Worker gets almost 3 years in prison for stealing $1M from employer
Legal Topics | 2023/08/20 23:43
The former IT director of a Rhode Island metals fabrication company convicted of stealing more than $1 million from his employer and using the money for personal expenses was sentenced Monday to nearly three years in prison.

Juan Hicks, 47, of New Bedford, Massachusetts used his purchasing authority to bilk the company out of the money over a period of about 10 years, the U.S. attorney’s office in Rhode Island said in a statement.

While working at A.T. Wall Co. in Warwick, Hicks carried out his scheme in a variety of ways, prosecutors said.

He created false invoices and expense reports for purchases that were never made, and altered legitimate credit card statements to make purchases appear to be business expenses when they were really for personal expenses, authorities said.

He also issued company phones with wireless service to himself and six family members, and used company credit cards to buy airline and entertainment tickets for himself, as well as for retail purchases and auto repairs, prosecutors said.

His conduct came to light in March 2022 when his employer hired forensic analysts to determine the source of a cyberattack.

In addition to prison time he was also ordered to pay restitution. He pleaded guilty to wire fraud in March.


McCarthy floats stopgap funding to prevent a government shutdown
Legal Topics | 2023/08/16 23:38
Congressional leaders are pitching a stopgap government funding package to avoid a federal shutdown after next month, acknowledging the House and Senate are nowhere near agreement on spending levels to keep federal operations running.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy raised the idea of a months-long funding package, known as a continuing resolution, to House Republicans on a members-only call Monday evening, according to those familiar with the private session and granted anonymity to discuss it.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the two leaders had spoken about such a temporary measure. It would extend federal funding operations into December to allow more time to work on the annual spending bills.

“I thought it was a good thing that he recognized that we need a CR,” Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters on a call. “We hope that our House Republicans will realize that any funding resolution has to be bipartisan or they will risk shutting down the government,” he said.

A stopgap measure that would keep government offices running past the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year is a typical strategy while the Republican-held House and Democrat-held Senate try to iron out a long-term budget agreement. The government’s new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, when funding approval is needed to avert closures of federal offices.

But this year, the task may prove more politically difficult. McCarthy will need to win over a large portion of his Republican colleagues to pass the stopgap bill or risk political blowback from staunch conservatives if he leaves them behind and cuts a bipartisan deal with Democrats.

Conservatives, including many from the House Freedom Caucus, are usually loathe to get behind short-term funding measures as they push for steeper spending cuts, using the threat of a shutdown as leverage.



Bankruptcy Filings Rise 10%, and Courts Feel the Pinch
Legal Topics | 2023/08/02 17:30
Personal and business bankruptcy filings rose 10 percent in the twelve-month period ending June 30, 2023, compared with the previous year.  Bankruptcy totals are reported four times annually by the U.S. government.

According to statistics released by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, annual bankruptcy filings totaled 418,724 in the year ending June 2023, compared with 380,634 cases in the previous year.

Business filings rose 23.3 percent, from 12,748 to 15,724 in the year ending June 30, 2023. Non-business bankruptcy filings rose 9.5 percent to 403,000, compared with 367,886 in the previous year.

On a broader scale, according to the newest statistics released by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, annual bankruptcy filings totaled 418,724 in the year ending June 2023, compared with 380,634 cases in the previous year.

Bankruptcy totals for the previous 12 months are reported four times annually. Filings over any 12-month period have increased only rarely since filings peaked in 2010. Bankruptcies fell sharply after the pandemic began in early 2020, despite some early COVID-related disruptions to the economy.


Trump’s Lawyers Meet With Prosecutors as Election Interference Charges Loom
Legal Topics | 2023/07/30 03:35
Lawyers for Donald Trump were meeting Thursday with members of special counsel Jack Smith’s team as a potential indictment loomed over the former president’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The meeting included Trump lawyer John Lauro, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to The Associated Press to describe a private gathering. Trump earlier this month was informed by Smith’s office that he was a target of the Justice Department’s investigation, suggesting that an indictment could be soon.

The investigation has focused on the turbulent two month-period after the November 2020 election in which Trump refused to accept his loss to Joe Biden and spread lies that victory was stolen from him. The turmoil resulted in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, when Trump loyalists violently broke into the building, attacked police officers and disrupted the congressional counting of electoral votes. More than 1,000 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Capitol riot.

