Articles Posted in Computer Crimes

SMART PHONES ARE JUST SMALL COMPUTERS, SUBJECT TO IMPULSIVE ACTIONS

Cell phones today serve many utilitarian functions besides being a communications device.  One can summon a ride, execute stock trades, research potential vendors, get insurance coverage, write an obituary, buy flight tickets or share photos with friends and family and a myriad of other tasks.  As this technology has become commonplace and accessible even to children, a new world of internet crimes also has arisen. Historically, this is nothing new.  New technology has brought new crimes before.  In the past, we had train robberies occur once the rails went across America. Likewise, we never had obscene phone calls until we had phones.  In this blog, this writer will discuss in general terms, based upon cases our office has actually defended, what types of cell phone behavior, under Florida law, gets people arrested.

SENDING A TEXT TO SOMEONE THREATENING TO KILL THEM

This is usually an highly impulsive act committed by a person who is almost always highly emotional and maybe drunk or stoned.  This falls under Florida Statute 836.10, is a second degree felony and scores prison under the Florida criminal scoresheet regarding punishment.  Prison time, for someone with no record, has been 1-2 years.  Also, a charge of this nature is like batting practice to a prosecutor.  Usually there is a series of texts to the same victim and since texts never disappear, the screen shots of the texts are simply provided to the defense attorney in discovery.  It is this writer’s experience that the cell phone being constantly on one’s person takes away the timeframe where the soon to be accused would have to get in front of a desktop computer.  Perhaps a slight delay could give a person time to calm down.  These cases also usually involve a very scared victim coming into court and stating their fears on the record at a sentencing hearing.

IF ON PROBATION, DON’T POST GUN AND WEED PICTURES OR HOMEMADE GUN TOTING RAP VIDEOS

This type of violation of probation is almost comical.  If one is on felony probation in Florida, they are not supposed to be around guns, dope or anyone committing crimes.  The cases this writer has seen of this nature are usually somebody getting even with the probationer.  More than one ex-girlfriend has reported her ex-boyfriend to his probation officer concerning acts which could violate him.  The defense will try to argue that the pics or videos occurred before the defendant went on probation.  The state attorney will bring the ex-girlfriend in to testify that the recording took place while the fellow was on probation.  A violation of probation does not mean the state attorney has to prove the violation beyond a reasonable doubt.  All that is needed is that the probationer willfully and substantially violated probation, and is decided by the Judge not a jury.

EXTORTION

Many couples, as part of their dating relationships, send pictures of themselves to their significant other.  Pictures can be transmitted within seconds but the repercussions of a picture or video containing nudity can last a lifetime.  Usually the unsuspecting person sending a picture of themselves has not thought it through that this image never goes away and is subject to being posted worldwide by the other person. Sometimes the person with pictures of the other will try to apply leverage for a continued relationship, money or special purchases, or simply to disgrace the other party. Very simply, one person demands something out of the other person, or else the pictures and videos are going internet wide.  These demands are usually communicated by text messaging to the victim and the state attorney has a very easy case to present.  Extortion under Florida law is a second degree felony and can carry up to a 15 year sentence. Continue reading

Students Arrested Were 17, 18 and 19 Years of Age, Dodged a Sex Crime

According to a report, three male students at Terry Parker High School in Jacksonville were arrested in April for having sex with a female student on school grounds.  The four students met up at a athletic field house on the high school campus.  One of the male students filmed portions of the sexual activity that occurred.  It appears the allegations came forth from the victim when she was being questioned about being late for class or asking for a “late” pass. Two of the young men went to the police station and were arrested.  Another young man was arrested days later.  They were all charged with Lewd or Lascivious Battery and also Lewd Battery with enticement of a person less than 16 years old to engage in any type of sexual activity.  A conviction of either charge would have devastated these young men with incarceration and the lifelong requirement of sex offender registration.  For several reasons, the State Attorney’s  office exercised discretion and reduced these charges to misdemeanors with probationary sentences.

Victim Originally Stated She Was Forced Into Sex Only to Admit Later it Was Consensual

As is common in many sex cases a person who the arresting officers and detectives determine to be a victim later recants his or her story.  In the above case, the female victim later stated the sex was consensual.  One of the young men had recorded the acts on his cell phone. That defendant also had an additional felony charge of “making/printing or publishing computer pornography” which under Florida Law is a third degree felony.  The young girl in this case was not of age to give or not give consent under Florida law; however, a supervisory prosecutor, after viewing the video contained on one defendant’s cellphone, determined that the young girl was not being forced into any participation by the three young men.  As the case unfolded, the video, the recording of which was an felony charge, seems to have helped all of the young men with the prosecutor’s decision to not bring the felony sex charges.

