Posts tagged with "larceny in the first degree"

In Light of Reasonable Suspicion, Police Properly Detained Burglary Suspect

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed the convictions of a burglar who argued that officers had no reasonable or articulable suspicion to detain him.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on March 21, 2007. Earlier that year, a neighborhood was suffering from a series of residential burglaries. On February 14, a victim was leaving her home when she saw a man wearing a dark sweatshirt with dark pants, with the hood pulled up, looking down while walking in front of her house. She later returned to find her house burglarized and many possessions, including a handgun, were stolen. She recalled seeing a similar person two days earlier, and conveyed this as well as the physical description to police; a similar description was developed from victims of other burglaries.

On March 21, the victim saw the defendant, who matched the appearance of the person near her house the day it was burglarized. Her husband called police, who were dispatched to the defendant’s location, and officers were aware that a gun was stolen during the burglary. The defendant was detained, and a pat down revealed a handgun in his sweatshirt pocket. The defendant informed police that “he was not properly licensed nor legally permitted to carry the gun.” The defendant was arrested and charged for numerous crimes on several dockets. He filed a motion to suppress all evidence because it was obtained during an unlawful search and seizure. The court denied this motion, finding that police had a reasonable and articulable suspicion that justified the search.

The defendant entered into a conditional plea to larceny in the first degree, burglary in the third degree, and stealing a firearm. Following sentencing he appealed, arguing that the court improperly denied his motion because police had no reasonable or articulable suspicion to stop him. He noted that “the record contains no indication that he was observed directly engaging in criminal conduct or suspicious activity.”

An officer may temporarily detain an individual for investigative purposes if he has a reasonable and articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. The scope of an investigatory stop must be “carefully tailored to its underlying justification,” and an officer may make “reasonable inquiries” to confirm or dispel his suspicions. The ultimate question is “whether a reasonable person, having the information available to and known by the police, would have had that level of suspicion.”

In this case, the Appellate Court noted that the defendant’s presence in this neighborhood, the time of day, how he was dressed, and the manner in which he walked would not, on their own, be sufficient to justify a stop. However, in light of the additional information provided by victims, such factors provide sufficient reasonable and articulable suspicion to justify an investigatory stop. “The possibility of an innocent explanation does not deprive the officers of the capacity to entertain a reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct.” Therefore, the judgment was affirmed.

When faced with a charge of larceny or burglary, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Stolen Dealer Plates Found Relevant and Probative in Vehicle Retagging Scheme

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed a defendant’s conspiracy and larceny convictions, finding that evidence of stolen dealer plates was properly admitted.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on February 4, 2008. Months before, state police began investigating an operation where vehicles stolen in New York were “retagged” and sold in Connecticut. A detective went undercover posing as a buyer and agreed to purchase two stolen vehicles for $20,500. The defendant was present when dealer plates belonging to his previous employer were attached to one car, and he drove the second vehicle to the exchange point in Fairfield. Police moved in and arrested the defendant and several other individuals involved. Troopers observed materials used in the retagging process on the defendant’s person, as well as inside nearby vehicles driven by coconspirators.

The defendant was charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit larceny in the first degree and two counts of larceny in the first degree. Prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion seeking to exclude evidence of the stolen dealer plates. He argued that it was irrelevant, and the probative value, if any, was far outweighed by the prejudicial effect it would have on the jury. The State countered that such evidence went to intent and to show the defendant was a knowing participant in the conspiracy rather than an unwitting passenger.

The court allowed the evidence and attendant testimony, noting it was relevant to a material fact in the case. Thus, for example, a detective “opined that, based on her training and experience, a former employee would have better access than a stranger to the dealer plates because of his familiarity with the dealership and the knowledge of its layout.” The defendant was subsequently found guilty on all counts and appealed his convictions, arguing that evidence of the dealer plates was improperly admitted because it was not relevant, and alternatively that it was unfairly prejudicial.

To convict a defendant of conspiracy under Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-48, the State must show that an agreement to commit a crime was made between two or more people, one of whom acts overtly to further the conspiracy. This is a specific intent crime, and the State must prove that the conspirators “intended to agree and that they intended to commit the elements of the underlying offense.” Because it is difficult to ascertain a person’s subjective intent, it is often inferred from circumstantial evidence and rational inferences. Evidence is relevant so long as it has a “logical tendency to aid [the judge or jury] in the determination of an issue” to even the slightest degree, so long as it is not unduly prejudicial or merely cumulative.

