Federal Conspiracy Charges Can Result in Prison Sentences
A South Florida affordable housing contractor pled guilty earlier this month to a conspiracy to commit theft charge. He will be sentenced later this year and faces a potential sentence of several years in jail. The defendant is accused of conspiring with others to over-inflate the estimated cost of affordable housing projects in order to receive larger subsidies from the federal government. The conspirators would then pocket the excess difference between the actual cost of the project and the amount of subsidies received.
Federal Conspiracy Charges Are Difficult to Defend Against
Under federal law, a conspiracy occurs whenever two or more people enter into an agreement to commit a federal crime of any type and then one or more of the conspirators takes some action to carry out the objective of the conspiracy. This is a very wide definition, making conspiracy charges easier to prove than some other federal crimes. By way of illustration, a prosecutor does not need to prove:
- That the conspirators entered into any formal agreement, written or verbal. Evidence that two or more people were colluding with one another or supporting one another’s efforts can be used to infer that a conspiracy existed.
- That the conspirators had even met one another. Merely being aware that there was someone else involved and working toward a common goal can be enough to support a conspiracy conviction.
- That the conspiracy succeeded. All that is required for conviction is evidence that some step toward carrying out the goal of the conspiracy was made. In the case of the South Florida contractor, for instance, evidence that one of the conspiracy members lied in completing an application to receive subsidies would be enough to support a conspiracy conviction.
- That you were the one to take a step in furtherance of the conspiracy.
What Defenses Are Available to Conspiracy Charges?
Aside from attacking the strength of the evidence used to prove the elements of the offense, a common defense raised to conspiracy charges is that the defendant withdrew from the conspiracy or no longer associated with the other conspiracy members at the time criminal activity took place. While withdrawal is a valid defense to a conspiracy charge, the evidence needed to support the charge goes beyond simply your testimony that you were not associating with other conspiracy members. Instead, there must be clear evidence that you communicated your intention to withdraw to the other members and you must usually do so before an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy has taken place.
Contact Jeffrey S. Weiner for Assistance
Federal criminal defense attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner knows that criminal defendants charged with federal crimes like conspiracy are in a precarious position. Experienced and aggressive legal defense counsel is usually necessary to investigate defenses to conspiracy charges and to locate and present the evidence necessary to prevail. Contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, Florida federal criminal defense attorney, today for a free case evaluation by calling (305) 670-9919.