Elements of Wire Fraud

White collar crimes involve schemes or misrepresentations to ultimately and illegally obtain money or property and involve no physical violence, so in many instances the sanctions are lighter than for violent crimes. However, there are some types of white collar crimes that carry heavy penalties in terms of prison time and fines. One of these is wire fraud, which is a federal crime from the get go.

To distinguish wire fraud from other types of fraud, the US Code stipulates that the crime was perpetrated using some type of communication over a wire such as the telephone, or more currently relevant, by electronic means. As such, e-mail scams such as the promise of a lot of money in return for a small deposit or personal information are considered wire fraud.

Wire fraud is quite common, occurring in a variety of scenarios. In Houston, three cases of wire fraud were brought against a store owner, two University professors, and two building contractors. The store owner pleaded guilty to 11 counts of wire fraud and faces up to 30 years in prison plus a possible $1 million per count in restitution. A competent Dallas criminal defense lawyer should be able to argue for a lighter sentence considering that the store owner only got a total of $350,000 in the scheme.

The two essential elements of a crime which the prosecution must prove exists to bring a case of wire fraud is provided under the US Code (18 U.S.C. § 1343). These are:

  • That the defendant knowingly and intentionally devised or participated in a scheme designed to defraud another person or entity of money
  • That the defendant used wire or electronic communications in part or in whole to perpetrate the fraud

There are some later additions to the mail and wire fraud statute, most particularly honest services fraud, which does not require any communications over wire or the post office. In the case of the building contractors mentioned earlier, for example, the charge of wire fraud were brought in because they bribed a public official to favor them in awarding city contracts for developing or maintaining buildings.

It can be easy to unknowingly participate in a fraudulent scheme, and if it involves any form or electronic communication, it becomes a federal crime. If charged with wire fraud, lose no time in retaining a qualified criminal defense lawyer to fight for your rights and freedom.

Human Resources Concerns for Business Owners

Employees are essential for running any business, and savvy business owners know that investing in quality employees will benefit the company many times over in the long run. This includes careful screening of applicants, periodic training, performance evaluation, promotion, and benefit packages. However, human resources management can be like walking a tightrope, especially when dealing with people from divergent cultural, religious, educational, and personal backgrounds. There is always the risk of inadvertently violating someone’s civil rights in carrying out seemingly neutral policies. Not knowing, unfortunately, is not a viable defense.

Employees should know their rights, certainly, because there are too many employers who ride roughshod over them if they think they can get away with it. Since most states adopt at-will employment, an employer can fire any employee without being required to give a reason unless it is discriminatory. The same applies in hiring, promoting, relocating, and compensating practices; business owners can have carte blanche as long as they meet minimum standards and do not favor one class of people i.e. males over another. According to the website of the John Melton Law Firm, this is to foster equal employment opportunities to everyone. Violations of these employee protections can lead to a personal injury lawsuit.

But it can be fatally easy to make a costly mistake for even the well-meaning employer, which is why some business owners prefer to shift some of the work to a business process outsourcing (BPO) company, even to those that are offshore such as a Philippines outsourcing center. That way, they avoid the difficulties of human resource management while still getting the job done well.

Of course, not all tasks can be outsourced. While outsourcing can be highly effective, there needs to be an understanding of when and when not to use it. There are core activities that can only be done in-house, so business owners need to be well-conversant with employment laws in their state as well as realistic about what kinds of tasks they can outsource with confidence.

Explosions at Work and at Play

When you work for the oil and gas industries, you expect that there could be explosions at work that can injure or kill you. The inherent risks of these occupations is why wages are higher than in other industries, and why oil and gas companies are under constant scrutiny from occupational safety watchdogs. Accidents will happen and this is why workers’ compensation is in place.

Take for instance a gas pipeline explosion that occurred recently that destroyed 3 houses, injured residents, and caused a massive fire to break out. Any worker in the area at the time of the unexpected event would have been almost certainly killed. According to the website of the LaMarca Law Group, P.C., a workers’ compensation attorney may be able to aid in a  wrongful death lawsuit as well because investigations indicate negligence on the part of the gas transmission company. In fact, 7 lawsuits have already been filed by the families who lost their homes and sustained injuries in the explosion. Fortunately, no one was killed this time.