In this case, the Appellate Court found that the dealer plates “had a logical tendency to show a connection between the defendant and the larcenous scheme,” as well as the requisite intent to commit conspiracy to commit larceny. Indeed, this evidence countered the defendant’s assertion that he was an innocent bystander. While the evidence itself might have been weak, this was an issue of its weight, not its relevance. Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing it.

There are many grounds for excluding relevant evidence, such as the risk of unfair prejudice. Naturally, all evidence against the defendant is damaging and thus prejudicial, so the appropriate inquiry is whether the proffered evidence will “improperly arouse the emotions of the jury.” In this case, the defendant argued that the jury may have concluded that the dealer plates, which belonged to his previous employer, were stolen, a fact which they would then impermissibly use to infer he committed the presently charged offenses. The Appellate Court stated that while such impermissible inferences may have been drawn, the trial court has broad discretion in weighing the probative value versus prejudicial impact, a decision reversible only upon showing an abuse of discretion or manifest injustice. Based on the facts of this case, the Court could not conclude that the trial court abused its discretion; therefore, the defendant’s claims on appeal failed.

When faced with a charge of larceny, burglary, conspiracy, or attempt, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Sentence Imposed Following Voluntarily Plea Agreement in Larceny Case Was Proper, Modification Unwarranted

In a recent criminal law matter, the Sentence Review Division (Division) of the Superior Court of Connecticut declined to modify a petitioner’s sentence because it was neither inappropriate nor disproportionate.

In this case, the petitioner had three minor children and received $48,300 over the course of three years from the Department of Social Services (DSS) to pay for daycare. However, a subsequent DSS investigation revealed that she instead gave the money to a friend, who could not have provided such services because she was otherwise employed.

The petitioner was charged with larceny in the first degree by defrauding a public community, which violated Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-122(a)(4). She accepted a plea agreement, but first had the opportunity to make restitution payments; she failed to do so. During the presentencing investigation (PSI), the petitioner “minimized her larcenous conduct and suggested the DSS had failed to fully inform her about its rules regarding the use of the child care funds.” She was sentenced to ten years’ incarceration, execution suspended after four years, with five years of probation, and subsequently sought a reduction.

The Division is severely restricted regarding criminal sentence modification to instances where it is either inappropriate or disproportionate. In this case, it noted that the petitioner’s sentence was “within the parameters of an agreement that she accepted pursuant to her voluntarily plea of guilty.” In conjunction with the nature of her crime, PSI comments, and failure to make any restitution payments, the Division determined the sentence was proper, and affirmed.

Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

In Reviewing Evidentiary Inferences, Whether They Are Reasonable and Logical is Paramount Consideration on Appeal

As described in an article posted yesterday, the Appellate Court of Connecticut agreed with the State that a jury made permissible inferences regarding a defendant’s fraudulent receipt of worker’s compensation benefits. Prior to this decision, the Court heard additional matters regarding the sufficiency of the evidence used to convict the defendant of charges stemming from the hotel robbery itself.

As the police investigation proceeded, the evidence began to indicate that the defendant was not an innocent victim of the robbery, but rather an active participant. As such, she was arrested for and charged with larceny in the first degree and falsely reporting an incident in the second degree, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 53a-122(a)(2) and 53a-180c(a)(3). A jury returned guilty verdicts on both counts, and the defendant received a total effective sentence of twelve years’ incarceration, execution suspended after five years, with five years of probation.

On appeal, the defendant asserted four arguments, including the claim that the trial court erred by not granting her motion for a judgment of acquittal (MJOA) for both crimes. After the State closed its case-in-chief, defense counsel orally moved for acquittal, arguing that “the evidence was insufficient to permit a finding of guilt as to either crime in general.” The court denied this motion, and defense counsel promptly rested its own case.

The defendant initially attempted to diminish the evidence’s sufficiency by noting it was circumstantial, rather than direct, in nature. However, there is no legal distinction between these two types of evidence with respect to probative force. As long as a jury is convinced of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, either form may be used.

The defendant further asserted her insufficiency of the evidence claim by arguing that police did not spend enough time on this case to pursue other possible perpetrators, such as the defendant’s coworkers. In her appellate brief, the defendant argued that the jury should have disagreed with the State’s interpretation of the evidence to favor her own, asserting “‘plausible’ ways to interpret the evidence so as to reach a [not guilty] verdict.”

