Three years in prison for FBI agent who stole heroin

We wrote yesterday about the impeding sentencing of the former FBI agent who pled guilty to stealing heroin seized as evidence.

His sentence is three years, about halfway between the requested sentences of the defense and prosecution.

When you take into account good behavior and credit for participating in drug treatment while in prison, the defendant could potentially be released much earlier.


Received a target letter from federal law enforcement?

Have you or someone you know received a target letter from federal law enforcement? If so, some of the information in this publication may be helpful to you. It is not a substitute for legal advice or an exhaustive treatment of the subject, but it is a good start.

1. What is a target letter?

A target letter is the means by which the federal government informs individuals that they are targets for criminal prosecution. According to the United States Attorney’s Manual, a “target” is a person against whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.

2. If I received a target letter, does that mean I will definitely be indicted?

No. Targets are in serious danger of being indicted, but it is not inevitable. Prosecutors are not always able to gather sufficient evidence to indict their targets. In some cases, it may be possible, with the assistance of an attorney, to persuade the prosecution to close an investigation of a target or to reclassify the target as a witness. Whether this is possible depends upon the specific facts of your case.

3. Is it OK to talk to the agents investigating me?

No. It may be tempting to contact the investigating agents to obtain information or explain your involvement to them, but this is a mistake. Your statements can be used against you, and the agents have received extensive training on how to exploit this situation. Only communicate with the government through your attorney.

4. Is it OK to talk to other person(s) connected to the investigation?

No. As with conversations with agents, your conversations with other people can be used against you if those individuals are subpoenaed at trial or before the grand jury. In addition, even if your motives in speaking to those people are entirely innocent, the government may later accuse you of attempting to obstruct justice.

5. Should I cooperate with the government?

Possibly. This is a central question for many people targeted by the federal government, and the answer depends on the specific facts of the case. An experienced federal criminal lawyer can help you weigh such factors as your chances of winning at trial, your probable sentence if you lose at trial, and the advantages of cooperating with the government. You should not cooperate until these and other aspects of your case have been carefully examined.

6. What else should I be aware of?

You should be aware of the law enforcement techniques the government is using or may use to investigate you. The federal government has vast investigative powers such as the power to tap your phone or search your home or place of business. It is also possible that people you know may be working as informants for the government without your knowledge.

7. How should I go about hiring a lawyer?

You should hire a lawyer who has significant experience defending federal criminal cases. Although it may be tempting to reach out to a trusted attorney who handled your divorce or real estate closing, this is usually a mistake. That person may be an excellent lawyer, but his or her lack of experience in federal investigations will hurt your case. Consult an experienced federal criminal lawyer immediately.

Sentencing for FBI agent who stole heroin

The washington post has coverage of tomorrow’s sentencing in US district court in DC for the former FBI agent who pled guilty to stealing heroin held as evidence.

As expected, the government and defense are very far apart going into sentencing, asking for 7-9 years and house arrest, respectively.

Unhelpfully for the the defense, the case comes against the background of an increase in heroin abuse, including news released just yesterday that heroin deaths have quadrupled over the past decade.

Notes on Johnson v. United States and the Armed Career Criminal Act

In Johnson v. US, SCOTUS struck down part of the Armed Career Criminal Act – a federal law which imposes enhanced penalties (a fifteen year mandatory minimum sentence) on those convicted of certain federal firearms charges based on their criminal histories.

One of the ways the ACCA’s enhanced penalties can be triggered is if the defendant has three or more “violent felonies” in their criminal history.  Without getting too much into the weeds, Johnson greatly reduces the number of offenses which can qualify as violent.  So a lot of defendants who might otherwise be subject to the Act will now be able to avoid it.

The cases raises some interesting questions.  Will prisoners serving ACCA sentences be able to now get reductions?  Is the career offender guideline section, which has similar language but somewhat different requirements and penalties, also void for vagueness?  Will this case trigger a revival of void for vagueness challenges to other laws?

Defending prescription drug cases in the federal courts

The dramatic increase in narcotic pain medication prescriptions in the United States over the last twenty some years has resulted in a thriving black market for these highly addictive drugs.  Prescription pain medications that are frequently abused include oxycontin or oxycodone, roxycodone, percocet, actiq, dilaudid, and many others.  Law enforcement has responded by aggressively investigating and prosecuting prescription drug cases.  If you are reading this page, perhaps you are concerned that yourself or someone you know may be investigated or charged for a crime involving prescription fraud.  What should you know about these kinds of cases?

Where these cases come from

First, many prescription drug fraud investigations begin with an arrest by local police, perhaps involving an individual attempting to pass a fake prescription at a pharmacy.  If it appears that the individual arrested has ties to other individuals distributing significant quantities of pain medication, federal law enforcement may take over the case.

The federal government also prosecutes doctors and other health care professionals for prescription fraud.  How does the government prove that these medical professionals were essentially dealing drugs rather than treating their patients’ pain?  That is a difficult question, which is often a matter of contention where medical professionals are targeted by law enforcement.

Penalties for prescription drug fraud

In many instances, the federal investigation results in indictment(s) for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.  Unlike many other federal drug charges, federal prescription drug charges do not carry mandatory minimums.  However, the federal sentencing guidelines call for heavy sentences where the number of pills involved is high (as, in federal cases, it usually is).  Moreover, as in all federal drug cases, the individual charged is often held responsible not just for pills they personally distributed, but for the total number of pills distributed by the alleged conspiracy.   Sentences exceeding ten years are not uncommon.

Seek legal counsel as soon as possible

If you believe that you or someone you know is being investigated for prescription drug fraud, contact a federal criminal defense lawyer immediately.  Hiring a lawyer before arrest and/or charges dramatically improves your chances of favorably resolving the case.  If charges are inevitable, your federal criminal attorney can pursue many avenues to contest them, or to negotiate a favorable resolution, as the circumstances of your case may dictate.

If you have other questions, please contact us for a free consult.

SCOTUS decision on criminal threats in United States v. Elonis

We have previously commented on United States v. Elonis, a criminal threats case before the Supreme Court this term.  The decision came down today, in favor of the defendant.

The defendant had been convicted at trial of threatening several individuals on Facebook.  The trial judge refused to instruct the jury that a conviction required proof that the defendant intended to make a threat.  Although the jury was told that the government must prove that a reasonable person would interpret the defendant’s words (or “posts”) as a threat, it did not have to prove the defendant meant his words to be taken that way.

The Supreme Court decided these instructions were error and that the statute required proof of the defendant’s intent to threaten.  The ruling was based on the Court’s long tradition of interpreting criminal statutes to require intent unless the legislature clearly intended otherwise.  The question of whether proof of “recklessness” was sufficient to meet this burden was left open.

Unfortunately for state court practitioners, the Court did not decide whether the First Amendment requires proof of intent to threaten.  Because federal law required proof of intent, it was not necessary for the Court to decide if the Constitution did as well.  The case will therefore have limited application outside the federal courts.

Indictment against FIFA officials

A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of New York has returned a 47-count indictment against 14 individuals, including high-ranking officials of FIFA.  The charges include racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracies.

From the New York Times:

“The Department of Justice indictment names 14 people on charges including racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. In addition to senior soccer officials, the indictment also named sports-marketing executives from the United States and South America who are accused of paying more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for media deals associated with major soccer tournaments.”

Read the article here.

Read the DOJ press release here.