uga-01
Photo by John Trainor.

The 2014 college football season doesn’t begin for several more months, but that’s not stopping some University of Georgia (UGA) players from making a name for themselves. Matthews, Taylor and DeLoach and LeMay were arrested earlier this week on multiple charges of theft by deception.

According to UGA police, the four UGA football players were allegedly involved in a check cashing scheme which allowed them to cash stipend checks multiple times. Police say Matthews, Taylor and DeLoach and LeMay first cashed their stipend checks via a mobile app, depositing it directly into their bank accounts. Next, they took the checks to their local bank to cash them a second time.

UGA’s finance department noticed the checks were being cashed twice and immediately launched an investigation. It didn’t take long for authorities to uncover the double-dipping check-cashing plot, at which point they arrested the four players believed to have participated in the scheme, charging them with multiple counts of theft by deception.

The stipend checks are $71.50 each, with the total amount theft loss is believed to be $786.50. The good news for the four UGA players is that all charges are misdemeanors since the thefts were less than $500 each. The bad news is that they will likely miss out on some of the team’s upcoming spring training in addition to facing other consequences and penalties imposed by the university.

Jimmy Williamson, chief of police at the University of Georgia, said the following:

Mayes, DeLoach and Taylor would basically take that check and deposit it through a mobile banking ap. And then within a short period of time would go to a local convenience store and cash the checks. So they basically would cash the check twice. UGA’s finance departments discovered the situation, noticing the checks were posting twice. Williamson spoke to two associate athletics directors about the matter. Besides having to report the matter because it’s a fraud, UGA was concerned with running into an NCAA compliance issue because players were receiving extra benefits.”

Many people believe college sports athletes are able to get free passes for breaking the law, but this case just goes to show that stipend check fraud — whether it’s from a student, athlete or someone who’s not affiliated with the university — is not tolerated. The four players were taken into custody where they were interviewed by UGA police. There’s still no word yet on the consequences faced by the four UGA players.

If you’re going to commit a crime, don’t publish evidence of it on social media. This is a lesson 21-year-old Brooklyn native Jules Bahler learned the hard way.

Bahler, who calls himself Romeo King, was recently arrested on suspicion of armed robbery after posting a selfie while holding a submachine gun. As you can see in the photo below, Bahler is holding a long-barreled submachine gun in his right hand and a smartphone in his left. The photo quickly escaped from his normal group of Facebook friends and turned viral; thus, opening the doors to a law enforcement investigation.

gun-selfie-01

Although Bahler’s Facebook account has since been deactivated following his arrest, he initially published the machine gun selfie along with the following caption: “Bought my first house And chopper today … lifes great.” But it wasn’t the caption that tipped off law enforcement, rather the brazen submachine gun Bahler’s holding in the Facebook selfie.

It didn’t take investigators long to identify Bahler, and the submachine gun depicted in his selfie, as the culprit responsible for robbing a Michigan bank. According to an affidavit by the FBI, Bahler entered the bank while brandishing the submachine gun, demanding the teller hand over cash. After receiving an estimated $7,000 from the teller, Bahler fled and went back to Brooklyn, New York. This incident occurred on the same day Bahler published the selfie to his Facebook account.

Federal investigators also believe Bahler is responsible for at least two other robberies, one involving a Credit Union branch in Pontiac and another involving a Bank of America. Surveillance cameras captured footage of Bahler on all three occasions, and authorities have matched his “selfie” face to the surveillance cameras. Between the three robberies, authorities believe Bahler got away with an estimated $15,000-$16,000.

Bahler was arrested while driving away from his home.  After authorities pulled him over, they searched his car and found the submachine gun that was allegedly used in the three robberies. Bahler admitted to the robberies when questioned by investigators.

U tripping brotha. I wouldn’t show that **** like that cops be watching,” said Bahler’s friend on his Facebook page. According to reports, Bahler was trying to save up enough money to move from to Pontiac, Michigan. Now, it looks like his new home will be behind bars for a while.