When a jury considers evidence, it need not “accept as dispositive those inferences that are consistent with the defendant’s innocence. … The [finder of fact] may draw whatever inferences from the evidence or facts established by the evidence that it deems to be reasonable and logical.” Therefore, when a reviewing court determines whether or not a jury’s inference was proper, it asks whether there is “a reasonable view of the evidence that supports the [finder of fact’s] verdict of guilty.” In this case, it was the jury’s authority to weigh the credibility of witness testimony and choose which inferences to accept – here, those asserted by the State. Therefore, the Court found that there was ample evidence to support the defendant’s convictions, and the denial of the MJOA was not erroneous.

When faced with a charge of larceny, burglary, conspiracy, or attempt, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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Defendant’s “Dastardly Overall Scheme of Personal Greed” Did Not Warrant Sentence Modification

In a previous article, the petitioner was convicted of arson in the first degree, larceny in the first degree, insurance fraud, and conspiracy after burning down his home and receiving nearly $400,000 from insurance payouts. For his crimes, he was sentenced to a total effective sentence of thirteen years of incarceration (upwards up thirty-three years if he violated probation). Approximately one year after conviction, the petitioner sought downward modification of his sentence, claiming it was inappropriate and disproportionate.

In front of the Sentence Review Division (Division), counsel for the petitioner argued that his client was of good moral character. He highlighted the petitioner’s substantial consecutive work history and lack of a criminal history prior to this incident. Therefore, counsel stated that a ten-year sentence was proper. The State, however, objected to modification, noting “both the seriousness of the offense and the ample evidence to convict.” In addition, the State argued that emergency personnel could have been injured as a result of the fire intentionally set by the defendant.

Pursuant to the Connecticut Practice Book § 43-23 et seq., the Division has authority to modify sentences only upon a showing that they are:

[I]nappropriate or disproportionate in light of the nature of the offense, the character of the offender, the protection of the public interest and the deterrent, rehabilitative, isolative and denunciatory purposes for which the sentence was intended.

The court that originally sentenced the defendant characterized the defendant’s actions as a “two-part crime; the torching of the home and the bilking of the insurance company.” Such conduct was “part of a dastardly overall scheme of personal greed.” The Division credited the defendant’s fortune that no one was injured during this incident, but nonetheless agreed that the sentence was neither inappropriate nor disproportionate.

Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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Attorney Did Not Ineffectively Represent Her Non-Citizen Client, Despite Failing to Seek Plea Agreement That Would Avoid Deportation

In a recent criminal law matter, a Superior Court of Connecticut denied a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, because the petitioner’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel were unpersuasive.

In this case, the petitioner, a legal resident of the U.S., was charged with larceny in the first degree and possession of narcotics. Trial counsel discussed the possibility of participation in the Connecticut Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (CADAC) program, which upon successful completion would result both in dropped charges and avoiding deportation. However, the petitioner did not want to undergo drug addiction treatment, so this option was not pursued.

Trial counsel was extremely knowledgeable about the immigration consequences of non-citizen defendant convictions. As such, she made it a part of her regular practice to thoroughly discuss such with her clients. The State presented the petitioner with a plea agreement that would result in no jail time. While trial counsel told her client that the deal was good for that reason, because of the petitioner’s legal status and the nature of the charges, accepting the plea would subject the defendant to mandatory deportation. She did not attempt to provide an alternative agreement or counteroffer that would avoid deportation, nor did she discuss such possibilities with the petitioner. Thus, the petitioner accepted the State’s terms, and during the plea canvass, he responded that he understood the possible immigration consequences of the plea.

The petitioner was given a suspended sentence, but violated his probation with another drug offense. New defense counsel unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate terms that would avoid deportation, and the petitioner came to the attention of immigration authorities once he was incarcerated. He filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus claiming ineffective assistance of trial counsel because counsel did not properly investigate the petitioner’s legal status and risk of deportation; he was not properly advised regarding the risk of deportation; and counsel did not include his immigration status and deportation risk as part of the plea bargaining process.

When a court considers an ineffective assistance claim, it applies a two-part test from Strickland v. Washington: deficient performance and prejudice to the outcome of the case. A habeas petition can be denied on either ground. In this case, the Superior Court did not believe that trial counsel’s conduct was deficient. It credited the extent of her background and training in immigration matters, and found that she properly advised her client on the consequences of accepting the plea agreement.

