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Wisconsin Fraud, Criminal and White-Collar Criminal Investigation Blog

Protection from future tax fraud starts with vigilance now

It may seem hard to believe, but Tax Day is officially upon us. That means if you haven't yet filed your return or mailed it to the Internal Revenue Service, you'd better log onto the Internet to finish them (or at least request an extension), or head to the local post office to get your return postmarked and mailed.

While most people accompany the completion of their taxes with a sigh of relief knowing that everything has been taken care of and perhaps even a sense of excitement about an impending refund, recent statistics show that this sense of overwhelming peace may be short-lived.

That's because more and more taxpayers are continuing to be victimized by tax fraud, meaning those situations where online scammers use a person's name and stolen Social Security number to file a fake W-2 online and have the impending tax refund deposited into an online account.

Prosecutors accuse Waukesha woman of providing illegal dental care

dentist.jpgAs most parents are all too aware, the costs of dental care -- particularly orthodontia -- can quickly move from being otherwise manageable to incredibly high. It is because of this reality, in fact, that many parents opt to secure loans to pay for their child's braces or simply forfeit the idea due to financial constraints.

Still other parents, however, desperately want their children to have a beautiful smile and will do everything in their power to ensure this happens despite having a limited budget. Unfortunately, this may mean that they turn to people who are not qualified to perform the necessary work, a move that can present real health hazards.

To illustrate, consider a recent case in Waukesha, where a 36-year-old woman is facing a multitude of criminal charges stemming from the harm that prosecutors say she caused to a 13-year-old boy while practicing dentistry without a license.

Legislative package targeting heroin, opiates signed into law

herione.jpgAbuse of heroin and other opiates (i.e., prescription painkillers) has rapidly reached epidemic levels here in Wisconsin in not just the criminal sense, but the public health sense as well.

Indeed, statistics from the state Department of Justice reveal that the number of heroin-related arrests rose by 79 percent from 2010 to 2012, reaching an unbelievable 671, while the overall amount of heroin handed over to the State Crime Lab doubled during this same timeframe. Similarly, state Department of Health Services statistics reveal that the number of deaths in which heroin was identified as a contributing factor went from 25 in 2003 to 134 in 2011.

Secrecy surrounds law enforcement's cellphone tracking capabilities

smartphone2.jpgThis past February, the state legislature passed a bill concerning the ability of law enforcement agents here in Wisconsin to use cellphone tracking technology in criminal cases. The bill, which has yet to be signed into law by Governor Scott Walker, calls for law enforcement to secure a search warrant before using the technology in the overwhelming majority of criminal cases.

While many lauded the measure, others were quick to point out its limitations. Specifically, they were concerned that the bill failed to go far enough in that it calls for altogether fewer limits on search warrants for cellphone tracking as compared with standard search warrants.

Interestingly enough, the discussion over the adequacy of this law and the general cellphone tracking capabilities of law enforcement agencies here in the Dairy State has taken on a new urgency following the recent revelation that many agencies have used a device called Stingray to secretly track the cellphone locations of suspects in real time.

Study finds no real link between crime and medical marijuana

medical Mara.jpgWhile the debate over medical marijuana is alive and well in neighboring Minnesota, it appears as if it is not even on the radar of lawmakers here in Wisconsin during the current legislative session.

This may have something to do with that fact that lawmakers have more pressing issues with which to deal during the closing days of the session or the fact that medical marijuana is a decidedly hot-button topic that many lawmakers are hesitant to broach over fears about what such an action might ultimately mean for the state.

Some of these fears undoubtedly revolve the idea that the legalization of marijuana for even medicinal purposes will somehow lead to a jump in crime throughout the Dairy State.

Appleton PD wants drug paraphernalia out of convenience stores

drug para.jpgFrom chips and soda to tobacco products and lottery tickets, there are certain items that we automatically associate with all convenience stores. Interestingly enough, however, law enforcement officials in one Wisconsin city are now claiming that there are other potentially illegal items sitting on the shelves of many of its convenience stores.

The Appleton Police Department recently sent a letter to the owners of area convenience stores asking them to engage in a little spring cleaning by removing items from their establishments that could otherwise be used to conceal, alter or even inhale illegal drugs.

In other words, the police department is asking them to remove items that could be classified as drug paraphernalia.

According to legal experts, compliance with state law as it relates to the sale of drug paraphernalia is not always 100 percent clear. That's because the police and the courts will typically consider a variety of circumstances when determining what constitutes drug paraphernalia such as instructions concerning its use and the existence of what could otherwise be considered legitimate uses for the object, to name only a few.

Reactions mixed as drunk driving legislation fails to advance

drink and drive.jpgIn our last post, we discussed how Wisconsin lawmakers had sent several significant criminal law-related bills to the desk of Governor Scott Walker in the waning days of the current legislative session.

One of these bills, approved by the Senate on a voice vote, would mandate that those convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated for a seventh, eighth or ninth time would have to spend at least three years in prison, while those convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated for a tenth time would have to spend at least four years in prison.

Interestingly, this was the only bill out of a rather sizeable OWI-related legislative package to make it through the session. Indeed, a bill that would have changed state law such that a first-offense OWI would be treated as a misdemeanor instead of a traffic offense and another bill that would have mandated the installation of ignition interlocks devices (i.e., breathalyzers) for motorists charged with drunk driving both failed to gain the necessary legal traction.

Fate of several crime bills uncertain as legislative session closes

Gavel.jpgNow that the calendar says spring is officially here, Wisconsin residents will soon start seeing more and more signs of the changing season. For instance, the next few weeks will bring glimpses of budding plants and trees, green grass and returning songbirds. Of course, it will also bring another sight: both Senators and Representatives leaving the Capitol.

As hard as it may be to believe, the current legislative session is scheduled to come to an end over the next few weeks, meaning state lawmakers are busy deciding whether certain bills will get a floor hearing and, if so, whether they will make their way to the desk of Governor Scott Walker.

In today's post, we'll take a brief look at the current status of a few of the more significant criminal law-related bills.

WisDOT's Drive Sober app seeing considerable downloads

drive sober.jpgAs much as people may not like to admit it, their smartphones now occupy a pretty prominent place in their lives. For instance, if you were to walk onto any bus, visit any office or sit in any park here in Milwaukee, there's a pretty good chance that you would see someone with their head bent down looking at their smartphone screen.

This reliance on smartphone is so great that if you were to enter a bar or tavern -- places typically associated with vibrant social interaction -- there's also a pretty good chance you'd see the same thing.

Interestingly enough, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has been cashing in on this phenomenon for well over a year, offering a smartphone app that it hopes bar patrons throughout the state will regularly access while out for a night on the town -- even if it comes at the expense of conversation.

Government wants man's property after fraud conviction

Gavel.jpgIf a person has been convicted of fraud or some other white collar crime, then authorities may choose to go after any assets that the defendant allegedly gained as a result of the crime. The government seeks ownership of such assets through forfeiture lawsuits, which are often filed while people convicted of white collar crimes are confined to prison.

Consider the case of a man who pleaded guilty to using other people's IDs to commit tax fraud. He and five other individuals reportedly received about $3.4 million in tax refunds by using what authorities say is an increasingly common method of fraud: Puerto Rican identity theft.

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