February 26, 2015

Handling Accusations in the Midst of an Increasing Cybercrime Epidemic

Cybercrime presents unique challenges to the legal system, both for alleged offenders and for law enforcement. The laws and regulations regarding certain crimes are often difficult to navigate, especially given the fast pace of web technology changes. Innocent individuals charged with cybercrimes face immediate loss of trust and reputation, making day-to-day life difficult.

No company is immune to the threat of cybercrime. The media commonly reports on large security breaches, but small companies must also implement proactive measures to prevent cybercrime. Many small and medium sized businesses do not implement the type of security measures needed to protect against everyday threats.

As the cost of cybercrime breaches continues to rise, law enforcement officials often complain that “their hands are tied,” and investigators often resort to unfair or even illegal tactics to gain an edge.

Cybercrime accusations can turn your world upside down in an instant. Securing the data for exoneration requires a deep understanding of relevant technology and laws. Facing charges often leaves individuals emotionally, financially, and physically drained.

Individuals on both sides of the cybercrime debate acknowledge that cyberattacks leave a costly and destructive wake. There may not be an easy solution. IT and other technology personnel often face unfair allegations when companies don’t know who else to accuse. Follow these guidelines if you find yourself facing erroneous cybercrime charges:

1. Back up your personal systems and secure any data that can be used to exonerate you.

2. Seek legal advice early on to understand and prepare for the future. An attorney can also help you determine whether a new regulation or law was accidentally breached during the normal course of work.

3. Talk to individuals willing to testify on your behalf. Many cybercrime cases feature circumstantial evidence, and it is helpful to secure witnesses who can defend your character profile.

4. Be careful when speaking to authorities. Only relate the facts during an investigation. Phrases may be taken out of context if your case goes to court.

What can you do to respond to cybercrime charges? Call Seltzer Law, P.A. at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) to speak with an experienced Miami cybercrime defense lawyer about your options.

February 16, 2015

11 Arrested in 3 Cases of Online Sex Solicitation of Minors

Three separate cases involving the online solicitation of minors are currently in the court system in Amarillo, Texas, and in Louisa County, Virginia. Undercover police operations in both states were involved in discovering the offenses.

A large undercover operation in Texas yielded the arrests of nine individuals who will face 3rd degree felony charges for their alleged actions. The male suspects range in age from 20 to 44. Convicted suspects may face up to 10 years in state prison, and they will be required to register as sex offenders. The case is part of a larger crackdown targeting sex related offenses and human trafficking in Texas.

Officials are also handling two distinct cases in central Virginia as part of undercover operations targeted at sex offenders. Police discovered the illegal solicitations after posing online as a young female. Johnathan Schnyer, a 54-year-old male, was an active member of a community church. He faces one felony charge.

Ray Lester has also been charged with the solicitation of a minor. He is 28 years old, and authorities found him with a semi-automatic weapon when they arrested him. Lester was previously a county dispatcher and a volunteer fireman in his communities. He was arrested while allegedly waiting to meet a 14-year-old for sex.

All 11 individuals face charges because of suspicious online activities. Anyone arrested for sexual solicitation, particularly of a minor, may face stigma and life altering consequences. The accusation makes regaining previous quality of life difficult. Legal counsel specializing in sex related crimes can improve your chances of exoneration and potentially reverse the reputation damaging process.

These cases feature young to middle aged males who allegedly used a passive internet approach to commit crimes against young minors. Undercover police operations often use technologically advanced tools to target these offenders and catch them in illegal acts.

Do you need help responding to federal cybercrime or solicitation charges? Call an experience Miami cybercrimes attorney with Seltzer Law, P.A. today to schedule a free consultation. Call anytime at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333).

February 11, 2015

Solicitation Charges Against High School Teacher Shock Small Connecticut Town

If you or someone you love faces charges of soliciting a minor for sex or engaging in cybercrime activity, this heartbreaking case out of Connecticut may resonate with you.

A former student has filed a lawsuit against a local high school Spanish teacher for sexual harassment in the small town of Simsbury. The student wants $15,000 in damages. The teacher, Mark Cohan, who has been suspended since July 9, 2014, faces several disturbing allegations of misconduct and criminal behavior, according to the local paper, the Hartford Courant.