Sex Charges Can Surface Years Later

Under Florida law a person can be arrested for allegations of sexual misconduct years, even decades after the alledged behavior.  Most readers should be familiar with the multiple allegations against the popular comedian Bill Cosby.  Several women have brought up incidents from years past and at least once case is reportedly going to trial.  It is commonplace in Florida for a person with no criminal history to be arrested for sex crimes which supposedly occurred fifteen or twenty years prior.  The worst situation is Capital Sexual Battery, meaning, at the time of the incident, the victim was less than 12 years of age with the accused being over 18 years of age.  A person arrested on this charge is not entitled to a bond under Florida Law and is facing mandatory life imprisonment if convicted.  This writer has seen victims come forward with very old  allegations numerous times.  The motivation of the victim coming forward years later varies. It can be for “closure” as directed by their counselor or psychologist, the taking away of a 13 year old’s cell phone, refusing to let a rebellious 14 yr. old date the 16 yr. old who has his license and a car, the backing out of a promise to buy a child a car or truck when they turn 16, or mom is finally divorcing the stepdad.  Many times, other family members are aware of the allegations and families will try to just handle the matter internally without it getting out to law enforcement. Continue reading

Jacksonville Beach photographer, already in jail, receives additional charges

Currently jailed Jacksonville Beach photographer Mario Peralta was just given “add-ons” in jail speak. Add-ons are additional charges placed on a defendant already in custody on other charges. These are additional charges resulting from two search warrants generated following his initial arrest.  Peralta was initially arrested back in May, 2015, per the police report, after the father of a young female client of his photography and video studio discovered a tiny camera planted in a digital clock.  The clock was in the changing room.  The police report states the father removed the SD card from the clock, put it in his pocket and later reviewed the contents of the SD card once he got home to his own computer. The report states that the father notified law enforcement after seeing the video images of naked young girls stored on the SM card. Mr. Peralta has retained legal counsel and is presumed innocent until he either enters a plea or the state attorney proves the case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

Continue reading

Jacksonville’s citizens have many interesting that they do in their lives that involves the internet. Unfortunately, there are those people who do things on the internet that are both illegal and costly to one’s future. Even though these sorts of crimes seem horrible, the person accused of committing the crime deserves the same Constitutional protections as anyone else in the United States. Someone in a situation like this should obtain an experienced attorney to fight for one’s case and ensure one’s rights are protected.

According to the Florida Times-Union, Kamil Mezalka of Palm Coast was arrested for possession of child pornography received from the internet. The arrest came after FBI agents issued a search warrant at Mezalka’s house, after which Mezalka retaliated by stabbing his computer with a samurai sword. Mezalka’s computer contained hundreds of files containing picture of sexually abused children. imagescptrswrd.jpg

Jacksonville child pornography crimes are normally crimes that involve someone who’s computer has child pornography on the hard-drive, or on the computer’s IP address. However, what is unfortunate is that many prosecutors, police, and other parties fail to realize that a computer may be used by others in a home or office. This failure to investigate thoroughly, many times, makes a victim out of an innocent party.

For someone who has being investigated for and charged with pornography, depending on how much evidence is found and the severity of the Judge’s opinion, an accused party could serve a very long time in federal prison. In this case, Mezalka could serve anywhere from five to twenty years for the crimes he is accused of. If Mezalka was wrongfully charged, a great injustice would be done by locking him away for any amount of time.

When a child is involved in any sort of crime, most attorneys, Judges, and other members of the community’s hearts are hurt. Unfortunately for the accused, this means that public pressure as well as personal anger many times back a decision to prosecute the first possible defendant law enforcement can find. This process is extremely detrimental to the life and dignity of a private citizen who has now become a defendant a criminal prosecution.

Many times, other users of the same computer are the culprit, causing one to be blamed for a crime one would not commit oneself. Unfortunately, even after there is enough evidence that might show that the accused is not the actual perpetrator, the prosecutor in charge will refuse to drop the case. Many times, this will be discouraging to the accused, because one is struggling to prove one’s innocence and the State seems to know that one is innocent.

Many times, the accused in criminal prosecution will face a slew of officials who are determined to put one behind bars. However, if one in a situation like this obtains an experienced Jacksonville child pornography crimes defense attorney to fight for one’s case and ensure one’s rights and defenses are known and protected, one can be sure that even though the State is one’s enemy, one’s experienced attorney will be able to win the battle for one’s freedom.

