New York based federal criminal attorneys with Joseph Potashnik and Associates have successfully represented numerous individuals accused of extortion and public corruption activities under the Hobbs and Travel Act. We have years of experience handling complex federal cases at all stages of litigation.
Public corruption is one of the prime targets of law enforcement. Most public corruption criminal cases include a scenario in which public officials ask or receive bribes, kickbacks, or presents for doing something in return in the capacity of a public official. It is a crime for public officials to solicit or receive bribes as well as for others to offer them – both can be convicted simply by asking and offering.
The Hobbs and Travel Act historically has been the government’s main tools to combat labor racketeering, but today it applies not only to organized crime but to all types of extortion in the commercial setting. It is also used extensively by federal prosecutors white collar and business crime cases.
Federal Extortion Criminal Statute
The Hobbs Act, in essence, addresses interstate robbery and extortion. In a very basic sense, it is a federal offense to commit or attempt robbery or extortion in a way that obstructs or affects interstate or foreign commerce. In commercial settings, this may include practically all conceivable business practices, which gives the government the sweeping power under the Hobbs Act. It is difficult to imagine today’s business in way not reaching across state or even foreign borders.
One of the most important elements under the Hobbs Act are the use of threats of force or injury to induce the victim’s consent, and the property which is the subject of the extortion. The Hobbs Act violations don’t have to involve actual violence as long as the intimidation and instilling the fear in the victim are involved and the victims had reasonable fear for economic loss. In one case, the victim, who was not threatened, reasonably believed that he would lose a government contract if he didn’t pay a kickback of a percentage of the contract price.
The Hobbs Act and Public Corruption
The robbery and extortion under the Hobbs Act are not the same crimes as public corruptions and bribery. However, those acts may be included within the meaning of the Act. Extortion includes not only the taking of property through threats or force, but also obtained “under color of official right.” This is how the Hobbs Act is often used in prosecuting public officials accused of all sorts of corruption.
In public corruption cases the government has the burden to prove that a public official has obtained a payment to which he was not entitled, knowing that the payment was made in return for official acts. Unlike other extortion cases, in public corruption prosecutions the government does not have to show that the public official took actual steps to induce the extortionate payment.
Furthermore, most federal courts in the United States ruled that it is still extortion under the Hobbs Act if the public official doesn’t personally receive the benefit of the extortion as long as a third party benefited from it.
Private individuals, not public officials, can be held criminally liable under the Hobbs Act for making corrupt payments to the public officials. They can also be liable as co-conspirators.
The Travel Act
The Travel Act, 18 U.S.C. ß 1952, was initially passed as part of the government’s war on organized crime. The Travel Act criminalizes travel in interstate or foreign commerce, or the use of any facility in interstate commerce or foreign commerce with intent to: (1) distribute the proceeds of any unlawful activity; or (2) commit any crime of violence to further any unlawful activity; or (3) promote, manage, establish, carry on, or facilitate the promotion, management, establishment, or carrying on of any unlawful activity. Therefore, it is a federal crime to move in or use of interstate commerce with the intent of committing o long list of crimes including failure to pay excise taxes, trafficking in narcotics, prostitution, extortion, bribery or arson, and some attempt to accomplish that unlawful activity.
The most important element of a Travel Act is the use of an instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce. Prosecutors also need to prove that the interstate or foreign commerce was used with the intent to distribute proceeds of, further or otherwise promote a specified unlawful activity; they also must prove that there was some act in furtherance of the illegal activity specified in the statute.
If you have been investigated by the federal government for extortion or public corruption in New York or anywhere else in the country, you need a not just a good criminal lawyer but an experienced federal defense attorney who has handled similar cases before. You will find such attorneys at Joseph Potashnik and Associates PC. Here is the list of some of the recent extortion cases our criminal lawyers have handled.
- Represented a defendant in Brooklyn federal court who was charged with violent extortion of a business owner, overturning conviction on appeal
- Represented multiple New York City officials accused of accepting bribes and other types of corruption
- Represented a political figure investigated by the federal government for corruption
We have the necessary knowledge, experience, and resources to offer you the most effective defense against extortion charges in New York. Call us today at (212) 577 6677 to set up an immediate consultation.