Fraud is mainly classified as financial fraud, insurance fraud, and mortgage or real estate fraud, among others. The punishments for fraud crimes differ depending on the type of fraud crime, which is determined by the specific elements of the crime. When you are facing fraud crime allegations, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately because these charges usually carry hefty fines. Leah Legal has been helping people in Los Angeles who are facing criminal charges including fraud, and we are ready to hear your case and represent you in court.
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What is Fraud?
Fraud refers to all behaviors that involve intentional deception to a person or a business organization, with the intention of financial gain or escaping justice for a crime. This offense can be committed by misrepresentation of facts, false documentation, or exaggeration of events. You will get convicted for fraud if the prosecutor can prove your actions were dishonest, you got undeserved benefit from the act, and you caused harm or loss to the victim of your actions. Fraud can attract both criminal and civil charges. Whether you get a criminal charge or a civil suit will depend on who is suing you. Government prosecutors are the only individuals allowed to bring criminal charges against fraud suspects. Civil suits are filed by the victims of fraudulent activities. For a criminal charge, fraud must be proven without reasonable doubt, and a conviction may lead to a criminal sentence and/or fines. In civil suits, not much proof is required, and the penalty is much lighter, where the defendant is expected to pay for monetary damages suffered.
Mortgage and Real Estate Fraud
Real estate fraud consists of a variety of behaviors involving misrepresentations or concealing facts in a way that harms another person’s interests in their property. Most forms of real estate fraud are prosecuted under California Penal Code 487 grand theft law. This form of fraud is considered as a form of theft through false threats. As opposed to petty theft, the crime of grand theft involves more than $950, which is usually the case in mortgage fraud.
To get convicted of real estate fraud, the prosecutor must prove that you knowingly deceived another individual by making fraudulent representation in regard to a real estate, with the intention to benefit yourself with the property. They should also show that the victim of your actions let you take ownership with reliance on the false information you provided. The most common types of real estate fraud are:
Civil Code 2945.4 Foreclosure Fraud
Given the current crisis in the real estate sector, foreclosure fraud is very common. Pending foreclosures are always listed in public records. Thus, this information can be used by foreclosure consultants to defraud distressed homeowners. The court will convict you for foreclosure fraud if
- You collect compensation from a homeowner for a service you have not provided,
- You take a lien or interest on a property from the owner,
- You collect money or compensation from a third party in regard to the services you are providing without the knowledge of the homeowner,
- You charge excessive fees for the service you provide or try to lure the homeowner into signing an illegal contract.
This offense can be charged to both individual and business organizations. If you are accused of foreclosure fraud, you should seek the representation from a competent attorney.
Forged Real Estate Documents
Pursuant to penal code 115 PC, you will get arrested and charged with real estate fraud if you force any real estate deeds with the aim of committing fraud and financially benefiting yourself. If you are found guilty and convicted of this offense, you may face additional charges under Penal Code 470 California forgery law.
California Civil Code 890 prohibits rent skimming which happens if, within the first year of acquiring rental property, you fail to apply for rent proceeds or to rent a property that does not belong to you and keeping the proceeds. However, if within thirty days of receiving those proceeds, you use them for unforeseen medical care for you and your loved one or to rehabilitate the property, you are exempted from this law. A first rent skimming offense will lead to a civil suit, but multiple rent skimming is punished as a felony.
The Flipping of Illegal Property
Flipping is a type of real estate fraud perpetrated by property appraisers and realtors where they intentionally exaggerate the price of the property. This results in buyers spending more than the property worth and may cause banks to lend more money on a property than its actual value. However, in case you renovate a property and sell it for a higher price, you cannot get charged for illegal flipping.
In California, real estate fraud is a wobbler and prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the defendant's criminal history and nature of the particular case. If you are convicted with real estate fraud as a felony, you may serve probation of up to three years or spend sixteen months, two years, or three years in county jail. If you defrauded an individual more than $65,000, you get an additional sentence of up to 5 years. If it is charged as a misdemeanor, you face a maximum jail sentence of one year and $1000 in fines.
Insurance fraud laws of California seek to punish individuals who present false claims with the intention to defraud the insurance providers. You will be charged with insurance fraud if you attempt to obtain benefits from insurance companies when you are not entitled to get the benefits. Generally, for any type of insurance fraud, the prosecutor is required to prove your intention to defraud and your lack of a right for the claim. Also, they can show that you deserved the benefits but exaggerated to get higher compensation. The most common types of insurance fraud are:
Healthcare Insurance Fraud
Individuals who are commonly prosecuted for violating the healthcare insurance fraud laws are the doctors, medical equipment suppliers, and other hospital employees. You commit this offense if you receive extra benefits for giving specific prescriptions when you charge for medical services that were not provided to the patients, exaggerate medicine or medical equipment prices, or secure multiple prescriptions of one drug for financial benefits.
Automobile Insurance Fraud
You violate automobile insurance fraud laws if you attempt to obtain compensation from automobile insurance providers. This can be done by faking an accident to claim for compensation, exaggerating an insurance claim if you get into an accident, or destroying your own vehicle and claiming it was stolen resulting to your financial gain and loss to the insurance company.
Unemployment Insurance Fraud
Insurance fraud laws prohibit any attempts to modify the insurance benefits by increasing, decreasing or denying them. You commit this offense by collecting insurance benefits from multiple states or providing false information regarding the reason for employment termination with the intention of avoiding unemployment insurance contributions.
Workers Compensation Insurance Fraud
California workers compensation laws are violated by individuals who make false claims to get compensation from the workers' compensation program. If you fake an injury or try to manipulate past injuries to appear work-related, you may face charges for workers compensation insurance fraud.