Continue reading

Jacksonville’s citizens make mistakes; however, the legal system does not see mistakes as mistakes, but rather heinous conduct that will not stop without severe punishments. The accused is then subjected to an extreme punishment for a crime that, many times, the accused never committed themselves. If one has been involved in a similar situation, one should obtain an experienced attorney to fight for one’s case and ensure one’s rights are protected.

According to the Florida Times-Union, Merle Shamblin of Flagler County was arrested on a Flagler county warrant at the U.S.-Canadian border in New York. The arrest came after a warrant was issued for Shamblin, who was wanted in suspicion of 40 counts of child pornography. Shamblin went on the run after a computer repair shop employee fixing Shamblin’s computer noticed the pornography and reported it to police. 154686-main_Full.jpg

Jacksonville child pornography cases are tragic in many ways. The victims are always innocent and defenseless children who never consented to being involved in these images and videos. This is a practice that should not be allowed under any circumstances. However, for the quickly growing number of individuals with wireless internet at their houses, the risk increases for an unknown individual to steal internet and obtain child pornography.

Child Pornography is a third degree felony worthy of five years in prison. This is a big sentence for someone to serve when another individual on a wireless laptop accessing these kinds of materials is most likely the culprit. The reality of the situation is that someone who has just set up their wireless internet or has not password locked it stands a big chance of being falsely accused.

The police and federal agencies track people they think have child pornography with the internet as well. Using the signature left from one’s wireless modem, the authorities can pick up and track certain suspicious internet activity. However, that tracking only goes so far as the modem, leaving the owner of that modem many times at the mercy of the police who will immediately assume guilt where there is none.

Furthermore, the amount of pressure the State will put on the police to make an arrest and charge someone is enormous. Outside pressures to track down and crack down on child pornography crimes are heavy, and many times that pressure leads a police officer to make an arrest on less than what is required. However, one should not suffer because of a police officer’s inability to look at all possible options and possibilities of who might be the perpetrator.

Unfortunately the time and energy required to fight a charge of this nature can be tremendous. However, if one obtains an experienced Jacksonville child pornography defense attorney to fight for one’s case, one can be sure that one’s defenses, options and legal rights will be known and protected. One cannot risk going to prison for a long period of time for a crime one did not commit.

Continue reading

Jacksonville is growing rapidly every year in the technological world, making life easier for its citizens every day. However, as technology advances, so does the knowledge and ability of criminals to steal using that same technology. No matter what the reason for the theft, when one is charged with an online theft crime such as this, one should contact an experienced attorney so that one can ensure one’s rights are protected.

According to the Florida Times-Union, the police are investigating a theft crime involving a Wells Fargo account. The Jacksonville police say that $20,495 was stolen out of a man and his sister’s joint account by way of 37 online payments over a period of about 5 months. online-713014.jpg

Theft crimes in Jacksonville are typically associated with muggings, robberies, or burglaries. However, thieves are becoming more non-personal and operated via cyberspace. As such, most criminals are able at times to get away with online theft. As such, law enforcement, banks, and other online-accessible financial institutions are gearing up their security.

Even though online bank account theft is a relatively new form of theft, the crime itself remains the same, until the legislature makes a new, more specified criminal charge for it. Even though there is not a new charge for the crime, the police and other investigative units have methods of finding out where the money is being stolen from, where the stolen money is going, and most of the time what the money is being used for.

In the case of the Wells Fargo bank account theft, the police have been able to tell that the money stolen was used to pay for a number of different things, including a mortgage, a JEA bill, and a few credit card bills. However, the police are still investigating who was actually responsible for the theft.

One method by which police investigate bank account theft is by tracing where the account was accessed, how and by who’s computer. Unfortunately, people can be arrested for online theft even though they themselves may not have been the actual thief. Someone accused of a crime such as this may see no way out in this particular situation. However, there are defenses than experienced Jacksonville theft crimes attorney can provide:

– the accused did not access the computer at the time the theft was said to occur
– the accused never used the computer at all even though it was registered to the accused
– common public or common private familial usage of the computer
– the accused has no possession of any of any possessions bought
– the accused is not recorded nor is connected to any bills paid
No matter what the particular set of facts, one will normally have a defense that an experienced attorney will use on behalf of the accused to make sure that at minimum, the charges can be reduced, and if possible, have the charges dropped entirely.

Continue reading

According to the Miami-Herald, Stephen Saftler, a Fort Lauderdale man, has been charged with 51 counts of child pornography, uncovered during an undercover task-force investigation. Saftler will be facing some horrid charges and penalties unless he obtains an experienced attorney to fight for his case and present his best defenses.

