Articles Posted in Property Crimes

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It was only $23 worth of merchandise. The very charge has the word “petit” in it. Why is this a big deal? The State as offered an adjudication of guilt and nominal court costs, shouldn’t I just accept that and walk away? Not only no, but hell no. Petit theft, or any other variety of crime of dishonesty are snakes in the grass that keep biting long after resolution if not handled correctly. Far too often I receive calls from individuals who resolved a theft allegation to a nominal direct penalty in Court, only to have that decision haunt them for the rest of their lives. Anything an individual does that calls on credibility will be affected by a criminal history reflecting a crime of dishonesty. For that reason, it is absolutely imperative to retain a criminal lawyer well versed with not only the direct consequences of a theft crime, but also the collateral consequences often overlooked.

A common Petit Theft charge is either classified as a first or second-degree misdemeanor, depending on the value of the item alleged to have been taken. If the property is between $100 and $299.99 the petit theft will be classified as a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months, 29 days in county jail and a $1000 fine. If the value is less than $100 the second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in the county jail and a $500 fine. For all intents and purposes the State Attorney’s Office will treat petit theft in the same fashion regardless of its misdemeanor level. What often gets overlooked is the fact that an adjudication of guilt to a petit theft could result in a driver’s license suspension and such conviction will remain the basis for disappointment for years to come. Any job application that triggers a criminal background check will yield a reflection that the applicant has a crime of dishonesty. Employers are very hesitant to hire one with a theft conviction in their past for fear that the person will steal from them, or worse, steal from a customer resulting in reputation damage or the threat of a lawsuit. Obtaining a mortgage or housing as a renter could be made exponentially harder if a background check reveals a theft charge. Any lender or landlord must rely on the credibility of the individual tasked with paying a loan or rent. The simple fact is, those with criminal histories involving theft crimes are going to have a hell of a lot harder time finding housing due to potential issues with credibility. For those that seek higher education and an ultimate licensure, having a crime of dishonesty on your record could inhibit or delay that process.

At the end of the day people may make youthful mistakes or mistakes of desperation that are aberrant and out of character. I believe that the sum of an individual is not their worst deed and hate when I see someone who is suffering from a mistake made years ago or worse, from a choice to resolve a charge based upon poor legal advice. It is critical if charged with any variety of theft crime, regardless of severity, to consult with a Tampa theft attorney well versed in both the direct and collateral effects of crimes of dishonesty. Jason Mayberry has protected his clients in the Tampa area for over ten years. Call on his experience to help you on your case now and to ensure an isolated charge doesn’t haunt you for years down the road. Contact us today at 813-444-7435 for a free consultation.

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The St. Louis Cardinals baseball team is under investigation by the FBI and Unites States Attorney’s Office in Houston, Texas for allegedly hacking an Astros player database. The New York Times reports that FBI and Department of Justice officials have evidence that Cardinals officials tapped into a database created by a current Astros exec and former Cardinals exec. According to the Times report, the database contained information on player statistics, scouting information, and internal discussions about players, trades, and other proprietary information. Thus far, both the Cardinals and Astros have been served with subpoenas but no formal charges have been returned against the Cardinals officials responsible for the breach. It is believed that Cardinals officials “gained access to the Astros’ database by using a list of passwords associated with Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow dating to his tenure with the Cardinals from 2003 until he left for Houston after the 2011 season,” according to ESPN reports. Surprisingly, these databases were allegedly accessed using this information from the homes of the Cardinal executives involved.

While this incident is being compared immediately to the Spygate scandal involving the alleged videotaping by the New England Patriots of opponents’ practices, under the surface there is potential that this incident could have far more severe implications through the federal criminal justice system. 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(4) makes it a federal crime for anyone to knowingly and with intent to defraud, access a protected computer without authorization…. and by means of such conduct further the intended fraud and obtain anything of value. One potential issue that could be raised by a federal criminal lawyer is the element requiring something of “value.” In essence, the question would be is there a value that can be said to be attached to a baseball team’s database compiling information important to the game as it’s played on the field? I would think a federal prosecutor would answer in the affirmative and would consider the information accessed to be congruent to a major corporation’s trade secret. 18 U.S.C. 1839 defines a trade secret, in relevant part, as business information, tangible or intangible, that the owner has taken a reasonable measure to keep secret, and the information derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable through proper means by the public. Bringing this all together, under this theory I believe the federal prosecutor would argue that this information is a trade secret, value of which is in the potential for the Astros to properly scout and prepare for their opponents in order to win and ultimately, very likely be more profitable. Essentially, if there is any way the information accessed could contribute to value, it could very likely be considered a trade secret. Conversely, I think a Federal criminal attorney could argue to a jury that there is no way to assign a value to the information as the leap from the information accessed to actual profitability of the team is too far to make it a legitimate trade secret. In other words, what was accessed was not the recipe for Coca Cola or Chic Fil A’s delicious chicken sandwiches. 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(5)(c) criminalizes the intentional access of a protected computer without authorization, and as a result of such conduct, causes damage and loss. I believe the same argument for both sides would apply here.

