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Hamilton Arendsen
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Dr. Nick Oberheiden
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Lynette Byrd
Former Assistant
U.S. Attorney

Public Corruption Attorneys Serving the New Orleans Area

Allegations of public corruption can ruin your reputation, disqualify you from holding public office, and lead to substantial fines and long-term imprisonment. If you are under investigation or facing charges in New Orleans, Oberheiden, P.C.’s federal defense team can protect you.

If you are a federal, state, or local public official in New Orleans and you are being accused of public corruption, you need to take your situation very seriously. The United States’ federal public corruption laws apply to politicians and other officials at all levels of government, and they impose severe penalties which include substantial fines, long-term imprisonment, and disqualification from public service.

The nation’s public corruption laws present risks for business owners and company executives who offer bribes to public officials as well. Those who offer bribes can face the same penalties as those who accept them, and the specific amount and purpose of the bribe are both immaterial to an individual’s criminal culpability.

Experienced Defense Lawyers Representing Public Officials and Private Citizens in New Orleans, Louisiana

Oberheiden, P.C. is a federal criminal defense law firm with a national presence. We represent public officials, business owners, company executives, and other clients in New Orleans and nationwide who are facing serious federal allegations. With a team that includes nationally-renowned defense lawyers, former U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors, and the only former federal trial judge currently in private practice, we offer our clients centuries of relevant legal experience and a proven track record of success.

Our firm is comprised entirely of senior attorneys who concentrate their practice on federal defense. We have successfully represented clients in investigations, grand jury proceedings, and federal criminal trials around the country, including in New Orleans, Louisiana. Due to the potential for severe, life-altering consequences, public corruption investigations require prompt and aggressive intervention, and our attorneys are available to begin working on cases in New Orleans immediately.

Strategic Defense of Public Corruption and Bribery Allegations

Of course, prompt intervention is just the first step in a comprehensive defense strategy. From determining the source of the allegations against you to negotiating with prosecutors and, if necessary, presenting your case to a jury at trial, our attorneys provide strategic defense representation for all stages of the federal prosecutorial process. We tailor our representation to the specific factual circumstances at hand, and we emphasize efficiency in order to resolve our clients’ cases as quickly and quietly as possible.

We represent public officials and private citizens in New Orleans facing federal investigations, grand jury subpoenas, and criminal prosecution for allegations of:

  • Receiving a bribe by a public official (18 U.S.C. Section 201(b)(2))
  • Receiving an illegal gratuity by a public official (18 U.S.C. Section 201(c)(1)(B))
  • Theft of government money or property (18 U.S.C. Section 641)
  • Offering or paying a bribe (18 U.S.C. Section 201(b)(1))
  • Conspiracy to commit an offense or defraud the United States (18 U.S.C. Section 371)

Q&A with Oberheiden, P.C.’s Federal Public Corruption Defense Lawyers

Q: What politicians and government employees qualify as “public officials” for purposes of the federal public corruption statutes?

Under 18 U.S.C. Section 201, a public official includes any, “Member of Congress, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner, either before or after such official has qualified, or an officer or employee or person acting for or on behalf of the United States, or any department, agency or branch of Government thereof, including the District of Columbia, in any official function, under or by authority of any such department, agency, or branch of Government, or a juror.” The statute also applies to any, “person who has been selected to be a public official,” even if he or she has not begun to serve in an official capacity.

State and local public officials can face federal prosecution for public corruption as well. This includes elected officials, appointed officials, and other government and agency personnel.

Q: What are the federal penalties for public corruption?

The penalties for public corruption vary depending upon the specific allegations involved. Under Sections 201 and 641 of the U.S. Code of Crimes and Criminal Procedure, potential penalties include:

  • Receiving a bribe by a public official – Statutory fines or financial penalties equal to three times the monetary equivalent of the thing of value received (whichever is greater), up to 15 years of federal imprisonment, and disqualification from public service.
  • Receiving an illegal gratuity by a public official – Statutory fines and up to two years of federal imprisonment.
  • Theft of government money or property – In cases involving $1,000 or more in value, statutory fines and up to 10 years of federal imprisonment. In cases involving less than $1,000 in value, statutory fines and up to one year of federal imprisonment.

Q: What are the federal penalties for bribing a public official?

The penalties for private citizens accused of bribing a public official are the same as those for officials accused of public corruption: Statutory fines or financial penalties equal to three times the monetary equivalent of the thing of value received (whichever is greater), up to 15 years of federal imprisonment, and disqualification from public service.

