October 13, 2014

Federal Pornography: A Federal Crime and Apparently a Quite Common One

If you’ve been arrested on federal child pornography charges in Florida (or elsewhere), you obviously understand that you are in an incredibly serious situation. You might face punishments ranging from lengthy amounts of jail time to ostracism from friends and family. If the charges against you aren’t true or are exaggerated, you are also likely panicked about how you can prove your innocence and make sure that justice is served.

The topic of federal pornography has been getting tons of media attention recently, thanks to representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who just introduced a bill that would prohibit federal employees from looking at pornography on the job. You might have been under the impression that looking at pornography at work was already a big “no-no” for federal government employees, but Meadows asserts that law enforcement has not been enforcing the rules prohibiting such behavior.

We blogged several months ago about a Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official – a very high up bureaucrat – whom authorities alleged kept 7,000 files of pornography files on his computer. He may have spent six or more hours every day at work engaged with that pornography. The pornography he viewed was not child pornography, however. Apparently, he hasn’t even been fired yet: he is just technically “on leave.”

According to the investigative news source, Mic, pornography consumption may be rampant among federal government employees. Earlier this year, a Federal Communications Commission worker got in trouble for spending eight hours every week looking at pornography on the job, claiming that “he was bored.” Meanwhile, a Treasury Department official checked out over 13,000 porn images in a month-and-a-half at work. Per the Mic investigation, employees at the Minerals Management Service, the Department of Justice, The U.S. Senate, and The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission all extensively looked at pornography at work. A 2009 report from The Washington Times found that “one senior National Science Foundation executive spent at least 331 days looking at pornography on his government computer and chatting online with nude or partially clothed women without being detected.”

As someone who faces serious federal child pornography charges – particularly if you’re innocent – you may feel furious about the double standard. Why do some people get punished for pornography crimes, while other people don’t? Rather than rue your fate or shake your fist at the system, get clear about your options to protect your freedom and dignity. Call the team here at Seltzer Law, PA, at 1-888-THE DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) for a free and confidential consultation about your federal pornography defense. We're available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

October 8, 2014

Major Phoenix Child Pornography Sting Yields Two Suspects

If you're currently under investigation for cybercrime-related charges in Florida, you may or may not be familiar with cybercrime sting operations in your city or state.

Authorities design sting initiatives to identify and apprehend individuals who participate in illegal activities online. In Phoenix, Arizona, a joint effort between the Phoenix Police Department and the Arizona Internet Crimes against Children Task Force recently arrested two men on charges of sexual exploitation of a minor.

Early on September 11, detectives apprehended Andres Pena, a 33-year-old who allegedly possessed multiple videos and images of child pornography. Later that day, they took another man, David Ray, into custody after examining his work and personal computers.

Both Ray and Pena currently face 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.

How Florida Cybercrime Sting Operations Work

In the state of Florida, authorities often employ sting operations to catch individuals engaged in unlawful activities online. These efforts include several components:

• Collaboration. The combined resources of local, county, and state police – as well as national organizations, such as the Internet Crimes against Children Task Force – provide high-tech capabilities and staffing to find potential internet criminals.

• Posting ads. Law enforcement officers posing as underage children – or adults offering the services of children – engage with suspects on dating sites and other forums.

• Arranging meet-ups. Undercover officers attempt to meet suspects at predetermined locations, where authorities can arrest the individuals.

Cybercrime sting operations do not always abide by the law, and the evidence collected may not be admissible in court. For instance, authorities sometimes abuse their power; defendants victimized by such efforts can decry this “entrapment” and use evidence of the abuse to win back their freedom. Although these investigatory efforts undoubtedly help police bring legitimate criminals to justice, they may also result in false accusations.

Do you believe you have been unfairly targeted by a cybercrime sting operation? The qualified Florida cybercrime attorneys at Seltzer Law, P.A. can help. Call us today at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) to schedule your free consultation and take your first step towards protecting your rights.

September 29, 2014

What Does Apple’s New Privacy Policy Mean for Florida Cybercrime Defense?

One of the ways authorities identify potential cybercrimes in Florida is by accessing their mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. However, a recent development at Apple will prevent law enforcement – and Apple itself – from getting into suspects’ iOS 8 devices.

This recent revelation, which Apple announced along with its new privacy policy, indicates the company will no longer be able to “unlock” users’ phones by overriding their passwords. They have accomplished this feat by changing the encryption they employ when a user chooses a password. Any recordings, emails, images, or videos on a device are now available only to those correctly entering this code.