What do you think about the incriminating Facebook selfie?

file0001260769566ATMs tagged with skimming devices is a growing problem here in the U.S. Recently, 2 Romanian men were arrested for trying to seal peoples’ credit card and debit card information by using a skimming device on a Chase ATM in Brooklyn, New York.

The two suspects of the ATM skimming scam are 34-year-old Maurentiu Baies and 36-year-old Marcel Boariu. The two Romanian nationals were arrested earlier this week and charged with burglary, possession of a forgery device, and criminal possession of a skimmer device. If convicted, the duo could face a lengthy prison sentence for their involved in the ATM scam.

Brooklyn Police were alerted to the presence of the skimming device when employees at the Chase bank on Flatbush Avenue contacted them. According to reports, the bank noticed the skimming device on one of their ATMs, at which point they immediately contacted the local Brooklyn Police Department.

Once the police were notified, the department’s financial crimes task force begun an investigation to determine who was responsible for placing the skimming device on the ATM. The task force set up surveillance on the ATM and patiently waited for the thieves to retrieve their skimming device. On Tuesday, Baies and Boariu were observed removing the skimming device along with several cameras mounted on the ATM. Police immediately responded by taking the two suspects into custody.

This case begs the question: how do you protect yourself from skimming devices on ATM machines? Unfortunately, it’s difficult to determine whether or not a skimming device is on an ATM, and fiddling around with an ATM isn’t recommended for obvious reasons. You can, however, cover your PIN as you enter it. Crooks oftentimes set up cameras to capture ATM users’ PINs. By covering your numbers, you’ll prevent them from being able to use your card. Of course, high-tech thieves may still sell your credit card number (without the PIN) on the black market.

We’ve seen that these people are starting to leave these devices on for not that long a time. Short, quick hits,” said Detective Robert Cimino of the Police Department’s financial crimes task force. “To the untrained eye, they’re very difficult to spot, especially in low-lit areas. The best defense: Cover your code as you enter it, so it cannot be matched to the card number. They can’t use one without the other.”

sam-worthington-01
Sam Worthington: photo by Eva Rinaldi.

Hollywood actor Sam Worthington was recently arrested on charges of battery after he allegedly punched photographer Sheng Li in the streets of New York City. According to eyewitness accounts, Worthington punched Li in the face after Li kicked his girlfriend. The incident occurred around 5:30 P.M. Sunday at NYC’s Greenwich Village.

Footage of NYC street brawl shows Worthington confronting a photographer for kicking his “wife” (it’s actually his girlfriend, although he refers to her as his wife in the video). Worthington approaches the photographer, Sheng Li, and proceeds to punch him in the face, knocking him down.

The official police report filed by Sam Worthington and his girlfriend Lara Bingle claims the photographer kept getting in their way and was following them for several hours. It also says that Li deliberately tried to trip them on several occasions, at which point Bingle attempted to take the Li’s camera.

Following the incident, New York City police arrested Sam Worthington on charges of assault. Sheng Li was also charged with assault, reckless endangerment and harassment.

Li’s attorney, Ronald Kuby, denies any wrongdoing on his client’s behalf. Kuby claims that Li was does nothing wrong when he was attacked by Bingle and Worthington. Kuby is standing by his client and plans to fight the charges of assault, reckless endangerment and harassment.

According to TMZ, Li failed to present press credentials and remains in custody.

Ronald Kuby, the photographer’s attorney, said the following:

Ms. Bingle was the one that attacked him. She claims that Mr. Li was following her for four hours and then runs up and kicks her in the shins. In what world does that make any sense?

Worthington is most known for his role in the 2009 blockbuster sci-fi movie Avatar, which he played a paraplegic U.S. marine named Jake Sully. Avatar went on to become the highest grossing film of all time, earning a total of $2.73 billion worldwide. Due to the success of Avatar, there are now three sequels currently in the works, the first of which is expected to his theaters in 2016. Some of Worthington’s other movie and television roles include Clash of The TitansWrath of The TitansMacbeth, RogueTerminator SalvationMan on a Ledge and Drift,. In 2009, he was named Man of The Year by GQ Australia.

