Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Columbia, SC
Elizabeth is experienced in white collar criminal issues including tax, insurance, and healthcare fraud cases. She represents clients in this area at the trial level, direct appeal, and federal §2255 motions in federal court and courts of appeal.
She is admitted to practice in the Federal District Court for the District of South Carolina as well as the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.
If you have been charged with a white collar crime in federal court, or if you believe you are under investigation by federal authorities, stop what you are doing and contact our office now – do not speak to federal agents or appear for grand jury testimony until you have consulted with an experienced federal white collar criminal defense lawyer.
What is White Collar Criminal Defense?
White collar crimes are typically financially motivated and do not involve violence. They often involve professionals with substantial reputational interests that must be protected. White collar criminal prosecutions usually involve allegations of fraud, theft, or corruption. Below are some examples of white collar criminal defense cases that my office handles:
Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud
Mail fraud is charged by the government when a person is alleged to have committed fraud – a scheme to obtain money or property under false pretenses – using the mail, whether it is the US postal service or a private carrier like UPS. For example, mailing flyers, receipts, coupons, solicitations, or correspondence as part of the scheme can lead to liability under this theory.
Wire fraud, although a separate offense, is often charged with mail fraud. It is often charged when a person uses wire transfers to commit fraud – use of Western Union, credit cards, or other types of bank transfers.
Healthcare fraud is charged by the government when insurers, doctors, nurses, or other healthcare workers are accused of defrauding a government agency or insurer, including:
- Overbilling for services;
- Overbilling for medications or medical equipment;
- Providing services that were unnecessary;
- Billing twice for the same services; or
- Billing for services that were never provided.
Corporate fraud is when a corporate executive is accused of engaging in a fraudulent scheme to enrich themselves at the expense of their company or shareholders. There are many types of corporate fraud, including:
- Giving false information to investors;
- Withholding information from investors;
- Accounting fraud;
- Ponzi schemes; and
- Bankruptcy fraud.
Extortion, Bribery, and Public Corruption
Accusations of bribery, including kickbacks or other inducements intended to influence government actions, can destroy a public or elected official’s reputation and career. Public officials can find themselves the target of a public corruption investigation under:
- The Hobbs Act;
- Mail and wire fraud statutes;
- The honest services fraud provision;
- The Travel Act;
- The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO);
- The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA); or
- The federal program bribery law.
Campaign Finance and Ethics Violations
Other common accusations made against public officials include violations of election laws, campaign finance violations, and government ethics investigations.
If you find yourself at the center of a campaign finance or ethics investigation, we will do everything possible to avoid scandal, protect your reputation, and avoid criminal prosecution.
Money laundering may be charged by the government when a person transfers funds from illegal activities into the financial system in a way that is intended to avoid the attention of law enforcement – it is “laundered” because it is “made clean.”
Alleged money laundering schemes may involve:
- Fraudulent business transactions;
- Structuring, or breaking up deposits into amounts less than $10,000 to avoid federal reporting requirements;
- Wire transfers;
- Shell corporations; and
- Purchases of property like real estate, vehicles, or bitcoin.
Securities fraud is when a person defrauds investors through material misrepresentations and can include:
- A company that inaccurately reports its financial status to induce investments;
- Bond fraud – including corporate bonds, municipal bonds, unregistered bonds, and bearer bonds;
- Churning – where a broker buys and sells securities to generate commissions that benefit the broker and not the client;
- Insider trading – where a person makes a trading decision based on confidential information;
- Pump and dump scams – where a person provides misleading or false information about stock that they own, or otherwise have an interest in, to induce other investors to purchase the stock, increasing the stock’s value and allowing the person to then sell their stock at a profit; or
- Unauthorized trading – where a broker or investment advisor makes transactions in a client’s account without the client’s knowledge or permission.
Bank fraud covers a wide range of fraudulent activity designed to take money illegally from a bank or other financial institution and may include:
- Accounting fraud;
- Demand draft fraud;
- Remotely created check fraud;
- Duplication or skimming of bank cards;
- Forged documents;
- Fraudulent loan applications;
- Check kiting;
- Money laundering; or
- Impersonation of a bank official.
Federal Sentencing Hearings
Whether you have decided to enter a guilty plea or you are heading to trial, your federal white collar criminal defense lawyer must be familiar with the federal sentencing guidelines and must be prepared to argue for the lowest possible sentence in the event that you are convicted.
Federal sentencing is a complex area of law where a simple mistake can cost a client years of his or her life – planning for federal sentencing involves many moving parts like:
- The sentencing range for the crime you are charged with, including any mandatory minimum sentences;
- Calculation of your criminal history category and base offense level;
- The total “loss amount” and how it will affect your offense level;
- Reductions in your offense level for things like acceptance of responsibility;
- Downward departures based on substantial assistance;
- When and how to ask for a variance (a reason for the Court to sentence you below the applicable guidelines range);
- When to object to the presentence investigation report; and
- Civil forfeitures.
Why prepare for sentencing if my case is going to trial?
First, you may decide not to go to trial at any point before your trial begins – you want your attorney to be prepared for every possible contingency, especially if it could affect your freedom.
Second, nothing is guaranteed in the federal criminal courts, and, no matter how solid a criminal case is, no attorney can promise that a jury will not convict. Again, you want your attorney to be prepared for every possible contingency, especially the ones that involve your freedom.
I’m Under Federal Investigation – What Should I Do?
When is the right time to call a white collar criminal defense lawyer? As soon as you suspect you are under investigation…
Do not speak to federal investigators until you have met with an experienced defense lawyer – if investigators are asking you for an interview, tell them you will get back to them quickly but you must call your attorney first. Do not answer any questions, and do not make any statements other than, “I need to talk to my attorney.”
Do not respond to a grand jury subpoena before talking to your white collar criminal defense attorney – if you are a potential target, you could do irrevocable damage by testifying without consulting your attorney first. If you think that you are only a witness, you may be surprised by how quickly a witness can become a defendant after testifying…
If you have been arrested and indicted, or are awaiting indictment, do not make any statements or give any interviews until you have met with your white collar criminal defense lawyer. Contact our office or have family or friends contact us immediately.
White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney in Columbia, SC
If you are facing allegations of white collar crime in federal court, we want to help – whether you believe you are under investigation or you have already been indicted.
For more information, call us at (803) 445-1333 or email us through our website to set up a consultation about your case.