE DISMISSED UPON COMPLETION OF DIVERSON PROGRAM

The Client was arrested for Grand Theft after allegedly depositing a paycheck from an employer four times to obtain additional funds. Attorney Anthony Rickman worked with the State and had the client placed
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