Saftler was an employee of the ESMO company, a medical equipment company, which had been the owner of the IP address that was used to track down the child pornography. The South Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, in conjunction with an undercover detective, were able to find hundreds of pictures and videos of children being sexually abused by adults on Saftler’s work computer.

Jacksonville child pornography cases can be some of the most gruesome cases out there. No one likes to see children hurt and abused in the manner in which they are in child pornography. However, this does not deprive the accused of the right to the best defense possible. my-Computer.jpg

There are both state and federal charges available for the defendant to be charged under; however, typically a defendant charged with possession or distribution of child pornography will be charged under federal law. The reason for being federally charged is that with computer crimes involving the Internet, the crime itself is not usually isolated to one state or another, and more so all of the states together.

Even if one is to be federally charged, one can still be charged under state laws. State laws against child pornography tend to be less harsh than the more extensive federal laws; however, both are very harsh.

There are many factors that would establish whether a person found guilty of child pornography based on a federal charge should be given a lighter or heavier sentence. Some of these include:
– criminal record
– whether the defendant is willing to turn evidence against other possible defendants
– willingness to cooperate with prosecution
In many cases, when investigated for child pornography, the accused’s life will be turned upside down in a matter of seconds. Police will be asking questions, personal computers will taken, work computers will be taken, and the investigators will be searching the accused’s home looking for evidence.

One might think that if one works with the police as quickly as possible without resisting that one is willing to come clean and as a result, have an easier time with the entire investigative process. However, cooperating with the police will not ensure this. The best thing to do in this situation is not cooperate until you have contacted an attorney.

In the case of Saftler, he had no choice but to give up his work computer to the task force in charge of the investigation. However, had the computer been his private computer, Saftler would have been able to obtain an attorney first.

There are many times in Jacksonville where people are accused of sending, receiving, buying, and selling child pornography. Some of these people are the victims of wireless Internet theft; others are people who have made the mistake and yet not have the best defense presented for them. No matter what the particular situation, one should acquire an experienced Jacksonville child-pornography defense attorney to fight for one’s case and make sure one’s rights are protected.

Continue reading

Jacksonville recently had the dubious distinction to being the home of one of the country’s most infamous defendants when accused hacker Christopher Chaney was arrested and charged with breaking into the e-mail accounts of several celebrities and posting nude photos of some.

But what should be noted is that it took the FBI an entire year to make an arrest and by the information being published, it took Chaney a large amount time to allegedly commit the crimes for which he is charged.
2dRRjXV.jpg
He faces 26 counts in a federal court in Los Angeles related to “Operation Hackerazzi,” in which the FBI alleges 50 celebrities fell victim to Chaney’s cyber crimes in Jacksonville. With all the media attention — turning this 35-year-old average citizen into a celebrity himself — Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys wonder if Chaney can get a fair trial.

In any high-profile criminal case, the court of public opinion can sometimes be as important as the criminal court. Not literally, of course, because only a trial can determine true guilt or innocence (as Casey Anthony would tell you), but every person who watches TV, reads the newspaper or looks at online articles about a defendant is a prospective juror.

That means they can be influenced by what is reported by the news media or blog writers throughout the world. And that means that even in a highly complex case such as this one, jurors may well have already made up their minds without hearing any evidence.

In Chaney’s case, he is accused of monitoring celebrity’s Twitter accounts, public comments and other social media to gain access to their e-mail addresses. There, he found photos, including nude photos of actress Scarlett Johansson, personal conversations about upcoming projects and other information that he posted online for all to see, according to prosecutors.

He allegedly mined the web for data to use in guessing what the passwords to their accounts might be. And in what may seal his fate, he granted several news media interviews during which he confessed to the activity, saying he did it for the thrill as kind of an obsession.

Cyber crime is a large part of our society, given that so many activities are conducted online. Banking, shopping and everyday operations use computer networks that are susceptible to breaches. Finding out who commit these computer crimes isn’t as easy as following an easy to follow paper trail.

Computer networks are extremely complicated and require highly trained people to accurately figure out a person responsible for the actions. And many times, investigators get it wrong. Or they are so overzealous in their pursuit, they violate a person’s rights with an inaccurate search warrant request.

Cyber crime is a big problem, but it must be fought diligently yet lawfully. Getting it right is more important than getting a person in custody. And a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer should be called in to ensure a defendant’s rights are upheld every step of the way.

Continue reading

News4Jax.com recently reported the case of a Fort White man who pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville to a charge of possessing images and videos of child pornography.