What about the good old sweeping charge of wire fraud? Generically, government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant (1) used either mail or wire communications in the foreseeable furtherance, (2) of a scheme to defraud, (3) involving a material deception, (4) with the intent to deprive another of, (5) either property or honest services. Bingo! Yet again, the federal prosecutor’s best friend makes a conviction a little easier.

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Winston
Want some terrible advice? Don’t break a car window to save a poor puppy about to overheat if you’re anywhere in the State of Georgia. Michael Hammons of Athens, Georgia, a desert storm veteran, is finding this out the hard way after breaking the window of a car he found with an overheating dog inside. According to several news reports, Hammons was walking through a parking lot when he noticed a Ford Mustang with a small Pomeranian mix inside. With no windows open and no air conditioning running, the dog was distressed and likely about to die according to a number of onlookers.  After Hammons broke the window to rescue the dog he was charged with trespass per the dog owners demand!

So, morally and ethically, the advice NOT to break the window is terrible and one would have to be a real son of a bitch to not save this little dog. It seems as though Georgia would prefer to have a number of dead dogs and sons of bitches roaming around in order to prevent their version of trespassing from being committed. As attorneys we can’t uphold our oath to the bar and advise one to break the law at the same time. To do one excludes the other. In this situation, that’s tough to do. So what happens now and what would happen to someone in Florida if they did this?

First and foremost, I’m hard pressed to think of an incident in Florida where someone has left their hound in a hot car where they weren’t prosecuted for animal cruelty if the dog was in distress or died. In Florida, plain jane animal cruelty is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 11 months, 29 days in jail and is proven if it can be shown that someone carried an animal in or upon a vehicle in a cruel or inhumane manner. In a Florida summer with the windows up and the dog left in a car the person is probably toast. Unless you get a jury of sons of bitches, once they hear those facts you’re out regardless of how good your criminal attorney is. So what if you break the window like Mr. Hammons? In my book you’re a hero. That said, theoretically you could be charged with trespass to a conveyance (a car is a conveyance) if they can show you willfully entered the conveyance belonging to another without their permission. There is a thought that criminal mischief could be charged if it can be shown that you damaged the personal property of another in a willful and malicious capacity.

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One hit wonder and 90’s musician Vanilla Ice was arrested and charged with burglary and grand theft in Palm Beach County this week. According to news reports, Ice was renovating a nearby home as a part of his DIY television show “The Vanilla Ice Project” where he and his crew renovate and flip homes. According to the police, Ice is accused of burglarizing an unoccupied dwelling and stealing a pool heater in addition to several pieces of furniture sometime between December 2014 and February 2015. Several of the allegedly stolen items were later found in his home. The Lantana Police Department released a statement saying that “during the investigation, it was determined Robert Matthew Van Winkle (your buddy Vanilla Ice) played a role in the burglary and theft. Mr. Van Winkle is currently renovating the residence adjacent to the property in which the items were stolen. A search warrant was obtained and executed in unincorporated Palm Beach County in which several of the stolen items were recovered at a residence under the care and control of Robert Van Winkle.” There you have it. Every mid 30’s, slightly overweight white kid from middle America should just fall to their knees and pray now for a swift and favorable resolution to our childhood idol’s case. As if it weren’t enough that Ice only enhanced our lives with one damn song, now he’s accused of doing very basic crap like flipping homes. Now this. Here is what I have to say to you Ice so please stop, collaborate and listen…

