May 25, 2015

Do Cybersex Sting Operations Constitute Entrapment? 

That was the question posed by police officers and legal experts in Lubbock, Texas, where authorities have resorted more and more often to using sting operations to catch defendants in the act of soliciting minors. To cite just one typical case, a 22-year-old man named Kevin Porter was indicted on a second-degree felony charge for arranging to meet someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl for the purpose of having sex with her. Arrested by police when he arrived at the meeting place, Porter now potentially faces time in prison.

Lubbock authorities defend their operations, pointing out that, in many cases, the victims of these crimes are real. They cite the recent conviction of 26-year-old Christopher Wayne Howard, who was sentenced to 27 months in prison by the U.S. District Court in Lubbock for a single count of transferring obscene data to a 13-year-old girl. Predators are out there, they say, and the exploitation of children is a particularly heinous offense.

The main point of contention is this: does using sting operations to catch offenders in the act simply create offenders out of men who would otherwise never have considered soliciting a minor? Police are quick to note that they simply plant the bait in sites where offenders have already entered; they don't use pop up ads to lure people in.

The flaw in this logic is that Texas employs what is called an "objective focus" when the state looks at the standard for entrapment. If a jury deems the police's actions in baiting a suspect are reasonable, then the police are not guilty of entrapment. When police officers pose as 14-year-old girls, however, jurors may be overcome with disgust and outrage at the defendant simply for responding, making it hard for jurors to see entrapment, even when it is legitimately there.

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.

May 20, 2015

"National Day of Johns" Leads to Nearly 600 Arrests

A nationwide sting operation involving law enforcement in 17 states ended a month-long investigation with the arrest of almost 600 individuals. Most of the defendants were taken into custody on solicitation charges after responding to fake ads for prostitution posted online at 

Launched in 2011 to highlight the role that the Internet plays in promoting and advertising prostitution, the sting initiative netted 23 alleged cyber criminals and federal human traffickers. In Phoenix, Arizona, police recovered prostitutes who had been brought into town for the Super Bowl by their pimps. A man taken into custody in Las Vegas on federal human trafficking charges was extradited to Ohio. Police arrested two individuals for attempting to post prostitution ads using computers in the Cincinnati public library.

In addition to making arrests, police seized a variety of property, including 221 cars belonging to men who had driven to meet women for the purposes of having sex. In four cases, police found narcotics on defendants. 

Although human trafficking and cybersex crimes are serious offenses, casting the net so wide in the hope of preventing federal crimes may cause more problems than it prevents. It can be difficult to recover property seized in connection to a sting operation, even if the charges are later dismissed. And for innocent people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, being taken into custody on solicitation charges can be a devastating and life-changing event.

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).

May 11, 2015

Duval County Man Arrested for Soliciting a Minor

Thomas Jones, dubbed "the face of evil" by police, was recently arrested at a Florida CVS store, where he allegedly believed he would rendezvous with a 13-year-old girl he met on the Internet.

In reality, the 43-year-old father had been speaking to police detectives conducting a month-long investigation.
During that time, Jones communicated not only with someone he thought was an underage girl but also with a man he believed to be the uncle of a 14-year-old who was soliciting sex for his niece. Jones allegedly said that he would "love to have a young love" and detailed the sexual positions he wanted to the detective posing as the teenager.

Neighbors of Jones expressed unease and surprise when they heard about the arrest. One neighbor said that he had planned to move even before he heard the news, and he was relieved that he was leaving the neighborhood.

Per news reports, Jones cooperated with authorities, admitting that he had gone to the CVS store to meet a 13-year-old. He remains in custody with bail set at over one million dollars.

One can only speculate why Jones agreed to speak with police directly upon being taken into custody. He may have felt that there was no point in trying to hide the facts once he was caught. However, it is crucial not to follow his lead. Since even innocent people can make incriminating statements under duress, the best strategy is to remain quiet until an attorney shows up.

A seasoned Miami cybercrimes attorney with Seltzer Law, P.A. can help you understand your defense options and create an effective response to your charges. Call us 24/7/365 at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333).

May 6, 2015

Florida Customs Officer Charges with Online Solicitation of a Minor

Walter Rivera, a 29-year-old U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer who worked at Miami International Airport, was recently suspended without pay after being charged with online solicitation of a minor.

