Fraud

El Cerrito Man Arrested on Suspicion of Practicing Medicine Without a License (CA Business and Professions Code 2052)

Although the treatment of various types of cancer has been pushed forward by both alternative and traditional therapies, there are still those who seek to take advantage of desperate patients looking for a cure. One such treatment, as some of you may be aware, was the “Hoxsey Method” (banned in the U.S. in 1960), which involved using laxatives, vitamins, and a paste that was caustic to the skin. Now, a 69-year-old El Cerrito man stands accused of having ‘prescribed’ a 49-year-old female cancer patient numerous different self-created elixirs, powders, and what seems to have been nothing but a bag of dirt for about $2,000. He has been arrested on suspicion of practicing medicine without a license, elder abuse, and dispensing drugs without a license.

California law takes quite a serious view on the unlawful practice of medicine (CA Business and Professions Code 2052). An individual is in violation of this law if they behave in such a way as to pretend that they are licensed to practice medicine. This includes actually practicing medicine, diagnosing, prescribing medications, performing surgeries, and even advertising oneself as a medical doctor when that person does not have a valid license.

In California, unlawfully practicing medicine is actually neither strictly a misdemeanor offense, nor a felony, it is a ‘wobbler,’ meaning that the prosecutors involved in the case are left to determine how serious the offense actually is. If convicted of misdemeanor unlawfully practicing medicine, a person could face up to 1 year in county jail and be subject to approximately $1,000 in fines. However, if an individual is convicted of a felony count of the same, they may expect to spend up to 3 years in jail and pay $10,000 in fines.

SF Officer Convicted of Taking Bribes For Taxi Licenses (CA Penal Code 67 and 68)

Recently, a 69-year-old former officer with the San Francisco Police Department has been convicted of accepting bribes in exchange for taxi licenses. Working with his long-time friend, the owner of a Taxi service, “Flag-A-Cab,” the man seems to have taken money for passing individuals seeking their taxi license. Prosecutors alleged that he took up to $500 in one month. He was originally charged with 4 counts of bribery.

California bribery laws are complex and varied. There are at least 6 different ways in which to commit bribery, each depending upon the type of person who has taken the bribe. Generally speaking, ‘bribery’ is not difficult to define: it is any attempt to influence a public official in the course of his or her duties. Usually, this is accomplished by offering a sum of money or gifts of various kinds. Under the law, both the person offering the bribe and the person who accepts it are considered guilty. Additionally, the term ‘public official’ could refer to anyone from a police officer to a sitting judge.

Specifically, California Penal Code 67 and 68 deal with the bribery of public employees. Yet, any bribery conviction may end in harsh penalties, as bribery, apart from very particular instances, is a felony crime. This means that a conviction may mean that you will face up to 4 years in prison and be forced to pay restitution, which varies in amount depending upon the sum of the bribe. Lastly, anyone convicted of a bribery charge will be asked to leave their office and will not be allowed to hold that office again.

Menlo Park Laundromat Charged with Credit Card Fraud (CA Penal Code 484e-484j)

A 63-year-old man (name withheld to protect the anonymity of the accused) was arrested recently for having cheated customers at his Menlo Park Laundromat, Menalto Cleaners.  It is suspected that the man used credit cards and other personal information that he received from his customers in good faith to skim both small and large amounts of money from each individual.  He has been charged with stealing from upwards of 3-dozen different customers (approximately $678,000) by overcharging them for laundry services, which amounts to 40 felony counts for identity theft, credit card fraud, and others.

California courts take charges of credit card fraud very seriously (CA Penal Code 484e-484j).  It is unlawful in California to participate in any type of illegal behavior relating to credit cards or personal information that an individual might find on a credit card.  Prosecutors must, however, prove that you intended to use this information for fraudulent purposes, and that you unlawfully gained some advantage (financial or otherwise) due to your actions.

Depending on the particular circumstances of your case, if you are convicted of a violation of one of the above-listed laws, you may be prosecuted in several different ways.  Your situation may be treated as ‘forgery,’ in which you may end up spending up to 16 months in county jail and paying a maximum fine of $10,000.  Of course, prosecutors could also treat your case as theft.  Additionally, federal agents may become involved under certain conditions.

 

Pleasanton Resident Convicted on Federal Charges of Fraud for Misuse of Visas (United States Code 1546)

44-year-old Pleasanton resident has recently been sentenced to 16 years in federal prison for her role in the operation of a phony university, Tri-Valley University in Pleasanton.  It seems that she held herself out to be the owner and operator of a Christian university, but this was merely a cover story.  In reality, she was taking the money of various foreigners (mostly from India) and, in exchange, allowing them to claim that they were in the United States legally and to receive a student visa.  Transcripts were routinely manufactured, there were no actual classes taking place, anyone was allowed to ‘attend,’ and other documents were falsified.  During the course of the trial, it was even discovered that she used the names and credentials of professors from other colleges and universities without their permission.  Students received visa application documentation from Tri-Valley for the price of $2,700 a semester.

