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The Consequences of An Allegation of Embezzlement: Hire the Right Houston White Collar Crimes Attorney

Hire the Best Houston Embezzlement Attorney

Embezzlement or Misappropriation of Funds Can Be a Serious Crime in Texas Federal Courts. Embezzlement is considered a white collar crime in the state of Texas and is almost always charged as a felony. Punishment can be severe depending on what was done and how the funds were misappropriated. The criminal could face fines in the million of dollars and many months in prison. If you’re being charged with Embezzlement, you will need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. Contact Houston Embezzlement Lawyer Charles Johnson to speak with an experienced legal professional about what you can do to protect your name and reputation. Attorney Johnson will travel to any state court in the State of Texas and to any Federal Court in the United States of America to fight for your freedom. Contact him directly around the clock, 7 days/week at (713) 222-7577.

Embezzlement Defined

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines embezzlement as the “misappropriation or misapplication of money or property entrusted to one’s care, custody, or control.” What distinguishes embezzlement from other types of theft is the violation of financial trust between the owner of the money or property and the offender.

Theft by employees is one of the most prevalent and costly problems faced by today’s business, either private or public. It includes, but is not limited to, “the removal of products, supplies, materials, funds, data, information, or intellectual property.” The estimated annual costs of all forms of embezzlement are up to $400 billion.

The ways that an employee can steal from an organization depend on a number of factors, including that type of money or properties that have been entrusted to the individual, and the access to company funds that the individual might be allowed because of their position. For example, a department store cashier might steal from a cash register, fail to ring up purchases, or take merchandise from storage rooms or receiving areas. Other employees with more access within the company might cheat on expense accounts, or misappropriate funds through billing, inventory, or payroll schemes.

While some research has found that theft by employees is typically a solitary event, the influence of co-workers on theft behavior has been shown to have an enormous impact on such deviant behavior. A strong argument is also made for the effects of informal sanctions; those that did not comply with the theft culture were often ostracized and pressured to leave the job.

The “typical” embezzlement scheme occurs at companies with fewer than 100 employees. The average amount stolen is $120,000 versus just $10,000 for Fortune 500 companies. Small businesses, defined as employers with less than three bookkeepers, are 100 times more likely to experience employee fraud than larger companies. The crime is often carried out over a number of years and has forced many small companies into bankruptcy.

Common Embezzlement Schemes

Bogus loan schemes include cases in which fraudulent loans are created or authorized by the perpetrator from which funds are taken for their own benefit.

Credit card/account fraud cases involve the fraudulent or unauthorized creation and/or use of company credit card or credit accounts.

Forged/unauthorized checks cases are those in which company checks are forged or issued without authorization for the benefit of the perpetrator.

Fraudulent reimbursement schemes include expense report fraud and other cases in which a bogus submission for reimbursement is made by the perpetrator.

Inventory/equipment theft schemes include employee theft of inventory and supplies, and the unauthorized use of equipment.

Payroll shenanigans cases include all forms of manipulation of the payroll systems in order for the perpetrator to draw additional income.

Theft from tax or benefit accounts include cases in which the perpetrator manipulates company accounts meant to pay corporate taxes or employee benefits to siphon these funds off for themselves.

Theft/conversion of cash receipts cases involve the simple taking of cash or checks meant for company receipts and pocketing or converting them for one’s own benefit.

Unauthorized electronic funds transfers cases apply to anyone who uses or attempts or conspires to use any counterfeit, fictitious, altered, forged, lost, stolen or fraudulently obtained debt instrument to obtain anything of value.

Vendor fraud schemes include those where either a bogus vendor is created by the perpetrator to misappropriate monies or a real vendor colludes with the perpetrator to siphon funds from the company.

Clearly the most common form of embezzlement, by nearly a two-to-one margin, is the forgery or unauthorized use of company checks for one’s own benefit. Almost 40 percent of all major embezzlement cases are principally the result of this type of scheme. The next three most common forms of embezzlement are theft/conversion of cash receipts (20.5%), unauthorized electronic transfers of funds (13.4%) and payroll shenanigans (8.7%).

