Category Archives: Federal Criminal Defense

Curt Crowley, a Jackson, MS-based criminal defense lawyer, discusses the defense of persons charged with federal crimes.

Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer discusses illegal gambling businesses under 18 U.S.C. Section 1955

Over at Jackson Jambalaya, Kingfish recently posted a series of stories regarding two Mississippi charitable bingo operations that appear to have been playing a bit fast-and-loose with their “charitable” proceeds.  The two charities involved are the Fine Arts Institute of Mississippi (FAIM) and the Union Center/Theo Volunteer Fire Department.  You can view Kingfish’s FAIM posts here, here and here.  The Union Center post is here.

Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman recently shut down both of these charities.  As with most charitable gaming cases, these organizations violated the law by funneling money to persons or entities other than the charities they were supposed to benefit.  In addition, these groups misled the Mississippi Gaming Commission by laundering funds to disguise their true use, and/or filed false official reports to mislead the Commission as to the recipient of the proceeds.

Many charitable bingo operators take the stance that gaming regulations are an inconsequential administrative matter.  The prevailing attitude is that cases like this are nothing more than a glorified, non-criminal traffic ticket.  Just pay the fine, reimburse the charity, and move on.  Nothing to see here. 

What these folks fail to realize is that the violation of “mere” administrative gaming regulations also violates federal criminal statutes of the felony type.  Under 18 U.S.C. Section 1955, it is a violation of federal law for any person to conduct an “illegal gambling business.”  And just what is an illegal gambling business?  According to Section 1955(b)(1), an “illegal gambling business” is a gambling business which

(i) is a violation of the law of a State or political subdivision in which it is conducted;

(ii) involves five or more persons who conduct, finance, manage, supervise, direct, or own all or part of such business; and

(iii) has been or remains in substantially continuous operation for a period in excess of thirty days or has a gross revenue of $2,000 in any single day.

It looks like both FAIM and Union Center meet each of these elements.

A violation of 18 U.S.C. 1955 carries a maximum sentence of five (5) years in federal prison.  Definitely not a glorified traffic ticket. 

And lest anyone think the Government won’t go after a charitable bingo operator under this statute, take a look at United States v. Shelton, 337 F.3d 529 (5th Cir. 2003).

Mississippi Criminal Defense Attorney Curt Crowley


Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer Talks About Defending Law Enforcement

That may be a strange title for a post on the blog of a criminal defense lawyer, but defending law enforcement officers accused of misconduct in the line of duty is one of our practice areas at The Crowley Law Firm, PLLC.

Due to the nature of the job, police officers are placed in situations where there is a potential to find themselves charged with a crime, even if they are in the line of duty.  Once charged with a crime, however, officers face the same hurdles as civilian defendants.  On top of that, officers are generally treated more harshly than non-law enforcement defendants.  Want an example?  Look no further than MHP Sgt. Johnny Delaney.

In addition to representation in criminal actions, we also represent officers in “non-criminal” internal investigations, employment actions, and civil rights lawsuits.  While our practice is focused exclusively on criminal defense, we accept a limited amount of civil cases involving officers who are facing these types of proceedings.

At TCLF, we aggressively and tenaciously defend law enforcement officers who are accused of crimes.  I personally consider protecting and defending those who protect and defend us, to be the highest calling for a criminal defense lawyer.  If you are a law enforcement officer who is facing criminal charges, internal affairs investigations, civil lawsuits or employment actions arising from conduct in the line of duty, please contact Mississippi Criminal Defense Attorney Curt Crowley to schedule a consultation.

Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer Discusses Mississippi State Trooper Extortion Appeal

I previously reported that Holmes County Circuit Judge Jannie Lewis dismissed the extortion case against Mississippi Highway Patrol Trooper Sgt. Johnny Delaney.  Following the dismissal, District Attorney James Powell made good on his threat to appeal the dismissal to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

According to the Supreme Court’s docket, the trial court record was filed on December 7, 2009, and the Court issued a briefing schedule on the same day.  The briefing schedule sets the deadlines for the State to file its principal brief, and for the defense to file Sgt. Delaney’s brief.  The schedule also sets a deadline for the State to file a reply brief in response to the arguments made by the defense.

At this pace, it will likely be 12-18 months before the Court rules on the State’s appeal.  This is the usual speed with which cases proceed through the appellate process.  Meanwhile, Sgt. Delaney is left to wonder what his future holds.

I find this very unusual case disturbing for a number of reasons.  My primary beef with this whole affair has nothing to do with the State, the prosecutors, the Courts, or even the law itself.  My problem is with the pathetically sorry manner in which the Mississippi Highway Patrol (MHP) has treated Sgt. Delaney since the inception of this case.  The Clarion-Ledger previously reported that MHP suspended Delaney without pay when the charges were first levied.  That’s right–Delaney was suspended without pay even though he has been convicted of nothing.  For months, Sgt. Delaney has been deprived of his ability to earn a living, even though no proof has been brought forward that he committed a crime.  In the eyes of the law, Delaney is cloaked in the presumption of innocence, yet MHP is treating him as though he is already guilty.  From my point of view, that is a deplorable and patently disloyal way to treat a man who is supposedly a member of the MHP family.