Ice, I will represent you FOR FREE. Granted I’m a Tampa criminal attorney rather than a Palm Beach criminal lawyer but let’s not quibble. If you’re accused of jacking a pool heater and skunky furniture from a house in foreclosure, to hell with calling Saul, get Jason. Beggers can’t be choosers here Ice. The allegations against you aren’t good. If the burglary of an unoccupied dwelling sticks you’re looking at possibly hanging in and putting on rap shows in the Department of Corrections for up to 15 long, terribly boring years. To make matters worse, if you try to renovate your jail cell you might be charged with escape under Florida Statute 944.40 and have additional time added on to your prison term, again up to 15 long years. That’s brutal for simply wanting to knock out a wall isn’t it? And what about the grand theft charge? How much was that stuff worth? Less than $20,000? If so you’re in better shape that if it’s $20,000 or more. Less than $20,000 could get you up to 5 years in the pokey, while $20,000 to $99,999.99 could get you up to 15 years. If it’s $100,000 or more then I’m officially erasing all of my childhood memories of slam dunking my Nerf basketball and honing my baller skills as a 10 year old while you rocked the mike like a vandal on my cassette player. Is this how you want to be remembered!?!?
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It’s that time of year again folks! Downtown Tampa and Bayshore Boulevard will be packed this weekend with pirates doing all sorts of piratey things. The rum will flow, the booty will be plundered, yards will be peed in and some of us might even get arrested! While part of this sounds like perfectly reasonable pirate behavior, the eight different law enforcement agencies working this weekend and many local homeowners might have a slightly different take on our beloved festival. While I can personally attest that our little celebration is a blast, there is no disputing that some take it a bit too far, only to find themselves sitting pretty in a drunk tank until they can be transported to the Hillsborough Hilton. No it’s not ok to pee on that road cone or invite yourself in to Derek Jeter’s fantastic new house. With each passing celebration local law enforcement has tightened the belt on the festival and worked to contain the alcohol to specified locations. Take your drink outside of those “wet zones” and you could find your wallet to be a bit lighter.

No, the police really aren’t looking to give you a hard time at Gasparilla, nor do they really want to mess with having to arrest your royal drunkenness. Having attended many a Gasparilla parade I’ve witnessed with my own eyes a fiasco or two where an otherwise fine lad was led away in silver bracelets. Generally the police made contact with him and asked him to go back to a wet zone or simply asked him to cool it on some other form of jackassery. I’ve also received a ton of phone calls from those who got a little loud and rowdy and ended up in the clink. Honestly, at this point it’s kind of difficult to get arrested at Gasparilla unless you’re just asking for it. If you drink outside of the wet zone you will likely be fined $75 for a first offense, $150 for a second, $300 for a third, and $450 if you are ridiculous enough to do it a fourth time. While no one wants to be fined during Gasparilla, be happy Tampa passed this ordinance as it may prevent you from going to jail. It’s the lesser of two evils people. If you’re so hammered that you can’t stand up or speak, you’re likely going to be arrested for public intoxication, miss out on the rest of the fun, and will enjoy the thrill of sitting in the office of a Tampa criminal attorney next week. What if you have to pee? While at times the bush in your immediate field of vision might offer a reasonable place to relieve yourself, you are not in the backwoods of Alaska, nor are you on an airboat in the Everglades miles from civilization. You’re in the fine city of Tampa, home to the worst football team in the NFL and the best chicken wings of all time. I’m looking at you Hattrick’s! Hose that bush down and you could find yourself charged with a violation of Tampa City Ordinance 14-52 for public urination, thereby subjecting yourself to a $500 fine and 60 days in jail. You don’t have to pee that bad. What if that sweet babe with the sock on her head and 356 strands of beads around her neck (I wonder how she got those??) invites you to the aforementioned pee bush for a little romantic “live action?” Think twice hombre! If you make a baby in public you’re going to go to jail. Scientific fact. No, the wet zone won’t provide a loophole so don’t call me Monday and ask. No one, and I mean no one, wants to see what either of you are packing. If said package is out, soaking up the sun, you will be arrested for indecent exposure, charged with a first degree misdemeanor and come sliding into court just under the sex offender cut off.
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Kosovo born and now Tampa Bay area resident Sami Osmakac was found guilty last week of the federal crime of attempting to use weapons of mass destruction and knowingly possessing a firearm not registered to him in the National Firearms and Transfer Record. Osmakac’s case received national attention in 2012 when he was indicted after posting videos on YouTube, declaring his intention to blow up highly populated Tampa areas including Hyde Park and Ybor City and then subsequently purchasing non-functioning weapons from undercover FBI agents. According to Tampa news reports, Osmakac claimed to want to set off a car bomb near Macdinton’s Irish Pub in south Tampa as he claimed the area of Macdinton’s is a stomping grounds for sinners and homosexuals. Osmakac cited revenge for the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki as his rationale for his planned destruction. In spite of his Tampa Federal criminal lawyer’s argument at trial that Osmakac was an easy target for an overzealous law enforcement agency and that he was entrapped as a result, the Tampa federal jury came back guilty on both counts in the 2012 indictment.