What do you think about Sam Worthington’s recent altercation with the photo-snapping paparazzi?

snowball-01Snowball fights are one of the small joys offered by mother nature during this otherwise cold and unforgiving part of the year. Recently, though, this winter activity resulted in a felony battery charge when a 13-year-old unnamed boy in Chicago was accused of throwing a snowball at a local police officer.

The frosty incident occurred Wednesday afternoon when students were playing on the school’s playground, tossing snowballs at one another. That’s when a nearby police officer claims he was struck in the arm by a snowball pelted from a group of about a dozen students.  Initially, he didn’t know who was responsible for the snowball pelting incident, but through some investigative research he was able to identify the culprit.

Both the school dean and security officer identified the 13-year-old boy as the snowball thrower, at which point the police offer charged him with a felony battery charge of assaulting a peace officer.

It made me mad. He [the officer] said the snowball hit him but it hit the car, not him,” said the eighth grader who is charged with battery of a police officer.

Following the incident, the boy was placed in the backseat of the police cruiser and taken into custody on charges of felony assault on a peace officer. Since he’s under the age of 18, he was charged as a juvenile. The police later stated that the accused snowball thrower doesn’t have any gang affiliations.

To make matters worse the boy, the school also suspended him for five days. With the end of the school year coming fast approaching, five days are critical to the success of any student. However, the school was within its legal rights to suspend the boy given that both the dean and security officer identified him as the snowball-pelting culprit.

The 13-year-old boy’s mother said the following to reporters in regards to the snowball charge:

He kept trying to tell the officer that he didn’t do it but they didn’t believe him. He was standing on the corner, there was a whole crowd of kids. It’s so crazy.

Unfortunately, incidents such as this are all-too-common in today’s society. Back in 2010, a women in Washington D.C. was charged with a felony count of assault after tossing a snowball at a police officer.

What do you think about the 13-year-old boy’s felony snowball charge? Was it a bit too harsh?

twitter-logo-01Think Twitter is only useful as a social platform for sharing your thoughts and views on a particular subject in 140 characters or less? While it’s certainly become the hottest social networking site for sharing the ‘brief’ messages, the Rome police force has found a different use for it: to locate illegally parked cars, scooters or other automobiles.

Rome police have set up a Twitter accounted dedicated specifically for locating illegally parked cars. They encourage both residents and tourists to Tweet the location and details of any illegally parked vehicles to @PLRomaCapitale. Once the details are Tweeted over to the authorities, they typically respond with a time frame. Most residents who’ve used the new Tweeting system claim that Rome police respond within a couple hours.

You might be wondering why the police force decided to use Twitter to try and locate illegally parked cars. After all, how much of a problem can a couple illegally parked cars create? To put the problem into perspective, you must first look at the population of the city. The 2010 census for Rome was 2.753 million residents, half of which own private vehicles.

According to some estimates, there are approximately 70 vehicles for every 100 residents in Rome, clogging the narrow streets and historic passages. If you’ve visited Rome or other historic cities throughout Italy, you’re probably well aware of their long, windy and incredibly narrow roads. Some of these roads are hundreds of years old, so the government isn’t going to change them simply to keep up with the modernization of new automobiles. Unfortunately, this has led to many people parking their cars and vehicles wherever they choose, disregarding local traffic laws.

One of the biggest traffic problems in Rome is double parking. Drivers are allowed to park on the sides of most streets as long as they are up against the curb so cars may still pass. However, double parking occurs when a driver parks his or her car directly next to a car that’s already parked against the curb. With over 2.7 million residents packed into the Rome, drivers park their vehicles wherever they choose, compounding the problem of traffic congestion. The city’s already narrow streets become even more difficult — and oftentimes impossible — to travel when cars are double parked.

Raffaele Clemente, head of Rome’s urban police force, said the following:

Sharing, such as on social networks, is needed to fight certain patterns of illegality and rule-breaking, and also of crime.

Photoxpress_18853714DNA testing is a pivotal tool used by law enforcement agencies. If a piece of hair, skin or saliva residue is left behind at the scene of a crime, forensic pathologists can identify its DNA structure and hopefully match is with a suspect’s DNA. Currently, DNA testing takes several weeks to complete, but this could change very soon thanks to a new screening technology being developed by the Global Alliance for Rapid DNA Testing.