Examples of Embezzlement Schemes

  • The bookkeeper pays him/herself – The bookkeeper simply takes a business check, makes it payable to him/herself and signs it.
  • Duplicate payments to phony accounts – The bookkeeper pays an invoice with multiple checks over time and creates a phony bank account to deposit the second check. By the way, it is very easy to open a phony account.
  • Check alteration – The bookkeeper either alters checks paid to you by customers, or creates a phony bank account to deposit checks.
  • Double billing – The bookkeeper re-bills customer twice for the same work and deposits check in a phony account. It is surprising how often businesses will pay twice for the same invoice.
  • Duplicate checks – The bookkeeper orders a duplicate set of checks mimicking your account and then proceeds to write duplicate checks to vendors – only the duplicate checks are deposited into the phony account. The business owner may be too busy to notice this deception.
  • Credit card transactions – An employee makes a credit card sale, then issues a credit for that item back on to their own credit card.
  • Petty cash expenditures – A business does not closely review the petty cash expenditures, unknowingly creating an opportunity for theft.

FBI – Financial Crimes

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigates matters relating to fraud, theft, or embezzlement occurring within or against the national and international financial community. These crimes are characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust, and are not dependent upon the application or threat of physical force or violence. Such acts are committed by individuals and organizations to obtain personal or business advantage.

Theft, Embezzlement or Misapplication by Bank Officers or Employees

Title 18, Chapter 31 of the U.S. Code contains sections that deal with the various forms of embezzlement and their penalties. For example, Section 656 covers theft, embezzlement, or misapplication by a bank officer or employee.

Motivating Factors for Embezzlement

While a large number of crimes can be attributed to opportunity or the economic need of the offender, loss incurred through the actions of employees can also be a response to poor working conditions, dissatisfaction with management or compensation, or pressure from co-workers. The following are some of the primary motivating factors for Embezzlement:

  • Entitlement belief
  • Financial need
  • Lavish lifestyle
  • Gambling issue
  • Shopping addiction
  • Substance abuse
  • Support a personal business
  • Support significant other

In the overwhelming number of cases, excessive greed or the desire to live a relatively more lavish lifestyle appears to be the key motivating factor for major embezzlers – not to alleviate personal financial problems, as some might expect. Gambling continues to be a factor for many embezzlers. In some cases, the gambling problem was also part of an overall extravagant lifestyle.

The underlying question remains, however, why do these embezzlers steal so much over such a long period of time from employers who trusted them so implicitly? The classic fraud triangle theory holds that there generally must be three basic elements to exist for fraud to occur: opportunity, incentive/pressure and attitude/rationalization. For embezzlement, the opportunity factor is present in organizations in which business controls are weak and specific individuals, principally those with fiduciary duties, can exploit those weaknesses. For fraud in general, the incentive/pressure factor is often suggested to be financial woes. However, for embezzlers, other factors exist, such as a substance abuse problem, a gambling problem, a perceived need to support a loved one and, a desire to live an extravagant lifestyle or a desire to support a personal or family-owned business.

Rationalization is the most elusive segment of the fraud triangle. Researchers have suggested that one or more of the following attitudes or beliefs exist for embezzlers to engage in illicit activities:

  • They believe they are entitled to the money;
  • They believe they must save a family member or loved one who is perceived to be in dire circumstances;
  • They believe they are in a desperate financial situation and all could be lost;
  • They believe that no external or other help exists;
  • They believe they are only “borrowing” the money;
  • They do not understand the consequences of their actions; and,
  • They do not believe or understand that what they are doing is wrong.

Costs and Statistics

While many think of the workplace as insulated from the questionable behavior found elsewhere in society, the statistics can be quite alarming. It is estimated that losses due to employee theft can range from $20 to $90 billion annually to upwards of $240 billion a year when accounting for losses due to intellectual property theft. This makes theft by employees two to three times more costly than all of the nation’s Type I index crimes combined, and accounts for approximately 30 to 50 percent of all business failures. In addition, it is estimated that as many as three-quarters of all employees steal from their employers at least once and some employees may engage in theft behavior as a regular part of their lives on the job.

