Criminal charges may be brought whenever someone commits fraud against the federal government. Federal fraud charges can include credit card fraud, embezzlement, bribery and kickbacks, tax evasion, insurance fraud, bank fraud, health care fraud, and more. Since this offense involves using a phone, fax, email, or other electronic communication device to further fraudulent goals, the prosecution frequently charges wire fraud. These crimes carry serious penalties and should be taken very seriously.
What Is Fraud?
Fraud is a wide term that encompasses many types of dishonest activities. Its goal is to secure unfair or unlawful gain by depriving a person of money, property, or some other legal right. It can also include activity that does not involve a loss but still violates a civil or criminal law. In business, fraud can range from stealing company products to embezzlement schemes where employees skim millions from the organization’s accounts. These crimes can affect companies of all sizes, but the ACFE reports that smaller businesses suffer higher median losses than larger organizations.
Common warning signs of fraud include:
- Unexplained cash transactions.
- Duplicate payments cleared to different vendors within a single date range.
- Suspicious invoices or payment documents.
In some cases, fraudsters are compelled to commit the crime because they experience financial pressure that they feel they cannot resolve through legitimate means. It could include credit card debt, mounting bills, or even a family problem.
What Are the Penalties for Fraud?
The penalties for fraud can vary greatly, depending on the type of offense and alleged victim. For example, impersonating a public safety officer is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor, while forgery of public records is a Class 6 felony. A conviction for fraud can carry prison time, fines, and other significant consequences that could affect future employment opportunities, housing options and immigration status. Whether a case will be prosecuted in state or federal court depends on the circumstances of the crime. Federal prosecution is more likely if the crime involves fraud against a federal program or agency or if it uses interstate communication devices to commit the offense. A conviction for federal wire fraud can result in prison time, substantial fines, and other adverse consequences. To find out more on how to develop a compelling defense to avoid or lessen the impacts of a fraud charge with the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer.
What Are the Defenses to Fraud Charges?
Fraud charges are serious and complex, but there are several possible defenses. A federal fraud attorney can identify the specifics of your case and build a strong defense.
The prosecution must show that you tricked someone else into stealing their things or money to be found guilty of fraud. The prosecutor must also show that the victim suffered harm due to your deception.
One of the strongest defenses to fraud accusations is a lack of intent. Your attorney can demonstrate that you did not intend to commit the crimes the prosecutor accused you of.
In addition, if the fraudulent representations you made were immaterial to the financial institution that was the target of your scheme, then this could be used as a defense. A lawyer can also argue that you acted under duress, which is not an excuse for crime but does exempt you from criminal liability.
How Can I Protect Myself in a Fraud Case?
Millions of Americans are taken advantage of by fraud and scams each year. To prevent becoming a victim, take care when shopping online and only share your personal information with trusted people. Never give out your Social Security or bank account number; always use strong passwords to protect your accounts. Also, do not be a money mule, and don’t transfer funds or provide services to criminals. In a fraud case, the prosecution must prove each component of the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt” to win a conviction. A criminal conviction carries serious consequences, including years in prison and hefty monetary fines.
If you’ve been charged with a fraud offense, working closely with your federal defense lawyer and asserting all available defenses is important. The specific reasons you can raise in your case may depend on the type of fraud offense involved. For example, wire fraud cases often involve a conspiracy charge and may be prosecuted under the same laws that apply to mail fraud cases.