Posted On: June 29, 2009

Fort Lauderdale Cyber Crime Criminal Defense Lawyer on Happy Ending for School Official Prosecuted for Sexting

Back in March, I wrote a Cyber Crime Lawyer Blog post about a school administrator in Virginia who got into legal trouble for doing his job. Ting-Yi Oei, an assistant principal at a high school in South Riding, Virginia, was asked to confiscate an “inappropriate” picture of a student found on another student’s phone, as part of a school investigation. When he did so, he was charged with possession of child pornography and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He faced up to five years in prison for the felony child pornography charge.

I am happy to announce that the judge in Oei’s case dropped the charges completely, saying the picture was not explicit enough to be child pornography. And just last week, the school board voted to cover all of Oei’s legal bills, according to the Washington Post’s Loudon Extra. Those bills had grown to $167,621 in less than a year. The case also resulted in a job suspension for Oei, though he returned to work earlier this year.

As a South Florida child pornography possession criminal defense attorney, I’m happy to see that justice has been done in this case. Oei was following a supervisor’s orders and trying to maintain school discipline when he uploaded the photo. While that would technically be possession of child pornography (if the photo had been child pornography, which the judge said it was not), it’s a serious stretch of the imagination to equate those actions with the kind of child pornography possession that the law was intended to punish. If Oei had been convicted, he would have faced prison time, sex offender status, the end of his career and life as a convicted felon -- all for doing his job. You don’t have to be a Miami-Dade possession of child pornography criminal defense lawyer to call that a miscarriage of justice.

When I wrote about this case before, I mentioned that Oei had also faced charges for failing to notify authorities about “child abuse.” That charge was dropped, perhaps because there was no real child abuse in this case -- the article doesn’t say whether the girl took her own photo and voluntarily sent it, but that’s usually the case with sexting. However, that charge concerned me as a Fort Lauderdale child pornography criminal defense attorney, because it suggested that school administrators were under pressure to get authorities involved in sexting cases right away -- and nothing could be worse for the kids involved.

Most sexting cases involve teenagers making bad decisions -- not sexual assault, child abuse or another crime. Some consequences are appropriate, but the growing trend toward criminal prosecution of teenagers involved in voluntary sexual photos could ruin the lives of kids who made one bad decision. That’s why this South Florida child pornography criminal defense lawyer prefers that school administrators handle most cases of voluntary sexting, without involving authorities -- and without being prosecuted for simply doing their jobs.

Posted On: June 22, 2009

Miami Cyber Crime Criminal Defense Attorney on the RIAA Case Against Jammie Thomas-Rasset

A federal jury in Minnesota has ordered a woman there to pay nearly $2 million to major music labels for illegally offering songs for download, the Associated Press reported June 19. Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a mother of four from Brainerd, Minn., was sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for willfully violating copyrights on 24 songs that were made available for download online. She was one of more than 30,000 people who faced these lawsuits, and became an Internet celebrity because she was one of the few who fought the lawsuit rather than settling for a small amount of money.

This was actually the second trial against Thomas-Rasset. Her first trial which awarded the RIAA $222,000, was thrown out because the judge believed he’d made an error with jury instructions. Court testimony in the new case said an online security company hired by the RIAA, MediaSentry, downloaded songs from Thomas-Rasset’s computer, although the RIAA could not prove that the songs were illegally downloaded by anyone else, or that she was the person who had made the songs available. In fact, she testified in court that her children or ex-husband may have shared the songs. Nonetheless, the jury decided she should pay $80,000 per song, nearly $2 million, to major music companies owned by Warner Music Group, Sony, EMI and Vivendi Universal.

As a Fort Lauderdale cyber crime criminal defense attorney, I can’t help but notice that the penalty Thomas-Rasset is facing is hugely disproportionate to her alleged actions. My work produces intellectual property, so I’m sympathetic to the idea that intellectual property should be paid for -- but $80,000 is an absurd price for an individual song. The size of the judgment could also be seen as a deterrent, but given that Thomas-Rasset is a single mother of four who works for a Native American tribal government, it’s unlikely that she’ll actually be able to pay it. In fact, media reports have speculated that it might push her into bankruptcy. Not only could this make the judgment useless as a deterrent, it might backfire by creating public sympathy for her financial plight.