Employee theft does not occur in a vacuum, but is often found in conjunction with high rates of other workplace deviant behavior. The financial impacts of such behavior, when coupled with the indirect costs of higher levels of stress, increased absenteeism, higher turnover, raised insurance premiums, an increased number of lawsuits, and lower morale, make workplace deviance a problem for businesses of all sizes that can reach an annual price tag hovering in the billions of dollars.

How has the widespread infusion of technology into the workplace impacted issues of embezzlement and employee theft? One result has been the dramatic increase in costs associated with a given offense. Not only can technology facilitate larger transactions that are illegal in nature, but when coupled with poor controls it can be manipulated to make detection much more difficult. Furthermore, the types of theft in the workplace appear to be changing. In addition to cash, materials, and merchandise, employees are increasingly finding value in company-owned software and intellectual property. In 2004, it is estimated that Fortune 1,000 companies sustained losses of more than $59 billion from theft of proprietary information, with insiders to the organization being seen as a higher than average threat.18 Borrowing software from work for personal use accounts for some of the $33 billion lost to software piracy worldwide.

The Response/Current Efforts

Traditionally, organizations did not want the public stigma of being known as an “easy target” or a company that harbored embezzlers and other types of dishonest employees. Most matters were handled internally, if they were handled at all. Some organizations viewed theft as a cost of doing business. In recent years, companies have stepped forward and begun to address the reality that they have dishonest employees who are causing significant economic losses. Studies have shown that there has been an increase in the use of deterrence and apprehension strategies and an increase in the severity of sanctions brought against someone accused of theft. In 1997, retail companies alone spent over $5 billion to combat inventory losses, with theft by employees seen as accounting for the largest share of those losses. These expenditures in formal social control can be seen in both investments in security technology and loss prevention personnel. Additionally, over 40 percent of employees caught stealing is referred for prosecution and 20 percent is required to make some form of restitution.28 So while the problem of employee theft still exists within organizations, some employers have taken important steps towards acknowledging and combating the problem.

Penalties for Embezzlement

Under Texas law, Embezzlement falls under the law criminalizing theft. Embezzlement is essentially financial theft by an employee. It can be considered white collar crime in some instances but it does not have to be only a white collar offense. It occurs when the defendant is entrusted with his or her employer’s money or goods and then steals those money or goods.

In a criminal case involving employee embezzlement, the state must show beyond reasonable doubt that the employee had possession of the assets by “virtue of his/her employment”. If their position did not provide them with control of the missing assets, they would not be able to be charged with this type of crime. There are many situations where it can be a difficult task to determine if the offense can be classified as embezzlement or larceny.

Texas offers a wide variety of penalties for the crime of Embezzlement. The factor that determines the severity of the punishment if convicted on a charge of Embezzlement is the amount or value of the goods, services or cash stolen. For the smallest amounts ($50 and under), the charge will be a “Class C” misdemeanor carrying a penalty of a simple fine of up $500. The most serious charge will be for stealing $200,000 or more in goods, services or cash. This is considered a first degree felony and can be punishable by five to ninety-nine years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

White collar crimes may be charged as misdemeanors or as felonies. The charges depend on the type of crime, the severity of the crime, and the amount of money that is involved in the crime, among other things In general, the more severe a crime the more harsh the potential punishment if convicted. While white collar crimes don’t involve physical violence, they can still be serious. Houston White Collar Crimes Attorney Charles Johnson will help guide you through the legal process and will advocate for your rights every step of the way. If you are in jail, Attorney Johnson will assist in getting your bail reduced if possible so you can be released on bond until your trial date.

Defenses to Embezzlement Charges

When you are responsible for handling corporate finances and assets, errors may occur. A bookkeeping mistake or oversight could lead to an investigation. The minute you are notified of any potential allegations of embezzlement is the time to retain experienced legal counsel.