  • A man working for Point Coupee Parish was arrested for his alleged role in defrauding the public. According to the charging documents, the man is an account clerk responsible for maintaining public roads and is alleged to have stolen money from the collection of traffic tickets. The charging document alleges the man would access the parish computer system and take money that was kept in accounts from when citizens would pay traffic tickets. It is alleged the employee took over $6,000. To cover his tracks, the employee would delete transactions in the computer and try to make it appear as though the money had been properly accounted for. As a result of this scheme, the man is charged with felony theft, malfeasance in office and computer fraud.
  • A former mayor in Louisiana pleaded guilty for her role in an offense that misappropriated public funds. According to the plea agreement, the former mayor took money out of public fund account and used the money for her personal expenses. In an attempt to conceal her illegal diversion of these funds, the former mayor falsified public records in order to make the money look like it paid for business expenses related to her duties as mayor. As a result of the plea agreement, the former mayor was convicted of two counts of malfeasance in office. The former mayor will not serve any prison time but was placed on probation and will be required to pay restitution to the town in the amount of money she originally took.
  • A former mayor in Louisiana has been arrested on charges public corruption stemming from allegations that he misused public funds while in office. According to the allegations, the former mayor also served as an assistant fire chief and was in charge of the fire department’s financial accounts. The former mayor allegedly abused his signatory authority on the fire department’s bank account and withdrew funds to use for personal expenses. The former mayor is also alleged to have a taken a credit card out under the fire department’s operating account and would also use the credit card for personal expenses as well.
  • A former parish president in Louisiana was indicted on charges of public corruption. According to charging documents, the former parish president allegedly was involved in a scheme to bribe a possible city council member from dropping out of the city council race. In exchange for the city council candidate dropping out of the race, the former parish president allegedly paid the candidate cash and offered him political favors.
  • A former state official in Louisiana has been charged relating to his involvement with public corruption. According to charging documents, the individual accused worked for the Louisiana Department of Health and is accused of misappropriating federal grant funds given to the Department. The individual allegedly used the grant money to fund a business he ran as a private citizen. Based on his conduct, the individual is charged with public bribery, malfeasance in office, theft and money laundering.

Q: Can I be prosecuted for offering or soliciting (but not actually paying or receiving) a bribe?

Yes. Under 18 U.S.C. Section 201, public officials and private citizens can face the same penalties for offering, promising, demanding, and seeking bribes as they can for actually paying or receiving illegal forms of payment. Additionally, under the federal conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. Section 371, public officials and private citizens can face statutory fines and up to five years of federal imprisonment even in circumstances where no formal offer or demand has been made. Section 371 is extraordinarily broad, and it is one of federal prosecutors’ most-potent weapons for targeting multiple individuals in public corruption investigations.

Q: What are some potential defenses to allegations of offering, soliciting, paying, or receiving an illegal bribe?

Depending upon the circumstances at hand and the evidence available to federal prosecutors, there are several potential defenses to allegations of public corruption, bribery, and conspiracy. Some of the most-common defenses to criminal culpability include:

  • Lack of Intent – Intent is a fundamental element of the crime of public corruption; and, if federal prosecutors cannot prove that you intended to act in an unlawful manner, then you do not deserve to be convicted of a federal offense.
  • Lack of Evidence – As in all criminal cases, in public corruption and bribery cases, the government has the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If prosecutors do not have the evidence they need to convict you (and if you adequately protect yourself by asserting your privilege against self-incrimination and raising appropriate challenges to warrants and subpoenas), you do not need to prove your innocence in order to avoid a conviction.
  • Constitutional Violations – Evidence obtained through unconstitutional means is inadmissible in federal court. If federal investigators conducted an improper warrantless search or seizure, failed to read your Miranda rights, or committed any other constitutional violations, federal prosecutors may not have the admissible evidence they need to secure a conviction.
  • Coercion or Entrapment – For private citizens accused of bribery, coercion and entrapment are potential defenses as well. If you felt obligated to give a “gift” or you were unduly influenced into making a “donation,” this may provide a defense to criminal culpability.

Under varying circumstances, each of these defenses may provide complete or partial protection against federal prosecution. Once again depending upon the specific circumstances involved, potential outcomes include:

  • Avoiding Criminal Charges
  • Charges Dismissed
  • Maintaining Public Office
  • Civil Fine Without Criminal Prosecution
  • Misdemeanor (Rather than Felony) Conviction
  • No Prison Time

5 Reasons to Choose Oberheiden, P.C. in New Orleans

1. A Team of Senior Attorneys.

Every attorney at Oberheiden, P.C. has significant experience in federal investigations and trial litigation. Our team approach affords each client the full benefit of our attorneys’ collective experience.

2. A Focus on Federal Defense.

We focus our practice on federal defense, in particular cases involving allegations of white-collar offenses. As a result, we are intimately familiar with the substantive and procedural issues at play, and we know what strategies have proven successful in the past.

3. Experience on Both Sides of Public Corruption Cases.

Several of our attorneys spend years or decades serving as federal prosecutors with the DOJ prior to entering private practice.

4. A Track Record of Pre-Trial Success.

Although we are seasoned trial attorneys, we know that avoiding the need to go to court  can be a key consideration for clients facing allegations of public corruption . We have a significant track record of pre-trial success in these and other high-stakes federal cases.

5. Strategies Focused on the Circumstances at Hand.

We provide tailored representation based upon the particular facts at hand and the current stage of the government’s case. We constantly re-assess and re-evaluate, and we aggressively pursue all available defenses.

Speak with a Public Corruption Defense Lawyer at Oberheiden, P.C.

To speak with one of our federal defense lawyers about your public corruption case in New Orleans, please call 888-519-4897 or contact us online. We are available 24/7.

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