An ongoing investigation led to Cohan’s arrest on July 30, when authorities “charged [Cohan] with disorderly conduct and second-degree sexual harassment,” according to the Courant. The media has not named the student filing the suit, due to the nature of the allegations. Michael Reilly, an attorney representing the student, told reporters: “Mark Cohan abused his position of trust as a teacher at Simsbury High School to stalk, intimidate, exploit, [and] sexually harass [the youth].”

The lawsuit includes allegations that Cohan used a “friend” status on Facebook to send overtly sexual messages to male students. The student also accuses the teacher of sending him excessive messages, as well as texting, calling, and making him stay after school. Cohan allegedly used several inappropriate tactics with the student, including having him sleep over and drink hard liquor. The student says that, after he slept over at his teacher’s house, he awoke without a clear memory of the night before, with vomit all over him and his zipper down.

Stories like these can be devastating for victims and can spark understandable public ire. But what happens when those wrongly charged with sexual misconduct and cybercrimes find themselves having to defend against compelling (but ultimately wrong or baseless or invented) stories? Those who are inaccurately charged may face stigma and have difficulty securing employment, even if they succeed in getting exonerated.

Florida has particularly tough sex crimes laws; if convicted of similar charges, you will need to register on a national sex offender registration list, and you may face a battery of other punishments, including jail time.

If you face an investigation, or if you’ve been charged with a sex crime you didn’t commit, seek the advice of an attorney as soon as possible.

Do you need help responding to federal cybercrime or solicitation charges? Call an experienced Miami cybercrimes attorney with Seltzer Law, P.A. today to schedule a free consultation. Call anytime at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333).

February 2, 2015

Child Pornography Cases Roil Pennsylvania and the Vatican

Two notable child pornography cases grabbed news headlines over the last several days. One involves a middle-aged man, David Michael Gruel, who stands accused of 8 felony counts of sexual abuse of children. The second hails all the way from Vatican City, where officials are reviewing two cases of child pornography.

In Pennsylvania, Fox 43 reports that State Troopers discovered that Gruel allegedly shared images of child pornography online. Troopers searched his home and say they seized a computer that contained images and videos depicting child pornography. Gruel now faces seven counts of child pornography along with one count of committing a crime through technology.

Meanwhile, half a world away, Vatican City’s chief prosecutor discovered two child pornography cases within the city’s walls last year. One case came to light through computer access; the second case’s details have not been released.

It’s been over a decade since the Catholic Church was publically roiled by allegations that priests had been engaging in child sex abuse on a mass scale. Those allegations – and all the bad publicity that accompanied them – helped spur reform within the Church. Pope Francis, meanwhile, is taking a zero tolerance policy regarding these latest changes. Reuters reports that Pope Francis personally approved the Vatican City arrests to send a strong message that everyone in he Catholic Church – even the highest ranking Church officials – must be accountable for their actions. Police arrested former Archbishop Wesolowski last year on charges that he paid for sex with children; he allegedly is also involved in one of these recent cases.

Is there a worldwide problem with respect to the viewing and dissemination of child pornography? Statistically speaking, most people accused of child pornography and child sex abuse are men, but pornography and solicitation defendants are surprisingly diverse.

In both cases we’ve discussed, the defendants stand accused of using the internet to access and view child pornography, reflecting the fact that the internet is the main way child pornography is distributed today.

If you have been falsely accused of viewing, storing or distributing child pornography on your computer, you understand how potentially damaging the charges may be. To protect your name, your freedom and your reputation, get in touch with a qualified Miami cybercrime defense attorney at Seltzer Law, P.A. immediately at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) for a free and confidential consultation.

January 28, 2015

Psychologist, Lisa Damour, on Talking About Pornography with Teenagers

Teens who aren’t taught about the ramifications of viewing certain kinds of pornography can get themselves in serious trouble that even an experienced Florida sex crime defense attorney can’t easily untangle. As a parent, you can take preemptive action to avert catastrophy. The simple act of talking to your teen can prevent him or her from committing an actionable online offense.