Embezzlement is a crime, so all the defenses available for other crimes can be used. Common defenses include:

Insufficient evidence – A criminal charge or case can be dismissed if there is insufficient evidence to prosecute. This defense will not work as long as a jury can find you guilty without a reasonable doubt. However, 40% of federal embezzlement cases are dropped because of insufficient evidence, so it can be worth pursuing.

Duress – Duress occurs when a person is situated where he/she truly believes they will be in some danger or harm if they do not participate in the crime. Common duress defenses in embezzlement cases that generally do not work include embezzling money to satisfy an addiction (drugs, alcohol, gambling) or to prevent family hardship. A duress defense will more likely work in cases where you would lose your job unless you participated in an embezzlement scheme.

Entrapment – Entrapment occurs when the government compels an innocent person to commit a crime they would have otherwise not committed. Stings are generally exempt. However, setting up “bait” to get you to commit embezzlement can be entrapment. When bringing an entrapment defense, the prosecution will usually contend you were inclined to commit the offense anyway.

Absence of intent to commit a crime – Most crimes require an intention to commit the crime. Embezzlement requires that you intended to take money or property from others. Without the required intent, the embezzlement charge may be dismissed. For example, maybe you thought you were the true owner of the money or property that you are accused of embezzling.

Insanity – Insanity is always a possible defense, but it is a “tough sell”in any court for any crime. This defense allows you to claim you were either insane at the time of the offense or during trial. The success rate of an insanity defense is low and it would most likely be ineffective in embezzlement cases.

Incapacity – This is different from insanity. In embezzlement cases, this defense may work only if you can show you were somehow mentally incapacitated at the time of committing the embezzlement. An example would be if you were under heavy medication and didn’t realize you deposited company money into your own account.

Intoxication – Voluntary intoxication is almost never a defense to a crime. If you drink voluntarily, you should realize the risks of doing so. This defense rarely comes up in embezzlement case.

Embezzlement charges can be quite complex. In many cases there may be many items that must be reviewed in order to determine the best defense. Some crimes may be a result of miscommunication or deception. It is important to get your story out. There are many ways that a defense attorney will be able to help you protect your rights. The goal of your attorney is to not only help you defend against the charges but to also help you guard your professional reputation. A conviction on these types of charges can be detrimental to your career so it is important to defend the charges as vigorously as possible. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will review all aspects of your case in depth to provide a complete defense of the charges.

If you have been charged with Embezzlement, you are probably facing stress at your home and workplace. Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson can help relieve that stress by ensuring that you are protected by the best Texas embezzlement lawyer available. If you want the best in knowledgeable legal representation & a criminal law firm that will treat your case with consideration and concern, please contact us 24/7 at (713) 222-7577 for a FREE confidential consultation. Your initial consultation can be done over the phone, and will be free and completely confidential. During this consultation you will be informed about the law, your rights and your legal options, with a reliable idea of how much an effective embezzlement defense may cost. Rest assured that The Charles Johnson Law Firm will zealously defend you against any type of White Collar Crime accusation.

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Houston Criminal Lawyer: Facing An Arrest For Drug Trafficking?

Recommended Houston Drug Trafficking Lawyer

Drug trafficking is generally referred to as the manufacturing, transporting and distributing of large quantities of drugs. It often involves more than one person. Drug trafficking charges are wide and varied depending on the scope of the trafficking. Additionally, if the drug trafficking was directed towards minors, then prosecutors will seek enhancements to the charges. State and federal governments have adopted strict laws and severe penalties regarding the trafficking of drugs. Penalties can approach seven figures and decades in prison for severe cases. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson has proven how to successfully approach and handle these types of cases and he should be contacted immediately when an arrest is made for drug trafficking.

