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Federal Agents Raid Los Angeles Casino for Allegedly Laundering Money, Again

An ongoing investigation against the Bicycle Hotel and Casino in Bell Gardens, a city in Los Angeles, resulted in federal agents raiding the casino and closing the gambling floor this week. Since the warrant issued for the raid by a federal district court judge was filed under seal, there are only a few details about the investigation. However, this same casino was found, after a 1991 investigation, to have been built using drug money. Although numerous gamblers speculated that the raid was a result of rigged gaming tables, unnamed media sources clarified that the casino is under investigation for money laundering. Casino patrons holding stacks of chips will be pleased to know that the casino reopened this week after investigators finished their search. However, there may be some more legal trouble in their future, depending on what the search discovered. What is Money Laundering? The crime of money laundering occurs when a person exchanges illegally obtained money, such as the proceeds from the sale of drugs, stolen goods, or other criminal activities, for "clean" money. Many financial institutions are regulated in such a way that certain transactions are monitored for suspicious activity. However, businesses that operate with modest, or even sometimes large amounts of cash can sometimes fly under the radar of authorities, as we learned in Breaking Bad. Penalties for Money Laundering Money laundering is a relatively common type of white collar crime. Depending on whether charges are brought by federal or state authorities, the penalties for money laundering can vary. State laws tend to mirror federal laws, but vary from state to state. Typically, the penalties will increase with the amount of money laundered as well as the number of transactions. While one-off offenses can result in only misdemeanor charges, simple fines and short jail sentences, multiple money laundering transactions can lead to multiple offenses and felony jail sentences of several years. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) How Stacks of Cash Get People Arrested (FindLaw Blotter) Founder of For-Profit College Gets Prison Time (FindLaw Blotter) Feds Punish NY Corruption: Sheldon Silver Sentenced to 12 Years (FindLaw Blotter)
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3 Legal Tips on How to Handle Digital Assets in a Prenuptial Agreement

Living in the 21st century digital world is nearly inescapable at this point. Digital assets abound and can include some unexpected items that may actually possess some unexpected value. Don't believe it? A digital trading card of Hans Solo, that was recently released, goes for $225. Digital assets can include items that have real, transferable monetary values, like online bitcoin accounts, or simply items that have high sentimental value, such as collections of family photos. Regardless of how an item is valued, during a divorce, both tangible and digital assets must be divided, but some digital assets may prove more challenging to divide. As such, including digital assets in a prenuptial agreement is becoming increasingly advisable. Below you'll find three legal tips on how to include digital assets in a prenup. 1. Agree to Maintain Separate Accounts For things like iTunes accounts, digital music, movies, games, and apps, you may just want to agree to maintain separate accounts that will remain separate property, or will be appraised, valued, and offset upon divorce. As opposed to sharing one account, maintaining separate accounts might require a double purchase of an app or game that both you and your spouse want to use. This downside occurs most often with entertainment-related digital assets because these usually only provide purchasers with a single user license, meaning that a game, app, or digital download can only be used by one account. Note that some digital game assets and collections may be transferable and can be valued at thousands of dollars (i.e. the Hans Solo digital trading card mentioned above). As such, you may wish to put a dollar threshold on the value of separate digital accounts. 2. Appraise and Clearly Identify Separate Digital Property Any couple considering a prenup these days likely already has a collection of digital assets, such as their iTunes music library. Most states will consider property acquired prior to marriage as separate property. However, over time, if separate property appreciates in value during the course of a marriage, it could become partly marital or community property. The same is true for digital assets, and can include assets such as social media accounts, particularly if they are related to a business or occupation, or even websites, such as blogs or online businesses. In a prenup, it can be helpful to identify all separate digital assets, and agree that certain ones, like those relating to only one spouse's business, remain separate property. Appraising prior to a prenup can be helpful to ensure that spouses are fully aware of the value, and can track the increase or loss in value for purposes of offsetting property division. 