Child pornography charges in Jacksonville typically are handled by federal prosecutors rather than state prosecutors. That’s because Internet crimes are typically committed state-to-state and the number of images can affect the jurisdiction. But that doesn’t mean a defendant couldn’t face state charges.
handcuffed.jpg
Regardless of what court the person will be dragged into, the charges are serious and can be punishable by years in prison. That’s why immediately contacting a Jacksonville Child Pornography Defense Attorney should be the defendant’s first step. If investigated by law enforcement, things will move quickly; police will interrogate you, seek to confiscate your computers and want to search your home. You should refuse them access to your possessions and contact an attorney.

In this case, a 26-year-old man from Fort White recently pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography in federal court in Jacksonville. According to the news report, the man faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a possible life term of supervised release.

According to the news station, an FBI agent in Oklahoma was conducting a child pornography investigation and identified a host computer whose Internet service provider led to the Fort White home. In 2009, agents executed a search warrant at the man’s home.

The man admitted to collecting child pornography for about a year, according to court documents. Agents found 25 videos and 273 images containing child pornography inside his house and on his computer.

As noted above, a defendant charged with having, making or sending child pornography can be charged either by state prosecutors or federal prosecutors. Under Florida Statute 847.0137, sending child pornography is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

But under U.S. Code Tittle 18, Chapter 110, child pornography charges are much more extensive. Penalties range and can depend on the number of images, the conduct of the defendant and the defendant’s criminal history record.

The two systems vary in how they punish convicts. In the state system, penalties are added together based on the number of charges and judges have the discretion to sentence as they wish, within the guidelines of the possible sentence. In the federal system, there is a possible range of imprisonment, based on many factors, including the penalties, the criminal history record, how forthcoming the defendant was, if they provided information about other defendants for other prosecutions and other factors. The judge then must sentence within the range of months or years, unless they have a legal reason to go lower or higher.

The charges can be beaten in either system, but it requires hiring an experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer to fight the allegations. Proving who was using a computer if there are several people living in the house and showing that images were planted through file-sharing web sites, are two possible defenses. Our firm works with clients to present the best possible defense and seek the best resolution in their cases.

Continue reading

With the Internet being accessible to more and more Americans and people abroad, the number of reported computer-related crimes has skyrocketed in recent years.

And Jacksonville isn’t immune. There is a University of North Florida program designed to teach students about computer security, fighting off hackers and other network-related material that is cutting-edge. While stealing money used to only occur if a person walked into a bank or business, criminals can now scour the web to find portals to taking money or clone credit cards for personal use.
mWdhhSA.jpg
But when law enforcement make arrests in these types of cases, they sometimes get it wrong. Committing web-based theft or fraud in Jacksonville requires a great deal of knowledge about computers and networks, the ins and outs of Internet security and the access to commit the crime.

Experienced criminals can sometimes use another person’s computer to commit crimes, thus making it appear the owner of the computer was doing the illegal deed. A Jacksonville Computer Crimes Defense Attorney can sort through the evidence and separate the true facts from the allegations in these types of cases.

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a government-based site devoted to tracking web-based crime, Florida had the second highest number of alleged Internet crime perpetrators and the second highest number of complaints nationwide in 2010. Floridians lodged 7.9 percent of the complaints tallied nationwide in 2010.

This shows that not only are more Internet crime operations based out of Florida, but the percentage of people being attacked in these types of crimes are victimized in Florida. And because Florida law enforcement and state attorneys are on high alert because of these numbers, they sometimes are overaggressive in their approach.

In Florida in 2010, according to the agency’s annual report, there were 19,878 complaints statewide of internet crimes:

Identity theft: 20.9%
Non-delivery of merchandise or payment: 18.0%
Credit card fraud: 12.9%
Auction fraud: 8.8%
Miscellaneous consumer fraud: 7.4%
Computer fraud: 6.9%
SPAM: 3.5%
Advanced fee fraud: 3.4%
Overpayment fraud: 3.2%
Relationship fraud: 2.3%
The report also states that 7.8 percent of the crimes cost the victims more than $10,000. A majority of the crimes — 38.5 percent, cost between $100 and $999, while 30.8 percent cost between $1,000 and $4,999. The top dollar amount involved relationship fraud and totaled $235,000, while the reported loss statewide was more than $37 million.

These crimes can be costly and when conducted across state lines can mean a prosecution in the federal court system, which makes the crimes more difficult to beat and sometimes means tougher penalties.

But an aggressive Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney can be used to debunk the prosecution theory by sifting through pages and pages of records, using hired experts to disprove the alleged facts and seek a resolution that most benefits the client. These cases often require an aggressive approach in order to save the defendant from years stuck in prison.

Continue reading