Drug Trafficking is probably the most charged offense in federal court and is also quite prevalent in state courts. Because of the severity of the sentences, evidence and all circumstances and conditions regarding your arrest will be thoroughly examined by the Charles Johnson Law Firm and their team of experienced investigators. Drug trafficking cases can be quite involved, and with the vast amounts of drugs coming in from Mexico, prosecutors are aggressively pursuing convictions.

Types of Drug Trafficking Laws

Drug trafficking laws vary by country and region, but generally include distribution, manufacturing, and dispensing certain categories of controlled substances. Usually, the drugs are classified according to type and the addictive nature of the drug. Highly addictive narcotics like heroin and crack typically fall into one class, while marijuana and prescription drugs are considered less harmful. International drug trafficking laws are commonly handled under customs law.

Possession of drugs with the intent to sell routinely falls under drug trafficking statutes. If someone is found with a large amount of narcotics, it may be presumed that he or she intends to distribute the drugs for money. Different regions determine how much and what kind of drug is considered outside limits for personal use. Penalties for violations of these drug trafficking laws are often based on the quantity of the substance and its type.

Those who manufacture drugs may be charged under drug trafficking laws in most places. These sections of the law typically include possession of chemicals or equipment needed to make the controlled substance. Narcotics laws in each country outline the exact chemicals or equipment considered illegal.

Drug trafficking laws may include a provision that allows law enforcement to seize assets used to commit a crime. For example, if drugs are sold from a house or vehicle, a judge may order that those assets be forfeited to the government. The property is typically sold at a public auction, with the proceeds going to fund narcotics operations.

Almost any scheduled narcotic can qualify for a drug trafficking charge. In state courts the amount of drugs (cocaine, cannabis, extasy, crystal meth, acid, heroine, prescription medication) will determine if a possession charges becomes a trafficking charge. Even if you are only going to used the drugs for your personal consumption, the amount that you possess could bring a trafficking charge. You may also qualify for a distribution charge if it appears that a small amount of drugs was packaged for distribution. Each state is different as to the amount necessary for the trafficking charge. Under the federal statute you can be charged for the amount you have and or the amount you were trying to buy from a government agent. You may never actually possess the drugs, but you will be charged.

Supplying drugs to children or using minors to distribute narcotics generally carries tougher penalties than those that apply to adults. In some areas, maintaining a home for the purpose of making or distributing drugs where children live is also considered a more serious drug trafficking offense. Stiffer sanctions might also be imposed for those who sell drugs near schools, playgrounds, arcades, and other areas where children congregate.

Laws also exist that regulate drug trafficking by criminal gangs or organized groups. Penalties might be enhanced if weapons are used in the distribution of a controlled substance. Those with profits from organized sales of narcotics can also be prosecuted under money laundering statutes in some jurisdictions.

Defenses for Drug Trafficking Charges

Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will provide skilled advice and representation to clients facing state or federal drug charges. He is considered an expert when defending against charges related to:

  • Interception of a drug shipment
  • Drug conspiracy charges
  • Interstate drug distribution
  • Undercover interstate trafficking stings
  • Illegal sale and trafficking of prescription drugs
  • Illegal sale and trafficking of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine (meth), MDMA (Ecstasy)

Drug trafficking charges often hinge on the prosecution’s illegal search and seizure of your vehicle, undercover drug operations, and confidential informants who are attempting to make a deal. As an expert lawyer skilled in drug cases, Attorney Johnson will thoroughly investigate how the prosecution came upon the evidence collected and determine if the method of collecting the evidence is in violation of your constitutional rights.

The court will have no choice but to keep any illegally obtained evidence out of trial. Attorney Johnson’s ability to thoroughly investigate drug cases and vigorously challenge the factual and constitutional merits of the prosecution’s case has proven effective in his defense of clients facing drug trafficking charges involving cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine (meth) or prescription narcotics.

