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Could Chris Christie be prosecuted over ‘bridgegate’ road closure scandal? January 9, 2014

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At this point, almost every knows that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is facing a huge scandal involving the September lane closure of the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, New Jersey.  He had a two hour press conference today where he denied any involvement in the revenge road closure and instead, shifted blame to staffers.  This lane closure created traffic jams that not only inconvenienced many but may have actually led to the death of a 91 year old woman.  Thus, politicians have called for criminal charges to be filed.

According to this article from the Washington Times, N.J. state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said that she thinks criminal charges are forthcoming while N.J. state Sen. Ray Lesniak joined the call for criminal investigation, pushing for the federal government to look into the matter.  According to the New York Times,  the United States attorney for New Jersey, Paul J. Fishman, opened an inquiry after the matter was referred to the office by the inspector general for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge.

So now the question is, will Chris Christie (and/or anyone else) be prosecuted here?  Law Professor Alan Dershowitz has already said that the Governor should “lawyer up” and prepare for prosecution.  With all due respect to Mr. Dershowitz, I think it is far too early to start talking about criminal prosecution here.  Let’s put aside the fact that Chris Christie is one of the most popular politicians at the moment.  Let’s view him as the average defendant for right now.  A criminal prosecution of Christie involves a host a problems.  The first problem is trying to link Christie to any conspiracy to commit a crime.  Without some type of hard evidence (emails, text messages, etc) that shows that Christie authorized the lane closure, it will be hard to link it back to him.  The Government would have to rely almost exclusively on the testimony of others such as the aides that have been fired as well as others that may have been involved.  Between being fired, publicly embarrassed and looking at possible criminal charges themselves, these alleged co-conspirator may say anything to not only save themselves but get revenge on Christie.  A jury would have to believe one or more of these other people over that of Christie whose lawyers could shred them on cross examination.

The other problem here is that the Government is not investigating a criminal organization or a long-term criminal conspiracy where the head of the conspiracy interacts with all of the other conspirators.  Assuming arguendo that Christie did in fact participate in this revenge scandal, how many people actually interacted with him?  Chances are that he did not speak with all of those involved.  In fact, he may have only actually discussed it with one person.  Thus, the Government may have to rely on only one co-conspirator to prove that Christie was involved instead of multiple co-conspirators.

That brings me to the next problem.  One of the reasons why the US Attorney’s Office gets such great results is that is cherry-picks its cases.  They make sure that they have a rock solid case.  When they do lose a case, it rocks the entire office and a postmortem is done to fine out what happened.  In other words, they take losing seriously.  This helps the criminal defense practitioner when  dealing with federal investigations.  If you as the attorney for the possible defendant can cast some doubt on the Government’s case, they will likely back off.  I know because I have used this strategy with great success.

Thus, in the average case, the Government faces some challenges here.  Of course, this is not the average case.  If Christie was in fact prosecuted, it would easily become the trial of the century.  Christie would assemble this century’s version of the dream team and the story would be covered by media outlets worldwide.  Despite this scandal, Christie is incredibly popular.  Thus, the Government would have to have a perfect case.  If Christie were to be found not guilty, the impact on the US Attorney’s office and President Obama would be unfathomable.  As a result, the US Attorneys’ office would be very hesitant to take such a risk.  Absent a smoking gun, there may not be enough for the Government to roll the dice.

Its nice to make headlines and talk about criminal prosecution and I think the case should be investigated.  However, before anyone starts talking about Christie doing a perp walk soon, the practical reality of that scenario needs to be considered.  Like him or hate him, don’t expect the US Attorney’s office to issue an arrest warrant for a popular Governor like Christie absent some of the most compelling evidence to ever hit a court room.   Instead, he may face some lesser form of punishment such as impeachment as called for by Paul Munshine of the Star Ledger.

Giuseppe “Joe” Giudice could be deported July 30, 2013

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Adding yet a further wrinkle to the legal problems facing Joe Giudice and Teresa Giudice is that Joe is not a US citizen.  Thus, even if he somehow escapes prison, he would likely be deported.  Story is here.