3. Agree to Copy What You Can Digital assets often include items that can be copied freely, such as photos, home movies, and even music. For digital items that can be copied for free, such as iTunes music without DRM protection, it can be agreed to that these will be copied and shared. However, for digital photos, you may want to include a provision prohibiting the sale of photos, as technically the copyright is held by the person who takes the photo, and likeness rights vary from state to state. Related Resources: Need help with family law? A lawyer can review your case for free. (Consumer Injury - Family) Pros and Cons: Premarital Agreements ("Prenuptials") (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) What Can and Cannot be Included in Prenuptial Agreements (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Digital Estate Planning: How to Prepare Digital Accounts for the End of Life (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Death and Digital Privacy: Please Delete My Browser History, Bro (FindLaw's Common Law)
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Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Interview with Caroline Judge Mehta

Caroline Judge Mehta, a member of Zuckerman Spaeder’s Legal Profession and Ethics Practice in Washington, DC, is an experienced advocate who represents individuals, business organizations, and other entities in criminal, regulatory and administrative investigations. She also advises lawyers and law firms on a variety of issues before the District of Columbia Bar and federal agencies. She has been recognized by The Best Lawyers in America and Legal 500 US, in White Collar Criminal Defense. But her day doesn’t end with her legal work; she also writes a blog that’s published on Huffington Post, which she started at age 40. Her topics reflect what’s close to home, she says, and much of them relate to some of the topics in this interview. “Like so many lawyers, I love to write and express myself in ways that briefs and motions don’t allow,” she explains. Our conversation on topics both professional and personal will no doubt strike a familiar chord with many of you. How did you get experience in handling white collar matters? I’ve been so fortunate to be trained by the best trial lawyers anywhere.  I took every meaningful litigation opportunity you can get at a “small” trial firm – civil or criminal – and got on my feet in court every chance I could.  I’m at one of the few firms that wants to train lawyers from the bottom up.  That means pushing young people out in front, early on, making them an equal player on the team in the client’s eyes, and trusting younger lawyers to handle larger and larger portions of cases. What do you see as the biggest hurdle for women in the white collar field? Keeping younger women in the profession.  It’s still an extremely tough tightrope walk, and I get why many women leave.  But we won’t have a healthy white collar bar unless we keep making strides on gender equality.  In the private sector, that means generating business, and it means mentoring and supporting each other and the women of the next generation. Has there been a representation of a client that has most stayed with you through the years and why? I think they all stay with me.  One of the best moments of my life was calling a client who had been the target of a criminal antitrust investigation that dragged on for about four years.  We made a last pitch to DOJ, along with the company’s outside counsel (who both had the temerity to fight and stood up for the individual executives), and we got a declination – and that was after we’d all received target letters.  I reached my client in his car, and he had to pull over because he was overcome with emotion.   There aren’t enough days like that, but when they happen you cherish them and remember why you chose to do this work. What part of defending a client most fuels you? Drains you? Like most of us, I want to win.  But I’m fueled by the challenge of helping a person navigate one of the most difficult crises he or she will face in life.  I get to do everything in my power – a unique power we as lawyers wield in society – to help my client get to the other side of that crisis. And what drains me?  In a way, the very same thing.  You carry that weight with you throughout, and you never put it down.  You’re either on that journey with your client, or you should be in a different line of work. Is there any unique aspect about being a woman that either helps or hinders you when you are defending a client? It’s hard to answer that without falling prey to stereotypes.  But I often observe that women will sit back and listen a lot longer before they insert themselves into the conversation.  You learn a lot more by listening than by talking.  I’ve often had male colleagues ask, “How did you know ___?”  And the answer will be that I heard the client or a witness or an opposing counsel say it. This is a profession in which all of us like to talk, and that’s a lot of the fun of it.  But I always think of that quote by Maya Angelou, who stayed silent for five years after a childhood trauma.  In that time, she read all of Shakespeare, Poe, Kipling, Burns. ...
