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Houston Legal Blog

How changes in recent law impact corruption charges

The law is fluid. It evolves and changes due to the impact of various mechanisms. Examples include the passage of new laws and rulings by the judiciary. One specific area of law that has evolved in recent years involves the handling of allegations of corruption.

How has the law changed regarding corruption charges? The United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has made it more difficult for the government to prosecute these cases. Two specific changes include:

Changes to whistleblower protection could be on the horizon

If you notice something suspicious at work, you probably don’t make a beeline to federal agents. You would most likely start by notifying the leadership within your company so they can investigate themselves and solve the issue. This was the decision of one worker who ultimately lost his job after he warned company managers about his supervisor before he reported it to the government.

This worker, who is now in a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit, could transform the way that employees report allegations of illegal activity.

Common types of health care fraud

When people think of white collar crime, they often think of giant embezzlement schemes, computer fraud or even insider trading. Another type of white collar crime is health care fraud. In some cases, health care providers, such as doctors, file fraudulent insurance claims on patients in order to collect more income. In other cases, individual health care consumers commit health care fraud.

Charges for health care fraud in Texas can have serious consequences, including fines, court fees and jail time.

Strong spotlight currently on offshore tax havens

Offshore companies that cater to well-heeled clients -- ranging from individuals and families to large corporations and universities -- are always in the news and persistently cloaked in controversy.

On the one hand, and as noted in a recent New York Times article on the use of foreign havens to avoid tax burdens, "setting up companies offshore is generally legal." People and businesses with the means to do so routinely take advantage of laws and regulations around the world that yield them savings through the lawful avoidance of taxes otherwise imposed by the IRS.

What’s in it for the whistleblower: filing a qui tam action

If you know your employer is defrauding the government, it can pay to be the whistleblower—literally.

Under the False Claims Act (FCA), there are strict penalties for submitting fraudulent claims to the government. A “false claim” is any action that cheats, defrauds or steals from the government. Examples may include:

If the crime is the same, shouldn't the time be the same?

I'm well known, and you're not. Is it fair that, because of that single difference, I receive a harsher criminal sentence than you do after we are convicted of virtually the same crime?

Many readers of our blog might reasonably believe that a differing outcome linked to a person's notoriety or the high-profile aspects of a case is grossly unfair and, in fact, not sanctioned under laws operative anywhere in the United States.

Houston-area family duped, buys $2,000 fake World Series tickets

The Houston Astros won last night's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers to take a two games to one lead in the World Series. A Spring family that had hoped to be at Minute Maid Park to watch the game shelled out $2,000 for four tickets -- but found out at the gate that the tickets were counterfeit.

Police are now looking for the seller of the fake tickets -- a man who called himself Reggie on Craigslist. He could be charged with a felony white collar crime and if convicted, be sentenced to spend up to two years in a Texas state prison and be fined up to $10,000.

Dealing with a grand jury: Avoid unexpected pitfalls

With a grand jury, it might sound like you'll get a fair shot at avoiding an indictment or criminal charges. But any time a grand jury is convened, it's typically not a good sign. Grand juries can be unpredictable and you must be cautious in how you act and represent yourself during grand jury proceedings.

In a white-collar case, the prosecutor looks to show your guilt by exposing the so-called truth behind your actions. For instance, the prosecutor may take evidence you've produced to protect yourself and twist it in a way that makes you look bad to the jury.

Narrow definition of unauthorized access allowed in CFAA cases

The 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was intended to fight hacking. However, the law was passed in a time long before today's understanding of computers or the advent of the internet as we know it today. The U.S. Supreme Court recently had a chance to consider whether the CFAA was still adequate by hearing two cases decided by the Ninth Circuit. Unfortunately, the justices turned the cases away and left in place what may be far too narrow a definition of "unauthorized access."

Rights groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation are concerned by the Ninth Circuit's reading of the law. That appellate court determined in the two cases that the only entity able to grant authorized access to a computer or computer system is the owner. However, many people might assume that an account holder, for example, could legally grant secondary access to a spouse or family member even though some terms of service prohibit password sharing.

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Contact Houston White Collar Lawyers for Experienced Representation

If you or your company is under investigation, charged or indicted for federal or state crimes, or you want to ensure future compliance, contact Hilder & Associates, P.C., for more information or to schedule an appointment with an experienced Houston white collar criminal defense lawyer.

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