According to federal law, United States Code 1546 (“Fraud and misuse of visas, permits, and other documents”), any person who participates in the forgery, counterfeiting, or alteration of any kind of immigration document has committed a federal crime of fraud.  The law is particularly harsh when it comes to cases in which drug trafficking has occurred and an individual convicted of a drug trafficking-related violation of the same could face up to 20 years in federal prison. However, she was not involved in drug trafficking, but merely falsified documents in order for individuals to obtain fake student visas, was only subject to 10 years in federal prison (first offense) or 15 years because another offense against federal law was committed.

Care Homes in Contra Costra Charged with Felony Wage Theft (Assembly Bill 469)

The Contra Costa District Attorney’s office, and DA Mark Peterson, has recently decided to accuse 2 different care homes for seniors in the district with theft of wages.  Owners of both the Abraham Rest Home Inc., Sanchez Abraham Corp. (which run 8 different facilities of this type) and the Florin White Dove Care Homes (which operates 6 facilities).  Those who stand accused of wage theft are her daughter and two sons (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused), they claim that they have done no wrong and are waiting for validation from the DA.

Protections against wage theft in California have been in existence since 2011, when Assembly Bill 469 (the “Wage Theft Protection Act”).  However, the term ‘theft’ is often considered a misnomer.  ‘Wage theft’ refers, not to actual theft of wages by employers from employees, but to circumstances under which an employer has failed to comply with certain complicated legal requirements when it comes to how employees are compensated.  In other words, it’s a euphemism used when an employer hasn’t managed to properly navigate the morass of detailed requirements of such things as employee breaks for rest and meals, overtime, minimum wage payments, proper calculation of pay rates, not knowing who to call an independent contractor, and other various laws pertaining to wages and employee treatment.

Still, as of April 30th,  the California Labor Commissioner criminalized ‘wage theft’ and it may be that prosecutors are now going a bit overboard with convictions pursuant to this still new development.  Owners of the Abraham Rest Home were hit with 8 felony counts of wage theft and 2 misdemeanor counts.  It is said that they did not pay overtime properly, nor minimum wage.  Yet, it’s becoming more and more difficult for employees to determine exactly what they should be doing in order to keep within the limits of the law.  Within just this last year alone, 10 new wage and hour laws were put into use.  Among these were a minimum wage increase, CA Labor Code 1182.12;  a change in domestic employees access to overtime CA Labor Code 1450; and a provision that those people who work in the heat never be asked to work during what is known as a ‘cooldown’ period CA Labor Code 226.7.

 

Daly City Couple Charged with Bank Fraud in Federal Court (18 United States Code 1344)

61-year-old and his 58-year-old wife (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused), have pled guilty recently in federal court to charges of bank fraud.  Allegedly, the two defrauded both First California Bank and a Wells Fargo Bank out of approximately $83,000 for home loan monies.  Evidently, they offered false statements on both bank documents and on certain income tax documents in order to shave off various fees and other changes to their loans.  For one, the couple falsely told both banks that the two homes (one in San Bruno and one in Daly City), both separate from their current residence, were to be their primary residence, thus altering the amount they would pay.  These loans for these two homes were taken out in 2006 and 2007 and the properties were valued then at $750,000 and $600,000.  The couple will be sentenced in a federal court this coming November.

The federal law that covers bank fraud is 18 United States Code 1344.  If any individual purposefully attempts to defraud a financial institution or gives false statements of the same, they could be convicted under this rule.  If it can be proven that any individual has committed bank fraud, they would be subject to a $1,000 fine and a term of 30 years in federal prison.  However, due to the nature of the case, they will most likely end up spending somewhere between 1 year and 18 months in a federal prison.

 

Disabled Parking Placards Fraud on The Rise (CA Vehicle Code 4461 and 4463)

Most of us would never think of lying in order to get a better parking spot, or so you would think.  Evidently, the problem of falsifying documents in order to receive a disabled placard for your vehicle has become rampant.  So, local law enforcement officials think they’ve found a solution:  “Operation Blue Zone.”  It sounds like a military strategy, something that might have been employed during the Second World War, but all that it really amounts to is that police are cracking down on falsely given disabled placards.  What this also means is that people who thought they were safe from being caught are now spending their time in county jail, possibly re-thinking their missteps.