Even if the police find drugs directly in a person’s possession, the drugs and other evidence could be suppressed (thrown away) if the police did not follow the proper procedures required under the U.S. Constitution. One of the first things Attorney Johnson will look for when defending someone accused of a drug offense is whether the police themselves acted in a legal manner. Other defenses include areas such as whether the actual weight of the substance was correct when allowing for hydration, whether the chemical composition of the substance was correct as charged, whether there was joint or constructive possession of the substance which could subject the case to a Motion to Dismiss and whether the accused was entrapped into committing the offense by law enforcement or one of its informants.

Another possible defense for drug trafficking charges would involve a violation of constitutional right to counsel and right to remain silent. Once charged or in custody, you are required to be informed of your rights and given access to legal representation if you request it. Contact Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson immediately upon arrest before saying anything that could be used against you in the future. This can often mean the difference between a conviction and walking away free of any charges. You would be surprised at how many cases result in a conviction due largely to statements made by the accused.

Other possible defenses may include:

  • Lack of knowledge
  • Mistake of fact (For example, thinking the drug was sugar when in fact, it was cocaine.)
  • Duress (For example, if Bob was forced to transport the cocaine because if he refused, something bad would happen to his family.)
  • The substance was not intended for human consumption

Lastly, Attorney Johnson will determine if inappropriate charges were filed. Drug trafficking is a highly political issue, and you may find yourself facing inflated charges. The right attorney can insure that any charges you do face are appropriate to the acts alleged by the prosecutor.

At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we have the experience and know-how to guide you through this complicated process from the moment of your arrest through trial, if necessary.

The defense of drug-related crimes can be difficult and complex and requires an attorney with special skills, experience and knowledge. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is highly qualified to defend your case. Whether it is identifying a drug addiction issue so that we may assist in getting them treatment or counseling, negotiating a fair resolution in an effort to have charges or a sentence reduced or preparing and taking a case to trial, the Best Houston Criminal Lawyer is available to assist and defend you.

As an extremely experienced criminal lawyer specializing in drug cases at both the Federal and State level, Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is well aware of the strategies, theories and methods employed by prosecutors when they prosecute a drug case. Attorney Johnson will use this knowledge to his client’s advantage while defending their cases to get the best possible outcome on their behalf.

We are proud to represent and care about our clients. We know the devastation that a drug conviction, an addiction or incarceration for a drug offense can bring to an individual or his/her family. We will answer your questions and guide you through the whole process, working to take away some of the confusion and uncertainty that comes along any drug offense charge, while all along seeking the most favorable outcome for you or your loved one.

Drug Trafficking by Criminal Gangs

There are nearly 1 million active gang members in the United States, based on analysis of federal, state, and local data, and the involvement of criminal gangs in domestic drug trafficking is becoming increasingly complex. Since 2001, many gangs have advanced beyond their traditional role as local retail drug distributors in large cities to become more organized, adaptable, deliberate, and influential in large-scale drug trafficking. Much of their growing influence has come at the expense of local independent dealers and small local criminal groups who cannot compete with gangs that establish control in smaller drug markets.

The influence of Hispanic and African American street gangs is expanding as these gangs gain greater control over drug distribution in rural and suburban areas and acquire drugs directly from Drug Trafficking Organizations (“DTOs”) in Mexico or along the Southwest Border.

In 2009, midlevel and retail drug distribution in the United States was dominated by more than 900,000 criminally active gang members representing approximately 20,000 domestic street gangs in more than 2,500 cities. These street gangs vary greatly with respect to their ethnic or racial identities, the types and amounts of drugs that they distribute, their strength and influence, and their adaptability. Their prevalence varies geographically, with the greatest concentration of street gangs occurring in the Great Lakes, Pacific, Southeast, and Southwest Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Regions.

Many Hispanic and, to a lesser extent, African American gangs are gaining control over drug distribution outside urban areas that were previously supplied by local independent dealers or small local criminal groups. Around 2007, Hispanic and African American gangs throughout the country, but especially in the Southwest and Great Lakes Regions, began to command greater influence over drug distribution in many rural and suburban areas. This trend continued in 2009. For example, in 2009, the Avenues street gang based in Los Angeles, California, expanded its operations to distribute drugs in suburban and rural locations throughout southern California.