According to Pentagon officials and researchers close to the project, the new DNA screening technology is in the final stages
of completion. Once complete, it will allow law enforcement officials to accurately identify DNA in just an hour and half. Obviously, that’s a monumental improvement from the current 2-3 week time frame required for DNA screening.

Chris Asplen, executive director of the Global Alliance for Rapid DNA Testing said the following:

When it comes to solving crime (not proving it in court but actually using DNA to find the killer, rapist, burglar, etc.) the value of DNA as an investigative tool is directly proportional to the speed at which it can be leveraged in any given investigation.”

The 90-minute DNA screening project is called the Accelerated Nuclear DNA Equipment (ANDE). The Pentagon is aiming for a completion date by June, but this may get pushed back due to legal road blocks and technology issues.

With the time frame for DNA screening being reduced to just 90 minutes, law enforcement agencies can perform on-site tests rather than sending samples off to the lab for analysis. In addition to saving time, ANDE technology will also cut costs by eliminating the need for lab analysis.

Asplen later stated that 90-minute DNA screening would prove useful in a variety of situations beyond local law enforcement, some of which includes immigration, war crimes, human trafficking, and identifying high-profile terrorists.

But there’s one major problem that must be addressed before the 90-minute DNA testing becomes a reality. When the DNA testing laws were originally created back in the early 1990s, they specifically stated that only DNA tests done in accredited labaratory may be entered into the national DNA database. Changing the laws to include on-site testing shouldn’t be a huge challenge, but it’s still one more task that must be addressed before they can legally enter DNA into the national database.

What are your views on the new 90-minute DNA screening technology? Let us know in the comments section below!

A 40-year-old man was arrested recently in Oxnard, after police witnessed him starting a fire near a set of railroad tracks. The arresting officer noticed the man stoking a fire, but when the officer approached the man, he became argumentative and attempted to leave the area. The officer called in a K-9 unit, which subdued the suspect. The suspect was recently arrested in connection with another arson, also in Oxnard.  In addition to being charged with arson, the suspect will also face charges of resisting arrest and threatening a police officer.

The Courts treat arson charges in California seriously.  Arson and other fire-related crimes are defined under the California Penal Code in Sections 451 through 457. According to the law, a person commits arson when he (or she) “willfully and maliciously sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or who aids, counsels, or procures the burning of, any structure, forest land, or property.”

When many people think of arson, they think of a fire set for the purpose of committing insurance fraud on a property they own.  Although those types of fires are included in the arson statutes, it is possible to be convicted of arson when the accused does not stand to receive any material benefit from having set the fire.

An arson conviction can result in a prison sentence of up to nine years, depending upon the circumstances of the fire, and whether or not the arson resulted in substantial injury to a person, involved an inhabited structure, or resulted in damage to a structure or land.  Special enhancements can be applied to persons previously convicted of arson, circumstances where firefighters or other emergency personnel were injured, multiple people were injured, multiple buildings were burned, or accelerants or delay devices were used to start or encourage the fire.

Persons convicted of arson are also required under state law to register with local law enforcement agencies, in some cases, for the rest of their lives. Courts can also require persons convicted of arson to undergo psychiatric evaluations as part of preparation for sentencing.

If you are facing an arson charge in Ventura County, you need the experience of a dedicated criminal defense attorney in Court. Robert M. Helfend is a criminal defense attorney in Ventura County, and has successfully defended clients facing California criminal charges for 30 years. Mr. Helfend provides aggressive criminal defense in Ventura County. For a consultation on your case involving arson, contact the Law Offices of Robert M. Helfend toll-free at (800) 834-6434 or locally at (805) 273-5611, (310) 456-3317, or (818) 591-2809. Robert M. Helfend is an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you!

 

Two Thousand Oaks men have each pleaded guilty to a single felony count of street terrorism and two counts second-degree robbery. The plea stems from a pair of bank robberies the trio committed in Thousand Oaks in early- and mid-2013. The two men admitted to robbing the same Citibank branch in Thousand Oaks twice within four months.