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Stronger, Kinder, and Gentler

As I let the results of the election sink in, one of the biggest fears that I have is that it will now be socially acceptable for people to be mean to others based on their membership in a group, whether it be women or minorities or immigrants or gays or anybody else who is not part of the white male establishment. Nobody can deny that the recent presidential election has been one of the ugliest in our lifetimes with women being called names and being publicly criticized for their appearance and for speaking out against assault and Hispanic politicians being called liars and having their judgment questioned based on their cultural heritage. I have heard people praise the Donald Trump campaign for making it okay not to be politically correct and for him saying things that others think but are afraid to say, and I fear his affirmation through the election will make such hurtful and regressive discourse even more common and tolerated than it already is. Although we can debate whether political correctness has gone too far, I think we can agree that it is not okay to vilify and hate others based on their gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. So what can we as female criminal defense attorneys, who see the debilitating effects of stereotyping on a daily basis, do for the next four years? I suggest that we become stronger together to fight to make this nation kinder and gentler despite our divisions. We must speak out against hatred of all types, whether it be in the form of racial or religious profiling or gender stereotyping. We must raise our voices even louder to speak out against injustice when we see it and fight harder in our local communities to eradicate it. We must speak up publicly in and out of court when our clients have been victims of hate or are being judged in whole or in part because of their membership in a group. And when our clients are the haters, advocate for the punishment designed to rehabilitate rather than lead to recidivism by embedding the hatred even further. I also suggest that we use our economic power to make changes. We must support local women and minority-owned business (and lawyers) and boycott businesses associated with those who hate. We must spend our charitable dollars on local organizations which work to empower girls and immigrants rather than on charitable foundations which make their officers and directors richer. We must support candidates at the local level who will fight for the values we believe in. Let politicians see that we will vote with our purses as well as through the pulpit and polls. I suggest strongly that we work together to be stronger and to make this country kinder and gentler every day in our local courts and communities and that we show the public and the Government and its officials that smart, kind, strong, and gentle female criminal defense lawyers can make a difference. The post Stronger, Kinder, and Gentler appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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What’s the Punishment for Selling Stolen Goods?

The law in every state allows some latitude when it comes to the crime of selling and buying stolen goods. The one factor that can make the most significance is whether buyer or seller knew that the goods were stolen. Although knowledge makes all the difference, however, not knowing generally will not allow a purchaser, nor seller, to keep the proceeds, nor the goods. Depending on the jurisdiction and the value of the goods, certain states can charge the offense as a petty crime. Petty crimes, typically, are misdemeanors, or infractions, that do not carry very stringent sentences. Usually, this is reserved for situations where the value of the goods is less than $500 or $1,000, and did not involve an additional crime, such as a weapons, assault or battery charge. If a seller has no knowledge the goods they are selling are stolen, it is likely they would be treated similarly to a buyer who had no knowledge. Value Matters When a prosecutor is deciding whether to charge a defendant with a misdemeanor or felony for selling stolen goods, the value of the goods is very significant. In California, for example, if the value is less than $950, then selling stolen goods cannot be charged as a felony. However, if there were other crimes committed in conjunction with the sale of the stolen goods, this could change how a prosecutor decides to charge the case. Misdemeanor convictions carry a maximum sentence of one year in jail, while felony convictions can carry sentences of several years or more. Typically, for a felony selling stolen goods charge in California, assuming there are no other crimes, a guilty party could be facing up to one to three years in prison. Under the federal law, selling stolen property across state lines could land you a ten year prison sentence. Business Types Matter If you are a private party found to be selling stolen goods, you may have less to be concerned about than if you are a pawn shop owner or swap meet vendor. In most states, these business operators face stricter regulation when it comes to selling goods.Generally, pawn shop owners and swap meet vendors need to keep track of where and from whom they received the items they sell. Some states require these businesses to conduct a reasonable inquiry into whether the item was legally obtained before they offer the item for sale. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Is It Illegal to Threaten Someone Online? (FindLaw Blotter) Arrested for Vaping? (FindLaw Blotter) Juvenile Carjacker Arrested Twice in 48 Hours (FindLaw Blotter)
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California’s Gender Neutral Bathroom Bill