Apple’s strengthened stance on security comes in the wake of a mass celebrity nude photo leak as well as accusations from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden regarding government spying. The company aims to prove their commitment to customers’ privacy and absolve themselves of the ability to cooperate with authorities regarding criminal cases.

What This Development Could Mean for Cybercrime Defense

For users of the iPhone 6 (or any device operating on iOS8), this new policy presents significant implications for the privacy and security of digital information. Important considerations include:

• More difficult device searches. Going forward, authorities cannot view or access passcode-protected material on Apple devices, even with a search warrant.

• Thwarted surveillance. Agencies attempting to monitor an individual’s online activities can no longer do so on iOS devices.

• Passcode importance. Revealing your passcode to another person, writing it down, or choosing an easy-to-guess passcode reduces the efficacy of Apple’s security measures.

Fighting cybercrime charges can be a frightening prospect, but an experienced Florida cybercrime defense attorney can help you build a strong case. At Seltzer Law P.A, we can use our extensive knowledge of state, federal, and case law to defend your rights. Contact us at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) to begin your journey back towards freedom.

September 24, 2014

Former Grand Rapids Pharmacy VP Faces Drug, Child Pornography Charges

Fighting an erroneous Florida cybercrime case can be difficult enough. When additional charges enter the mix, the result is often a longer case and stiffer penalties.

Richard Michael Clarke, a former executive at Kentwood Pharmacy in Grand Rapids, currently faces charges in a complex case of this nature. On September 15, Clarke pled guilty to possessing child pornography. He also faces charges of participating in a “drug-repackaging scheme” that allegedly involved 16 other employees at the pharmacy.

According to court records, Clarke supplied “controlled substances” to a teenager of whom he had been creating explicit pornographic images. The drugs came from surpluses at foster homes and nursing homes, which he allegedly repackaged after those facilities returned them to the pharmacy. Kim Duron Mulder, the pharmacy’s former CEO, also faces charges in the case.

Clarke pled guilty to charges of child pornography possession and conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. A conviction could result in up to 20 years in prison (10 years for each crime).

How Additional Charges Can Complicate a Cybercrime Case

Under Florida state and federal law, child pornography crimes are among the most severely regarded and punished. A conviction for such offenses alone can result in significant prison time, sex offender registration, and loss of one’s reputation. However, when cybercrime defendants also face charges for other offenses, the ramifications can be profound and scary:

• Longer sentences. Judges consider sentence lengths based on the guidelines for each separate crime. Therefore, a compound conviction often means a compound sentence.

• Larger fines. The more charges a suspect faces, the more fines they are likely to accumulate.

• Longer court cases.
The length of time from initial booking to judgment and sentencing takes longer with more complex cases, often meaning more time in jail and greater suffering for defendants and their families.

If in addition to Florida cybercrime charges, you face multiple counts for other alleged crimes, a skilled defense attorney can vindicate you and ensure your freedom. Call the Seltzer Law, P.A. team today at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) to discuss your case in a confidential, free consultation. We're available 24/7 to talk!

September 15, 2014

Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney’s Child Pornography Arrest

Believe it or not, many people who get arrested and accused of cybercrimes in Florida have no idea that they've committed illegal actions until the police arrive to take them to jail. Such arrests can shock whole families and communities.

But what happens when someone who understands cybercrime laws intimately gets arrested for such offenses? The defense usually becomes much more difficult. In that context, let's consider the arrest last week of a deputy Los Angeles City attorney on serious pornography charges.

On Thursday, September 4, the Los Angeles Police Department arrested Christopher Richard Garcia on suspicion of child pornography distribution. The police action followed a 10-month investigation, during which Garcia remained on administrative leave from his position. Authorities had identified potentially incriminating content on Garcia’s computer, including illicit images and other evidence of child exploitation, which prompted the investigation.

Garcia posted a $40,000 bail, and he's currently awaiting trial. In the meantime, however, his professional reputation as a law officer has likely already suffered a severe blow. Even if he clears the charges and proves that they were unfounded, he may struggle to reclaim a normal life and career.

How Do Cybercrime Arrests Happen to Those Who Should Know Better?

