Man sells night vision goggles on eBay, now faces 20 years

As Kevin Rector reports for the Baltimore Sun, an undercover federal agent in Baltimore snagged a 34-year-old man on eBay when he pretended to be an out-of-country buyer of night vision goggles.

The 34-year-old, who resides in Florida, mailed a package marked as “Rangefinder” with a value of $70, although the package really contained night vision goggles that cost $7,000.

He apparently did this twice, both times selling night vision goggles, which is illegal under the Arms Export Control Act, as Rector writes. The government argued that night vision goggles are “designed to enable military ground troop personnel to conduct night operations.”

The 34 year old, who was arrested and charged in 2011, has recently plead guilty and will be sentenced this summer. He faces up to 20 years behind bars.

We handle all kinds of criminal cases, including those cases involving the Internet. To learn more, please visit our Baltimore computer offenses page.

Source: Man pleads guilty for eBay sale of night vision goggles to undercover agent

Outlaws motorcycle club member from Baltimore faces federal drug charges

It’s not clear how closely the popular FX show Sons of Anarchy resembles a real club like the Outlaws MC. But one club member from Baltimore, as Van Smith reports for the City Paper, was recently the subject of federal charges involving a methamphetamine deal gone wrong.

Two pounds of meth wasn’t getting paid for and the 42-year-old club member from Baltimore made calls into the Philadelphia chapter about it, which included plenty of threats.

The only problem was the recipient of the threats was an undercover FBI agent who had infiltrated the MC. Because the undercover agent began receiving death threats, the FBI decided to make a move and arrest the Baltimore man.

Now he faces federal drug charges.

As Smith reports, the FBI built a “drugs-and-guns” case against various chapters of the Outlaws, which is a storyline similar to that in Sons of Anarchy. Only in this case, it’s not fiction, and the 42-year-old man from Baltimore faces significant time behind bars if he is convicted.

Source: Baltimore man nabbed in FBI motorcycle-club probe in Philadelphia

The ‘cut-and-paste’ provision and federal charges for child porn

As Jessica Dye reports for Reuters Legal, a 73-year-old’s “creative” method of creating pornography – if the allegations charged by the authorities are true – got him into hot water. The man would cut the faces of children from pictures he’d taken of them in public and paste those heads onto the bodies of adults engaged in sexual activity.

He faces federal charges for possession of child pornography. In support of the charges, the government cites two cases that describe “digitally modified or altered images” as included under the statutes describing child pornography.

He faces up to a decade behind bars if convicted.

Not all jurisdictions are in agreement, however, about whether modified images are child porn, according to Dye. State courts have, in the last couple years, ruled that cutting and pasting children’s faces in pornographic images did not constitute child pornography because the children themselves were not actually engaging in sexual activity.

Needless to say, there is no uniform perspective on this, and courts will continue to grapple with the issue as it develops.

Is The FBI The Most Notorious Hacker?

File this one under (attempted) pre-trial indictment investigations. For anyone who wonders why a rule requiring police to get a valid search warrant before actually conducting the search is a good rule, look no further than Cyrus Farivar’s story with Ars Technica.

The FBI asked a federal magistrate judge for a search and seizure warrant granting them the authority to hack into someone’s computer. The software would’ve allowed FBI agents, among other things, to turn the computer’s webcam on.

And the judge said no.

Essentially, the grounds on which the FBI sought the warrant were overly broad. No one knew where the computer was actually located, for one thing, which did not satisfy the general rule that a given police search will be confined to a particular location. Nor did the FBI show that its hacking would not involve innocent computer users, or those who weren’t the subject of investigation.

Most troubling, perhaps, is what’s going on outside this particular case. Farivar reports that the same judge who said no to the FBI has also said that law enforcement authorities ask for – and apparently get – thousands of these kinds of surveillance warrants every year.
Source: FBI denied permission to spy on hacker through his webcam

Former trader convicted of wire fraud after $8.3 billion trade

As Chad Bray reports for the Wall Street Journal, 34-year-old finance trader Matthew Taylor pleaded guilty in federal court today to a white collar crime charge of wire fraud. The fraud involved a staggering $8.3 billion trade that he made while employed at Goldman Sachs.