Psychologist Lisa Damour helps parents manage the complex and often embarrassing task of discussing pornography with their teens. She points that that while pornography fulfills fantasies, the pornographic community can be exploitative and dark.

Pornography has been at the center of sexual health debates for some time now. Some therapists warn that future generations may have a difficult time reconciling sexuality and emotional connections because of the vicarious nature of pornography. However, since the onset of widespread image and video pornography, teenage pregnancy has plummeted. The number of sexual partners reported by the average teenager has also fallen. Finally, the number of virgins graduating from high school has increased. Is it a cause and effect relationship or merely a correlation?

Every parent must make important decisions to safeguard a child’s wellbeing, including informing him about sexual health, boundaries, and appropriate online behavior.

How can we, as parents, do a better job of discussing pornography with teens?

Talking openly about what content is normal and what is considered too graphic encourages positive decision making and lowers the chance of extreme content exposure. A parent can offer guidance, but should avoid imposing strict measures regarding a teen’s sexuality.

It is not wise to ignore the need for communication because of awkwardness. Admitting the fact that the discussion is awkward for both child and parent may provide common ground for the conversation. Remember that an awkward conversation today could prevent detrimental consequences in the future.

Call a Miami cybercrime defense attorney with Seltzer Law, P.A. at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) to get effective, compassionate assistance with your challenging and scary charges. We’re available for consultations 24/7.

January 19, 2015

Prince Andrew Faces Sex Offender Allegations: Tied to Disgraced Financier, Jeffrey Epstein

Allegations of sexual abuse involving minors can torch careers, destroy reputations and lead to jail time and other horrendous punishments… even if you’re a privileged Prince.

To wit, consider that the Duke of York, Prince Andrew of England, faces a public relations nightmare (and potential legal morass) thanks to his affiliation with Jeffrey Epstein, a wealthy but disgraced financier from New York. Epstein palled around with notables like President Bill Clinton and Donald Trump prior to his arrest in 2006 on sex crime charges and other offenses.

Reports suggest that Prince Andrew had frequented Epstein’s home during the last decade and potentially received massages and sexual favors from women who had frequented Epstein’s estate. A lawsuit filed in Southern District of Florida in 2008 for $15 million alleged that the financier had developed “a sexual preference and obsession for underage minor girls… [he] gained access to primarily economically disadvantaged minor girls in his home and sexually assaulted these girls.”

One girl in particular – known to the world now as ‘Jane Doe #3’ – allegedly had been sexually involved with the Duke of York on a Caribbean Island orgy. Per a court document: “Epstein instructed Jane Doe #3 that she was to give the Prince whatever he demanded and required Jane Doe #3 to report back to him on the details of the sexual abuse.” This so-called “sex slave” allegedly spent time with the Duke of York between 1999 and 2002.

In 2011, Epstein spent 13 months in prison for procuring prostitutes. After being released in 2011, Epstein spent time with Prince Andrew in New York’s Central Park. Paparazzi clipped pictures of the two of them together, leading the Daily Telegraph (one of England’s biggest newspapers) to write “What Was the Duke of York Thinking?”

Whether or not the allegations against Prince Andrews stand up to scrutiny, the story has a powerful moral: accusations (true or not or somewhere in between) of sexual misconduct with minors can ruin lives, lead to widespread disgrace and create years of persistent legal trouble.

If you or someone you know needs help defending against Florida sex crime charges, call the team here at Seltzer Law, PA, at 1-888-THE DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) for a free consultation.

January 14, 2015

Victims Sue Lottery-Winning Florida Sex Offender, After He Wins $3 Million

Timothy Poole, a convicted Florida sex offender, made international headlines in December after he won a $3 million prize in the Florida scratch-off lottery. Now the two victims of Poole’s abuse – who were 9-years-old and 5-years-old back in 1996, when the abuse occurred – are suing the lottery winner for a share of the $2.2 million that he’ll be taking home as part of his lump-sum payment arrangement.

The Florida lottery immediately took Poole’s picture off their website when the agency discovered his criminal history (he pled guilty in 2001, served 3 years in jail, and now works at a taxi cab company), saying, “we chose not to draw additional attention to this particular winner.” Even though Poole accepted a plea deal, he has maintained his innocence in the case.