While Osmakac wasn’t charged under a terrorism related statute, what he was indicted for is commonly used when one is suspected of committing or attempting to commit a terrorist act on American soil. Specifically a charge that one has attempted to use a weapon of mass destruction requires the Federal government to prove the following:

1. That the Defendant attempted to use a weapon of mass destruction against any person or property within the United States;

2. that the Defendant did not have lawful authority to use the weapon of mass destruction; and

3. the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce was used to further the offense or the property was used in interstate or foreign commerce or in an activity that affects interstate or foreign commerce or any perpetrator traveled in or caused another to travel in interstate or foreign commerce to further the offense or the offense, or the results of the offense, affected interstate or foreign commerce or the offense would have affected interstate or foreign commerce.
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Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston was accused this week of stealing crab legs from a Tallahassee, Florida Publix. Since the time of the incident, media outlets, NFL scouts, and fans of certain rival teams have taken issue with Winston’s actions, making fun, questioning his character and showing concern over his draft stock. Perhaps these concerns are warranted and perhaps not, all are certainly entitled to their opinion. At the end of the day, Winston wasn’t charged with a criminal offense for retail theft or petit theft but rather was issued a civil infraction requiring him to perform public service hours and pay a nominal fine. His eligibility for the civil infraction program was reviewed by local law enforcement in Tallahassee and Winston was ultimately deemed a proper candidate for diversionary action. I’ll be the first to admit I’m biased as I’m both a Tampa criminal lawyer and a Garnet and Gold bleeding, armchair quarterbacking, TV yelling, die hard Florida State alum. Though many believe Winston intended to steal the items from Publix, could it possibly be that this really was what just began as an innocent mistake followed by poor judgment? I’m confident my friends from that school in Hogtown will insist on his criminality but could it be possible that there was no criminal intent here?

As with most other crimes, an allegation of petit theft requires that the person accused possessed the requisite mental state to commit a crime. In English, the State Attorney must show, in order to prove a theft crime has occurred, that one intended to deprive the victim of their property either temporarily or permanently. Generally proof of intent is found circumstantially through an effort to deceive a victim, an effort to conceal the stolen item or an admission of guilt. Had the State charged Winston with a crime in this instance, it would have been for a second degree misdemeanor petit theft count as the value of the property taken was less than $100.

