Fraud is a general criminal charge that applies to a variety of offenses. Simply stated, fraud is a false statement, or an intent to deceive, that is meant to harm someone for financial or other personal gain. The act of deceit must also deprive someone of their money or other property.
Some common examples of fraud are:
- Bank fraud
- Insurance fraud
- Tax fraud
- Money laundering
- Mail fraud
- Credit card fraud
- Bankruptcy fraud
Fraud is considered a “white-collar” crime, as it usually does not involve physical violence or the threat of bodily harm. None the less, it is a serious crime and is often charged as a crime and the consequences of a conviction can range from probation to many years in prison. If charged with fraud of any kind it is imperative to seek the services of a criminal defense attorney. Only an experienced attorney fully understands the complex legal issues, possible defenses and trial procedures involved with fraud cases.
Fraud is a very broad charge that covers numerous offenses.
Embezzlement is the taking or converting of a company’s or organization’s legally obtained funds for your own purpose or benefit. A cashier who pockets money paid by a customer, or a banker who funnels an investor's money into their own account serves as examples of embezzlement. To consider an act of embezzlement, the following must be true:
- A fiduciary relationship existed between the victim and offender, and;
- The defendant took possession of the property, and;
- The property was taken illegally, and;
- The misappropriation of funds or assets was intentional.
Embezzlement can be charged in New Jersey as either a second, third or fourth degree crime depending on the amount stolen. If a defendant embezzled more than $75,000, they may face up to 10 years in prison. If the defendant embezzled between $500.00 and $75,000.00, he may face 3 to 5 years in prison. If the defendant embezzled $200.00 to $500.00, he may face up to 18 months in prison. Taking less than $200 is a disorderly persons offense with a possible sentence up to 6 months in jail.
In New Jersey, insurance fraud cases are handled by the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor. Some examples of insurance fraud include:
- Fake auto accidents and injuries.
- Overcharging for Medicaid services.
- Claiming you are disabled when you have no disabling condition.
- Falsely claiming unemployment benefits while working.
- Failing to obtain workers compensation benefits for your workers.
Health care-related fraud can carry jail time of 3-5 years for patients, while a physician or other health professional faces 5-10 years. Depending on the circumstances, insurance fraud can also be charged as a federal offense, with possible imprisonment of up to 10 years, or even up to 20 years if the violation resulted in serious bodily injury to someone.
False auto insurance claims and workers compensation fraud each carry a fine up to $10,000 and up to 18 months in jail.
Credit Card Fraud
You can be charged with fraud by committing any of these acts:
- Using someone else’s name in order to obtain a credit card.
- Making a false statement in writing about your financial condition.
- Using someone else’s credit card without their consent.
- Selling or buying a credit card from someone other than the issuer.
- Altering a credit card in any way for financial gain.
- Using a card knowing it was expired, revoked or forged.
Credit card fraud can be charged as either a fourth or third degree crime in New Jersey.
Bankruptcy fraud is a federal offense. In filing for bankruptcy protection, you must provide a true and complete schedule of your assets. You can be charged with fraud if you knowingly make a false statement in relation to a bankruptcy proceeding. Such a statement must have been intended as a material statement; however it need not be given under oath.
For instance, neglecting to include an asset, such as a million dollar vacation home, on a bankruptcy filing would constitute a material misstatement that can lead to a fraud charge.
Once arrested, you need to contact a criminal defense lawyer at once. Do not give any statements to the police or volunteer any information.
If you are detained or brought into custody, ask to speak to an attorney and volunteer no information, regardless of your actions.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can offer any number of defenses. Some common strategies include:
- A specific intent to defraud must be proved in many fraud charges. A misunderstanding or an error in interpreting a contract, oral or otherwise, may have led to seemingly fraudulent behavior.
- In bankruptcy fraud, a material statement that was false and intentionally made must be proved. If you forgot about a piece of real property that you had a minor interest in, an attorney may be able to demonstrate your lack of intent to defraud.
- A skilled lawyer can exploit an invalid search warrant or show that the police exceeded the limits of the search.
- The value of the assets allegedly stolen or converted is far less than the charge denotes.
A seasoned criminal defense lawyer can present your best defense, offer mitigating circumstances to the court or present viable sentencing alternatives that may save you from imprisonment or from incurring a permanent felony conviction on your public record.
If you have or a loved one has been allegedly charged with fraud, we want to hear from you.