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New Jersey Criminal Defense Blog

Not guilty pleas entered in college admissions case

New Jersey residents may be aware that Lori Laughlin and her husband were charged in connection with a scheme to pay $500,000 in bribes to a college admissions consultant. The bribes were intended to help their daughters get into the University of Southern California as members of the rowing team despite not being rowers. The charges include conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to the Department of Justice, the payments were made to an organization called Key Worldwide Foundation in 2016 and 2017. Money was also funneled to an individual who used to work in the school's athletic department. The indictment against the couple featured a conversation between Laughlin and a representative from Key Worldwide about the payments. Laughlin and her husband were among the 16 people who were charged in a broader college admissions scandal.

Federal extortion charges filed against celebrity lawyer

Lawyer Michael Avenatti has become famous to people throughout New Jersey and the rest of America for taking on President Donald Trump on behalf of his client, adult star Stormy Daniels. However, he is now facing legal difficulties of his own for allegedly attempting to extort $25 million from athletic-wear company Nike. Avenatti was arrested on March 25, only 15 minutes after posting a tweet about the company's alleged involvement in a bribery scheme involving payments to the families of high school basketball players.

According to federal prosecutors, Avenatti demanded that Nike pay him $15 to $25 million in purported legal fees. In exchange, he said that he would not release damaging information indicating that company officials were involved in the bribery scheme that earlier brought down Adidas executives. Prosecutors said that Avenatti was not legitimately representing a client in a legal matter but was simply trying to extort a substantial sum of money from the sneaker company. Excerpts from recorded conversations of his conversations with Nike's lawyers were included in prosecutors' arguments. Avenatti allegedly told the company's lawyers that he would force Nike's stock price to plummet through a public campaign if they did not pay him.

Parents caught in college cheating scheme

People in New Jersey might have already heard of the case involving well-off parents accused of cheating to get their kids into top tier universities illegally. Some wealthy parents, including prominent actors and CEOs, are charged with paying an independent consultant to fabricate their kids' credentials, both academic and athletic, as well as having the consultant bribe specific officials who might facilitate the kids' admission.

There are 33 parents so far involved in this case, all of whom paid generous amounts, which ranged between $200,000 to $6.5 million, to ensure that their kids got into the best schools, including Stanford and Yale. The parents were mainly charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest-services mail fraud, and even though some of them were taken into custody, they were later released on bonds.

17 arrested in New Jersey drug raid

A New Jersey drug raid on Feb. 21 led to 17 people being arrested on serious drug offenses. During the sweep in Seaside Heights, police seized stashes of heroin, cocaine, prescription medication and cannabis. This drug raid was the culmination of an investigation executed in tandem with the DEA.

Between them, the 17 arrested defendants were charged with dozens of felony charges. While most of these charges were drug-related, one defendant allegedly violated a New Jersey ban on owning a police scanner while engaging in criminal activity. The agencies involved in the arrests included the DEA's Atlantic City Resident Office, the NJSP Special Investigations Unit, the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office Narcotics Strike Force, Ocean County Regional SWAT teams, the Ocean County Sheriff's Department and the Ocean County Sheriff's Department K9 units.

New Jersey funds DWI patrols

A statement from the Hudson County Sheriff's Office attributed the arrest of an intoxicated driver with a loaded handgun to additional funding from the state. Since Jan. 1, a grant from the Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund has enabled the sheriff to increase DWI patrols. The grant pays for overtime and allows the law enforcement agency to have more patrol cars roving the area on the weekends. The sheriff said that the increased funding had already resulted in six additional drunk driving arrests and the capture of three people with outstanding warrants.

The out-of-state man arrested in Jersey City by one of the roving patrols nearly hit a parked sheriff's office patrol car before deputies pulled him over. The police report described his eyes as bloodshot when they stopped his black Nissan Pathfinder on Kennedy Boulevard.

How traffic tickets impact poor drivers

A study from Princeton University in New Jersey has found that traffic tickets tend to inflict more harm on lower income motorists. This was the main takeaway after analyzing the credit reports of 3.7 million drivers in Florida who were ticketed between 2011 and 2015. The average cost of a traffic ticket was $175 in addition to an extra $120 per year on average in higher insurance premiums.

Drivers who made the least money saw a 5 percent reduction in their income after being assessed a traffic citation. This led to an inability to borrow as well as other negative consequences such as accounts going to collections. Ultimately, the study concluded that communities may have more to lose by issuing traffic citations than they had to gain financially. Therefore, it may be worth looking into whether handing them out for offenses such as speeding necessarily makes sense in all areas.

Police raid alleged drug manufacturing facility

Prosecutors in New Jersey have announced that four area residents were taken into custody after police searched a Barnegat residence on Jan. 15. A 30-year-old man has been charged with using the home to manufacture drugs and a 36-year-old Toms River woman, a 30-year-old woman and a 29-year-old woman are all facing conspiracy charges. The Toms River woman is also facing a drug possession with the intent to distribute charge after police allegedly discovered narcotics while searching her car.

According to initial media reports, the searches were conducted after a two-month investigation involving the Toms River Police Department and the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office Narcotics Strike Force. Officers from the Ocean County Regional SWAT Team provided additional assistance. During the search of the Main Street residence, officers allegedly discovered 1,250 envelopes containing an undisclosed amount of heroin, about 20 grams of cocaine and approximately $1,650 in cash.

Former basketball coach faces federal charges

Hackensack fans of college basketball may be disturbed by the scandal affecting a former Auburn University assistant coach. On Jan. 3, a New York judge allowed a case to move forward against the former coach as well as an Atlanta clothing company owner. The coach is charged with accepting bribes from a financial adviser who was working with the FBI to direct athletes toward his services.

The former Auburn employee is facing a number of federal charges, including bribery, wire fraud and Travel Act conspiracy allegations. The judge said that these allegations are supported by sufficient evidence to move toward a jury trial. The clothing company owner is facing fewer charges, and the judge also allowed those allegations to move forward. The trial against both men, who pleaded not guilty, is scheduled to begin on Feb. 4 in New York City.

Lottery winner charged with gun and drug crimes

A 53-year-old man who won the New Jersey lottery twice was taken into custody on 37 charges. Many of the charges related to having illegal guns as part of a drug operation based in the man's home. The man's 22-year-old girlfriend was also taken into custody on several drug offenses. Authorities had originally stopped the man in his SUV at about 7:15 p.m. on Dec. 16.

Authorities said that the traffic stop occurred because the Jeep Wrangler only had one license plate. At the time, they recovered prescription pills, a bulletproof vest and two guns in the vehicle. A search of the man's high-rise unit turned up cocaine, marijuana cigarettes and more prescription pills. There was also documentation stating that the man owned a storage unit, which prompted authorities to conduct a search there as well. During that search on Dec. 18, large capacity magazines were found, and those are illegal in the state of New Jersey.

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