Rivera allegedly used a cellphone app to have conversations with a police detective he believed was a 15-year-old boy named James; he was arrested when he arrived at the alleged meeting place.

According to police, Rivera exchanged pictures with the detective posing as a boy and described a desire to lie next to him and "see where things go." He also offered to perform oral sex on "James."

Rivera told authorities that he reached out to the boy because he was bored and lonely. He said that he had used the app on a prior occasion to speak with a 16-year-old, but he had never met that boy in person. 

Despite the fact that Rivera had no prior criminal record, the judge used this affidavit to argue that he believed Rivera was a repeat offender. He ordered Rivera to wear an electronic ankle monitor if he was released from jail before his next court appearance.

The self-incriminating statements in Rivera's affidavit underscore how important it is for defendants to obtain legal council as soon as possible. Being arrested can be so traumatic and unsettling that people may unknowingly confess to crimes they did not even commit in an attempt to explain away the circumstances or demonstrate a cooperative attitude.

Your freedom and future may be at stake as a result of false charges of online cybercrime or solicitation. We can help. Call Seltzer Law, P.A. right now at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) for a free and confidential consultation.

April 27, 2015

Repeat Offender Charged with One Count of Cyber Child Solicitation

A 25-year-old Madison, Alabama man named Justin David Beatty was recently taken into custody on a single count of electronic solicitation of a child, the result of an ongoing police investigation.

Authorities allege that Beatty solicited a child under the age of 16 to post explicit photos on the Internet. He is being held on a $100,000 bond.

This is not Beatty's first offense. In 2012, he was arrested for the possession of child pornography and allowed to participate in a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders.

Cases like this one, sadly enough, reinforce public opinion that sexual predators do not benefit from treatment programs, since recidivism rates are high in any case, and there is nothing that can be done about it. In fact, this belief is not true. Recidivism rates among sex offenders is actually lower than that of other criminals, with about a 20 percent reconviction rate for child molesters and a 47 percent reconviction rate for non-sex offenses.

With treatment, these percentages go down. One published review of 80 independent comparisons between those who received treatment and those who did not found that recidivism rates declined 37 percent with treatment, from 17.5 percent in the control group to 11.1 of those who went through treatment programs.

Intervention programs like the one Beatty entered are one of the best ways to lower the rate of child sex offenses. Nevertheless, public perception continues to favor tough sentences and draconian measures aimed at putting offenders in prison for a long time. Unfortunately, the result is that a number of first-time offenders -- approximately 40 percent -- go on to commit non-sexual crimes after serving time behind bars when they could have entered treatment programs instead.

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.

April 22, 2015

Orange County Technology Expert Charged in 33 Counts of Cybersex

Recent arrest reports suggest that Qayed Murtaza Shareef, the 39-year-old CEO of a Southern California digital advertising company solicited two Virginia boys, aged nine and 10, to take explicit videos of themselves. Per the allegations, Shareef used the messaging app Tango to contact the boys and, eventually, to choreograph the specific sexual acts he wanted them to perform.

Shareef, who maintains his innocence, allegedly sent the boys adult pornography and videos of himself engaged in sex acts. Investigators are concerned that these boys aren't the only victims.

The authorities first became aware of the case over a year ago when one of the boy's mothers found a video on her son's tablet. But due to Shareef's knowledge of computer technology, officials believe he was able to elude investigators.

The Orange County Child Exploitation Task force took Shareef into custody at his Aliso Viejo home and charged him with 33 counts of lewd acts with a child under 14, possession of child pornography, and distribution of pornography to a child. If convicted, he faces 752 years in prison.

This case is disturbing not only because of the crimes themselves but also because it illustrates how easy it is for someone with technological expertise to evade the law. Where an investigation pits the savvy of the alleged criminal against that of the authorities -- who use some of the most advanced technology in the industry to catch predators -- some victims and even some alleged perpetrators may be denied justice under the law.

Your freedom and future may be at stake as a result of false charges of online cybercrime or solicitation. We can help. Call Seltzer Law, P.A. right now at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) for a free and confidential consultation.

April 13, 2015

First Amendment Impacts Cybercrime Laws in Texas

Glen Timberlake, a 27-year-old from Austin, drove all the way from central Texas to rural Michigan to meet a girl he met online two years ago while playing Minecraft. Police took him into custody when the girl's mother recognized him outside their home. He was carrying a butcher knife and claiming that he "wanted to get some answers."

