Former BP Engineer Convicted of Obstructing Justice

In New Orleans today, there was a jury verdict after the U.S. Department of Justice charged Kurt Mix, a former BP engineer, of deleting hundreds of text messages from his iPhone, thereby thwarting the investigation of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Although none of the top executives of BP have been charged with crimes, this corporate entity acknowledged its responsibility earlier this year by pleading guilty to manslaughter charges for the deaths of 11 workers; and thereafter, BP agreed to pay $4 billion in penalties.

Mix was part of the team of experts involved in the efforts by BP to stop oil from gushing out of their blown-out well using a technique called “top kill.” He had access to internal data about how much oil was actually flowing from the blown-out well. It was reported that Mix received 10 individual BP notices that he was obligated to preserve all of his spill-related records. One of the texts messages was an exchange with his supervisor in which Mix estimated there were about 630,000 gallons of oil spilling per day; this amount was actually about three times greater than the estimate BP disclosed to the public at the time. By deleting text messages, the BP engineer was destroying inculpatory evidence, which would be critical proof that would tend to establish guilt of BP and its agents and employees.

 The sentencing hearing is set for March 26, 2014, and Mix faces up to 20 years in prison for this conviction.

California officials review rehab centers after reports of fraud

Officials in California are conducting a statewide review of drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers after reports of fraud surfaced.

CNN and The Center for Investigative Reporting released joints reports stating that some rehab clinics have billed the state for patients who don’t show up, or for patients with no substance abuse problems.

It is distressing when these institutions, which are funded by taxpayers and were created to help those in need, start to take advantage of the state. They are taking for granted the millions of dollars that are put into rehabilitation programs by the citizens of the state.

 

“Buckets of Money” creator faces charges

Ray Lucia Sr., the creator of the retirement strategy called “Buckets of Money,” was charged by a judge with knowingly and fraudulently misleading potential investors.

Lucia has promoted his investment plan for years, both in books and on his San Diego-based financial show. However, he claimed that he performed backtests, which are methodical calculations. But when he was asked about the calculations, he said he did some in 1990 and no longer had copies.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, if they agree with the judge’s decision, will fine Lucia $300,000, bar him from associating with investing firms, and strip him of his investment adviser registration.

When it comes to investments, people should think twice about who they trust. Consult with multiple experts to find the best path.

 

Tax Preparer Accused of $1M in IRS Fraud

A tax preparer from Lemon Grove was arrested Monday in Arizona on suspicion of carrying out a scheme to steal Social Security numbers, file false tax returns and defraud the Internal Revenue Service, authorities reported.

IRS agents took Cynthia Lozano, 31, into custody in Phoenix, where she will make her first appearance in federal court on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego.
According to a grand jury indictment, the suspect used her business, CLozano Income Tax, to submit fraudulent federal income tax returns seeking bogus refunds.
Starting in 2010, Lozano allegedly made false statements that prompted the IRS to issue refunds under EIC provisions, which allow for a refundable federal income-tax credit for low- to moderate-income individuals and families as a way to offset the burden of Social Security taxes and to provide an incentive to work.
If a taxpayer’s EIC exceeds the amount of taxes actually owed, it results in the IRS paying a refund to the taxpayers, who claim and qualify for the credit.
According to charging documents, Lozano targeted more than 200 victims by filing fraudulent IRS 1040 forms in the their names. The taxpayers frequently were unaware that Lozano had used their Social Security numbers, thus also becoming victims of aggravated identity theft.
As a result, Lozano allegedly received over $1 million worth of fraudulent refunds from the IRS, which she laundered through an array of bank accounts and used, in part, to buy 20 properties in and around Phoenix.
Lozano’s indictment seeks forfeiture of the real estate to recompense the government and to prevent her from reaping a financial benefit from her alleged crimes.

FBI arrests one-time CSUSM student-body candidate

Commentary by San Diego Criminal Defense Layer Sam Spital:

“UT San Diego online edition on February 11, 2013 reported a former candidate for student body President, Matthew Weaver was arrested by the FBI for suspicion of wire fraud, a related charge and unauthorized use of a computer. The article revealed that user identities and passwords of approximately 700 students were stolen by the computer hacker to alter results of the student election to allegedly benefit himself and fraternity brothers, which is the method votes are cast by students. Although not reported in the article, these positions are paid by the school and had the particular candidates in question been elected they would have been able to make a combined $36,000 from stipends.

