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What is malingering?

When people talk about their mental state, we usually believe they are telling the truth. However when it comes to offenders, lying and exaggerating is common practice.

Feigning mental illness can form a strong defense. If the offender did not have mens rea (a Latin term for guilty mind, meaning someone didn’t understand what he was doing or that it was wrong), he may be found not guilty or given a lighter sentence.

Malingering is the name given to people deliberately fabricating or exaggerating symptoms, whether that be physical or mental. For example, someone may pretend to have a limp or pretend to experience hallucinations.

This may involve:

  • Dramatising the presentation or experience of symptoms.
  • Naming well known features of psychological disorders (e.g. hearing voices).
  • Deliberate and careful recounting of what’s happened.
  • Inconsistencies in what they describe vs what’s widely known about the psychological problem in question.

Defendants may believe they can have their case thrown out or get a shorter sentence if they’re considered mentally ill. For this reason, experts have to be on the lookout for any examples of malingering.

Assessments of mental states need to take into account whether an illness is being invented or faked in some way. The best way to do this is usually in the form of an intensive clinical interview, where the person is asked about their life and any issues that have affected him. The interviewer takes note not only of what they are saying, but how they communicate and how they present themselves.

Suspicions may be aroused if:

  • Rare symptoms are reported, especially if there are a lot of them.
  • Claiming a large number of symptoms. Severely ill patients usually only have a few serious symptoms.
  • Unusual and unlikely symptoms are reported.
  • There are inconsistencies with described symptoms.
  • People close to the offender dispute the symptoms. For example someone complaining of tremors that no one has seen.

If you suspect someone of malingering, gathering evidence is the best way to prove this. ICFECI can help with collecting data and information that will bring offenders to justice and get the sentence they deserve.

What is white-collar crime?

White-collar crime is a term used to describe illegal acts made by employees, corporations and business professionals. These non-violent crimes will typically involve deceit, secrecy and abuse of power and are usually motivated by financial gain or personal advantages.

Coined in 1939 by sociologist Edwin Sutherland, the name refers to “a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of their occupation.” This can include fraud, insider trading, embezzlement, money laundering and wage theft amongst others.

Although these crimes may not be violent, that is not to say they are victimless. In fact, a single scam can bring a company to its knees, rob investors and bankrupt families. While a direct victim may not be hurt, these types of crimes can affect many people in different ways.

Various agencies work together to ensure white-collar crime is policed effectively. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) usually rely on organizations like the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to identify evidence and track investigations.

Ponzi scheme

One major example of white-collar crime is the infamous Ponzi scheme. Charles Ponzi started out as a poor immigrant in the 1920s, working odd jobs and doing two stints in jail before creating his multimillion-dollar scam.

Ponzi realized he could make a generous living by taking on ‘investors’. He would promise lucrative annual returns of 50 to 100 percent which encouraged many to part with their cash. However instead of investing the funds, Ponzi pocketed the money and only paid ‘returns’ to give the illusion of growth.

His scheme soon began to unravel when too many investors requested to withdraw their funds that the fraudster had already spent.

If you have any suspicions about colleagues or employees, ICFECI can help. We are experts in computer and cell phone forensics, while founder Dan James has been a Certified Fraud Examiner for over 25 years. We have decades of experience dealing with corporate crimes and fraud, with a track record of success in uncovering schemes and compiling evidence that will stand up in court.

How to request funding for Investigative, Expert, and other services necessary for Adequate representation

Preparing a budget for court appointed investigators and experts (in computer/cell phone forensics) can be difficult, especially if you don’t have much experience with it. Budgets are something we are all familiar with, but it’s hard to manage when you don’t know when and where funding will come from.

Dan James at the Institute of Computer Forensic Examinations and Criminal Investigations (ICFECI) is a resource to the CJA-Panel.

Dan has been in the field of computer forensics since 1968, giving him a wealth of experience, knowledge and skills required for world-class investigative work. Dan has also been a Certified Fraud Examiner for over 25 years. With more than 50 years of experience in planning, working and budgeting computer forensic examinations and criminal investigations, Dan has the know-how and wherewithal to manage funding in a professional and effective manner.

Looking to request funding?

The following information may help.

Go to: https://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/forms

Scroll all the way down to “C” for CJA 28 forms. These forms are available as pdfs for you to edit digitally or print out yourself. There are various forms catering to experts, attorneys, etc. so be sure to select the right one for you.

The CJA 28 form templates are simple and easy to use. What you may find difficult however is knowing how to determine time involved in types of forensic examinations and criminal investigations. Even more difficult is estimating time involved in “Mega Cases” in areas of forensic science.

If you’re new to the field or struggling with budgeting, Dan James can help. Having dealt with funding requests for the best part of 50 years, Dan knows all the tips and tricks to ensure your budget planning is effective, successful and straightforward. Get in touch with Dan at www.icfeci.com if you need any assistance or have any questions.

