Authorities arrested Rashid Minhas, a Chicago travel agent, on December 18. They charged him with operating a fraudulent scheme to sell travel packages that he did not have the authority to sell. If convicted, Minhas will face up to 20 years in federal prison.
Many believe in the concept of innocence until proven guilty. Personal experience convinces me that defendants serve themselves better when they take a different perspective.
By the time federal authorities advance to the “arrest” stage, defendants should begin thinking about minimizing the downside. They’re in trouble and the sooner they embark upon a deliberate strategy that will take them to the best possible outcome, the more likely they are to land on their feet. Defendants need to get beyond current difficulties and position themselves for a rebirth, for a new shot at life.
An arrest by federal authorities can bring catastrophic consequences. I’ve known many defendants who aggravated their problems because of the decisions they made “after” the arrest. In some cases, those decisions led to consequences that were far worse than the arrest itself. Think of Martha Stewart. Her troubles escalated as a consequence of the way that she responded to questions from authorities. It was her responses to questions from law enforcement officers that led to her felony conviction and prison term.
Defendants like Mr. Minhas will first secure representation from a defense attorney. The attorney will provide guidance through the judicial proceedings, advising on such important matters as plea negotiations or trial strategy. Yet hiring a defense attorney doesn’t absolve the defendant from a responsibility of learning how being charged with a felony will influence the rest of his life.
No one wants to serve time in prison. But the wrong response to an initial inquiry from law enforcement can do much worse than expose a defendant to a longer prison term. The wrong response can lead to a series of cascading problems, making it much more difficult for an individual to recalibrate and launch a new career.
We strengthen ourselves when we respond to situations as they exist; we weaken ourselves when we live in denial, wishing that our problems would go away. I made that mistake and it cost me decades of my life in prison.
When I read Department of Justice Press press releases about individuals like Mr. Minhas, I am reminded of hundreds of white-collar offenders I met in prison. They wish they could turn back the clock to the time when they first learned that federal authorities wanted to bring charges against them for fraud. It didn’t matter whether the charges related to securities fraud, bankruptcy fraud, tax fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, or any other type of fraud offense. Instead of responding to the charges in a deliberate manner, they made matters worse by failing to take make decisions from an informed perspective. They made decisions from a position of weakness rather than a position of strength.
So how does an individual who faces criminal charges for fraud operate from a position of strength?
He begins by educating himself about all of his options and the ancillary consequences. The defense attorney will guide the defendant through the judicial proceedings. Yet there is much more than a defendant needs to learn. The defendant should understand what is going to happen after the judge says “I’m sentencing you to the custody of the attorney general for….” Regardless of sentence length, there will be lasting consequences to every decision a defendant makes after the initial arrest. Our team at PrisonProfessor.com stands ready to offer insight.