‘Real Housewives of New Jersey’ stars Teresa and Joe Giudice indicted on fraud and tax charges July 29, 2013

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Teresa Giudice and her husband, Giuseppe “Joe” Giudice, both of Towaco, New Jersey and stars of Bravo’s ‘Real Housewives of New Jersey’  were charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements on loan applications and bankruptcy fraud in a 39-count indictment. The indictment also charges Joe Giudice with failure to file tax returns for tax years 2004 through 2008, during which time he allegedly earned nearly $1 million.

Whenever a couple is indicted, the strategy is for one of them to take the fall for the other.  These are very serious charges that will carry prison time if convicted.  To make matters worse, the Government’s conviction rates on such crimes are very high.  Thus, while Teresa’s attorney may sound confident, the chances of both of them making it out of this unscathed is close to impossible.  With a 39 count indictment, the defense has to fight 39 different cases and they have to win them all.  The Government on the other hand, only has to win one of them to secure a conviction.  As a result, most of these cases end in a plea.

As the star of the show, Teresa has to be protected.  Thus, the couple’s strategy has to be that Joe will fall on the sword and take the fall for Teresa.  That assumes of course that the Government is willing to entertain such an offer.  To sweeten the pot, restitution, back taxes, penalties and fines must be paid.  This could cripple the couple financially.  However, with Teresa staying out of prison to continue to work on the show, she can help build up the couple’s fortune and/or continue to pay fines.  In fact, it may even be better if the couple cannot fully satisfy the financial aspects of the plea.  If both parties are in prison, the Government will have a tougher time getting money whereas if Teresa is out, the Government is almost guaranteed to get full restitution.

If such a deal can be pulled off, the couple should consider it a huge victory.  Teresa may have a tough time blaming everything on her husband.  It is alleged that when Teresa filed for a mortgage loan of $121,000 in 2001, she falsely claimed she worked as an executive assistant, submitting fake W-2 forms and fake paystubs as part of the ruse, the indictment said. In 2004, she allegedly claimed she was the owner of a stucco company and made $14,750 a month.  Furthermore, their defense cannot be that this was the result of hard times or a one time mistake.   The indictment alleges that in their petition for bankruptcy protection, initiated in October 2009, the couple concealed businesses they owned, rental income they received, and Teresa’s true income from the “Real Housewives,” website sales and personal appearances.  Thus, the indictment stretches a 10 year period of time where the couple continuously lies to hide their income to allegedly obtain money that they wouldn’t otherwise receive and to avoid paying that money to the IRS.

One final wrinkle in this case is that there are hundreds of hours of footage that can be used as evidence against the couple from all of the episodes of the TV show.  Bravo also has more footage that was never aired that could be obtained.  This is an attorney’s worse nightmare.  An associate will likely have to watch every single episode and note every statement or act that could be damning to the Defense’s case.

Indictment is here.

New Jersey Tax Fraud Lawyers

Monmouth County Promoting Gambling Lawyers | Numerous people charged in gambling ring July 3, 2013

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Promoting Gambling Lawyer, Possession of Gambling Records

A Shrewsbury Township man was one of the 16 Monmouth County residents who have been arrested for their roles in a $1 million-a-week internet gambling ring that operated out of a county home base, authorities said Tuesday.  As a result of an 18-month sting dubbed “Operation Shore Bet,” a total of 25 in and out of the area were charged with major gambling and/or drug offenses. Anthony Gagliardi, 38, the Monmouth Beach man, and Richard Crossan, 55, of Hillsborough, allegedly led the racketeering enterprise that promoted gambling and laundered money, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor Office.

If you have been charged with promoting gambling, possession of gambling records or any other white collar crime in Monmouth County or any other court in New Jersey, call us today.

Story is here.