Thomas-Rasset was sued, not criminally prosecuted -- but in Florida, online copyright violations can actually be prosecuted as a crime. Florida’s Offenses Against Intellectual Property statute makes it a felony carrying up to five years in prison to alter or destroy information from a computer system without permission. It also prohibits theft of trade secrets or confidential information from a computer system. Downloading songs probably wouldn’t be covered by the statute -- but many other innocent activities could be. As a South Florida cyber crime criminal defense lawyer, I believe the statute was written to criminalize malicious hacking -- but it could be interpreted as penalizing harmless behavior like clearing old data out of databases.

The law is still catching up to how people really use the Internet, and unfortunately, Thomas-Rasset’s case is a good example of how we sometimes fall short. My job as a Miami-Dade cyber crime criminal defense lawyer is to help people who are trapped by the law’s shortfalls -- or by prosecutors who don’t understand technology -- avoid the life-changing consequences of a serious criminal conviction. File-sharers like Thomas-Rasset may have broken the law, but their crimes are not so serious that they deserve to have their finances ruined.

Posted On: June 15, 2009

Miami Cyber Crime Defense Attorney on Conviction of Tampa Man for Artificial Child Pornography

A former school principal in Bartow (Polk County) was convicted June 12 of possession of child pornography, the Tampa Bay Tribune reported June 13. John Stelmack was charged after a search of his office turned up pornographic pictures of an adult woman with the faces of two girls, 11 and 12, pasted over the woman’s face. Stelmack is being held in Polk County jail until his sentencing July 10, when he faces up to 25 years in prison.

Stelmack’s problems started in 2007, when he was accused of hugging some fifth-grade girls inappropriately. He was suspended for an internal investigation and asked not to contact anyone at the school. A few days later, he called to ask an administrator to check on something in his office. Investigators searched the office and turned up a briefcase in a locked closet with the doctored pictures. The Tribune reported that both children were from Florida; the Ledger of Lakeland, Florida reported that one child was at the school where Stelmack worked, and another was from a New York school where he had been principal before. He lost his job and was prosecuted for possession of child pornography.

Let me start by saying that the facts of this case are disturbing, and the jury’s decision may have been an understandable reaction to seeing upsetting images. However, as a South Florida child pornography criminal defense attorney, I do not believe that the facts reported would make Stelmack guilty of a Florida child pornography crime. Under state law, “child pornography” is clearly defined as “any image depicting a minor engaged in sexual conduct.” If these articles are correct, the images at issue do not depict a minor engaged in sexual conduct; they (reportedly) depict an adult engaged in sexual conduct, with children’s faces cut and pasted into the photo.

In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled on this very issue, in 2002’s Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 535 U.S. 234 (2002). In that case, the court said that parts of the federal Child Pornography Prevention Act were unconstitutionally broad because they outlawed sexually explicit material showing someone that “appears to be a minor,” and material that “conveys the impression” of minors involved in sexual activity. As the court pointed out, these are broad enough to cover works with actual literary or social value, such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, as well as constitutionally protected pornography featuring over-18 actors touted as “barely legal.”

Furthermore, the court’s original rationale for outlawing child pornography doesn’t apply to images like Stelmack’s. New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S. 747 (1982), excluded child pornography from the First Amendment protection enjoyed by legal pornography, because child pornography is always manufactured by illegal use of children in a sexual performance. Under that rationale, the material found in Stelmack’s briefcase should not be illegal -- no children were used or harmed when it was made. As a Miami-Dade child pornography criminal defense lawyer, I believe convicting Stelmack violated both the letter and the spirit of the law.