Goldman Sachs said: “Matt Taylor provided false explanations when confronted about irregularities we detected in his account during […] the trading day,” while U.S. District Judge William Pauley III was more direct: “He cooked the books.”

The unauthorized trade was said to have caused a loss of more than $118 million to Goldman Sachs. Taylor says he made the trade in order to earn more compensation at the end of the year.

According to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which brought a civil lawsuit against Taylor, Taylor “fabricated” trades by doing an end-run around an internal system that would have sent those trades to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

As Bray reports, Taylor’s conviction for wire fraud means he could get up to 20 years behind bars.

At the Law Offices of James E. Crawford, Jr., we defend people against all kinds of white collar charges, including wire fraud.

Source: Ex-Goldman Trader Pleads Guilty to Fraud

Former Intelligence Analyst Bradley Manning Sentenced In Whistleblower Case

Reuters reports that former intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, accused of leaking classified information to the media – 700,000 files worth of classified information – was sentenced today to 35 years behind bars in the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth.

The case stems from Manning’s work as a U.S. Army soldier in Baghdad. In 2010, Manning was accused of leaking the files to Julian Assange’s infamous (“infamous,” depending on who you ask) whistleblower site WikiLeaks. The information, among other things, showed a U.S. attack chopper killing a dozen people, including two Reuters employees.

The perceived significance of Manning’s prison sentence varies from outlet to outlet.

Ian Simpson and Medina Roshan with Reuters quote one military law expert who said: “The message will be sent in a loud and clear fashion to all those in uniform that they do not get to make decisions on what is legitimate and what is not, with regard to U.S. policy.”

Julian Assange’s statement, released on WikiLeaks today, offers a slightly different perspective. Assange wrote that Manning’s defense lawyers “should be proud of their tactical victory,” referring to Manning’s minimum sentence – just over 5 years – with a maximum of 32 years. (Commentators believe he’ll serve 10.) Assange goes on to opine that the whole thing was an “affront to basic concepts of Western justice,” arguing that Manning should be released and compensated.

Man faces 6 years in prison in murder-for-hire case

Mental illness is a very difficult issue to approach in our nation’s criminal justice system. When an alleged perpetrator is the victim of mental illness, it’s difficult to know how responsible he or she is for his or her actions, and it’s therefore tough to determine a suitable punishment. State and federal charges must be examined carefully and individually, with an eye toward what sentence will do the most good for society while still addressing the mental needs of the accused.

Take, for instance, a Maryland man who was recently sentenced in a controversial murder-for-hire case in Annapolis. The man attempted to hire a hitman to murder his wife, claiming he could no longer tolerate her presence. The hitman, however, was an undercover police officer who secretly recorded their conversation, providing the officer with the evidence required to secure a conviction.

The attempted crime is indeed horrible, but according to the man’s defense attorneys there was a reason for the man’s actions. As a former soldier in Afghanistan, the man suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Indeed, friends and family noted the severe changes that overtook the man upon his return from overseas. Before fighting in the war, he was described as a calm, thoughtful man. Afterward, however, he was given to sudden rages over trivial matters, such as a motorist failing to use a turn signal.

These “rants” were in evidence in the undercover police video, in which the man went on a lengthy tirade that jumped quickly from one subject to the next.

Despite the allegations in the case, the man’s family has stood behind him since his arrest; his wife begged the judge for leniency.

The case is compelling because it contained both powerful evidence for the man’s guilt and powerful evidence that the man was not acting as a mentally healthy man would act. In the end, though the defense argued that the judge should view the situation with an eye on the man’s mental illness, he still applied the six-year prison term, stating that there were some things “society cannot put a seal of approval on.”

Source:  Leesburg Today, “Maryland Man To Serve 6 Years In Murder-For-Hire Plot” Erika Jacobson Moore, Sep. 27, 2013

Woman gets sentenced to 2 years for federal charges

The Great Recession put a strain on most Marylanders’ budgets, but it appears that one couple may have been living in luxury thanks to alleged major fraud activities that effectively stole money from the U.S. government. News reports show that an area woman pleaded guilty to federal charges for fraud and was sentenced in early December. Even though she had reportedly committed serious crimes by funneling extra contracting work to her husband’s business, she will only serve a two-year stint in prison in connection with the illegal activities. The woman’s husband was sentenced to an 18-month term.