4 tools every investigator needs

With so much mental work to be done, it’s easy for investigators to forget the practical tools at their disposal. It’s no secret that offering investigative services demands a lot of knowledge, critical thinking and strategy, but there is also a range of physical equipment that could help your case.

  1. Cameras

Cameras are everywhere nowadays. Almost everyone now has a smartphone with an in-built camera or two (or three!), so taking photos and videos has never been easier. Add to that the rise in CCTV in public areas and it’s virtually impossible to go anywhere without photographic evidence.

That being said, you can’t always rely on other people’s footage. Tapes are often low quality or simply erased entirely – that is if they ever even existed, as a lot of establishments don’t have functioning cameras. Video cameras are an indispensable part of an investigator’s surveillance toolkit, allowing you to capture evidence you need to win your case. Take matters into your own hands by investing in a good quality CCD camera with high-res C mount.

  1. Modems

In a fast-paced, demanding job, the last thing you need is slow internet. Almost everything is done virtually these days, which means you will fall behind if you can’t get online fast.

With a high-bandwidth, wireless modem, you’ll be guaranteed maximum coverage and lightning-fast performance. As well as impressive speed, you’ll also enjoy easy installation, a built-in, commercial-grade firewall and powerful wireless access.

  1. Phones

People are glued to their phones more and more every day, and for good reason. There is almost nothing these small and mighty machines can’t do – from checking your banking or sending an email, to shopping online and tracking your steps, there’s so many ways to use your phone.

A prepaid phone with good quality cameras and WiFi-calling is the perfect option for a busy investigator. Ideal for your everyday professional and personal needs, this phone will ensure you can get everything done in a few easy clicks.

  1. Hard Drive Data Erasers

Protecting your data is one of the most important parts of being an investigator. You are privy to an enormous amount of information which, in the wrong hands, can have dire consequences. Making sure this doesn’t happen is one of the fundamentals of your job, so you must take this responsibility seriously.

Investing in a data eraser is essential if you want to ensure that information cannot be stolen from under you. A Drive eRazer tool is a must-buy to secure your data and protect your clients.

Why do people commit crimes?

Everyone is capable of committing a crime. In fact, we’re all probably guilty of bending the law at one point or another. But a lot of research has been done to find out what kind of people become criminals, and what environmental factors may lead someone to break the law. We may not be able to predict where, when and how a crime is committed, but research has shown that certain issues may indicate who is responsible.

Early childhood

A person’s upbringing has a significant effect on their life. Finding out what happened to someone when they were young can explain a lot about them, especially if they have difficult family relationships. These experiences can influence how criminals view the world and their place in it.

Personal relationships

Relationship breakdowns place significant stress on every human being. A sudden lack of intimate partnership can turn your life upside down, and for some this is the catalyst for criminal behavior. These individuals may seek to replace the intimacy they have lost, or they may be looking for a way to release their anger about the situation.

Financial difficulties

Poverty and financial difficulties make life incredibly difficult for us all. If someone is in a desperate situation, they may find themselves breaking the law just to survive. Whether that involves robbery, fraud or other crimes, it’s not uncommon for people in this situation to commit a crime.

Psychological issues

Having a mental illness or learning difficulty is often one of the reasons why people commit crimes. This is not to say that anyone with mental health issues is a criminal, but that symptoms of these problems can lead to criminal behavior. Sufferers who hear voices, for example, may report that the voices told them to do something bad.

Work history

Problems at work can be difficult to cope with, especially if that person is being laid off. Significant changes to one’s professional life can encourage someone to act irrationally and break the law, or tempt them into harming colleagues.

Peer pressure

Associating with criminals makes it a lot easier to break the law. If someone is surrounded by criminals and is privy to crimes being committed, it is only usually a matter of time before they get involved themselves.

There are an infinite number of reasons why people break the law. Knowing some of these risk factors might give you an idea who committed a crime you have been accused of. Get in touch with ICFECI today to see how we can help prove your innocence and bring the correct perpetrator to justice.

Can a forensic investigator testify in my case?

Forensic investigation doesn’t just involve collecting and analyzing information. While this is a major part of the job, communicating this evidence to others and explaining the data is a key area of expertise for any professional investigator. Being called as an expert in criminal proceedings is a responsibility that ICFECI takes with the utmost seriousness, as it could mean the difference between your freedom and conviction. But when exactly should you expect a court to call up your experts? Read on to find out.

  1. Jurors wouldn’t know or understand the subject matter

If the average juror (or judge) doesn’t know about or understand a particular subject, that is usually when experts are called to testify. These experts can explain the evidence in layman’s terms to ensure the jury knows what is going on and why it’s important. It’s no good to present computer evidence, for example, if that information requires a certain level of technical knowledge. This is when professionals are requested to provide their testimony.