It’s also worth noting that Stelmack faces life-altering penalties for this conviction. He has already lost his job and probably his career in education, not to mention marital and social consequences. To these, the court has added a Florida felony conviction, which means prison time for most of the rest of his life; loss of many basic civil rights when he gets out; and trouble finding a new job. Even worse, he faces lifelong status as a sex offender, meaning restrictions on where he can live, onerous registration and re-registration requirements and a poisonous stigma. Those are more reasons why, as a Fort Lauderdale child pornography criminal defense lawyer, I believe he should not have been convicted, and I wish him well in any appeal.

Posted On: June 13, 2009

Miami Criminal Defense Attorney on Cyber Crime Conference in Brazil

Due to the increasing cyber crime issues arising around the world, I have decided to start informing my readers of the various cyber conferences that will be taking place around the globe. Please check out the ICCyber.org conference in Brazil.

For travel information please visit:

David Seltzer is a Miami based criminal cyber crime defense attorney. For a free consultation 24/7, please contact him today.

Posted On: June 12, 2009

Fort Lauderdale Cyber Crime Lawyer Guest Post: The Advent of Credit Card Crime

This post was contributed by Kimberly Peterson, who writes about the criminal justice degree online. She welcomes your feedback at KimPeterson2006@gmail.com.

Retail store employees have to deal with a lot from the general public these days: incessant questions about sales, customers who constantly throw merchandise around the store, and the every-so-often angry customer. More and more frequently, customers have been causing scenes in retail stores when returning merchandise because they do not have the credit card they originally did the transaction on. (You typically cannot return merchandise to retail stores without the original form of payment.) “Why don’t you keep that stuff on record?” retorts the irritated customer. Unbeknownst to customers, stores have drastically upped their security measures, including protecting credit card information, to better serve the public. What these customers have yet to understand is that these measures are put into place so that their credit card numbers are not stolen; if every store kept their 16 digit credit card number on record, don’t you think that would be a bit risky?

The past decade has seen a flurry of crime committed through the internet world, with the advent of online banking, as well as increased online spending. It is difficult to determine how safely guarded your credit information can be when send via websites, and the best you can do when making an online purchase is hope for the best or do your research. Retail stores in malls have similar problems since their information is now transmitted over the internet and their servers. Many stores kept records of credit card numbers on store copies of receipts until recently when this became a liability for the customer. High profile cases wherein someone hacked into stores’ servers became major headlines and many stores did all they could to change their systems in an effort to save their client relations. It thus became important to question which store was safe to shop in. Identity fraud is a common crime to commit in modern society because of the ease with which hackers can maneuver their way into various systems that keep records of your credit and vital information.

Retail stores have attempted to combat this new rise in crime through their new systems which can be somewhat inconvenient to customers, but have made huge attempts in curbing any type of hacking or stealing of information. TJMaxx and related stores made big headlines last August because of the theft of many of their clients’ credit card information from criminals around the world. While this does not appear to affect the credit card in any major way (parent companies cover the cost to VISA and other banks), we have seen results in smaller ways such as the rising of bank costs and related expenses, as well as higher prices in TJMaxx. It is amazing how quickly information can flow across the globe, so that criminals in Ukraine can garner information from sources in the U.S. and simply drain your credit funds. This becomes a difficult crime to combat because of its international sector, as well as a lack of a way to prevent this from happening. Viruses are instilled throughout the internet now so that criminals can easily steal your information from a single website; retail stores are only the beginning of the wave in crime and present an easy opportunity to take credit card numbers.

While the internet presents a large domain with which to control the amount of crime in, retail stores at least can muster up steps to combat these criminals through only displaying the last digits of a credit card. Although this may produce unpleasant customers, it is still good to know that most stores still keep the safety of their customer’s bank accounts in mind.

Guest blogger Kimberly Peterson maintains the Criminal Justice Degrees Guide site. Miami-Dade cyber crime criminal defense attorney David Seltzer represents people accused of credit card fraud, both online and offline. If you or someone you love has been charged with credit card fraud in South Florida, you should contact a South Florida credit card fraud criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible, to minimize the negative effects on your family, your money and your life. To set up a free consultation with David S. Seltzer, you can contact him online or call -866-685-3421 seven days a week and 24 hours a day.