While some states have been suing the federal government for the right to discriminate against transgender people when it comes to bathroom access, California is going in the other direction. The same state that led the way on transgender student access to bathrooms in schools just passed a bill requiring all public, single-occupancy bathrooms in the state be gender neutral. The new law would allow anyone to access these bathrooms, regardless of gender identity. So will the Golden State's take on transgender bathroom access be the norm, or remain an outlier? Equal Rights, Equal Access California already has laws prohibiting discrimination against transgender people, including restroom access. That law allows a person to access common bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. The new bill would take the law further, barring single-use restrooms in businesses, government buildings, and public places from being reserved for either gender. (Proponents of the law also point out that gender neutral bathrooms will reduce wait times, since anyone can now use bathrooms that were previously reserved for either more or women.) But the bill hasn't become law quite yet. While the measure passed California's House on a 55-19 margin, it must still get through the State Senate and governor. And no date has been set for either consideration. California in Context Transgender bathroom access has become a hot-button issue in recent years, with some states expanding access and others pushing back. Most infamously, North Carolina recently passed a law prohibiting people from using bathrooms with gender designations different from those on their birth certificates. But the federal government, who has the last word on civil rights issues, has been fighting discrimination against transgender people. The Department of Justice responded swiftly to the North Carolina law, filing a discrimination lawsuit against state officials in an effort to block the law. And the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently advised business to allow bathroom access to employees based on their chosen gender identity. If California's history holds, the gender neutral bathroom bill will soon become law, and we'll all have an easier time going to the bathroom. If you have questions about bathroom access where you live, you can contact an experienced civil rights attorney near you. Related Resources: Find Civil Rights Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Transgender 1st Grader Wins Restroom Ruling (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Legal Rights and Issues for Transgender Children (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Transgender Bathroom Laws in Public Schools: A National Overview (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Top 10 Divorce Questions a Family Lawyer Can Answer

Going through a divorce is hard. And it's even harder to go through it alone without any legal help. There are many reasons why you'll want to hire an experienced family law attorney to help you with your divorce. One of them is an attorney's ability to accurately answer any and all questions you'll have about the divorce process generally, and your divorce specifically. Here are the top 10 divorce questions to ask a family lawyer: 10. How Long Will My Divorce Take? Although it occupies the 10 spot, this question may be one of the most important you have. Every divorce case is different, but you need to know what to expect and that your attorney has a good sense of how your case will go. A good family attorney should be able to provide a timeline of your divorce from initial filings to completion. This will also give your attorney a chance to give you a step-by-step overview of the divorce process in your state, as well as cue you into any deadlines or waiting periods. 9. What Is Your Experience With Divorce Cases? As part of demonstrating his or her familiarity with the process, your attorney should give you a rundown of their resume. Family lawyers might be experienced in various types of family disputes, without having many divorces under their belts. You should ask your attorney how many divorce cases he or she has handled, or what percentage of the firm's time is devoted to divorces. This gives your attorney a chance to discuss his or her legal experience -- hopefully in a way that inspires confidence. 8. What Can I Reasonably Expect From My Divorce? This is a broad question, but along with the timeline, you need to ask your attorney, if you hire him or her, what you can reasonably expect out of litigating or mediating your divorce. Your attorney should be able to paint you a range of likely outcomes based on your case, giving you a good basis for what to expect. 7. What Documents Will I Need for My Divorce? Depending on your shared assets and debts, you might need to provide quite a bit of documentation to back up your divorce filings. You may need to bring everything from pay stubs and tax returns to prenups and birth certificates to a consultation with a divorce attorney. And a good lawyer will be able to tell you how best to prepare for a divorce. So know what you'll need before you start you divorce. 6. How Will the Divorce Affect My Business? If you're an entrepreneur or small business owner, your first question might be how to protect your business assets during a divorce. Ask your attorney about which legal structure can best insulate your business from divorce proceedings and whether placing your business in a living trust could help protect it, and its assets, from your spouse. An attorney can also help you create an enforceable postnuptial agreement regarding the business (if you don't already have a prenup) and advise you on the effect of community property laws on small businesses. 5. How Will Our Property Be Separated? Who gets what in a divorce can become a major battle, and you'll want to know where you stand before the first shots are fired. But if not, you may need to divide everything from the furniture to the financial assets. There are two main factors to deciding property issues: (1) whether you live in a community property state or not, and (2) whether the property is separate or marital property. Your attorney should be able to tell you which marital property laws apply, and how those laws will apply in your case. 4. How Will Custody and Visitation Be Determined? More important than sorting out the kitchenware is sorting out the kids. ...