The Court further noted the petitioner’s unwillingness to participate in the CADAC program, which “demonstrates that the petitioner was not concerned with the possible immigration consequences of his situation.” Further evidence of the petitioner’s understanding is found in the plea canvass, where the trial court specifically asked whether he knew the consequences of pleading guilty, to which he responded “yes.” Finally, that trial counsel did not present an alternative plea or counteroffer is not a duty imposed on attorneys in this State in the context of ineffective assistance of counsel. Therefore, the Superior Court denied the habeas petition.

Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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In Case Where Employee Abused Her Position to Embezzle Substantial Funds, Modification of Sentence Was Denied

In a recent criminal law matter, the Sentence Review Division (Division) of the Superior Court of Connecticut affirmed the sentence of a petitioner who stole money from her employer.

In this case, the petitioner had a criminal history involving embezzlement, larceny, forgery, and substance abuse. Despite knowledge of this past, the director of a non-profit organization hired the petitioner as its bookkeeper and office manager to give her a chance at an honest living. In this position, the petitioner had “unfettered access” to financial accounts belonging to the organization and director. Subsequently, various employees at the organization complained they were not being timely paid, and the director discovered not just an IRS tax lien on the organization’s assets, but a $20,000 unauthorized withdrawal from her personal account. Police investigated these financial irregularities and questioned the petitioner, and found that she had stolen at least $134,000.

At trial for larceny in the first degree, the defendant entered into a guilty plea. She asked that her sentence be fully suspended and she be allowed to participate in an alternative to incarceration plan, but the court instead imposed twelve years of incarceration. The petitioner sought downward modification, arguing that her sentence was inappropriate and disproportionate compared to those who committed similar crimes. She asserted that she “cooperated with the police investigation, [was] contrite, willing to make restitution and was employed at the time of sentencing.”

The State opposed modification due to the defendant’s history of committing similar crimes. It noted how the defendant embezzled funds from a former employer, for which she received a five-year suspended sentence, and then violated her probation. The organization’s director also objected, stating that the sentence was proper because the petitioner “abused her position of trust, is unrepentant, and has caused a great deal of suffering.” The Division declined to reduce the sentence, finding that under applicable statutes, it was neither inappropriate nor disproportionate. Indeed, the twelve-year sentence was within the parameters of the guilty plea, and the Division agreed with the trial court that “[i]t would stand justice on its head if I were to give you another suspended sentence after you already had one.”

When faced with a charge of larceny, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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Double Jeopardy Not Implicated in Case Where Man Purposefully Burned Down His Home to Collect Nearly $400,000 in Insurance Payments

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut determined that conviction for first-degree larceny and insurance fraud did not violate double jeopardy protections, or that the latter charge was a lesser-included offense of the former.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on December 15, 2002. Police responded to a fire at the defendant’s home, where investigators concluded that the fire appeared “accidental in nature,” though its origin was unknown. The defendant collected over $386,000 under his insurance policies for structural damage, debris removal, loss of personal property, and living expenses.

One year later, the home in which the defendant’s daughter lived was burglarized. Her laptop, which the defendant previously stole from his employer, was among the items taken. Police later recovered the laptop and called the daughter; when she came to collect it, police explained that the defendant claimed it was stolen. In turn, the daughter revealed that the defendant purposefully burned down their house on the night of December 15, 2005. In a sworn statement, she explained that the defendant was having financial issues and told her of his plan, asking that she help him transport items to a rental storage unit. After the fire, the defendant “was laughing at the fire investigators calling them ‘stupid… because he thought he got away with [setting the fire].”

Police reopened the investigation and obtained a search warrant for the defendant’s newly built house, where they found many items listed in the insurance claims as lost to the fire. The defendant was charged and convicted for arson in the first degree, larceny in the first degree, insurance fraud, and conspiracy. The defendant appealed, arguing, in part, that his conviction for both first-degree larceny and insurance fraud violated double jeopardy.

Under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a criminal defendant cannot receive two punishments for two crimes, which he asserts to be a single crime, arising from the same act and prosecuted in a single trial. To be entitled to this double jeopardy protection, a criminal defendant must show that the charges arise from the same transaction or occurrence and that the charged crimes are, in fact, the same offense. If, however, the court determines that each charge requires proof of an element that the other does not, double jeopardy is typically not implicated.

In this case, the Appellate Court determined that larceny in the first degree and insurance fraud each possess unique essential elements. The former does not “require any proof as to the method or manner of obtaining the currency,” while the latter did not have a requisite dollar amount for the value of the property taken. The defendant countered that because insurance fraud is a lesser-included offense to larceny in the first degree, his constitutional rights were violated.