The woman, age 64, was implicated in the scheme after a news report revealed her fraudulent use of contracting money. She had reportedly funneled some $53 million in federal contracts to her husband’s company, the Sterling Royale Group. The pair had recovered $39 million in payments before the unethical activities were uncovered. The pair reportedly purchased expensive cars, yachts and hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewelry.

Courtroom reports show that the woman argued that she thought the procurement procedures were legal. A judge in the case said he thought the woman’s arguments were invalid, as it appeared that she definitely knew what she was doing when she diverted the funds. The woman was accused of improperly drafting documents for embassy work and pressuring State Department decision-makers to sign documents without carefully reading them. Still, the judge only sentenced her to a two-year term, as opposed to the federal sentencing guidelines’ minimum of five years, 10 months.

Even those facing federal charges for serious financial missteps may be able to avoid significant jail time, depending on the approach taken by the criminal defense attorney. In this case, the woman was sentenced to less than half the recommended sentence, largely because defense attorneys argued that the contractors still finished the work for which they were commissioned, even though they fraudulently obtained the contracts.

Source:, “Former State Department worker, husband sentenced for contracting fraud” Matt Zapotosky, Dec. 06, 2013

Maryland man arrested for bottle bombs

Police have arrested a man who is accused of setting off “bottle bombs,” a mixture of vinegar, baking soda and other substances in bottles, at three movie theaters. One of the alleged incidents took place in Maryland, while two others were in areas close by. According to reports, the 20-year-old man most recently placed one of the bottles in a Maryland movie theater on May 24. The theater was evacuated after the explosion.

The other incidents took place as early as the beginning of April, when the first of the bottles exploded in a theater in Alexandria, Virginia. Two other explosions took place in a multiplex on May 18, and a third incident took place at the same multiplex a week later.

The 20-year-old was arrested at his house in Maryland on May 31, and his house was searched by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and several other law enforcement agencies. He has been officially charged with one felony count of manufacture, possession and detonation with a destructive device for the May 24 explosion, and it was unclear if further charges would be coming from the other incidents. According to reports, the man has a prior record that includes malicious destruction of property, and he is now facing up to 25 years in prison for the current felony charge.

A vinegar and baking soda combination is not inherently harmful as is normally associated with explosive devices, but the sound of the explosion could cause the moviegoers to panic, resulting in injuries. The bottle could cause injuries to anyone in the immediate vicinity when it detonates.

While some may see this as a harmless prank, these types of crimes are often aggressively prosecuted, and the man’s prior record may work against him in a trial. It is crucial that defendants charged with these types of crimes understand the seriousness of the charges and do everything they can to ensure they put forth the best defense possible.

Source:  CBS Baltimore, “Man Arrested For Largo Movie Theater Bottle Bomb May Be Behind Others” No author given, Jun. 01, 2014

How does a lawyer defend you against federal crimes?

If you’re accused of a crime, you need to defend yourself. Criminal defense is an area of the law that can help. In general, when you’re developing a defense, the job of an attorney is to look at what the prosecutor is planning to do or the story he will tell. So for instance, if the attorney is going to talk about a robbery and how it happened, the defense attorney would make sure to have alibis, witnesses and a story that negates the prosecutor’s theories.

A criminal defense needs to be based on truth. So, if you’ve been accused of a federal crime, then it’s important to be honest about what happened if you speak with an attorney. Take for instance if you have been accused of murder; your story of what happened may be very different than what the prosecution tries to say happened. There is no reason that you shouldn’t be heard, and with the right defense, you can be.

There are several ways a defense can help by pointing out the truth. For instance, a criminal lawyer would discuss how your car was stolen the morning of a crash you weren’t involved in, or they may show why the events took place like they did to elicit sympathy on your behalf. For example, if you were involved in a fight, the attorney may be able to show how you were only lashing out in self-defense.

Of course, having evidence that disproves the prosecutor’s theories is always welcome. For instance, if there is video footage of you being somewhere other than the scene at the time of the crime, that would clearly help your case. By being honest with your attorney, you can rest assured your attorney can provide a strong, solid defense on your behalf.

Source: FindLaw, “Criminal Defense Strategies” Oct. 02, 2014