What Is Considered Fraud?
A person commits fraud when they misrepresent a material fact with the intention of deceiving another person to secure an unlaw gain, gain an advantage, or cause another person to suffer a loss. Because the definition of the term is so broad, it encompasses many different kinds of criminal activity, including:
- Check and credit card fraud
- Identity theft
- Tax fraud
- Real estate fraud
- Internet fraud
- Insurance fraud
- Mail fraud
- Healthcare fraud
- Workers’ compensation fraud
- Bankruptcy fraud
- Welfare fraud
No matter what type of crime you’ve been charged with, a seasoned Los Angeles fraud attorney from our firm can help you assess your situation and craft a strong defense.
Penalties for a Fraud Conviction
A conviction for fraud carries serious penalties. You could be sentenced to years in prison and forced to pay thousands of dollars in fines. Examples of penalties include:
- Insurance fraud (California Penal Code Section 550): A 5-year prison term and a fine of either $50,000 or double the amount of the fraud, whichever is greater
- Healthcare fraud (California Penal Code Section 550): Up to 10 years in prison and substantial fines
- Tax fraud (Revenue and Taxation Code Section 19706): A jail sentence up to a year and a maximum fine of $20,000
- Credit card fraud (California Penal Code Section 484): Up to 3 years in jail and a maximum fine of $10,000
- Check fraud (California Penal Code Section 476): Up to 3 years in jail and a maximum fine of $10,000
- Embezzlement (California Penal Code Section 503): Up to 3 years in prison and a $10,000 maximum fine
- Forgery (California Penal Code Section 470): Up to 3 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000
- Welfare fraud (Welfare and Institutions Code Section 10980): Up to 3 years in jail and a maximum fine of $5,000
- Mail fraud (California Penal Code Section 530.5): Up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000
- Identify theft (California Penal Code Section 530.5): A maximum prison sentence of 3 years and a fine of up to $10,000
The consequences for a fraud conviction extend far beyond prison time. If the crime is charged as a felony, you could be forced to sacrifice certain civil liberties, such as the right to own a gun, obtain federally funded housing, and even vote.
Furthermore, a fraud conviction has unique ramifications because of the nature of the crime. You may be stripped of your professional license and banned from working in certain industries. Even in a personal capacity, rebuilding your reputation could take years.
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Common Defenses to Fraud Charges
Fraud charges are often difficult to prove, with the prosecution required to demonstrate the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the crime. Additionally, the defendant will only be convicted if it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that they are guilty.
Defense attorneys can employ a variety of strategies to make these hurdles impossible to clear, such as:
- Duress: If the defendant was coerced into committing the crime through force or fear, this can be used as a defense.
- Lack of intent: Most fraud charges, such as embezzlement, require a showing of intent. Defendants often argue that they did not intentionally commit fraud.
- Entrapment: The authorities cannot coerce someone, through threat or harassment, into committing a crime.
- No fiduciary relationship: Certain fraud charges require a fiduciary relationship or “relationship of trust” between the defendant and the victim. Whether such trust exists depends on the specific details of the relationship.
- Good-faith belief: Defendants may argue that they had a good-faith belief that they were using the funds or property appropriately.
These are just a few of the potential defenses to a fraud case. Your criminal defense attorney will work to identify all the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case against you and build a solid defense based on the facts.