Florida has no statute of limitations barring actions victims of sexual assault and battery (under the age of 16) from suing their assailants for damages. Per Jason Recksiedler and Mark NeJame’s attorney: “we are not attempting to get [Poole] any additional prison time… he has served his time to society, but he has not served his dues for the alleged massive damage caused to these children.”

Poole had been forced to register as a sex offender, but WKMG reports that he skipped out of several sessions of his mandatory counseling program. The two young men hope to freeze Poole’s fortune before he can “squander, hide, or otherwise dispose of assets.”

The story has gained incredible amounts of attention, not just here in Florida but also across the country, because so many people hold sex offenders in low esteem. It galls their conscience to learn that someone accused of sex crimes might actually come into good fortune. This sentiment -- at the heart of the story -- illustrates that offenders need to do a tremendous amount of work just to obtain fair treatment.

Fortunately, you can get excellent counsel here at Seltzer Law, PA. Call us for adept, insightful and compassionate legal help now at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) for a free consultation with a cybercrime defense lawyer.

January 5, 2015

Viewing Child Pornography on the Internet Is Now Legal in New York [For Real]

As someone who stands accused of violating federal or Florida sex crime laws for viewing or possessing child pornography – or as a friend or family member of someone who stands accused – you may be appalled and terrified by the potential punishments for the alleged offense. Penalties can include massive amounts of jail time as well as destruction of your personal reputation, fines and fees, and inclusion in sex offender registries.

A new ruling out of the New York Court of Appeals offers those accused (at least in New York state) a legal mechanism to avoid these awful punishments. Senior Judge, Carmen Ciparick, writing for majority, declared that: “The purposeful viewing of child pornography on the Internet is now legal in New York.” Judge Ciparick had been weighing in on the case of James D. Kent, a teacher at Marist College arrested in 2009 for possessing 100+ child pornographic images on his computer in the cache of his browser.

Professor Kent denied having intentionally downloaded those images; he brought his computer into a store when it began running slowly, due to what he believed had been “viruses.” Judge Ciparick and her colleagues in majority tried to determine whether the pornographic images downloaded to the browser’s cache indicated intent to “possess” said images. She wrote, “Merely viewing web images of child pornography does not, absent other proof, constitute either possession or procurement within the meaning of our penal law.”

Federal law doesn’t explicitly discuss browser caches. In the past, prosecutors have generally been unable to use just that browser cache evidence to procure convictions. Although it is illegal in New York (and in Florida) to “create, possess, distribute, or promote or facilitate child pornography,” Ciparick noted that “some affirmative act is required (printing, saving, downloading, etc.) to show that defendant in fact exercised dominion and control over the images that were on his screen… to hold otherwise, would extend the reach of [New York law] to areas that our legislature has not deemed criminal."

The general point is this: defendants who are innocent of serious computer crimes may be able to develop stiff and robust defenses. To facilitate your defense, contact the experienced federal sex crime defense attorneys here at Seltzer, PA at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) for a free consultation.

December 31, 2014

The Perils of an Undercover Sex Sting – Inside Florida’s “Operation Wrong Destination”

Fifteen men are headed to state prison in Raiford after being convicted of various Florida sex crimes thanks to Operation Wrong Destination, according to JacksonvilleNews.com. Operation Wrong Destination, a five-day undercover sting, took place in Green Grove Springs and allegedly uncovered that these men had been “traveling to meet a minor to do unlawful acts.” Prosecutors convicted the men of soliciting a child for sex acts and “unlawful use of a two-way communications device.”

Undercover detectives posed as children and advertised on Craigslist, asking to arrange meetings for sex acts. The fifteen men involved, one of whom was sentenced as a “youthful offender,” now face sentences ranging from “community control” to ten years in prison.

Many people charged with sex crimes stand falsely accused; these people may still have time to fight their charges. While our Miami cybercrime lawyers in no way condone the illegal use of pornography or solicitation, we want to protect people from false accusations, which can often occur in cases where the majority of evidence comes from undercover stings. Consider these facts about the dangers of undercover stings.