Because both male defendants have admitted to prior felonies and have special enhancements related to the robberies, they are expected to receive a prison term of twelve years. A third person, a 21-year old female, served as the getaway driver for both robberies and is currently serving a five-year sentence for one count each of street terrorism and robbery.

What is “street terrorism” and when is this charge applied?  The California Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention (STEP) Act of 1988 introduced the crime of “street terrorism.” The Act was designed to curb crimes committed in support of gang activities in California. The Act is defined under the California Penal Code Section 186.2, and makes it a crime to be a member of a street gang and assist in criminal activities designed to support the gang or its members.

Participation in a street gang can be punished by detention in the county jail for a period of not more than one year, or by prison terms ranging from 16 months to three years, depending upon the circumstances surrounding the crime. Most STEP enhancements can extend prison sentences by as much as 15 years. For certain convictions, STEP enhancements can extend a prison sentence by 25 years to life in prison! Street terrorism sentences are served consecutively with any other sentences applied by a Judge, meaning that they are served in addition to any other sentences.

You do not need to be a member of a street gang to be charged with a STEP offense. If you merely aid a gang member in the commission of a gang-related felony, you can be convicted under the STEP Act. The seriousness of a STEP Act charge and the accompanying prison terms mean that you need the help of a competent criminal defense.

Robert M. Helfend is a criminal defense attorney in Ventura County, and has successfully defended clients facing California criminal charges for 30 years. Mr. Helfend provides aggressive criminal defense in Ventura County. For a consultation on your case involving STEP Act violations, contact the Law Offices of Robert M. Helfend toll-free at (800) 834-6434 or locally at (805) 273-5611, (310) 456-3317, or (818) 591-2809. Robert M. Helfend is an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you!

Recently, a Simi Valley man was arrested after chasing another person with a knife. During the course of the arrest, the arresting officer was injured. Currently, the defendant faces two charges – assault with a deadly weapon and battery on a police officer.  Both charges are felonies.

California law provides penalties for persons who direct physical actions against police officers and firefighters. These laws are defined under the California Penal Code Sections 242 and 243, which describe the crime of battery.  By itself, battery does not have to involve force or violence, and can be classified as either simple or aggravated.

The definition of battery involves the “unwanted or unjustified touching of another person.” The act does not have to produce any injury to the victim. Battery charges are often coupled with assault charges, but the law recognizes assault and battery as two different crimes.  So what is an assault? An assault is a deliberate attempt to inflict injury upon another person.

Simple battery is an act that does not produce any significant injury to the victim. This is often charged as a misdemeanor and a conviction can result in a 6-month jail sentence, a fine of up to $2,000 or both. Aggravated battery is an act that produces either a more serious injury to the victim, or is directed toward certain protected individuals, including police officers, firefighters or medical professionals, like doctors and nurses. Aggravated battery can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending upon the circumstances of the crime. As a misdemeanor, aggravated battery charges can lead to a longer detention in the county jail. As a felony, a convicted defendant will face incarceration in a state prison for up to four years.

Battery on a police officer occurs when an officer (or other protected professional) is injured while performing his or her official duties. The officer does not have to be “on-duty,” just acting in his or her official capacity. These “official duties” can extend to officers working as private security guards.

The extent of the officer’s injury plays some role in how a charge of battery on a police officer is presented. A “serious bodily injury” involves a significant injury, and can range from severe cuts and broken bones to gunshot and stab wounds. These kinds of injuries are most likely to draw a felony charge, while less significant injuries (like bruises and muscle strains) are more likely to be charged as misdemeanors.

Because battery on a police officer can result in a felony conviction, it is important to have the assistance of a competent criminal defense attorney. Robert M. Helfend is a criminal defense attorney in Ventura County, and has successfully defended clients facing California criminal charges for 30 years. Mr. Helfend provides aggressive criminal defense in Ventura County. For a consultation on your case involving battery on a police officer, contact the Law Offices of Robert M. Helfend toll-free at (800) 834-6434 or locally at (805) 273-5611, (310) 456-3317, or (818) 591-2809. Robert M. Helfend is an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you!