Individuals in professions such as Garcia’s obviously can commit cybercrimes. But just because someone knows and understands the law doesn’t necessarily mean he or she cannot accidentally carry out illegal acts. Here are three situations in which an innocent person (even a police officer or investigator on the cybercrime beat) could get in trouble with the law:

• Family photos.
An innocent photo of a young relative could become incriminating evidence in some circumstances. (For instance, a person who texts a "cute" nude baby picture or picture of a young relative can get in trouble, even if he or she had zero intention of sharing the picture for prurient reasons.)

• Botched investigatory searches. People who attempt to identify and apprehend cybercriminals can be mistaken as the very individuals they seek to bring to justice.

• Mislabeled downloads.
People who download torrents or other media run the risk of receiving unwanted material, for which they can become legally responsible.

Regardless of what got you into your current situation, if you currently face cybercrime charges, you understand the dire consequences of a conviction. These can include imprisonment, permanent sex offender status, and the loss of support from colleagues, friends and family.

The experienced Florida cybercrime defense attorneys at Seltzer Law, PA can help. Contact us today online, or call 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333), to begin your journey back towards freedom.

September 10, 2014

Reddit Cracks Down on Underage Photos

Individuals who face faulty cybercrime charges in Florida may soon have a lot of company, thanks to social media sites like Reddit.

Websites like Reddit have been coming down harder on users who are not in compliance with their posting rules; the implications both for web users and cybercrime defendants could be huge.

Following a recent mass hacking of celebrity smartphones on Reddit -- and the resulting backlash -- the popular forum quickly reacted to reports that some of the individuals pictured on its boards were under 18 when their photos were taken. Although the hackers responsible for these “leaks” had already committed crimes by stealing the photos, they may also now face child pornography dissemination charges.

Seemingly Innocuous Activities Can Get You into Trouble Online

Whether they realize they're committing crimes or not, people who use websites to consume explicit material can be punished with serious jail time, fines and fees, and strict probation terms. Potentially incriminating online behaviors can include:

• Uploading “hacked” photos.
Hackers who obtain and post pornographic photos against their owners’ consent break the law, and prosecutors can hit them with a litany of charges, such as identity theft and wire fraud.

• Downloading images of very young individuals. An increasing number of minors are uploading explicit photos, and it’s not always evident how old they were at the time the photos were taken. When in doubt, do not download dubious photos or videos.

• Sharing pornographic photos or videos or other multimedia content of underage individuals. Again, use good judgment, and avoid passing along these types of files.

In the United States, cybercrimes involving underage individuals represent serious offenses. Under federal law, a conviction of charges of possessing or distributing such images can result in prison time, sex offender registration, and the loss of one’s personal and professional reputation.

At Seltzer Law, our Florida cybercrime defense attorneys understand the laws related to your case, and we can fight to help you prove your innocence. Contact us today to begin your defense, or call us at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333).

September 1, 2014

School District Suspends Teacher Pending Child Pornography Investigation

Regardless of your occupation, Florida child pornography charges are a frightening prospect – especially if you have been falsely accused. In Buffalo Grove, IL, a popular middle school teacher recently discovered how swift and harsh the penalties of such allegations can be.

Meridian Middle School teacher John C. Vastis, 51, was charged August 28 in federal court with multiple child pornography offenses, including soliciting lewd videos and photos from an underage boy, known simply as “Minor A.”

The criminal complaint alleges Vastis communicated via Skype and text with Minor A, requesting the teenager send him explicit photos and videos. Authorities seized a computer and cell phone, allegedly containing these images. The charges, if proven, could result in a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

Pending investigation, Vastis remains on investigatory leave from Meridian Middle School. School officials have not yet determined whether he will be paid during his absence.

What Are the Potential Consequences of a Child Pornography Conviction?

Individuals like Vastis often face immediate and devastating circumstances due to cybercrime allegations such as these. With the permanency of conviction, one can expect consequences such as:

Imprisonment
. A child pornography conviction often leads to prolonged periods of time behind bars.

Loss of reputation. The damage to one’s reputation can be irreparable and begins the moment a suspect’s arrest becomes public. Friends, family, and neighbors often shun cybercrime convicts, even after they have served their time.

Job loss. Many employers remain unwilling to hire a person who has served time for child pornography charges.

If erroneous child pornography charges threaten to destroy the life you have worked so hard to achieve, don’t despair. Turn to the qualified Florida cybercrime attorneys at Seltzer Law, P.A. We understand the applicable state and federal laws in theory and in practice. We can work towards helping you retain your freedom, reputation, and future.

