Being charged in federal court in the Southern or Eastern District of New York – or any federal court – with stealing government property (18 U.S.C § 641) is an incredibly serious crime. And while many of the best criminal attorneys in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Westchester and Long Island can discuss these cases, very few can actually say they’ve represented a defendant in one of the most serious such cases ever charged by the government: the theft of proprietary software code from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York by a Chinese national computer programmer, who was initially thought to be a spy. The software code cost nearly $10 million to develop and was used to track the federal government’s finances. Making matters worse, our client had already confessed the crime prior to hiring us and had also engaged in federal immigration fraud. With all these complicating factors and facing up to 10 years in prison, the situation seemed hopeless to many. However, hard work and perseverance caused a much different than expected result.
From a Chinese Spy to a Non-Custodial Sentence
In this very serious cyber theft case, the government initially had offered a plea deal calling for an approximate jail sentence of five years. The main stumbling block was convincing the prosecutors that while the software code may have cost nearly $10 million to develop, the loss of money to the government was zero: the code had not been sold or even offered for sale by our client. And the loss to the victim is what drove the recommended sentence as determined by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines: a loss to the government of the nearly $10 million figure triggered an advisory sentencing range of 57-71 months when factoring in the belief that the crime was benefiting a foreign government. Without the belief that our client was a spy, and reducing the loss figure to zero, the defendant’s advisory sentencing range was 12-18 months, even taking into account the immigration fraud committed by our client.
Eventually the prosecutors agreed: satisfied that our client was not a spy and agreeing that they could not prove a loss figure of nearly $10 million, let alone $1. While all that was well and good, we still were required to convince the judge that our client deserved leniency, i.e. a non-custodial setence. This would not be easy considering the Court would see before him a Chinese citizen who had been privileged to come to America for an education and entrusted with a government job — and then had stolen a valuable and important piece of government software code, and compounded his transgressions by committing immigration fraud via the submission of false documents to immigration authorities to help foreign nationals obtain visas to enter and work in the United States.
Having an experienced criminal attorney who has represented hundreds of clients in federal courts all across the country actually matters: we submitted a highly detailed sentencing memorandum filled with character letters and argued that our client was not motivated by money but instead was simply curious as to how the software worked, that he had suffered through a highly unusual childhood, and was otherwise a kind and generous man. Before announcing his sentence, the Judge stated that “What I find troubling here is the continuing acts of illegal conduct.” Nevertheless, the Judge sentenced our client to six months of house arrest and probation, an incredibly generous and lenient sentence, down from the advisory sentencing range of 12-18 months. The government had requested a sentence within that 12-18 months range.
Call a Top Cyber Theft Attorney Today
If you or a family member are charged in Connecticut, New Jersey, Westchester, Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan or any New York federal or state court with stealing government property or any charge involving theft, fraud, embezzlement, stolen property, deceit, counterfeit instruments, property damage or destruction give us a call at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman and speak to an experienced New York fraud defense attorney about your case. Do not feel hopeless, do not feel resigned: with hard work and determination any bad legal situation can be made better. Call us at (212) 581-1001 today.