Bribery

Bribery prosecutions are most often associated with cases involving political corruption with payments to a public official in exchange for some benefit to the person making the payment. It could be seen as s kickback to the politician for taking some action to benefit someone making the payment. The federal law prohibiting bribery is covered under 18 U.S.C. §666, which makes it a federal crime for any agent of a political organization to solicit or demand anything worth more than $5,000 bribery with the intent to be influenced or as a reward. It applies to any political entity state or local that receives federal money.

One famous example in Miami was Operation Court Broom one of the biggest judicial corruption investigations in the history of Florida. The 1989 federal case involved allegations of bribes and influence peddling among many judges in Miami-Dade County.

Another recent example of how this law is enforced is seen in U.S. v. Langford a conviction upheld by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, where a county commissioner was charged with bribery for receiving more than $240,000 in cash, jewelry and clothing for an owner of investment firm that specialized in underwriting and marketing municipal bonds. The payments were made to the commissioner by an intermediary. But the owner of the investment firm made a habit of traveling to New York with the commissioner to meet with bankers and public financial professionals involved in bond business. While in New York, the Commissioner and the investment firm owner would go shopping together. The Commissioner would pick out clothing or jewelry he liked and the investment firm owner would pay for it. In exchange for these bribes, the commissioner convinced the commission to award the investment firm with over $7 million of municipal bond contracts.

Another federal statute that covers bribery is the fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. §1346, which make it a crime to use the mail or wire to defraud another person of the intangible right of honest services. When a public official uses his office for personal gain, the official deprives the constituents of their right to have him perform his official duties in their best interest. Because elected officials generally owe a fiduciary duty to the electorate, when a public official accepts a bribe or personally benefits from an undisclosed conflict of interest, the official has defrauded the public of his honest services. “Illicit gain by a government official deprives the public of its intangible right to the honest services of the official.” U. S. v. DeVegter, 198 F.3d 1324, 1328 (11th Cir. 1999).

The law applies to any person who represents the government, such as an elected official, or an employee of the government. It also applies to any agency of a government or to nonpolitical organization that receive federal money or assistance.

The federal bribery prosecution can be made against any employee of a business that has a contract with the government in excess of $10,000 per year or that receives over $10,000 in federal benefits. An example would be an employee of a Boeing, who orders paper products for the company, decided he wanted a kickback from Office Depot for placing orders with Staples. This would be in violation of federal law because Boeing does business with the government in excess of $10,000 per year.

If you or a loved one has been charged with bribery, please contact Miami attorney Ken Swartz to schedule an initial consultation.

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