Articles Posted in Internet Crimes

“Moving forward, our office will continue to pursue stiff penalties [for child pornography cases] …”

That was the strong message delivered by Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy on November 20, 2023, following the sentencing of Patrick Wojahn. Wojahn, the former mayor of College Park, pled guilty to 140 counts of possession and/or distribution of child pornography and was subsequently sentenced to 30 years in prison. The prosecutor assigned to that case explained during the sentencing hearing, “The reason why he pled to 140 counts was because our office is not going to take a position as to which child deserves to have their rape—that was memorialized on video and forever lives on the internet—pled to.”

So, you can imagine the angst my client felt when he learned on December 7, 2023—just a little over two weeks after the Wojahn sentencing—that he had been indicted with the same criminal offenses, in the same jurisdiction, by the same prosecutor. Like Wojahn, my client had no prior criminal record, was well-educated, a devoted family man with a good paying job. Yet here he was facing the possibility of decades in prison.

As a Maryland Criminal Attorney, I often represent people charged with Internet crimes such as solicitation of a minor for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity. I was recently retained in such a case in Baltimore County Circuit Court wherein my client is charged not with soliciting a minor on the Internet, but instead with soliciting an undercover detective posing as a minor. These types of cases have become priorities for state and federal authorities in recent years and are taken very seriously. My client has been offered a plea bargain wherein the state would seek five years in prison. My client has been advised that if he fails to accept this plea agreement he will be indicted federally where he will face a mandatory 10 year, non-parolable sentence if convicted. To further complicate matters, my client is a foreign national who is married to an American citizen and has two American born children. Although he does have a green card, he never bothered to become an American citizen and is thus subject to deportation should he be convicted.

This is certainly not the first time I’ve ever had a case like this but I recall that the first time I did have such a case that my first thought were that defenses of impossibility and/or entrapment may very well apply. Well, according to the Maryland Court of Appeals, the impossibility defense does not apply in this cases and entrapment will be difficult to prove. More on the law shortly but first, here are the facts of the case:
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Our firm has represented both doctors and and Web sites who are under investigation or have been charged with prescribing controlled substances via the Web.

The growing number of Web sites that offer consumers the opportunity to obtain prescription medications pursuant to an online medical consultation have been attracting considerable regulatory scrutiny from state and federal health officials.

For example, in Illinois, the Department of Professional Regulation suspended the license of Dr. Robert Filice for prescribing Viagra via an Internet pharmacy for patients he had never seen. Dr. Filice was working as a consultant for The Pill Box, a San Antonio, Texas-based pharmacy chain that sells online. The state suspended Dr. Filice’s license immediately because it determined his actions put people in danger. The agency later reinstated his license when he admitted that his conduct was “unprofessional.” The physician was fined $1,000, put on a two-year probation, and ordered to not prescribe medication to patients without personally interviewing and examining them.

Patients who wanted a prescription drug like Viagra logged onto The Pill Box’s site and filled out a health questionnaire. The completed form went to the company’s medical consultants, including Dr. Filice, who would reviewed the forms, and, if he found no health conditions that would preclude him from prescribing the drug, he would write a prescription for the drug, which the Pill Box would fill.

Many state legislators have passed or are considering bills to regulate online and mail-order pharmacies that sell products in the state. The laws would require Internet pharmacies to register with the state annually.

Recent enforcement actions in several other states highlighted below are indicative of this increased scrutiny at the state level:

• In Washington, the Board of Health fined an orthopedic surgeon $500 for engaging in “unprofessional conduct” by writing Viagra prescriptions for patients without performing a physical examination.

• In California, state regulators recently shut down two web and by a San Diego osteopath who was using the Web to prescribe baldness treatments without performing a traditional medical examination. The state is likely to fine the doctor, who has been practicing medicine for nearly a quarter-century, and could take away his license.

• In Kansas, the Attorney General on June 9 filed civil petitions alleging violations of consumer protection laws against seven companies that were selling prescription-only medications, including Viagra and weight-loss drugs, over the Internet. The Attorney General alleged that the companies violated a variety of state laws. Primarily, the alleged misdeeds stem from the distribution of prescription drugs by a doctor or pharmacist who was not licensed in the state. The state went after not only the sites that prescribe the medications, but also three pharmacies that filled the prescriptions. One of the suits alleges that Viagra was illegally dispensed to a 16-year old boy using his mother’s credit card. If found liable, the companies could face penalties of $5,000 to $10,000 per violation.
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U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz today imposed a sentence of five-years probation in a Child Pornography possession case in United States District Court for the District of Maryland. Federal Sentencing Guidelines had called for a sentence of between 57 – 71 months incarceration. Federal prosecutors had argued that the client should be jailed for 57 months. STSW attorneys Andrew C. White & Susan Q. Amiot were able to convince Judge Motz to not follow the sentencing guidelines and impose a non-jail sentence because of the client’s extraordinary rehabilitation since the offense and his strong family support. This case is a significant success story and reflects how a well-crafted sentencing presentation focusing on post-offense rehabilitation and strong family support can result in tremendous success in federal court.

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