Even where two charges have unique elements, double jeopardy may nonetheless be implicated if the two charges are a lesser-included and greater offense. A lesser-included offense is one that must first be completed to make it possible to commit the greater offense. As an example, assault is a lesser-included offense to robbery, because every robbery includes the commission of an assault. If, however, the lesser offense need not be committed, it is not an included offense. In this case, the Appellate Court determined that insurance fraud was not a lesser included offense because the commission of larceny did not require the presentation of false, incomplete, or misleading statements in support of a fraudulent claim. Therefore, with this respect to the appeal, the Court affirmed judgment.

To see how the defendant fared on his claim that the court improperly admitted evidence, please read “Appellate Court Considers Whether Evidence of Previously-Set Fire Was Improperly Admitted in Arson Trial.”

When faced with a charge of arson, fraud, or larceny, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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“The Fact That You Were An Attorney, Sir, Makes the Crime Worse,” Sentence Review Division Denies Modification Request

In a recent criminal law matter, the Sentence Review Division (Division) of the Superior Court of Connecticut declined to modify a defendant’s sentence because it was neither inappropriate nor disproportionate.

In this case, the petitioner, an attorney, was hired by the complainants to provide services related to the sale of their home. The complainants gave him nearly $111,000 to pay off their mortgage, but the money was never tendered to the bank. The petitioner was charged with larceny in the first degree, a violation of General Statutes § 53a-122 with a maximum punishment of twenty years incarceration. He entered into a plea agreement, and the court sentenced him to twelve years incarceration, execution suspended after four years, with five years of probation and special conditions, including restitution.

The petitioner sought a sentence reduction in light of his practice as an attorney aiding minorities, arguing that the sentence he received as inappropriate and disproportionate. When the Division reviews a sentence, it is without authority to modify unless the sentence is “inappropriate or disproportionate” when considering such factors as the nature of the offense and the character of the offender. In this case, the Division found that the trial court properly considered mitigating aspects of the petitioner’s background. It also noted, however, that he previously misappropriated a quarter of a million dollars of funds entrusted to him from a client. Citing the trial court:

The fact that you were an attorney, sir, makes the crime worse, not simply because you were a lawyer who committed a crime, but you committed a crime out of the breach of the very trust that was placed in you by your clients, and that is an aggravating factor.

The Division held that modification was not warranted in this case where “an attorney embezzled substantial funds from clients and the prior criminal history of the petitioner… reflects the same type of criminal behavior.” It additionally noted that the petitioner never paid restitution to the victims between the time he entered into the plea agreement and sentencing. Therefore, the sentence was affirmed.

Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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State of Mind Hearsay Exception Did Not Apply to Letter Allegedly Condoning Larcenous Actions

In a recent criminal law matter, the Appellate Court of Connecticut affirmed the defendant’s larceny-related convictions, finding the trial court did not improperly exclude evidence.

In this case, the defendant was the victim’s resident health care aide. Over the course of two-and-a-half years, the defendant used the victim’s signature stamp to draft more than $300,000 in checks, drawn from the victim’s life savings, payable to herself and her relatives. When the victim was hospitalized, to his shock and dismay, he learned that his savings were wiped out. He had to obtain State financial assistance and could not return home, instead dying in a nursing home ten months later.

The defendant was charged with larceny in the first degree, larceny in the first degree by embezzlement, and larceny in the second degree. At trial, she attempted to introduce a letter drafted by her daughter, allegedly signed by the victim and permitting the transfer of money from him to the defendant. On the signature line was an “X,” and the daughter testified that she did not know who put it on the writing. The defendant admitted that the document was hearsay, but fell under the “state of mind” exception. The State objected to its admission, arguing that it was past looking and lacked authentication, thus making it unreliable. The trial court agreed and sustained the objection. Subsequently, the defendant was convicted on all counts and appealed, arguing that the trial court improperly excluded the letter from evidence.

Under § 8-3(4) of the Connecticut Code of Evidence one will find the state of mind exception to the hearsay rule. This section provides:

[A] statement of the declarant’s then-existing mental or emotional condition, including a statement indicating a present intention to do a particular act in the immediate future, provided that the statement is a natural expression of the condition and is not a statement of memory or belief to prove the fact remembered or believed [will not be excludable hearsay].

In this case, the Appellate Court agreed that the document did not fall under the state of mind exception. The trial court did not err in excluding it from evidence, finding it not sufficiently reliable to qualify: the document could not be authenticated because the victim was dead, and the placement of the X could not be explained. Therefore, the judgment was affirmed.

When faced with a charge of larceny, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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