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Women in Law: Make Rain or Sink

The Ninth Annual Survey by National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) is out, and the statistics continue to be dismal. Here are some highlights: Women still comprise 18% of equity partnership, only 2% higher than in 2006. Men were promoted to Non-equity partner at a significantly higher percentage than women: Among non-equity partners who graduated from law school in 2004, 38% were women and 62% were men The Compensation Gender Gap has gotten wider: Female equity partners earn 80% of what typical male equity partners earn – which is down from 84%. Women are underrepresented in governance committees: A typical firm has 2 (or fewer) women and 8 men on their highest US based governance and compensation committees. Men continue to outpace women in rainmaking credit: 88% of top ten producers are men and 12% were women, down from 16% last year. Typical female equity partner bills only 78% of what a typical male partner bills Vivia Chen of the Careerist’ article, Women in Big Law are Losing Ground, cited the most alarming statistic about the report: only 37% of Am Law 200 firms responded to the survey. In perspective, 69% of Am Law 200 firms responded in 2008.  Of the 73 participating firms, only 41 firms would even answer what gender its highest paid partners are. So, why aren’t firms willing to participate in sharing their facts about the women in their firms? It’s not likely that the reason is because the numbers are getting better – because they aren’t. This report is highly relevant to women in criminal defense for a number of reasons. First and foremost, many of our colleagues are in big law firms and living out these statistics first hand.  And for those of us in midsize, small, or solo practices, these statistics reflect the reality of where we stand in the legal profession as a whole.  If women in institutional firms are struggling to find equality, it is obvious that it will be equally difficult – if not worse – for those of us in smaller firms. The key takeaway from these statistics is that women need to focus on making rain, or we will continue to sink. I know there are many factors in BigLaw that affect a woman partner getting “origination credit,” but women need to be fighting for those credits and focusing on continuing to originate business.  The women who are able to gain positions of strength in a firm should be reaching back to help the other women learn how to originate business.  Some women are natural promoters, but the vast majority of women struggle at this. Women need to be talking about their businesses, asking for business, and actively networking.  I understand the reasons why women are still struggling in BigLaw are complicated, but we need to focus on solutions. We need to stop waiting around for the person in power to hand us our seat at the table, and start demanding it. When we focus on making rain we have the power to demand our seat at the table. And this strategy works – whether you are in Big Law or a solo practice, so stopping worrying about where you are seated and focus only on increasing business for yourself!! The post Women in Law: Make Rain or Sink appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: More Action, Less Statistics

It seems that recently there have been an even greater focus on studies and statistics that tell us what we already know about the challenges women face in law. But I can’t help but wonder if this focus can actually become a distraction. I recently had a friend tell me that initiatives and committees focused on promoting women take women away from what should be their real focus; getting business and making it rain. And the more I read these dismal statistics the more I am beginning to think she is on to something. That being said, I still believe there is value in facing the current status of women in law; the cold hard facts so to speak. And I am mindful that not all women have the opportunity to develop and learn the necessary skill set to get business. Finally I also know there are many factors that contribute to these sad statistics but I do think that we need more action and less statistics. But of course I feel compelled to share them nonetheless: A recent Harvard Law School Study reveals that women lawyers work more hours than men. HLS conducted a survey of graduates of the classes of 1975, 1985, 1995 and 2000 entitled “The Women and Men of Harvard Law School” The study evaluated many differences between male and female lawyers including satisfaction, compensation, and leadership. In all the graduating classes studied, women outpaced mean in the number of hours worked while the class of 2000 women worked eight hours more per week than their male counterparts. The ABA Journal summarized the other findings from the study here. The New