Posted On: June 10, 2009

Tallahassee Child Pornography Criminal Defense Attorney on Operation Orange Tree

As a Duval County Child Pornography Attorney, I found this interesting, law enforcement arrested seventy-seven (77) people on charges of child pornography this week in Tallahassee, Florida. The arrests were part of an ongoing operation dubbed "Operation Orange Tree." The individuals arrested were from all over the place including two (2) men from Lee County, Florida now faced with child pornography charges and a lifetime of penalties and problems. Other counties where individuals were arrested are Polk County, Florida, and Duval County, Florida, all relating to child pornography and children.

As a Lee County Child Pornography Attorney, what does all this mean for the 77 individuals charged? What it does not mean, and what they should not do is perceive their lives to be ruined. At this point, the state/federal authorities have made allegations of charges. No one has been convicted of anything. When dealing with cyber crime cases, it is all about the forensics and the investigation. The method's and manner in which the agencies conduct themselves is of the utmost importance. T's have to be crossed and I's dotted. Police have to be held accountable for their collection of evidence, and the following of protocols, etc.

As a former Miami-Dade Cyber Crime Prosecutor, I am familiar with all the protocols and procedures that are necessary in a proper arrest and forensic review. I have years of experience in Cyber Crime and child pornography cases both as a prosecutor and a defense attorney. As a Polk County Child Pornography Lawyer, make sure that if you are facing serious child pornography or solicitation charges, your attorney has the necessary experience and can understand and interpret the evidence. Call today for a FREE consultation 24/7 365 contact us 866-685-3421.

Posted On: June 9, 2009

UBS Clients Facing Tax Evasion Prosecution Go to South Florida Tax Evasion Criminal Defense Attorneys

Americans facing criminal prosecution in the UBS banking case are staying out of court with help from attorneys, Reuters reported June 8. These taxpayers are clients of Swiss bank UBS, which is accused of breaking U.S. law by helping American clients to hide their assets from the IRS. The tax agency has launched a six-month amnesty program that allows those clients to avoid prosecution and high penalties, in most cases, if they come forward to pay fines and back taxes. For help, many of them are hiring tax evasion criminal defense attorneys in Miami and across the United States. One attorney told Reuters that thousands of such cases may be in progress.

The amnesty program springs from President Obama’s crackdown on tax evaders and a Miami federal lawsuit filed by the IRS against UBS. UBS has admitted to helping American clients avoid taxation by physically carrying money and assets across the ocean, rather than sending money through channels that would alert the federal government to its existence. As part of that case, UBS agreed to pay a $780 million fine and disclosed a few hundred names; the federal government sued because it wants 52,000 more names of tax scofflaws. The Swiss government, which zealously protects its banking secrecy laws, is involved in both the lawsuit and tax treaty negotiations. Federal officials say they will prosecute or sue more Swiss banks if necessary.

A Miami federal judge will decide whether UBS is legally required to disclose the names, which could trigger more prosecutions, bring down the bank and sour diplomatic relations between Switzerland and the United States. Two Floridians have already been charged with filing false tax returns, and the Reuters article said thousands more are likely to be. According to one Florida tax evasion defense lawyer, many of the clients at issue are the descendants of Holocaust survivors who passed down their overseas accounts to children and grandchildren. Because they didn’t establish the accounts on their own, some of these clients may truly not have been aware that they were doing anything wrong. Others may have relied on bad advice from the bank itself, which of course had an interest in hiding its illegal behavior.

As a Fort Lauderdale tax evasion criminal defense lawyer, I can’t help but wonder why the government is choosing high-profile prosecutions as a way to recover unpaid taxes. As a rule, tax cases settle for a fraction of the taxes owed, which means the cost of prosecution can sometimes be higher than the financial reward. Clients and the government are both better off taking advantage of the voluntary amnesty program, which allows the government to collect its money and taxpayers to settle their accounts without criminal charges, which carry five years of prison time for each conviction.