Call the Seltzer Law, P.A. team today at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333) to discuss your legal options.

August 27, 2014

California Teacher, Pennsylvania Man Arrested for Child Pornography

Communities and the falsely accused alike experience significant shock and dismay due to cybercrime charges in Florida or elsewhere. Today, parents in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and Danville, California, are reeling from child pornography arrests as the beginning of the school year approaches.

In Wilkes-Barre, 40-year-old Scott Laine Savage was arrested two separate times and arraigned for 627 counts of child pornography, as well as 8 counts of dissemination of explicit images of children, one count of child sexual exploitation, and one count of endangering child welfare.

Savage reportedly admitted to the crimes, which included downloading illicit images and photos of children on his mobile phone, as well as taping and creating still images of a young relative. When Google detected this content in an email he attempted to send, they deleted his account.

Similarly devastating is the case of Mitchell Wolf, a 58-year-old middle school math teacher and soccer coach arrested on Friday, August 22, for possessing child pornography on his personal computers. Wolf’s behavior while employed at Diablo Vista Middle School since 2002 prompted none of his coworkers or students to suspect such activity.

Although Wolf has not claimed innocence or admitted guilt thus far, he is currently being held on $1 million bail at the Martinez Detention Facility. The case is currently under investigation, and charges have not yet been filed.

As cybercrimes units employ more resources and increasingly sophisticated methods of locating child pornography offenders, the number of arrests is likely to increase. Individuals convicted of such crimes can expect significant lengths of prison time, as well as lasting damage to their reputations, careers, and personal lives.

The severe consequences of child pornography convictions make it imperative for the falsely accused to seek the assistance of a Florida cybercrimes attorney. The experienced professionals at Seltzer Law, P.A. understand the complexities of state and federal laws and will help you fight to preserve your freedom and good name. Contact us today at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333) to schedule a free consultation.

August 18, 2014

Polk County Cybercrime Detection: “Sting” Vs. Entrapment (Are Overzealous Cybercrime Officers Targeting Innocent Adults?)

Facing arrest for a cybercrime in Florida is a serious matter, and it becomes worse when the accused is completely innocent. A recent sting operation in Polk County may have placed numerous individuals in this situation.

Polk County officers have been working hard to detect cybercrimes involving underage children. However, in their zeal to bring criminals to justice, they have engaged in behaviors possibly amounting to entrapment. Arrest affidavits in several cases include scenarios such as:

• Bait and switch. Police officers posing as adults on popular dating sites develop relationships with law-abiding men, then tell them they are actually underage. When the target of the operation tries to cut ties with the undercover officer, the latter attempts to persuade him to continue the relationship.

• Fake trafficking. Undercover officers occasionally pretend to be parents, offering their children to potential suitors. Whether the target shows interest in the child or not, he may be arrested for talking with the “parent.”

• Enticement.
Despite the target’s seeming lack of interest in sexual activity with a minor, the undercover officer continued to direct the conversation towards that topic.

As a result of these tactics, numerous men have experienced arrest and exposure to negative public attention, including having their mug shots included in press conferences regarding “sexual predators.” Charges in many of these men’s cases have since been cleared.

No conscientious police officer would knowingly target and arrest an innocent individual. However, in their quest to search out true cyber criminals, Polk County officials may have inadvertently done exactly this.

When internet crimes involve illicit activity with underage children, the consequences are often dire and lifelong. Prison time, sex offender registration, and job loss represent only a few of the potential penalties resulting from a conviction.

If you face charges due to a law enforcement entrapment operation, a Florida cybercrime attorney at Seltzer Law, P.A. can help. Contact us today at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333) to begin clearing your name.

August 13, 2014

Is Pornography Like a Drug to People With Sexual Compulsions?

Among individuals accused of pornography related cybercrimes in Florida and across the United States, many misconceptions exist. Suspects are often labeled as sex or pornography “addicts,” but these terms may not describe the behaviors to which they refer as accurately as people might think.

Does sex addiction have the same effects on the brain as drug addiction? Recent studies suggest it does, but experts advise against drawing faulty conclusions prematurely based on this evidence.

About 4 percent of adults exhibit compulsive sexual behaviors, including obsessive thoughts, feelings, and physical acts. However, the medical community has much to learn about what causes these impulses and what effects they have on individuals.