York Times reported the findings from a recent study which revealed that some men “fake” 80 hour work weeks. In fact many news sites commented on the new study by Boston University professor Erin Reid that found that 31 percent men and only 11 percent women managed to pass as workaholics without the need to demand more flexible work environments. The takeaway being that men are doing a better job at “faking it to make it” than women are. An American Lawyer Special Report about Big Law Failing Women which evaluates the status of women in big law and even contemplates the need for quotas. The articles include some pretty alarming statistics such as: A $250,000 pay gap between comparable men and women Big Law partners 8% female equity partners among Am Law 200 firms 2181 is the year to expect gender parity among Big Law partners at the current rate of growth Only 15% of Am Law 200 firms with three or more women on the compensation committee Only 1 female named partner out of 258 named partners among Am Law 100 firms 19 firms that hired associates from the On Ramp program that gives women who have taken a break from firms a chance to return. So read them and weep or…let’s throw these statistics on their head by starting to concentrate on increasing our businesses and consequently our power in the field. And if you have trouble in that department find another woman in the field you can trust and ask for help. We are all in this together! The post Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: More Action, Less Statistics appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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5 Things a Tax Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can’t)

What can a tax lawyer do for you, that you may not be able to do on your own? With so many online tax filing options, taxpayers may start thinking they're experts when it comes to filing properly and getting the biggest possible refund. What many of us fail to realize, however, is just how complex the tax code can be. In some cases, it may take an expert to make sure you get a big refund check in the mail and not an audit notice from the IRS. (Or to make sure it's just an audit notice and not a criminal summons.) So here are five things that a tax lawyer can potentially help you with: 1. Respond to IRS Audit and Collection Notices. If the federal government comes calling, you'll probably want some help, especially if you owe the IRS money. Dealing with notices, interviews, and the myriad tools the IRS has at its disposal to collect taxes can be a daunting task. While it is possible that the IRS made a mistake in determining how much you owe, it may take a trained professional to discover the error and advocate on your behalf. 2. Try to Keep You Out of Jail. There can be serious penalities for not filing a tax return or paying in an accurate and timely manner. While you can't go to jail for not paying your taxes, you can be imprisoned for trying to cheat on your taxes. If you're being accused of tax fraud or some other tax-related crime, a tax lawyer can work to keep you on the right side of the line or help differentiate between an honest mistake and a dishonest filing. 3. Navigate Confusing IRS Documents. There are nearly 2,000 IRS forms and publications, many of which can be incomprehensible to a layperson. From listing your rights as a taxpayer, to listing arcane deductions like dental expenses and weight loss programs, to listing the ways the IRS can collect on tax debts, it may take an expert tax attorney to understand it all and guide you through the IRS' complicated tax procedures. 4. Figure Out Your Business / Self-Employment Taxes. Corporations may be "people" in court, but businesses and individuals are taxed differently. Did you work a few days from home last year? Do you telecommute every day? How large is your home office? And did you do some side work? All of these professional situations can affect your income tax filing, and it may take a lawyer to sort out which. 5. Advise You on How to Lower Your Taxes in the Future. Figuring out this year's tax filing is all well and good. But what if you're already worried about your potential tax hit next year? There are several methods to lowering your future tax liability, and a tax lawyer can help you figure out which ones are best for you. Whether you've got the IRS knocking on your door or you want to knock a few dollars of your tax liability, these are just a few things that a qualified tax lawyer may be able to do for you. Related Resources: Browse Tax Lawyers by Location (FindLaw Directory) Hiring a Tax Attorney (FindLaw) 5 Questions to Ask a Tax Lawyer (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Signs You Need a Tax Lawyer, Not a CPA (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)
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