The mother of the 14-year-old had already notified the authorities some time ago, claiming that the online relationship had became inappropriate, with Timberlake sending the girl videos of himself engaged in sexual acts, at least one involving a dog. The Austin Police Department was aware of Timberlake's odd behavior and had allegedly issued him a warning to stay away from the girl.

Although Timberlake was charged with numerous felonies and placed in jail on a $700,000 bond, authorities were not able to charge him with cyber solicitation of a minor, which carries a stricter penalty, due to recent changes in the statute. The 2013 session of the Texas State Legislature struck down the part of the law that would characterize explicit online conversation with a minor a crime, declaring that it violated the First Amendment. Now, adults are only breaking the law once they cross the line and attempt to act on their words.

Ironically, this change in the law means that a first-time offender caught in a cyber sex sting operation faces more time in prison than a violent interstate stalker like Timberlake.
Changes to the statute have local police departments scrambling to find a more effective way to investigate and prosecute these cases. They are no longer assigning them to the Child Abuse Unit and have moved them over to Human Trafficking, claiming that online predators use the same grooming behaviors and methods to lure their victim as human traffickers do.

A seasoned Miami cybercrimes attorney with Seltzer Law, P.A. can help you understand your defense options and create an effective response to your charges. Call us 24/7/365 at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333).

April 8, 2015

5 Arrested in Colorado Child Prostitution Case

Five men ranging from the age of 19 to 57 were taken into custody by Weld County officials, part of a multi-agency sting operation coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security. Posing as the mother of two girls, aged 11 and 14, an undercover agent placed ads saying that her daughters were available to have sex in exchange for cash. She also exchanged text messages with the men.

Affidavits for the case state that the men traveled to local hotel rooms, expecting to meet either one or both of the girls. They were arrested on the scene.

One of the men, Amis Cody Brownell, age 34, had an active felony warrant for theft in neighboring Larimer County. Officers also found two grams of methamphetamine in Brownell's vehicle when they took him into custody. He faces an additional charge for unlawful possession.

This case, and others like it, raises an uneasy question about the purpose of multi-agency cybercrime sting operations. The vast majority of men apprehended by such operations have no existing criminal record. Yet every once in a while, the sting nets someone with warrants for another arrest or finds incriminating evidence on the suspect's person or in his vehicle.

Some civil libertarians wonder whether cybercrime sting operations are casting a deliberately wide net in order to find criminals outside their intended scope. They fear that these operations may serve to erode defendants' rights and could lead to cases in which individuals receive disproportionately long sentences for their crimes.

Do you stand falsely accused of a serious computer crime? A Florida cybercrime defense lawyer at Seltzer Law, P.A. can help. Please

March 30, 2015

Teacher Arrested by FBI on Child Pornography Charges

The FBI arrested an award-winning Bronx teacher for allegedly using apps like KIK and Instagram to post explicit photos of underage boys as young as 12. The teacher, Jon Cruz, paid the boys in gift card to take nude selfies as well as photos of their feet and faces. He was taken into custody on several charges of producing, receiving, and distributing child pornography.

Cruz caught the attention of federal prosecutors when the parents of one of the boys discovered gift receipts in the boy's email account. They found that Cruz used several IP addresses to access his KIK accounts, one of them linked to the New York City school system.

According to officials, Cruz posed as a teenage boy, using the photo of a former student and claiming that he was "a nerd who had a thing for jocks." He paid not just for nude photos but also for pictures of the boys' rooms and "thumbs up" portraits.
Cruz served on the Bronx Science Speech & Debate Team for a decade, a position for which he received a number of awards and national acclaim. He is currently being held on $1 million bail.

This case is disturbing for several reasons. While the alleged victims were clearly manipulated and exploited, transcripts uncovered by the FBI depict a man who may be mentally ill. The Cruz case highlights the fact that the system needs better psychological treatment options for offenders, not just stricter laws and more zealous prosecution.
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.

March 25, 2015

Virginia State Department Official Arrested in Cyber Sting Operation

Daniel Rosen, one of the many office directors in the counterterrorism bureau of the U.S. State Department, was taken into custody after being charged with arranging to have sex from a minor. The senior official has spoken out publicly about the danger of exposing youth to corrupting adult influences, which makes his arrest for the alleged charges all the more concerning.