And what kind of message does this action send to other Troopers?  The message is loud and clear:  If you write somebody a speeding ticket, and they get pissed off and accuse you of committing a crime, you’re on your own.  And not only are you on your own, you can’t feed your family until you prove yourself innocent.

I deal with Mississippi State Troopers frequently.  They are always on the other side of my cases, and I go after them–hard.  Despite this adversarial relationship, I firmly believe that rank-and-file Mississippi Troopers are among the finest law enforcement officers in the nation.  No matter how contentious the case, or how heated the cross-examination, the Troopers I’ve been up against have been professional, intelligent, honest and courteous.  These guys put it on the line every day, and do a damn good job in service to the people of Mississippi.  They deserve better than to be shunned by MHP brass when some malcontent makes unsubstantiated allegations of misconduct. 

MHP should stop the disgraceful practice of suspending Troopers without pay based upon unproven allegations.  If loyalty is too much to ask of MHP, how about this: Wait until misconduct is actually proven before you punish the officer.  You know, the whole “presumed innocent” thing.  Ever heard of it?

Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer Curt Crowley

Jackson, Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer Discusses White Collar Crime and the Arrest of Raj Rajaratnam Arrested

Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer Curt Crowley

One of America’s richest men, Raj Rajaratnam, has been arrested and charged with numerous white collar crimes.  The charges center around an alleged insider trading conspiracy.

The ring is alleged to have generated $25 million in illegal profits for Rajaratnam.  After doing the obligatory “perp walk,” the government took Rajaratnam before U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas F. Eaton for an initial appearance.  Judge Eaton also took up the issue of bail.  The Government sought pretrial detention without bail, claiming that Rajaratnam was a flight risk.  The judge didn’t buy the Government’s argument.  Bail was set at $100 million dollars (secured by $20 million in collateral).

The criminal complaint alleges four counts of conspiracy and nine counts of insider trading.  The criminal complaint is quite a read.  It quotes heavily from conversations among the defendants, which were obtained by wiretap.  You can read the criminal complaint here.

From Enron and WorldCom to Galleon, white collar crime is a major focus of both state and federal law enforcement.  White collar crime includes such offenses as:

  1. Bribery
  2. Extortion (blackmail)
  3. Counterfeiting
  4. Theft of trade secrets
  5. Embezzlement
  6. Money Laundering
  7. Honest Services Fraud
  8. Racketeering and RICO
  9. Securities Fraud/Insider Trading
  10. Bank Fraud
  11. Mail Fraud
  12. Wire Fraud
  13. Computer Fraud
  14. Credit Card Fraud
  15. Check Kiting
  16. Forgery
  17. Home Repair Fraud
  18. Healthcare Fraud
  19. Medicaid Fraud
  20. Medicare Fraud
  21. Welfare Fraud
  22. Food Stamp Fraud
  23. Insurance Fraud
  24. Investment Fraud
  25. Telemarketing Fraud

In recent years, these crimes have become more publicized and notorious.  In the current economic climate, some events that would have previously resulted in a civil lawsuit (at best), are now being prosecuted as crimes.  The sentences handed down for white collar crimes have become draconian, and frequently exceed sentences given to violent criminals.

Many of these cases are complex and involve tens of thousands of documents.  Defending these cases requires an intensive defense investigation.  The Government has often investigated these cases for years before an arrest is made.  The defense investigation must be swift and meticulous.  The sooner the accused hires an aggressive criminal defense attorney, the sooner the defense investigation can begin.

The time to hire a white collar criminal defense lawyer is when you have the first inkling that you may be under investigation.  In many cases, a thorough defense investigation, conducted before a person is arrested or indicted, can persuade the Government not to pursue the case further.

If you think you may be under investigation for a white collar crime, or if you’ve been arrested or indicted, the time to act is now.  Please call me to discuss your case.

Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer Curt Crowley

Jackson, Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer Updates Mississippi State Trooper Extortion Case

Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer Curt Crowley

It’s official.  The District Attorney has appealed Judge Lewis’ order dismissing the extortion case against Mississippi State Trooper Sgt. Johnny Delaney. 

The next step is for the Court to enter a briefing schedule.  The briefing schedule sets deadlines for the parties to submit legal briefs on the issues raised in the appeal.

I will keep monitoring and reporting on this case.

Jackson, Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer Provides State Trooper Extortion Case Update

Mississippi Criminal Defense Attorney Curt Crowley

I previously reported that Holmes County Circuit Judge Jannie Lewis had dismissed the ticket-fixing extortion case against Mississippi Highway Patrol Trooper Sgt. Johnny Delaney.  District Attorney James Powell is apparently making good on his vow to appeal Judge Lewis’ ruling.  According to The Clarion-Ledger,

Holmes County District Attorney James Powell said he will appeal the dismissal of charges against a Mississippi Highway Patrol trooper.