In between the election and the riot, Trump urged local election officials to undo voting results in their states, pressured Vice President Mike Pence to halt the certification of electoral votes and falsely claimed that the election had been stolen — despite the fact that numerous federal and local officials, a long list of courts, top former campaign staffers and even his own attorney general have all said there is no evidence of the fraud he alleges.

A spokesman for Smith declined to comment on Thursday’s meeting.

Trump was charged by Smith’s team last month with illegally hoarding classified documents at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate, Mar-a-Lago, and concealing them from investigators. He was also indicted in New York in March on charges of falsifying business records in connection with an alleged hush money payment to a porn actor. And prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia, are preparing to announce charging decisions in the coming weeks related to efforts to subvert the election in that state.





White House is taking on corporate mergers, landlord junk fees
Legal Topics | 2023/07/20 15:28
The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed new guidelines for corporate mergers, took steps to disclose the junk fees charged by landlords and launched a crackdown on price-gouging in the food industry.

The announcements will be discussed as part of President Joe Biden’s scheduled meeting with the White House Competition Council, a group of officials established under a 2021 executive order.

The council has focused on creating more transparency for consumers and finding approaches to limit the concentration of industries in ways that the Biden administration says lead to higher prices and hurt the ability of start-ups and small businesses to grow. Republican lawmakers and some business group critics counter that the Democratic president’s effort will lead to greater regulatory costs that leave the economy worse off.

The Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are proposing revised guidelines for how they evaluate mergers. Their goal is to provide more clarity on the impact mergers can have on workers and to update the guidance for a digital economy that is shaped by companies such as Apple, Amazon, Alphabet and Meta.

The government first issued its guidance on mergers in 1968. Officials stressed that the new guidance conforms to the laws set by Congress and the precedents of court rulings.

Republican lawmakers have accused FTC Chair Lina Khan of “harassing” Twitter since it was acquired by billionaire Elon Musk. They say her push to break up the concentration of corporate power amounts to government interference in business practices.


Louisiana Senate passes bill banning gender-affirming care
Legal Topics | 2023/07/17 12:20
A controversial bill — that at one point had been presumed dead — banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender youths in Louisiana was passed by the Senate on Monday and is likely to reach the governor’s desk in the coming days.

The bill, which passed in the Senate mainly along party lines, 29-10, would prohibit hormone treatments, gender-affirming surgery and puberty-blocking drugs for transgender minors in Louisiana. The measure will go back to the House, which has already overwhelmingly passed the legislation, to approve of minor amendments, including pushing back the effective date of the law to Jan. 1, 2024.

If the House concurs, the legislation would be sent to the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who opposes it. Edwards has not said whether he would veto the bill. If he does, lawmakers could convene a veto session to try to override his decision. Last session, Edwards chose not to block a law banning transgender athletes from participating in women and girls sports competitions in Louisiana, although he successfully vetoed a similar measure the year before.

The proposed gender-affirming care ban gained national attention last month when a Senate committee voted to kill the bill. Longtime Republican state Sen. Fred Mills was the tiebreaker vote, opposing the legislation citing that he “relied on science and data and not political or societal pressures.”

In a year when restrictions and prohibitions on gender-affirming care for transgender youths has been a priority on conservative agendas — with at least 18 states enacting laws limiting or banning the medical care, including all three of Louisiana’s bordering states — the rejection of the controversial legislation did not go unnoticed.




Amazon pushes back against Europe’s pioneering new digital rules
Legal Topics | 2023/07/13 17:24
Amazon is disputing its status as a big online platform that needs to face stricter scrutiny under European Union digital rules taking effect next month, the first Silicon Valley tech giant to push back on the pioneering new standards.

The online retailer filed a legal challenge with a top European Union court, arguing it’s being treated unfairly by being designated a “very large online platform” under the 27-nation bloc’s sweeping Digital Services Act.

Amazon, whose filing to the European General Court was made available Tuesday, is the second company to protest the classification. German online retailer Zalando filed a legal claim two weeks ago with a similar argument.

The Digital Services Act imposes new obligations on the biggest tech companies to keep users safe from illegal content and dodgy products, with violations punishable by potentially billions in fines or even a ban on operating in the EU.

The rules, which will take effect on Aug. 25, are expected to help Europe maintain its place as standard setter in global efforts to rein in the power of social media companies and other digital platforms.

Seattle-based Amazon is one of 19 companies classed as the largest online platforms and search engines under the DSA, which means they will have to better police their services to protect European users from hate speech, disinformation and other harmful online content.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, declined to comment directly on the case, saying it would defend its position in court.



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