In the state of California, fraud is defined as the commission of any illegal act that brings unfair benefit to yourself and unfair harm or loss to another. The most common motivations for fraud are financial gain and escape of criminal culpability. High fines and long prison sentences are assigned as punishments to many forms of fraud, and thus, the stakes are high when you are facing a fraud crime allegation.
Fraud in the California Criminal Code
Most fraud crimes are dealt with as part of California's theft laws, but the field of fraud law is so wide and diverse that it spreads well outside of these bounds. Forgery, for example, is dealt with under section 470 of the penal code while perjury (also considered an act of fraud) is dealt with in section 118. There are many forms of fraud, which have their own special section and punishments within the state criminal code.
Some of the types of crimes included under the heading "fraud" according to California's legal classification system are as follows:
- Insurance fraud, which is generally done to obtain undeserved claims from the insurance company but can involve other fraudulent activities as well. Auto, health, unemployment, and worker's comp are under this category as is welfare fraud. Staged accidents, double-billing done by a health care institution, collection of unemployment in multiple states simultaneously, and faking a work-related injury are all specific examples of insurance fraud.
- Real estate fraud, which includes mortgage fraud, foreclosure fraud, forging of deeds, predatory lending, illegal property flipping, straw buyer schemes, and rent skimming.
- Credit card, check, and securities fraud. Using a false or stolen credit card, purposefully attempting to clear a check when you know you do not have sufficient funds, and encouraging stock market investment based on false information are all examples.
- • Identity theft, forgery of driver's licenses and IDs, forgery of any public document, impersonation, and purposefully spreading computer viruses, hacking, and cyber-stalking. All of these involve an element of identity fraud.
- Fraud targeting the elderly and those in nursing homes. Telemarketing fraud, home repair fraud, funeral and cemetery fraud, and overcharging nursing home residents are all specific examples.
- Fraud conducted through the U.S. mail system. If one utilizes the U.S. postal system to send a forged check or a fraudulent promotion to someone, it is mail fraud and a federal offense.
- Handicapped parking and vehicle registration fraud. Using a handicap parking permit that is not yours or that is forged and fabricating license plates and stickers are in this category.
Sentencing for Fraud
Fraud charges and punishments present a great web of complexity and diversity. Many fraud allegations are "wobblers," which can be charged either as misdemeanors or felonies. The facts of each case and the criminal history of the defendant will determine whether a misdemeanor or felony is filed. Some fraud crimes, however, are always mandatory felonies.
Certain fraud violations are both federal and state offenses, resulting in two court cases and two sets of punishments. There are also circumstances under which the federal government can seize money and assets gained by fraudulent means. This is done with the permanent permission of California as outlined in the state criminal code.
Furthermore, acts of fraud are considered to be "crimes of moral turpitude." For such offenses, legal resident aliens can be deported and businessmen can see their professional licenses suspended or revoked.
The Importance of a Good Fraud Defense Lawyer
If accused of fraud, you should not hesitate to contact an expert fraud attorney. Always exercise your 5th Amendment right to remain silent before police and prosecutors unless your attorney is at your side to advise you. In recent years, investigations and prosecutions against "white collar" crimes like fraud have increased in number and aggressiveness. There are even special prosecution units devoted just to fraud cases, and often enough you will be facing a federal and/or state agency in court.
Prosecutors will be zealous to convict you, supposing themselves to be serving the public interest, but you are innocent until proven guilty. Someone needs to protect your rights as well.
The Law Offices of Jeff Voll can provide you with an experienced defense team and a solid defense strategy. Our highly competent defense team includes not only top-tier attorneys but also forensic accountants, computer analysts, and private investigators.
If you have been accused of fraud in the Los Angeles area, there are several defenses commonly employed:
- The defendant had no fraudulent intent. Therefore, by definition, no fraud took place.
- The defendant was entrapped by police. Law enforcement enticed or coerced him/her into committing the fraudulent act.
- It is a case of mistaken identity. Nearly 75% of convictions ultimately overturned by DNA testing were caused by witness error of some kind. It is also possible the witness perjured himself to secure the conviction.
At the Law Offices of Jeff Voll, we know how to build a strong case to defeat the fraud crime allegations you are facing. Contact us today at 323-467-6400 for a free consultation and quick attention to your case.