Stings May Not Provide Concrete Evidence

Evidence found in a sting may not be concrete enough to rightfully convict someone. This is particularly true in cybercrime cases, which hinge on deciphering and proving essential data regarding the downloading, watching, storing and sharing of electronic media.

By Their Nature, Stings are Setups

Undercover stings are set up to prove suspects are guilty. In many cases, the individuals caught in the dragnet are guilty of breaking the law, but sometimes a sting can backfire on an innocent person. Investigators can ask questions in ways that lead suspects to accidentally self-incriminate; they can also violate ethical rules (and even the law itself) to net arrests to meet quotas.

Stings Can Be Overly (and Even Illegally) Invasive

An innocent person can often defend against undercover sting related charges by citing privacy violations. If detectives violated search rules, unlawfully seized property or acted in a way that strayed from department protocol, you can challenge the case and get the charges dropped.

To protect your name, your freedom and your reputation, get in touch with a qualified Florida cybercrime defense attorney at Seltzer Law, P.A. immediately at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) for a free and confidential consultation.

December 22, 2014

A Different Illness: Why Cybercrime Defendants Often Don’t Get the Help They Need

Our Miami cybercrime attorneys want to spotlight a problem that's often ignored by the medical and criminal justice communities - the problem of how to help people who have compulsive and intrusive thoughts that could stimulate them to violate federal cybercrime laws.

Most people know how to prevent common illnesses - get vaccinations, go to the doctor, take medication, and rest. However, the majority of people don't know or believe mental illness is a sickness, as well. Mentally ill people are often unwilling or unable to get the help they need;; as a tragic result, some of these people commit crimes or wind up in situations where they're accused of crimes.

A Tragic Stabbing

Maria Garcia Pellon, ex-wife of former basketball star Matthew White, allegedly stabbed her husband after she caught him "watching porn." The alleged crime occurred on February 10, 2013, after Pellon discovered her husband watching pornography, "particularly child pornography."

Pellon's family and friends testified that the accused had a long history of mental illness. Beginning in 2001, Pellon received several psychiatric diagnoses including bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and paranoia. She also regularly claimed terrorists were after her, the government was spying on her, and the Chinese had hacked her phone. Pellon was hospitalized after a suicide attempt in 2007. Her attorney, Tom Bergstrom, took jurors "on a journey through mental illness" during her trial and questioned whether she knew what she did was wrong.

The judge in Maria Pellon's case did rule that she has "a mental disorder," causing many to wonder why she didn't obtain the help she needed. In fact, Maria Pellon did attend counseling and take medications, yet she continued exhibiting mentally unhealthy behaviors. Some of the reasons people like Pellon do not get the help they need include the following:

Stigma

Mentally ill people often don't get help because they don't want to be seen as "crazy." Accepting a diagnosis is particularly difficult for older people who grew up in eras that did not easily accept mental illness as illness, and instead brushed it off as "hysteria." Mentally ill people also often fear that their friends and family will hate them if they admit their struggles.

The Chemical Straitjacket

Dr. Phil McGraw of the Dr. Phil Show often refers to constant medicating as a "chemical straitjacket" in which pills are used to solve every conceivable problem. Medication has its place, but many mentally ill people wind up overmedicated, or they use medication absent any other modality, such as talk therapy. The side effects of certain medications can be unpleasant and can include metabolic problems as well as ancillary psychological issues.

Giving Up

Many mentally ill people might say something like, "I've tried to get help and it doesn't work." They then give up on treatment, and their illness worsens. However, if the person has the appropriate support, he or she can continue seeking effective treatment to get well and manage.

What can you do to respond to cybercrime charges? Call Seltzer Law, P.A. at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) to speak with an experienced Miami cybercrime defense lawyer about your options.

December 17, 2014

The Rest of the Story: What Most People Don’t Know about Pornography Investigations

Pornography cases are often seen in the media as “open and shut” propositions: if a person stands accused of a cybercrime, then he or she should be punished. Those accused of cybercrimes involving children are often maligned more than those accused of other crimes, because many people find such acts highly disturbing. However, the information made public in such cases may not be fully accurate or complete.