“I’m working on my notice of appeal right now,” Powell told the Greenwood Commonwealth newspaper.

Johnny Delaney, 53, of Cruger was indicted in December on extortion charges in connection with a Sept. 30, 2008, incident involving a Holmes County man. Delaney, who has worked for the patrol for more than 20 years, was accused of taking money in exchange for dismissing tickets.

Last week, Holmes County Circuit Judge Jannie Lewis tossed out the indictment.

Lewis cited state law requiring that law enforcement officers receive a probable cause hearing before indictment. No hearing was held for Delaney before his indictment.

The appeal will be to the Mississippi Supreme Court.  I reviewed the MSC’s docket a moment ago, and no appeal has been filed yet.

I’ve frequently been called upon by police officers to represent them when they have been accused of misconduct.  Based upon my experience, this case could have a far-reaching impact on police and other law enforcement officers who are accused of committing crimes while in the line of duty.  I will continue to follow this case and post updates.

For more information about Mississippi criminal law, contact Mississippi Criminal Defense Attorney Curt Crowley.

Mississippi Criminal Defense Lawyer Explains The Crime of Embezzlement

Crime rates as a whole generally increase in tough economic times.  Financial crimes, especially embezzlement, tend to have sharp increases. 

Mississippi has experienced an increase in embezzlement cases.  Laurel Leader Call reporter Eloria Newell James writes:

LAUREL — From taking merchandise for personal use to removing cash from a business’ cash register, law enforcement officials say embezzlement is on the rise.

The Laurel Police Department’s Investigative Division has reported an increase in embezzlement cases in recent weeks.

The department has reported several recent cases involving the theft of businesses’ money.

Sgt. Michael Reaves with the Laurel Police said while law enforcement officials have seen “a decrease in a lot of crimes in our areas” the number of cases involving money has increased.

“In the last six months, we’ve seen a lot of our financial crimes spike,” Reaves said. “Economic crimes, crimes dealing with money, have increased.”

In May, a Laurel woman was arrested and charged in an ongoing embezzlement case in Ellisville. Kathy Hilbun, 48, who once worked at the BP Convenience Store in Ellisville, was arrested and charged with one count of felony embezzlement after store officials reported on May 25 possible embezzlement.

Then in July, Sara Rose Dearman, 20, of Laurel was arrested in connection with embezzling money from the eatery where she worked.

Stephanie Thornton, 40, of Laurel, former business manager of the Laurel Leader-Call, was arrested Sept. 17 and charged with embezzling from the newspaper.

In late September, Quonesha Walters, 18, of Laurel, a former employee of Murphy Oil on 16th Avenue, was arrested by police and charged with two counts of embezzlement.

“We’ve seen several economic crimes lately,” Reaves said. “They have ranged from embezzlement, credit card fraud, identity theft and a little increase in counterfeit checks.”

“Some of the suspects (in the recent cases) have not been your typical suspects,” Reaves acknowledged. “Most of them have been women – blue collar workers, middle class people. They have been normal working people that seem to have allowed circumstances to put added stress on them and result in them doing something that they would not normally do.

“These are people with jobs and families,” Reaves added. “We’ve seen stolen (credit card) numbers, others they have obtained (credit) cards in other people’s names…. These are people who are getting money and/or goods by illegal gain.”

“We realize the economy is tough, but people should realize that embezzlement is a serious crime,” the police sergeant said.

While there are several types of embezzlement, this crime usually involves employees stealing money or goods from their employers.  Under Mississippi law,

If any person shall embezzle…or convert to his own use…any…property of any kind…which shall have…been entrusted to his care or possession by virtue of his…employment…with a value of [$500.00] or more, he shall be guilty of felony embezzlement, and, upon conviction…shall be imprisoned…not more than ten (10) years, or fined not more than [$25,000.00], or both.

If the value of such…property…is less than [$500.00], he shall be guilty of misdemeanor embezzlement, and, upon conviction…shall be imprisoned…not more than six (6) months, or fined not more than [$1,000.00], or both.

See Mississippi Code Annotated Section 97-23-19.

I handle cases involving white-collar and financial crimes, including embezzlement.  Even though embezzlement of a rather small amount of cash or property carries stiff penalties, there are defenses available to such a charge.  A thorough defense investigation is almost always required to defend against an embezzlement charge.  I’ve often said defense attorneys win (or lose) cases based upon how well they perform the defense investigation at the inception of the case.  There is no better example of this principle than embezzlement cases. 

If you have been charged with embezzlement, or think you might be under suspicion or investigation for a white-collar or other financial crime, please contact me immediately to protect your rights.

Mississippi Criminal Defense Attorney Curt Crowley