But explosions at work can happen anywhere, such as in the fertilizer plant near Waco that killed 15 and injured at least 160, many of whom were not even employees of the plant. If investigations reveal negligence on the part of the plant owners or managers as the proximate cause of the explosion, those affected may have recourse to a Texas explosion lawyer.

There are also numerous instances when a day of celebration was turned into a day of consternation because of explosions. The Fourth of July celebrations, for example, is when emergency rooms in hospitals gear up for the influx of people injured by fireworks gone wrong, resulting in severe burns and missing fingers. Studies show that malfunctioning fireworks are a major cause of these accidents, so children should not be allowed to handle or even go anywhere near them.

Types of Burn Injuries

According to the American Burn Association, 72% of burn injuries in 2010 occurred in the home, such as a scalding from a hot pot or contact with an open fire or flame. About 9% are occupational, as what 5 workers of a steel plant in Tennessee experienced. There were 450,000 burn injuries that were medically treated in 2010, but only 40,000 were severe enough to require hospitalization. Most burn injuries are minor, but there were 2,550 deaths associated with residential fires, 300 from car accidents, 150 from non-residential fires, and 400 from a combination of scalding liquids, electricity, and hot objects such as debris from the fertilizer plant that exploded in Waco that injured nearby residents.

Minor burn injuries may leave a mark that fades with time, but more severe ones often result in scarring and disfigurement that may require surgery. Really bad ones can affect more than skin, resulting in limited mobility. Below are the types of burn injuries based on severity.

  • First degree burns – affects the epidermis, or first layer of skin. It is productive of some pain and redness, but it is essentially minor. People who are exposed to the sun without protection or to harsh chemicals can suffer from this.
  • Second degree burns – affects the epidermis and dermis, the second layer of skin which also contains connective tissue. People with second degree burns will form blisters that can be extremely painful and vulnerable to infection, requiring antibiotics and anti-tetanus shots.
  • Third degree burns – this type of burn may go all the way to the hypodermis and should be brought in immediately for professional medical treatment to prevent shock. The skin is destroyed and requires grafting to replace the lost skin. There is little pain in the burned area because the nerves are dead, but the surrounding intact skin may be extremely painful.
  • Fourth degree burns – extends beyond the skin to the tissue, blood vessels, muscles, tendons, and bone. Victims require emergency medical treatment and extensive hospitalization. Damage to tendons and muscles can affect the mobility of the affected area, requiring surgery to correct or minimize the condition. Scarring is often permanent and irreversible.

Defining Securities Litigation

Most people would shy away from anything that sounds as complicated as securities litigation, but for the purpose of defining it in everyday language, suffice it to say that it is legal relief for investors that bought securities without knowing the full story behind it. In the US, the parameters of securities litigation are established primarily by two federal laws: the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

Securities are financial instruments such as stocks or bonds which corporations offer to the public for sale through the stock exchange, which is monitored by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). When an investor buys into a corporation by purchasing securities, they are doing so in the belief that it will generate a profit for them. When a corporation or the brokers who serve as middle men in the transaction fails to disclose information that impacts on the decision to buy, they can be held liable.

Under the aforementioned laws, issuers of securities are mandated to register them with the SEC unless they are exempt. They are also required to provide full details about the company that is relevant to prospective investors, which includes any known risks. Registration with the SEC does not mean that the government endorses the company or its offerings, though; it only means the SEC has determined that such a company exists and eligible to make a public offering. The company must provide regular updates about their status by filing quarterly reports to the SEC, including audited financial statements (AFS). In most cases, securities litigation is based on the failure of the company to provide truthful or incomplete information to the SEC and their investors, such as by manipulating the AFS to reflect non-existent profits.

However, it would be a mistake to think that securities litigation is simple; it isn’t. The nature of securities and the laws that govern it are complex, requiring the specialized knowledge of a securities litigation lawyer to understand them, let alone engage in litigation. If you believe that a corporation or broker is engaged in securities fraud, you should consult with a securities litigation lawyer to assess and handle the case for you.

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