Though I wouldn’t normally recommend someone roll the dice and take their theft allegation to trial on a lack of mental state defense (unless the facts are completely legitimate), Winston’s initial actions in leaving the store without paying may be a decent situation where that defense could work. After winning the Heisman Trophy Winston is arguably one of the biggest sports celebrities going today. No doubt he is approached constantly by students and grown men alike asking for an autograph or picture, or doing anything they can to get his attention. If this occurred while he was in Publix, it is possible that in a moment of distraction, Winston did leave with his food, not realizing his mistake. Not to make excuses for my alma mater’s quarterback, but unfortunately being a criminal defense attorney doesn’t provide the same kind of entertaining schedule one who is a dual sport athlete on two nationally ranked collegiate teams has. He is an everyday player in two sports that overlap. He’s taking a full load of classes. The guy has to be busy. He’s probably a bit tired at times too. Could it be that that added to this incident? What of the fact that he left without concealing the items? Witnesses stated that he left holding the items in plain view. That’s not very good thievery in my opinion.
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Meet Patricia Ann Jamison. Ms. Jamison was recently accused of the odd act of pooping in a courthouse elevator and subsequently arrested for the same event. According to a Huffington Post story, on March 7, 2013 security staff at the St. Lucie County Courthouse was notified that there was a mysterious pile of poop located in the corner area of a public elevator. When Security investigated this crime scene, to their dismay lay a steaming pile of pew poo thought to be left by a human animal. Security staff consulted security video of individuals coming in and out of the elevator in question and noticed that Ms. Jamison was the last to enter the elevator prior to the poo appearing and first to leave. Specifically and possibly the damning piece of the puzzle for her criminal lawyer to deal with, Jamison was witnessed before the elevator doors closed to “pull her pants down and back up toward the interior elevator buttons consistent with someone using the bathroom.” Ultimately when the elevator arrived on the first floor of the courthouse Ms. Jamison was witnessed “fixing her pants and pulling her shirt out of her pants as if she pulled her pants up over her shirt.” After she was alleged to have pooped in the elevator Ms. Jamison then made her way to her criminal defense attorney‘s office where she was ultimately identified based on her signing in to her attorney’s office.
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  A South Florida woman, or man, depending on how you classify it was sentenced to 366 days in a Florida Prison this month for injecting several individuals in the butt with a toxic mix of Fix-A-Flat and super glue. Ron Oneal Morris, born as a man but who now considers herself a woman, “helped” those in need of a bigger butt by conducting several procedures where a tube was inserted into the buttock of the patient allowing for Morris’ toxic concoction to be pumped in. In spite of every client seeking her services voluntarily and knowingly allowing her to perform her procedure, Morris was charged with and convicted of the criminal act of practicing healthcare without a license. In spite of a more serious sentence being possible, Morris’ criminal lawyer convinced prosecutors to offer the fairly lenient deal citing a lack of physical evidence and a failure of witnesses to come forward. No surprise there as I’m sure it’s a bit embarrassing to admit you’ve allowed some quack to inject you with a Molotov Cocktail of doom. Ironically, Morris isn’t the only person on planet earth to offer these services as Padge Victoria Windslowe was charged in the death of a young woman for her version of this type of injection in Philadelphia in 2012.

For this particular allegation, Morris was likely charged with the third degree felony version of this offense under Florida Statute 456.065(2)(d)(1). If one is charged with practicing healthcare without a license under this statutory subsection they will face a minimum fine of $1,000 and a minimum mandatory prison term of 1 year. In Morris’ case, under the statute she received the most lenient sentence available. In spite of the nice deal worked out by her Florida criminal lawyer, Morris’ troubles are far from being behind her as she faces Manslaughter charges in Broward County for the death of one of her “patients.” Shatarka Nuby was injected by Morris in 2007 and later died of “massive systemic silicone migration” while serving a sentence in a Tallahassee prison.
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A Boone, NC man has been arrested after his can’t stop, won’t stop policy for spreading the word of massage through uninvited back rubs blew up in his face. Julio Antonio Yanez, despite his self image of being a modern day Don Juan, has been charged in North Carolina with two counts of misdemeanor breaking and entering and two counts of assault on a female. As alleged, Yanez would enter the homes of unsuspecting women, crawl into their bed, and begin his rub down sessions. As could be expected, despite his rugged good looks, the victims were unwilling participants in his attempted night moves. Upon entering the beds of his victims it is reported that both victims immediately ordered him to cease his caress and leave the premises immediately. Despite their demands it is alleged the walking massager continued to stroke their arms and back and persisted in his demand to tenderize their muscles. As it stands currently there are at least three women who alleged Yanez attempted his tomfoolery on them, though charges have been filed based on only two of the incidents.

In my time as an attorney there have been cases that just make me sit back in my chair and wonder what the hell is wrong with people? My job title doesn’t allow me to not look for the weaknesses in a fact scenario and assess a situation considering both sides of the coin. However, if these allegations are true as alleged, this is one of those rock back, eye roller cases. I’ve mentioned in other blogs that criminal law is generally similar from State to State and in the Federal system. Of course there are nuances in Florida that a criminal attorney practicing in Florida would know, just as there are nuances in Tennessee that a criminal lawyer in Tennessee would know. That’s just the way it is. Yanez will be charged in North Carolina with misdemeanor counts. If this is all he’s charged with, he can sleep a little easier. Were he in Florida he would no doubt be charged with misdemeanor battery for his unwanted touching of his victims. Depending on the unknown facts of his case, he may also be charged with Burglary of an occupied dwelling under Florida Statute 810.02(2)(a) if the State could prove that he entered the dwelling with an intent at the time of entry to commit a criminal offense and that offense is an assault or battery. If burglary isn’t provable Yanez would be charged with trespass in a structure, a first degree misdemeanor.
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