To increase their control over drug trafficking in smaller markets, street gangs have been increasingly acquiring larger wholesale quantities of drugs at lower prices directly from DTOs in Mexico and along the Southwest Border. Several Southwest Border street gangs, such as Shelltown 38th Street, Tri-City Bombers, and Vallucos, smuggle wholesale quantities of drugs obtained in Mexico into the United States. By purchasing directly from Mexican wholesale sources in Mexico or along the Southwest Border, gangs throughout the country realize cost savings that enable them to sell drugs at lower prices than local independent dealers in small communities, driving these dealers out of business. For example, members of the Chicago-based Latin Kings street gang who operate in Midland, Texas, purchase cocaine from Mexican traffickers in south Texas for $16,000 to $18,000 per kilogram, compared with $25,000 to $35,000 per kilogram from wholesale traffickers in Chicago. With this savings, the gang undersells other local dealers who do not have the capacity to buy large wholesale quantities directly from Mexican DTOs in Mexico or along the Southwest Border.

Hispanic prison gangs, primarily in Southwest Border states, are gaining strength by working directly with Mexican DTOs to acquire wholesale quantities of drugs and by controlling most street gangs in areas along the Southwest Border.

Prison gangs are active in all 50 states and are increasing their influence over drug trafficking in areas along the Southwest Border (see Table B4 in Appendix B). Prior to 2001, the criminal influence of prison gangs was limited primarily to retail-level drug distribution. However, since that time, Hispanic prison gangs have become increasingly involved in the transportation and wholesale distribution of drugs.

Hispanic prison gangs such as Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos (HPL) and Raza Unida operating in Southwest Border states have increased their involvement in wholesale drug distribution activities through cooperative relationships with Mexican DTOs. Through these relationships, Hispanic prison gangs are able to gain access to wholesale quantities of drugs. For example, in September 2009, 21 members of HPL were convicted in the Southern District of Texas (Houston) of conspiring to distribute more than 150 kilograms of cocaine and laundering millions of dollars in drug proceeds. In April 2009, 15 members and associates of the Raza Unida prison gang were indicted for trafficking multikilogram quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine weekly in McAllen and Houston, Texas.

To ensure a consistent profit stream from the wholesale drugs that they purchase from Mexican DTOs, Hispanic prison gangs distribute drugs through street gangs that they largely, if not entirely, control. Through force or intimidation, Hispanic prison gangs exercise significant control over local gangs that distribute their drugs in the Southwest Border region. For example, Barrio Azteca prison gang members operating in El Paso, Texas, collect drug payments and taxes from 47 street-level gangs and independent drug dealers trafficking drugs in El Paso.

Potential Penalties for Drug Trafficking

The penalties for drug trafficking offenses vary and depend on a number of factors. These include the type and amount of illegal drugs (also called “controlled substances”) found in a person’s possession, whether the person is a repeat offender and the state in which the person is charged.

Drug trafficking or distribution in Texas is a felony upon which a wide range of penalties may be imposed. It may be anywhere from a state jail felony, which carries the lightest sentence, to a first degree felony, which carries the harshest. The factors influencing which sentence will be imposed are: (1) the amount of the drug being distributed or delivered; and (2) the type of drug and which of the four groups of drugs it is classified under. The smaller the amount of a drug in a certain group, the lighter the sentence may be.

Texas has some very heavy penalties for drug trafficking. Prosecutors may often offer plea deals to defendants where they may offer a charge with a lesser penalty in exchange for information that would help them gather evidence for a higher priority investigation.

The sentences involved may range anywhere from 180 days to two years in state jail and/or a fine of no more than $10,000 for a state jail felony, to life in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or a term of 15 to 99 years in prison and/or a fine of not more than $250,000 for the heaviest first degree felony. The harshness of the sentence imposed depends on how much of the drug is being trafficked. For example, trafficking or distributing less than one gram of a substance in the first grouping of drugs carries a state jail felony charge, whereas trafficking 400 grams or more of any one of the same drugs carries a first degree felony charge that may include a life sentence.