Even if a suspect did engage in wrongdoing, the charges may suggest a more serious crime than what actually occurred. Our Miami cybercrime law team has seen this happen frequently and would like to educate our readers about the complexities and nuances of these cases. To that end, let’s examine two recent news items.

North New Jersey Man Accused

According to the North Jersey News website, thirty-year-old Thomas Bachalis of Newark was arrested on December 4, 2014, and charged with distributing child pornography using his computer. Officers of the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office searched Bachalis’ home in September 2013 and found “digital evidence depicting child sexual abuse, including material [involving] prepubescent minors.” Earlier searches conducted in August 2013 resulted in an officer downloading thirty-two pornographic images from an IP address connected to Bachalis’ residence. If convicted, Bachalis could face a minimum five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Northwest Georgia Man Accused

Pornography accusations also abound in northwest Georgia. Stephen Michael Hipple was recently sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for “aggravated sodomy,” possessing and distributing child pornography, and using a child younger than twelve to take pornographic photographs. Hipple sent and received at least one pornographic picture with his cell phone circa July 1, 2014.

What the Media Doesn’t Say

Unfortunately, news stories like these are often summarized as quickly as possible by the media, sometimes missing or omitting important details that could partially or completely exonerate the accused. Cybercrime investigations are often complicated for one or more of the following reasons:

• Lack of evidence. One or two pictures are generally not enough to convict someone of severe pornography charges, but a few pictures are often all that are cited on a complaint.

• Misinterpretation of evidence. This can occur when the suspect did in fact download pornography, but not as much as the charges suggest. It can also occur if the police enter more than one type of evidence – for example, if a search warrant specified only data from a computer but officers entered data from a phone into the case.

• Definition disagreements. What exactly constitutes child pornography and violations of Florida and federal cybercrime law? Arguments over these definitions can have profound ramifications for defendants.

Do you need help responding to federal cybercrime or solicitation charges? Call an experienced Miami cybercrimes attorney with Seltzer Law P.A. Today to schedule a free consultation. Call anytime at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333)

December 8, 2014

Federal Cybercrime Lawyer Reports on Two Divergent (But Equally Disturbing) Cases

Whether you stand accused of charges of soliciting a minor or violating federal cybercrimes law, you probably feel nervous about your future, scared about the legal implications and confused about how to protect your rights and reputation. You are not alone.

Every week, many men and women in the United States and beyond find themselves facing severe legal penalties for violating these laws. Today, we’re going to talk about two big stories along those lines in the news. The first concerns 58-year-old Phuc Kieu, a Vietnamese immigrant in Florida who allegedly tried to rob, assault and rape a 20-year-old male after Kieu viewed pornography in his vehicle. According to reports from the New York Daily News, Kieu had been hanging out in his Honda Civic, watching homosexual pornography on a portable DVD player, when he grabbed a 21-year-old male off the street, stole his backpack (which contained $220 in cash), and tried to sexually assault him. The young man eventually escaped and shouted “rapist!” and led police to arrest Kieu.

Meanwhile, in another disturbing case here in Florida, a man accused of “Nationwide Sextortion” faces a 105 year prison sentence. According to news reports, 31-year-old Lucas Chansler had been found with 80,000+ pornographic images on his computer. He allegedly targeted 350+ girls between 2007 and 2010. The St. John’s County man later pled guilty to nine counts of producing pornography -- each count came with a penalty of a $250,000 fine and 15 to 30 years in prison.

Chansler admitted to contacting girls in 26 states through various types of social media, including Facebook. He then pretended to be a younger male and enticed the women to share pornographic videos of themselves. He frequently sent images of a younger male masturbating to convince the girls that he was also young. Once in possession of these videos, he then extorted the girls (who typically ranged from 13 to 18 years old) and said that he would release the videos unless they provided more sexual images or videos for him. All told, authorities said Chansler took advantage of 103 victims who were under the age of legal consent.

The allegations against Chansler obviously are disturbing, but most people arrested and charged with sex crimes do not go to the length of extorting their victims. If you or someone you love faces similar or serious charges, please contact a Florida cybercrime defense lawyer with Seltzer Law, PA at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) for a confidential and free consultation.