I am proud to say that I represent UBS clients and others who need help settling a tax evasion case in a way that keeps them out of legal trouble. As a South Florida tax fraud criminal defense attorney, I negotiate aggressively with federal authorities for a fair settlement that reflects the charges and amounts owed. If you’re in this situation and you’d like to learn more about your options, please contact me anytime for a free, confidential consultation.

Posted On: June 2, 2009

Miami Dade Battery Criminal Defense Lawyer on Miami Dade Prosecutor's Arrest

What do you do when you are not satisfied with your pizza? Whatever it is, it doesn't usually lead to getting arrested and charged with a criminal act. That is what happened to current prosecutor David Ranck. Mr. Ranck got into an altercation after his pizza was not delivered and he struck the pizza delivery lady. Mr. Ranck is now charge with battery and is facing criminal charges in Miami. (Miami-Dade prosecutor charged with punching pizza delivery woman). The punishment for battery, if convicted is up to 1 year in the county jail.

Battery is the unwanted touching of another. The "touching" need only be that, a touch. It does not require any force, solely that it be unwanted. For more information on battery or any other criminal matter, contact David Seltzer, Miami Criminal Defense Attorney 24/7 for a FREE consultation.

Posted On: June 2, 2009

Miami-Dade Cyber Crime Defense Lawyer on Delayed Lori Drew Sentencing

Those looking for a harsh sentence are unlikely to be pleased by the July sentencing of Lori Drew, the Kansas City Star reported May 24. The judge in the case is still considering both the sentencing and a motion from the defense to overturn the guilty verdict for Drew, a Missouri mother who became the center of a debate on how criminal law should handle cyber crimes. But even if the verdict is not severe enough for some of Drew’s critics, the Star said, the case has already changed the law on cyber crime issues and possibly also changed the way Americans behave online.

As I have written on the Cyber Crime Lawyer Blog before, Drew was prosecuted under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for violating the terms of service for social networking site MySpace when she and an employee pretended to be teenaged “Josh” in order to make friends with a neighbor girl. The goal was to see what the girl, Megan Meier, was saying about Drew’s own daughter. Meier killed herself at the age of 13 after “Josh” stopped flirting and cut off communications, saying the world would be a better place without her. She had a history of depression.

No prosecutor in their home state of Missouri found a way to bring criminal charges against Drew, but federal prosecutors in Los Angeles charged her with unauthorized access to a computer network for violating the MySpace terms of service. Critics of the prosecution call this a stretch or even an abuse of the law. Ironically, the Star reported, Missouri’s harassment law -- updated in response to the case -- still probably wouldn’t apply to Drew’s actions, since her employee sent the messages. A prosecutor in St. Charles County, Missouri, where the Drew and Meier families lived, compared the case making MySpace the victim to a prosecution of a shooting in which Smith & Wesson was the victim.

As a South Florida cyber crime criminal defense attorney, I agree. Drew’s behavior was certainly unbecoming of a mother in her forties, but violating the terms of service for a Web site is not the same as hacking -- which is what “unauthorized access to a computer network” really is. Millions of people violate terms of service agreements every year; prosecuting most of them as hackers would probably create a public outcry. As Drew’s criminal defense lawyers pointed out, violating a terms of service agreement is not a crime.

However, as a Fort Lauderdale cyber crime defense lawyer, I can agree with confidence that this case has changed the law. At least ten states have passed laws against cyber bullying since the 2006 incident, and a similar federal law has been proposed, although it has come under fire for alleged First Amendment violations. While these statutes have their flaws, they help bring the law in line with the Internet. My Miami cyber crime criminal defense clients deserve laws that accurately take into account both the advances in technology and the way people really use those advances.

Posted On: June 1, 2009

Lee County, Florida Child Pornography Criminal Defense Lawyer

In Lee County Florida today, two men where arrested and charged with possession of child pornography.

Fort Myers Cyber Crime and Child Pornography Criminal Defense Lawyer, Free Consultation 24/7. Remember, it is all in the forensics...Cape Coral Child Pornography Criminal Defense Attorney.