  1. Experts have relevant experience and qualifications

The experts that have been asked to testify must be able to show an adequate amount of experience in the field. This experience and relevant qualifications demonstrate their expertise and legitimize their work. Jurors can therefore be confident that the information being given to them is correct.

  1. Their expertise is accepted by other experts within the same area

Experts cannot simply lie or misrepresent information to the jury. This is ensured by other professionals in the same area vouching for their work and agreeing with the findings. As forensic investigation involves a lot of specialized work, only others in the same field can verify that this work has been carried out accurately and objectively.

  1. The value of their evidence is greater than any negative influence it may have

Establishing whether the evidence has any value is a matter for the judge. The judge gets the final say on whether the court can accept the expert opinion, and this is based on how much value the evidence brings. For instance, if it has only marginal value but could be detrimental to the view of the defendant, a judge will now allow it. Experts must therefore ensure that their testimony is helpful, important and reliable.

If you’re looking for a forensic investigator in Fort Worth who can provide reliable, expert testimony in your case, get in touch with ICFECI today. Our experts are on hand to make sure you get the representation you need to secure your exoneration.

Understanding why people lie

Quite often in cases of wrongful conviction, the accused is incorrectly identified as the perpetrator based on information given by others. While forensic and biological evidence is largely irrefutable, human evidence is not so undeniable. If you are accused of a crime you didn’t commit, you might be wondering why people would want to lie and frame you for it. When you are trying to prove your innocence, it can be an incredibly frustrating and confusing process that will make you question everything and trust no one. Hiring a forensic investigator in Fort Worth Texas can make all the difference, as we have a variety of techniques that can prove falsified testimonies to get your life back on track.

  1. Getting help from the authorities

We are not suggesting that the police offer bribes or blackmail witnesses. What is common, however, is that people believe they can get something in exchange for their information. This may be a change in circumstances, e.g. more favorable welfare housing, or a lesser sentence if they are incarcerated.

  1. Blackmail

Convincing someone to say something or do something is easier when their freedom is at stake. Putting you in a position where you must defend your innocence makes you incredibly vulnerable, especially if they hold the power to exonerate you.

  1. Protecting the guilty

When people lie, it’s usually because they have something to hide. When authorities discover that a witness has given them false information, suspicion is then directed at the witness as police question their motivations for lying. Giving false testimony in this case may indicate their own guilt, or it may suggest they know the true perpetrator.

  1. Excusing inappropriate behavior

We are all guilty of a few embarrassing acts. However some people take this guilt too far and accuse others to protect their own pride. This is often the case when someone engages in sexual intercourse and later regrets it. The plaintiff may think it’s easier to claim that the fling was unwanted, rather than admitting they were drunk and regretted the incident.

  1. Gain or compensation

The witness may stand to gain or benefit somehow from falsely accusing you of the crime. A simple example of this would be a colleague alleging that you stole from your employer, whilst they evade detection and pocket the money.

There are a number of reasons why someone might lie in your case. Understanding their motivation can help you move forward and prove your innocence. Get in touch with ICFECI today to see how we can right this wrong and exonerate you.

5 ways your cell phone can exonerate you

Our cell phones store an incredible amount of data. Nowadays we don’t even realize just how much information is contained in these devices, but it could be the difference between our freedom and our conviction. If you’ve been accused of a crime, cell phone data can help prove your innocence. Even if your device has been damaged, water logged or burnt, ICFECI can retrieve information that could be vital to your case.

  1. Messages

No matter who you are or where you’re from, the likelihood is that you use your phone to message people on a regular basis. Whether that is through traditional SMS texts, WhatsApp or social media, most people use their cell to communicate every day. These messages can be very useful in a court of law. Let’s say for instance that you’re being accused of sleeping with an underage girl. The plaintiff might suggest that you were fully aware of her age as she had already told you. If you have a message where the girl claimed to be 18 or over, you have evidence to refute this.

  1. Photos and videos

One of the great benefits of cell phones is the fact we can take photos and videos with such ease and speed. This media can also serve to provide evidence of your location, who you were with and what time you were there. If you were accused of something you didn’t do but had video evidence of the perpetrator committing the crime, this would be the perfect way to prove your innocence.

  1. Call logs

In certain cases, the exact timing of calls can prove to be a key piece of information. Even if the content of the call itself or the people involved isn’t noteworthy, the timing can be crucial to a case. If a network provider can’t produce the logs, the phone itself keeps a record of who you rang, when and for how long the call lasted.

  1. GPS

GPS can be a useful tool when you’re lost in a new neighborhood, but it can also help others to find you. Experts can track your location and pin down your coordinates using your phone’s GPS – helpful if you’ve lost your phone, or if you need to prove your whereabouts to the authorities.

