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January 2014 Archives

55 Dead Bodies Found: No Criminal Charges Filed

The remains of 55 people were uncovered on the school grounds of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. The researchers at the University of South Florida announced that this number is 24 more than what was listed in the school records. Finally, relatives of some of these boys will be able to get the closure they have been seeking for decades. Currently, there have been no criminal charges filed.

When Is Sexting Considered Child Pornography?

Two years ago, a youth from Pennsylvania felt relief when a Legigh County judge agreed with the girl's attorney about charges she faced. The girl had been faced with child porn charges after she posted a video showing two other teens engaged in a sex act. The Legigh County judge agreed that the charges were an "overreaction by law enforcement" and dismissed them in 2012. Two years later, the girl commonly referred to as C.S. in the court papers, must return to juvenile court and face felony charges. The state Supreme Court has to draw the line where poor judgment by sexting teens ends and criminal exploitation by child pornographers begins.

Sex Sting Leads to The Arrest of 35

While the residents of Tampa and the surrounding areas enjoyed Gasparilla, 35 other men looked for enjoyment somewhere else. Websites such as teenchat.com, boyahoy.com, and motherless.com were some of websites these men were using to look for young girls. These men ranged in age from 19 to 65 and were soon apprehended by law enforcement. How did law enforcement know what they were up to in their private time? Because law enforcement was involved with an undercover sex sting, which put them undercover in these websites looking for adults trying to have sex with children.

Supreme Court: Drugs Must Cause Death for Dealer to Be Convicted

A conviction for drug distribution under the federal Controlled Substances Act can carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. "If death or serious bodily injury results from the use of such substance," however, the mandatory minimum sentence doubles to 20 years.

From First Degree Murder to Mail Fraud

A 27 year old woman lost her unborn child when boyfriend John Andrew Welden gave her a fraudulent prescription for a drug called Cytotec. A drug commonly used to prevent ulcers is also used, in combination with another drug, to terminate pregnancies. Welden was first charged with first-degree murder of the unborn child under the 2004 Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Since then, that charge has been dropped and replaced with mail fraud.

Counsel's Failure to Object Cost Client Jail Time

Edwin Aguilar-Ibarra pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a Hobbs Act robbery and the commission of a Hobbs Act robbery and was sentenced to 87-months. Prior to his sentencing, his defense counsel failed to make timely objections to the presentence investigation report. As a result, Aguilar-Ibarra was given a two-level bodily injury enhancement. Aguilar-Ibarra appealed the sentence and challenged the district court's decision to apply the enhancement. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed his sentence.

Your Smartphone Is Your Life. Should Police Be Able to Search It?

The U.S. Supreme Court has just agreed to hear two cases about whether law enforcement should be allowed, without a warrant, to seize and go through the cellphones of anyone they arrest. In one case, the cellphone was an old-fashioned type with minimal functionality beyond talking, texting and taking photos. The other case involved a smartphone -- the kind that's essentially a mini-computer containing virtually every detail of the user's life. Law enforcement was easily able to pull crucial evidence from each type of phone, so should the distinction matter?

Couple Faces 30 Years for $15 Million Bank Fraud

Darryl Burke first entered the federal system in the 1990s when he pleaded guilty to a prior bank fraud conspiracy with his brother. Now, 25 years later, Burke faces 30 years in prison if convicted of the new charges against him. However, the scheme behind these new charges is not so new. In fact, the current allegations against Burke involve conduct and deception that is identical to the original crime Burke admitted to in the 1990s.

Father Given Two Life Sentences For Sexually Abusing Children

Sarah and Jonathan Adleta were charged for various crimes, including the making of child pornography with their two children. The couple had sexually abused their two young children over a span of approximately 4 years before charges were filed. Jonathan Adleta had always talked about his "daddy-daughter sex" fantasies, even before the two were married and had children. Jonathan Adleta was sentenced to two life terms at the beginning of January 2014 so he could never hurt the children again.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences: No Longer Seen as a Positive Solution

Mandatory minimum sentences were once created as a "one-size-fits-all" solution for sentencing disparities. However, these sentences have recently been recognized as coming up short of these expectations. This recognition arises from reasons such as the fairness of the sentences and the expense of running federal prisons. There have been a number of bills floated recently that attempt to reduce these sentences.

Clearwater Man Gets 11 Years in Federal Crack Cocaine Case

When an individual is accused of a drug offense in Florida, he or she may be charged at the state or federal level. While Florida law is very tough on drug offenders, a conviction for a drug charge under federal law can result in much harsher consequences. Federal charges have the potential to lead to longer prison sentences and steeper fines.

Banker Involved In Wire Fraud Rises From the Dead

Aubrey Lee Price, a banker wanted for $21 million wire fraud, was arrested in south Georgia. The banker had fooled many into thinking he had committed suicide in 2012 after he told family he was planning on jumping from a boat in the Florida Keys. The banker was pulled over for having illegal window tint and was subsequently arrested. He has pleaded not guilty to federal bank fraud charges.

Man Sent to Prison for Secretly Making Child Porn

A federal investigation that started in 2012 is finally over after an Orange County man was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. A 31-year old man, Daniel Heffield, had been secretly videotaping girls while they used the bathroom at his mother's home during their piano lessons. Heffield admitted to making over two dozen videos of the young girls; some girls were as young as four years old.

Seven Florida Residents Involved With Mortgage Fraud Scheme

Seven Florida residents have been arrested on multiple charges in a mortgage fraud scheme involving a development in North Carolina. The defendants are being accused of using fraudulent loan applications to get construction mortgages. The loans were valued at almost $50 million and were made by Bank of America, SunTrust, Wachovia, and Regions Bank. Each of the defendants face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and $1 million fine.

Man Seeks Justice After Serving Time in Jail for Crime He Didn't Commit

The majority of police investigators are honorable and work within the perimeters of the law while investigating and attempting to solve crimes. In some cases, however, police officers have been found to grossly abuse their positions of power. As a result, the lives of some innocent individuals are irreparably and adversely impacted.

'Otherwise Illegal Activity' by FBI Informants Is on the Increase

While our overall crime rate has been declining for decades, it appears the opposite is true for one type of federal crime. Unfortunately, this criminal activity is officially sanctioned during FBI investigations, and it's on the rise. It's called "otherwise illegal activity" -- activity that would be illegal if it weren't committed by an FBI informant.

Mark J. O'Brien's cases have been featured in:
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