Last year, Cal State San Marcus University Police arrested the suspect when they discovered him at a school computer in possession of a device known to be used to steal computer passwords, however, he was not charged at the time with any criminal offense. Weaver now faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted of the charges filed in the pending federal complaint. The sad reality is the defendant clearly did not consider the unintended consequences of his apparent desire for power. Now, his future career aspirations and professional goals will be marked by the charges if proven and/or he decides to enter into a plea deal if offered. Here is where the defendant needs truly competent defense counsel to marginalize the allegations; it is also very important to remember the suspect is innocent until proven guilty by evidence beyond reasonable doubt.”

— Sam Spital

Twin brothers accused of scamming local sports fans (Sam Spital)

COMMENTARY BY SAM SPITAL, SAN DIEGO CRIMINAL ATTORNEY:

“KFMB Channel 8 CBS online news contains an article written on December 19, 2012 in which two 62 year old brothers were accused of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. The story revealed a similar scam and their conviction in 1990 for group tours that were never provided to high school and middle school students, which resulted in the sentences of 27 to 30 years in state prison and restitution of over one-quarter million dollars. If convicted in the current criminal case, the twins each face up to 20 years in state prison as well as fines of at least $250,000.

Lacking even a scintilla of evidence of remorse, rehabilitation and extenuating facts and circumstances, the reporter went to the home of the two brothers, but no one came to or answered the door. A neighbor reported the brothers were friendly and took care of their elderly mother. The defense will likely assert the defendants did not have sufficient business experience, among other things, to follow elementary principles of accounting and maintain all funds received in a trust account, pay for costs and expenses as incurred or bills were received, and to employ sufficient and experienced employees in order to deliver on their contracts as well as to promise only what they were certain they could achieve.”

 

Alleged Baby Funeral Scammers Arrested – Similar cases were reported in San Diego last year (Sam Spital)

COMMENTARY BY PROFESSIONAL LICENSE, INJURY and CRIMINAL ATTORNEY SAM SPITAL:

“When individuals donate to charitable causes, the last thing they think about is what percentage of the money goes to the actual cause involved after deducting the administrative costs and commission or income to the solicitors seeking the donations. Sadly, the unsuspecting public almost uniformly does not research the “charity” to determine if it is indeed an exempt organization eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable donations. Some organizations will use names that are sufficiently similar to the more commonly known and legitimate entities to trick the public into thinking they are the one intended by the donor or contributor, but in fact are not. It seems the public is hesitant to ask any questions or do a minimal investigation, but will put their hands into their pocket and pull out their money or credit card out of kindness.

It is wise to be alert to a variety of fraudulent practices (such as those individuals who only want to get one’s credit or bank information this way). In addition, when you want to know the percentage of expenses that are taken out of every dollar that is donated, one can easily check online before giving donations. A search online of the named organization and their website should be available. This way one can verify with the posted tax identification number if they are registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Then, one can go online to the IRS site to confirm the information, as follows: http://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/. It is noteworthy that in California, the Attorney General’s Office regulates charities and fundraisers (see: http://oag.ca.gov/charities)

On December 4, 2012, the NBC Channel 7 local news posted an article about three individuals who were arrested after they were allegedly holding up signs reading ‘Funeral Donations” with a photo of a baby to solicit donations at a street corner from drivers who came to or stopped at the particular intersection. The unspeakable truth is this was a complete scam for a make believe funeral. Apparently, this was not the first time panhandlers were caught engaging in such schemes. Each of us give donations out of the generosity of our heart, but we also need to be wary because there are in fact charitable scams. Unfortunately, there are people who are unwilling to work for a living to perform legitimate services to earn a wage or salary. During the holiday season, there seem to be more scams than at other times, but one should always be vigilant.”

Miami-Area Patient Broker Sentenced for Role in $200 Million Fraud Scheme

The amount of fraud and waste connected with the Medicare program is staggering. Not only are these dollars being taken away from the fund to use for patients that need and deserve care and treatment, but it is adding to and crippling the huge debt of the United States. It is inconceivable for the public and the legal system and, therefore, strains credulity that anyone might believe they would get away with such criminal behavior.

On the other hand, the role of a criminal defense attorney is not only to rebut the prosecution case if possible, but to insure the procedures are followed. In this case, the focus would not only be on the offense as well as defense, but to emphasize any mitigating facts and circumstances. It is hoped that prior to sentencing his defense attorney was able to establish the defendant acknowledged his wrongdoing and was remorseful and apologetic. Otherwise, the Judge would not have the benefit of any redeeming qualities when the Court imposed the sentence.