Rosen stumbled into an online sting operation conducted by Fairfax County's Child Exploitation Unit, which makes up to 100 arrests a year by monitoring various sites and chatrooms frequented by teens. A female officer, posing as a teenage girl, held the exchange with Rosen that led to his alleged solicitation. A spokesperson for the proactive child exploitation unit assured the press that its officers don't "make overtures" but are only there to monitor activity and catch "bad guys."

Rosen appeared in the D.C. Superior Court one day after his arrest, where he waived extradition to Virginia. He was held without bond and later transferred to the Fairfax County jail. Meanwhile, officials obtained a search warrant that allowed them to search Rosen's phone records looking for evidence.

There is no doubt that cybercrimes against minors are a serious problem and that society benefits from the services of law enforcement initiatives like Fairfax County's Child Exploitation Unit. However, we need to be careful that officers are not overstepping their bounds, entrapping merely curious Internet users or building overzealous cases.
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.

March 16, 2015

California Seeks to Tighten Cyberporn Laws

Sacramento legislators have proposed two new measures, Senate Bill 676 and Assembly Bill 1310, that would make it easier to prosecute people who engage in "revenge porn." The Senate bill would classify any posting of a recognizable revenge porn image as a new crime, while the Assembly bill gives law enforcement agents the authority to obtain a search warrant whenever they seize an alleged revenge porn image.

Revenge porn -- the posting of explicit images online in retaliation for a breakup -- is a real problem that has destroyed thousands of lives. It is especially serious when the victims are minors.

California is already at the forefront in recognizing and prosecuting this offense. In February, 2015, Kevin Bollaert was convicted of multiple charges of extortion and identity theft for disseminating revenge porn, and Hunter Moore agreed to plead guilty of computer hacking and identity theft for operating a revenge porn website.

These new bills, however, may be the wrong direction to take. Assembly Bill 1310 in particular raises uneasy questions about the Fourth Amendment. It is easy to image a scenario in which evidence of other crimes could be legally obtained through the search for revenge porn. In some cases, the defendant could conceivably be innocent of disseminating revenge porn but still be found guilty of crimes discovered during the search.

Cracking down on clear cases of revenge porn is the right thing to do. But broadening the scope of the law to fight these offenses could potentially backfire, leading to the erosion of our Constitutional protections and the destruction of even more innocent lives.
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).

March 11, 2015

In 2 International Child Pornography Cases, German Politician Gets Slap on the Wrist, While Killer Gets 10 Years in Prison

Downloading, viewing, and creating child pornography creates scandal throughout the world. Most countries have laws against child pornography, but sentencing structures vary. Two recent cases in the international media involve a Dutch engineer and a German politician.

In Germany, former politician Sebastian Edathy recently confessed to downloading child pornography on his laptop at work and in book and CD form. Investigators found Edathy’s connection to child pornography while investigating a Canadian company accused of distribution. The German politician’s name appeared in their client records.

Edathy owes the court $5,600 for his crime. More importantly, the incident spurred change in German laws regarding child pornography. Now, no one can create child pornography for the purpose of dissemination in that country. The changes also include an extension to the statute of limitations for many sex crimes.

Meanwhile, Dutch engineer Vincent Tabak killed his neighbor, Joanna Yeates, in 2010. His sentence for the sexually motivated crime includes a 20-year prison term. Recently, a new case regarding his possession of 145 pieces of child pornography concluded. England classifies child pornography in 3 different levels, with category A as the most serious. Tabak’s collection had 6 category A pieces. The majority, however, ranked in category C – the least serious.

Tabak faces 10 years for his child pornography crimes, served concurrently with his murder sentence. His name will remain on a sexual offense registry for 10 years, and he can no longer work with children. Prosecutors aggressively pursued the charges to protect the public in the future.

When facing cybercrimes like child pornography, you may feel like you’ve reached the end of the road. The media often tells the stories of successfully prosecuted cases like these two international claims. They rarely champion those who successfully fight wrongful accusations. Cybercrime cases feature complexities that defense attorneys who constantly monitor changing laws understand. Don’t lose hope if you face an investigation into cybercrimes. Defense attorneys investigate the whole story, which often includes exonerating information.

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).