  1. IP Address

Fraud is rife on the internet, especially identity theft. If someone is posing as you, your IP address can help prove your innocence. If somebody is claiming to be you on a dating app, your IP address will be completely different from the one using the app.

Need help with retrieving cell phone data? Get in touch with ICFECI today to see what we can do.

What is forensic linguistics?

Forensic evidence incorporates a number of investigative techniques and methods. You have more than likely heard of DNA, fingerprints and blood splatter analysis, but there are also more uncommon practices that can help solve a crime. One of these is forensic linguistics.

This process involves the analysis of texts to decipher authorship. Experts apply linguistic knowledge, context and insight to carefully decode and identify messages and authors. For example, a forensic linguist might look at a known text (a document with a confirmed author) and compare it with a sample to see if there are any similarities. This might include repeated spelling mistakes, colloquialisms, contractions, unique phrasing etc.

This can be an important piece of information in many cases, and the data we collect from cell phones and computers is crucial to this process. Any messages, emails, social media posts, documents and so on stored on these devices can be the key to solving a crime and exonerating the wrongfully accused.

Forensic linguistics is a relatively new field that was spearheaded by FBI agent James R. Fitzgerald. His work on the Unabomber case in 1996 led to the apprehension of the culprit, based on his manifesto and other known texts. After analyzing syntax, word choice and other linguistic patterns, Fitzgerald successfully established authorship and identified Ted Kaczynski. For instance, he estimated his age based on the use of words such as “broad” and “negro,” and identified his educational background from unusual terms like “chimerical” and “anomic.”

Ransom notes

In many cases, criminals leave notes or send letters making requests or taunting police and families. For example, a murderer might send authorities a message mocking their investigation or telling parents they won’t see their child again. If it’s a hostage situation, criminals will often leave a ransom note with instructions or demands.

This provides further evidence for the police and allows forensic linguists to examine the content of the texts. If they have suspects in mind or they’ve been given a tip about a person of interest, they can use these documents and compare them to known texts to see if there are any similarities.

Suicide Letters

If police believe foul play may be involved in an apparent suicide, forensic linguistics can help. Suicide letters found at the scene can be analyzed to establish whether the victim actually wrote these themselves, or whether the scene has been staged to cover up a murder. This is particularly useful if there are no other witnesses or evidence.

Messages

Missing person cases are notoriously difficult, but SMS and social media messages can provide a lot of information. If families believe their loved one has been taken, for example, then a forensic linguist can shed some light on the situation. A criminal might pretend to be the victim and send a message on their behalf, hoping to assuage any fears for that person’s safety. A forensic linguist can examine these messages and confirm whether that text is a genuine message, or whether someone is posing as the victim.

Why Do Wrongful Convictions Occur?

Wrongful convictions are sadly not as rare as we might expect. As much as we’d like to believe our justice system is fair and accurate, the truth is that miscarriages of justice are commonplace. Criminal investigations are complex, and unfortunately this means that mistakes, falsifications and misconduct can lead to a damning conviction for the innocent. Here we take a look at some of the reasons wrongful convictions occur.

False Witness Testimony

Witness testimony can be a useful piece of evidence, but it can also be majorly flawed. When investigators are unsure what happened or who was involved in a case, witnesses can provide key details and information. This can be an issue if people lie or do not tell the truth about what they saw, for example putting someone at the scene to frame them for the crime. Even if witnesses are telling the truth, memory and recall is not always 100% reliable.

False Confessions

False confessions can be a major problem in wrongful convictions. When faced with supposedly insurmountable evidence, suspects may feel like a confession is their only option. Some are under so much pressure from police interviewers that signing a confession is the only way they can escape – questioning can go on for hours and hours with little access to food, water and comfort. However once that confession is signed, it is incredibly difficult to convince people of your innocence.

Perjury

In some cases, witnesses and experts give false testimony during a trial. This can be for a number of reasons, but often they are incentivised to do so. These incentives are often not disclosed to the jury, but their statements be used to convict an innocent person. Bias can also be a factor in their testimony – for example, an expert is unlikely to disagree with the person who hired them as it may limit their employment in the future.

Misconduct

Although most law enforcement officers and prosecutors are trustworthy, there are some who lose sight of their duties and do not conduct themselves properly. Negligence, corruption and misconduct can be an issue in some cases, and this is often proven through DNA evidence.

False Forensics

Some forensic techniques such as hair microscopy, handwriting analysis and shoe print comparisons have not been subjected to rigorous scientific evaluation. Meanwhile, techniques that have been validated, e.g. blood typing, are occasionally improperly conducted. For example a lab technician may contaminate a sample with DNA from another piece of evidence. In exceptional cases, forensic analysts have even fabricated results entirely.

If you’ve been wrongfully convicted, get in touch with ICFECI today. Our forensic experts can uncover evidence that could help your case and prove your innocence.