Olympic Gold Mine for Criminals?

Despite the addition of 9,500 officers to London’s police force and nearly double that amount of soldiers being deployed in and around the Olympic venues for security purposes, the 2012 Olympic Games are expected to attract not just 320,000 visitors, but a horde of criminals as well. The crimes range from simple pick-pocketing by Dippers, as they’re called in Cockney slang, to ticket fraud and even building/construction fraud.

Pick-pocketing may not seem like anything out of the ordinary, but at the Olympics it is allegedly being perpetrated on a grand scale by an invasion of so-called "Eastern European Gangs." One estimate is that approximately 1,700 people per day fall victim to this crime at the Olympics. Here on this side of "the Pond," pick-pocketing would likely fall under larceny (under $250 or over $250 depending on the circumstances), or Jostling in NY, where I am also licensed to practice, and could land the light fingered fiend in prison for as much as 5 years if it’s over $250.

Ticket fraud is more visible, but no less nefarious. It comes in several forms: scalping or touting as it is called in the U.K., fraud, larceny, or theft in the U.S. Fraudulent tickets sales occur on the street and over the internet, with entire sites dedicated to the sale of fake or unauthorized tickets. It is a multi-billion dollar industry. Here we have a range of state and federal statutes that address such crimes including those crimes enumerated in Mass. Gen. Laws. chs. 266 & 267 and those encompassed by 18 U.S.C. chs. 47 & 63.

London officials claim that despite the millions of dollars lost in connection with ticket fraud, that pales in comparison to the losses sustained in construction fraud and procurement fraud — whether perpetrated by organized crime or just as well organized crimes. As a former prosecutor who handled numerous cases involving alleged mob-related activity or activities associated with La Cosa Nostra here in the U.S., I am no stranger to organized criminal activity. However, as long-time criminal defense attorney who concentrates in fraud (wire, mail, bank/mortgage and health care in particular), among many other types of criminal defense cases, I can also attest that many state and federal fraud investigations are extremely broad "reaches" that may be improperly premised on misinterpretation, exaggeration, and misunderstanding (often of routine and customary practices of the industry involved — about which the accusers may be learning "on the fly"). In short, misguided fraud prosecutions sometimes amount to little more than governmental interference with legitimate business transactions. Indeed, it’s relatively easy for the government to label any series of convoluted and complex transactions a fraudulent scheme (or "artifice"), and it’s even easier for them to ascribe just about anything related as an "act in furtherance thereof." However, just because they say it’s so, doesn’t make it so.

While proof of a scheme or artifice to defraud, and acts in furtherance thereof, are separate and essential elements of any fraud case (believe it or not, actual profit or enrichment is not) which must each be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, there is the additional element of a fraudulent intent that must also be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s this third essential element that often provides the government the most trouble and defense attorneys like me who concentrate in defending fraud/white collar cases the best opportunity to defend against the government’s sometimes baseless accusations. (Last I checked, there is no CT scan to affirmatively prove the thoughts inside someone’s head; and for the most part the government is forced to rely on circumstantial evidence to prove this difficult element.)

So yes, while the buyer should, in fact, always beware, especially in a "target-rich" environment like the Olympics, the so-called target should also know the applicable law and elements of proof. A seasoned fraud attorney like me knows that just because the government claims conduct is fraudulent doesn’t necessarily mean it is… and sometimes "the wolf in sheep’s clothing" is none other than the government agent knocking on your door.

While undoubtedly there will be Dippers and fraudsters a-plenty drawn to the glitz and glory of London during the Olympics, not all of those accused are guilty of trying to run, swim, or sail off with the proverbial gold… but if they are charged, they are going to need an experienced white collar criminal defense attorney at the podium when they face their own (seemingly olympic) trials.

If you have been accused of a crime and you need a lawyer to represent you please contact Brad Bailey at 781-589-2828