The most widely publicized case has been that of a 50-year-old and her 29-year-old son (names withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused).  Allegedly, they falsified the signature of a local doctor in order to receive a disabled placard due to their non-existent lung disease.  And what may surprise you the most about this crackdown is that these charges are not misdemeanors, they are felonies!  California Vehicle Code 4461 states that it is not only a crime to falsify information, but also to lend your placard to someone else or to borrow it from a friend for the use in your vehicle.  Now, if you are caught doing either one of these things, you will only face a maximum $1,000 fine and a possible misdemeanor charge that means you might spend up to 6 months in county jail.  However, CA Vehicle Code 4463 states that to defraud the Department of Motor Vehicles by issuing false statements, paperwork, etc is a felony.  You could spend up to 3 years in prison (CA Penal Code 1170) or at least a maximum of 1 year in county jail.

 

Zendesk Hacker Faces Federal Charges for Computer Fraud (18 United States Code 1030)

25-year-old Massachusetts man (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused), is the hacker who managed to gain access to Twitter’s help desk company, Zendesk.  He was able to access Twitter clients’ ‘trouble tickets,’ obtain clients’ protected information, and to then take advantage of all this to reset passwords for at least 2 major companies, Jeep and “Company A” (an alias for an unnamed company involved in the case).  After that, he was able to post anything he wanted to on these companies Twitter accounts, including one post that “Company A” had been sold to their competition.  It’s not hard to imagine the ruckus his actions created; he’s also been in trouble for changing his own grades (and the grades of others), stealing credit card information, and hacking into the computer system of local police stations for which he has already been federally charged.  In the case involving Zendesk, he has been charged with violations of the “Computer Fraud and Abuse Act,” otherwise known as the CFAA (18 United States Code 1030): “damaging a computer for information.”

What he did, according to the feds, is to purposefully attempt to damage a ‘protected computer.’  The CFAA, passed in 1984, defines a ‘protected computer’ as any computer used for a financial institution or by the United States Government.  However, computers used for “interstate communication” are also covered under this Act.  He could face up to 10 years (or more) in federal prison and hefty fines.

 

S.F. Woman Arrives in Court Charged with Credit Card Fraud, Leaves Accused of Additional Crimes (CA Penal Code 484e – 484j)

33-year-old S.F. woman (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused) was arrested on charges of credit card fraud and appeared in court for her arraignment.  Already having posted $10,000 in bail, she was shocked to hear in court that her bail was going to be increased (to $50,000) and that she would not be going home that day.  What was the problem?  She promptly informed the judge of a serious problem.  Evidently, her 3-year-old daughter had been sitting in a locked car in the nearby parking lot the entire time she was in the courtroom.  When officers retrieved the child, they also found hypodermic needles filled with what law enforcement officials believe to be methamphetamines, other drug paraphernalia, and other evidence concerning further credit card fraud.  Charges against her now include drug-related accusations, probation violations, and felony child endangerment.

On the credit card fraud charges alone (CA Penal Code 484e – 484j), she could find herself facing up to 3 years in state prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.  Child endangerment, on the other hand, could be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor in California (this is what is known as a ‘wobbler’).  Misdemeanor charges could mean up to 1 year in county jail, but felony child endangerment charges are a bit more complicated.  Depending on the severity of the situation, the level of endangerment, penalties could extend anywhere from 2 to 6 years in state prison.

 

Attorney Found Guilty of Burglary and Check Fraud in Foster City (CA Penal Code 459 and 476)

Some people say that 58-year-old (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused) should have known better.  After all, he is an attorney and he’s meant to understand at least one thing, the law.  However, others would argue that he simply made a silly mistake.  It all began when he went to a Chase Bank in Foster City and presented a teller with what he suspected to be a fraudulent check for $280,000.  In fact, he asked the teller to cash the check.

When the case went to a jury, they had a hard time believing him. In short, they found him guilty of both burglary and check fraud.  He is no longer allowed to practice law in the state of California.  His side of the story is that he wanted the bank to confirm that the check was a fake.  He even tried to take it back when the teller became wary of cashing a check for such a large amount.

A California burglary conviction (CA Penal Code 459) comes with harsh penalties.  Weissman was convicted of commercial second degree burglary as he attempted to defraud a place of business.  It’s a ‘wobbler,’ meaning that it may be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony.  A felony conviction could result in up to 3 years in state prison; a misdemeanor conviction could end in 1 year in county jail.  Check fraud (CA Penal Code 476) is also a California wobbler.  A misdemeanor conviction could result in a maximum $1,000 fine and 1 year in county and a felony conviction means you could face a $10,000 fine and up to 3 years in state prison.