Punishment for insurance fraud as a misdemeanor is a sentence up to one year in county jail and a fine not exceeding $10,000 or both. If charged as a felony, the defendant will face up to five years with a fine of double the amount defrauded.
This is a deception involving financial transactions for financial gain. Some of the offenses classified as financial fraud are
Credit Card Fraud
You violate the credit card law by making an attempt to use or actually using a credit card unlawfully. Like other fraud crimes, an intent to commit fraud must be proven before you are convicted. The law punishes individuals who sell or transfer stolen credit cards or debit card information without the owner’s consent. You will also get charged with credit card fraud for forging credit cards. This is done by either creating a fake card, signing someone else’s card transactions, or altering the information on the card. This offense is treated and punished under California forgery law Penal Code 470. Also, using a stolen, forged, altered or expired card to carry out transactions with full knowledge of the card status is punishable under the financial fraud laws.
Securities are business arrangements where you get ownership of a part of a business entity or a right to get repayment for a debt. Common types of securities are interests in limited liability companies, certificates indicating ownership of profit in business arrangements, and stocks from a corporation. If you have a share in a business you are actively involved in running; the securities law does not apply to you. Securities fraud charges are complicated to a layperson; thus, if you are facing these charges, you should consult a criminal attorney to guide you.
You commit securities fraud when you sell securities that are not qualified by the Department of Corporations. Since lots of paperwork is required to register the securities, a lack of completion of this process can attract criminal penalties. However, if the business enterprise involved is small or the buyers purchased the securities their own accord without relying on an advertisement, you cannot get charged with fraud. There is a procedure you need to follow when selling your securities; thus if you don’t comply, it is considered an act of securities fraud.
Securities fraud is a wobbler offense, and the nature of its prosecution will depend on the circumstances and type of securities fraud you commit. As a misdemeanor, the defendant faces a fine not exceeding $1,000,000 or up to three years of jail time. If you are charged with a felony securities fraud, you face a jail sentence of between two to five years or a fine of up to $10,000,000. Also, people who claim to have suffered from your fraudulent behavior may file a civil suit against you. If found guilty, the court will expect you to compensate these people for the damages caused.
Penal Code 476 California’s Check Fraud
Check fraud laws prohibits acts of making, passing, writing, possessing or an attempt to pass altered or forged checks with the aim of acquiring cash or other services. This offense is prosecuted as a crime of forgery since it violates the general fraud laws. To obtain a conviction, the prosecutor must prove that you presented a fake check which could be from non-existent accounts. They are also required to show that the check you used was altered. You can alter a check by changing its legal effect or changing its appearance. However, regardless of the loss suffered by the other party, if your intention to defraud isn’t proven, you cannot get convicted for check fraud.
California Penal Code 332 Gambling Fraud
The law prohibits obtaining money or property from another person by use of deceit and games such as false fortune telling or cheating in card games. The extent of penalties for gambling fraud will be determined by the amount of money you are accused of defrauding. If the amount of money involved is below $950, you will get charged with a misdemeanor and a felony if it exceeds $950.
Although tax evasion is treated as a crime on its own, failure to intentionally pay your taxes or underreporting your taxable income is considered as fraud. Tax laws are may be quite complicated to understand. If you are facing tax evasion charges, it is best to seek legal representation. Your attorney will help you prove that you did not act with an intent to evade tax, but instead, you made an error.
Penal Code 530.5 Forgery and Identity Theft
Since forged documents are connected to impersonating someone else, forgery suspects are not only charged with fraud but also with identity theft. Personal identification information that can be used to commit fraud is social security numbers, identification cards, names, and bank account information. Fraud offenses that fall under this category include:
Counterfeiting an Identification Card or a Driver’s License
You are guilty of identity theft by changing your official details and assigning yourself a different name. To violate this law, you do not require to commit identity theft; as long as you get involved in the alteration of a driver’s license or identity card issued by the government, you will get charged with this crime. Also, owing or using documents bearing someone else identity is a violation of California fraud laws.
Due to the increased reliance on technology, internet fraud is on the rise. The law prohibits any fraudulent online activities such as making unauthorized purchases, creating and distributing computer viruses as well as cyberstalking.
When you pretend to be someone else with the intention to secure a monetary benefit, you violate California’s false personation law. You are also considered to have committed identity theft if you use another person’s details to acquire welfare benefits or signing someone’s check or making an attempt to cash it. Sometimes, the offense can be online by hacking into another individual’s networking profile or trying to make purchases using a forged credit card.
Possessing a Fake Public Seal
California fraud laws prohibit unauthorized possession and use of public seals. However, the public seal does not have to be issued from the state of California to get you convicted for forgery. Regardless of the state where the seal belongs, as long as you use it in California to forge documents and impersonate someone else, you are guilty if identity theft.
Depending on the facts of your case and your criminal history, identity theft will either get charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. As a misdemeanor, you will pay a maximum of $1000 in fines and spend up to one year in county jail. On the other hand, a felony conviction will cost you $10,000 in fines and three years in jail. It is important to understand that each act of fraud is treated separately, even if it was against the same person. Thus, the more the number of the charges, the harsher your penalties would be.
Fight Fraud Charges with the Help of a Criminal Attorney Near Me
Cities such as Los Angeles are among the biggest metropolitans in the world, and with many business opportunities, fraud cases such as real estate fraud, insurance fraud, and financial fraud are common. While the state invests much in investigating and prosecuting fraud, it is true that you may get charged falsely or you unintentionally committed a fraud crime. That is why Leah Legal is here.
With our extensive experience in helping clients fight fraud crime and other criminal charges, we are ready to hear out your case and see the best course of action. We cannot guarantee the dismissal of your charges, but we guarantee that we will fight aggressively for your freedom. Please contact our Van Nuys criminal lawyer at 818-484-1100 if you want an experienced Los Angeles defense attorney to fight for your rights.