In a recent University of Cambridge trial, researchers found similarities between the brain scans of individuals with sexual impulse control problems and those of drug addicts. The study observed the brain activity of nineteen male patients with compulsive sexual behaviors against that of nineteen healthy volunteers.

Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure subjects’ brain activity using blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) signals. In the tests, the brains of patients experiencing compulsive sexual behavior displayed comparatively more activity in three regions:

Dorsal anterior cingulate.
This region generates connections between cravings and rewards.

Ventral striatum. This section helps individuals process “reward and motivation” signals.

Amygdala. This area of the brain processes the meanings of emotions and events.

Similar reactions occurred in drug addicts exposed to drug-related stimuli.

These weren’t the only correlations scientists found between drug addiction and compulsive sexual behavior. In our next post, we will explore the behavioral aspects of the University’s research and discuss what this study means for better understanding what makes habitual porn users tick.

If you have been accused of a cybercrime involving pornography, you may feel as though society or law enforcement have unfairly labeled you. David Seltzer, an experienced Florida cybercrime attorney, can help you build a strong legal case to preserve your freedom and restore your good name. Contact Seltzer Law today at 1 888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333) for a free consultation regarding your defense.

August 4, 2014

Disney Employee Responds to Child Sex Allegations

Unfounded allegations of cybercrimes involving children can be devastating and can ruin the lives of innocent people. Florida residents facing such allegations might identify with the recent case of a Disney employee accused of soliciting a 14-year-old girl for sex. The case has caused significant hardship to the 49-year-old Orlando man, who has suffered serious consequences following his arrest.

Robert Kingsolver, a service repair supervisor at the Magic Kingdom, was arrested late last week after detectives said he arranged to meet an undercover officer posing as a 14-year-old girl. Upon his arrest, Kingsolver admitted he set up the meeting, but insisted he was concerned about the girl’s behavior and only agreed to meet the girl to keep her out of harm’s way, according to media reports.

Kingsolver entered a not guilty plea to the solicitation charge and is free on bond, but he is a virtual prisoner inside his Orlando home. He is unable to work and can rarely leave the house because he is prohibited from having any contact with children. Kingsolver, whose children staunchly support him, told CNN his life is ruined because of the allegations. He is one of 35 Disney employees snared since 2006 in police stings aimed at combating child pornography and exploitation.

The case against Kingsolver is just one example of how even an accusation of a crime related to child exploitation or child pornography can be devastating. If you or someone you love has been falsely accused of cybercrimes such as these, it is imperative to contact a Florida cybercrimes attorney for an aggressive defense. Cybercrime lawyer David Seltzer has years of experience and can help guide you through this difficult time.

Seltzer Law, P.A. is available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Don’t fight cybercrime accusations alone. Call 1 888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333) for your free legal consultation today.

July 30, 2014

Breaking News from U.S. Sentencing Commission Good News for Offenders

Individuals serving sentences for cybercrimes in Florida will likely be interested in a recent development out of Washington, D.C., which may predict a change in how courts enforce sentencing guidelines.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission released a statement on July 18 indicating retroactive reduced sentencing guidelines for individuals convicted of drug trafficking. According to this news release, those currently incarcerated for such crimes will become eligible for reduced sentences as early as November 2015.

This new development began in April 2014, when the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to decrease the “base offense levels” specified by the Drug Quantity Table, regardless of the type of drug. Since the decision, new defendants have been subject to the amended guidelines, often resulting in shorter sentences than those convicted prior to the change.

To eliminate or reduce this discrepancy, the Commission determined courts should apply the new guidelines to individuals who have already been convicted and begin issuing reduced sentences by November 1, 2015. Judges will review each case to determine whether an early release would pose a hazard to the public, or whether other circumstances might prevent an inmate from receiving a reduced sentence.

Not only will this initiative provide much-awaited clemency for prisoners, but it will also reduce severe crowding in prisons. The delayed implementation will allow authorities to arrange for adequate supervision and transitional services for each inmate.

This new development reflects a shift in the U.S. criminal justice system that will likely spread to other criminal areas. By allowing those currently incarcerated to enjoy reduced sentencing guidelines along with new defendants, the Commission has contributed to a fairer, more efficient, and less crowded prison system.

If you currently face Florida cybercrime charges, you are likely concerned about potential prison time. With the quality legal services of Seltzer Law, you will benefit from our years of experience helping clients get excellent results. For a free consultation regarding your case, contact us today at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333).