Ocean County Child Pornography Lawyer | Six Ocean County residents arrested in child porn probe June 17, 2013

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A month-long high-tech sweep has netted six people on child pornography charges in five Ocean County townships according to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.  The dual agency investigation made its first arrest in mid-May and its fifth arrest Thursday. Authorities withheld news of the arrests until Monday to maximize the number of suspects caught.  Those arrested include Christopher Pontrelli of Down Hill Run in Toms River, on May 15; John Rupert Woods of Bennetts Mills Road in Jackson, on May 21; Nicholas Hernandez Jr. of Third Avenue in the Manitou Park section of Berkeley, on May 23; a minor, of Staysail Court in the Bayville section of Berkeley, whose name and age were withheld, on June 11; Jesus Hernandez-Juarez of East Fourth Street in Lakewood, on Thursday; and Chad Zehner of Lakewood Avenue in the Forked River section of Lacey.

Story is here.

Ocean County Child Pornography Lawyer

Lodi man sentenced to 24 years for ‘massive’ child porn collection June 14, 2013

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Martin Villalabos, 41, had more than 5,400 photographs and 164 videos, most of whom had yet to reach puberty, engaged in sexual acts with both other children and adults, according to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.  U.S. District Court Judge Stanley R. Chesler in Newark sentenced him to 24 years in prison.  Villalabos will be required to register as a sex offender when he is released from prison, and will also be subject to five years of supervised release. Story is here.

Federal Child Pornography Defense Lawyer

Rumson Man Indicted on Child Pornography Charges June 14, 2013

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The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office has charged Matthew Marass, 26, of 18 Forrest Ave in Rumson, Monmouth County, with possession of child pornography and distribution of child pornography as reported by the Patch.com here.  The possession charge covers the dates of July 16, 2009 to April 15 2011 while the distribution charge only covers two dates, Feb. 16 and April 15, 2011.

Monmouth County Child Pornography Lawyer

Fortuneteller Pleads Guilty to Grand Larceny Charge May 11, 2013

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Janet Miller was arrested in December and charged with fortune telling, a misdemeanor, and a felony grand larceny charge that could have sent her to prison for 15 years. On Friday, she pleaded guilty to a lesser grand larceny count in exchange for a promised sentence of one year in  jail. She also paid restitution of $300,000 in cash and returned two Rolex watches, valued at just under $100,000, that the victim had given her.  Ms. Miller eventually persuaded a Houston woman to divorce her husband and turn over money from the settlement to be cleansed.  Once that happened, she disappeared and was never seen again, said police, until of course, she was arrested.

Story is here.

New Jersey Divorce Mediation

Ex-Iowa Official Guilty in Gay Marriage Fraud Case May 11, 2013

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A former Iowa court official pleaded guilty Monday to forgery for filing false documents to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.
Former Grundy County deputy clerk Brigitte Van Nice received a fine and a suspended sentence after entering the guilty pleas to perjury and forgery charges.
Van Nice was arrested and suspended from her job in October after investigators discovered that she issued a license last year the coup.e
Prosecutors say Van Nice issued them a license after she filed documents falsely claiming she had officiated a Valentine’s Day wedding for the couple and faked two witness signatures. Van Nice falsely told colleagues that she had met the men at a truck stop. The men discovered the fraud months later, when one of them contacted an attorney to seek a divorce. The attorney was suspicious because the men had never been to Iowa and Van Nice mailed the application materials from her home, not the courthouse. The attorney contacted authorities asking for an investigation.

Story is here.

NJ Child Custody Attorneys

Hightstown man arrested in child pornography case May 11, 2013

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Fredy Arbito, of Hightstown, NJ, will face additional charges of producing sexually explicit videos and images.  At a hearing in federal court in Trenton, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Gribko said Arbito will be charged with production of child pornography.  “There are more victims than just the one victim charged in the complaint whom Mr. Arbito convinced to act inappropriately on the web camera,” he said.  After federal officials said in March they were looking for Arbito, he turned himself in to local authorities in Panama and was returned to the U.S. in April. According to court records, Arbito allegedly posed as a high-school aged girl living in Colombia and formed an online relationship with the 14-year-old girl.  The Government says that he convinced the girl to strip naked while beiong recorded on a webcam, and then threatened to disseminate the images to her friends if she did not cooperate.

If convicted on the count of possessing child pornography, he could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A charge of producing child pornography carries a minimum sentence of 15 years.

Story is here

New Jersey Child Pornography Lawyer

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