At the Federal level, the Controlled Substances Act (PL 91-513, 1970, last amended in 2000) provides penalties for the unlawful manufacture, distribution, and dispensing (or trafficking) of controlled substances, based on the schedule (rank) of the drug or substance. Generally, the more dangerous the drug and the larger the quantity involved, the stiffer the penalty. Trafficking of heroin, cocaine, LSD, and PCP, all Schedule I or II drugs (see Table 2.1 in Chapter 2), includes mandatory jail time and fines. A person caught selling at least five hundred grams but less than five kilograms of cocaine powder (seventeen ounces to just under eleven pounds) will receive a minimum of five years in prison and may be fined up to $2 million for a first offense. (See Table 6.1.) The same penalty is imposed for the sale of five to forty-nine grams of cocaine base (“crack”). Five grams are equal to the weight of six plain M&Ms candies, and forty-nine grams are a little more than a bag of M&Ms candies (47.9 grams). The high penalty for selling crack is an expression of the unusual severity with which legislators are trying to curb the use of this drug.

Penalties double with the second offense to ten years in prison and up to $4 million in fines. When higher quantities are involved (five or more kilograms of cocaine powder, fifty grams or more of crack, etc.), penalties for the first offense are ten years, and fines up to $4 million may be levied. For the second offense, twenty years and up to $8 million in fines are given, and the third offense results in mandatory life imprisonment. These examples are for an individual. Higher penalties apply if an organized group is involved or if a death or injury is associated with the arrest event.

These penalties apply also to the sale of fentanyl (a powerful painkiller medicine) or like-acting drugs, heroin, LSD, methamphetamine, and PCP. The smallest amount, which can earn someone a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million, involves trafficking in LSD, where a one-gram amount carries a five-year minimum sentence in prison.

Special penalties exist for marijuana trafficking, since it may be traded in large quantities or grown in substantial amounts. The lower the amounts sold or the fewer the plants grown, the lower the sentence. A person cultivating one to forty-nine plants or selling less than fifty kilograms of marijuana mixture, ten kilograms or less of hashish, or one kilogram or less of hashish oil may get a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Sentences for second offenses involving large amounts of marijuana may earn the trafficker up to life imprisonment.

The penalties for drug trafficking are harsh, and reflect the seriousness of this felony offense and the current political climate. A conviction can lead to jail time, forfeiture of property and fines, but that is only part of the story. It places your current employment in jeopardy, places a severe emotional strain on you and your family, adversely affects your ability to find new work, and places your entire future at risk.

Hire the Best Houston Drug Trafficking Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

A drug trafficking conviction can have an extremely adverse effect on a person’s current and future life in many regards. Both state and federal prosecutors have their eye on a conviction of the most severe charges possible and not on your rights. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will work diligently with prosecutors regarding any circumstances or conditions that could result in charges being dropped or reduced. If necessary, our firm can take your case to court and present a strong defense on your behalf.

The Charles Johnson Law Firm expertly handles all types of Texas drug-related offenses, from the less severe, like simple possession of a small amount of certain drugs, to the more serious ones, such as participating in an organized drug trafficking business with sale, distribution and manufacturing activities. We also defend charges involving controlled substances, such as, marijuana, crack, paraphernalia, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamines (meth), hallucinogens such as LSD, oxycontin, oxycodone, hydrocode, xanax, and Rohypnol club drugs. We represent all levels of people charged with drug offenses, from the student or small time person, to the professional, medical doctor or person accused of being a large scale distributor or trafficker.

If you have been arrested for drug trafficking in Houston, TX, take fast action with a skilled and resourceful Houston Criminal Lawyer. Contact the Charles Johnson Law Firm immediately anytime night or day for a free phone consultation to discuss your case.

 can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
Major Credit Cards Accepted.

Houston Criminal Lawyer: Facing An Arrest For Drug Trafficking?

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We can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
Major Credit Cards Accepted.

 
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