People may not understand the differences between state and federal courts. State courts have jurisdiction over many cases involving individuals. These cases are common crimes like traffic violations, robberies and family disputes. On the other hand, federal courts have jurisdiction over lawsuits against the U.S. and violations of federal laws. Sometimes, the two jurisdictions overlap. For instance, most robbery cases are tried in state court. However, if the robbery occurred at a post office or bank, the federal court has jurisdiction. Additionally, violations that occur on government land are heard in federal court. Most lawyers are qualified to handle cases in both courts.
Con artists often use the postal system to carry out their schemes. They may not realize that mail fraud is a federal offense. U.S. Postal Inspectors investigate crimes in which the mail was used as part of the scheme. Mail fraud carries a stiff sentence including a fine and jail time of up to twenty years. Likewise, bankruptcies happen every day but sometimes filers are not truthful in the petition. These people need a Michel Fontaine if they get caught. Violations of the law occur when filers hide assets and try to mislead creditors.
Bankruptcies are on the rise in the U.S. and there is a corresponding increase in related crimes. In a recent case, two Wisconsin businessmen were convicted of conspiracy, bankruptcy fraud, and money laundering. They tried to hide hundreds of thousands of dollars while filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy. One of the men received a 54-month prison sentence and the other twelve months. Federal courts also have jurisdiction over money laundering cases. The cases involve financial transactions designed to hide the real source of illegally obtained money. The goal is to make the money look legitimate so criminals can use it.
Individuals and illegal organizations can be guilty of money laundering including drug dealers and the mafia. If convicted, one could face a fine of a half-million dollars, or twice the value of the transaction, whichever is greater. Further, they face a sentence of up to twenty years in prison. Many people are convicted under RICO laws. RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. It sounds confusing but involves 35 broad-ranging crimes including bribery, slavery, counterfeiting and gambling. Maximum penalties for racketeering include a fine of up to $25,000 and up to 20 years in prison. People who are accused of these types of crimes need to have experienced legal representation.