Auto Insurance Fraud, Check Fraud, Credit Card Fraud, Health Care Fraud, Identity Theft, Real Estate Fraud, Unemployment Insurance Fraud, etc.
If you have been charged, or believe you may soon be charged, with committing a crime of fraud in the state of California, you could be subject to heavy fines and long jail or prison terms upon a conviction, and cannot afford to be without the best possible legal help when you go up against an aggressive and determined prosecutor.
Fraud crimes come in many varieties, from insurance fraud to real estate fraud to identity theft, but no matter which particular type of fraud charge is filed against you, the consequences for your career, reputation, and whole future could be extremely harsh upon a conviction.
At Leah Legal, we understand the gravity of a fraud charge, and we also understand in great detail the statutes and the courtroom processes that will affect the outcome of your case. Contact us today, anytime 24/7, by calling 818-484-1100, and we will be happy to give you a free legal consultation and to begin work immediately on building your case.
How Is "Fraud" Defined in California?
While there are numerous different classes of fraud crimes under California law, a number of which we will look at in the sections just below, "fraud" in general is defined in California as providing false or misleading information, withholding important and relevant information, or committing any other act that:
- Results in your gaining an undeserved benefit
- And causes an undeserved loss to another person.
It is also necessary that the act and its results were done intentionally. Generally, the motive for fraud crimes is either financial gain or an attempt to escape criminal liability. There can be other motives, however, depending on the type of fraud and the specific circumstances involved.
There are numerous types of insurance, and thus, numerous types of insurance fraud; but the common thread in all of them is generally the submission of false information on a claim or an application for the purpose of receiving benefits that you are not rightfully entitled to.
It is also possible to commit insurance fraud by omitting information or giving partial, misleading information. And it is even possible for insurers themselves to be guilty of insurance fraud when they act in bad faith and refuse to pay out on legitimate claims.
Below, we look at some of the most common forms of California insurance fraud:
- Auto Insurance Fraud: Typically, auto insurance fraud is done by submitting an "inflated" claim, staging an accident and then seeking to collect on it, or arranging for your car to disappear and then reporting it as stolen. Auto insurance fraud is the most common type of insurance fraud, and many are falsely accused of it when insurers use automated "red flag" systems to identify "suspicious claims." On the other hand, many instances of fraud escape insurers' notice due to the sheer volume of auto insurance claims that occur every year.
- Health Insurance Fraud: Health care workers and pharmacists sometimes commit fraud by charging for services never rendered, overcharging on a single bill or "double-billing," or by getting special kickback payments for prescribing particular drugs. Fraudulent claims by policy holders for faked or exaggerate injuries or denial by insurers of legitimate claims also occur.
- Unemployment Insurance Fraud: Unemployment insurance fraud can occur when a former employer lies about why a worker was fired or about that worker's wages in order to avoid paying into the unemployment insurance system. Or, it can occur when claimants lie about their work search efforts, collect benefits while employed, or collect benefits in multiple states simultaneously.
- Welfare Fraud: The two main types of welfare fraud are recipient fraud, where those not qualified for benefits provide false information in order to collect them and internal fraud, where a worker at a government welfare agency takes extra benefits for himself or distributes them unlawfully to friends, family, or others, possibly for a kickback.
- Workers' Comp Fraud: Faking injuries, claiming an injury as work-related when in fact it was not, and concealing information about a previous injury that would affect your claim are common forms of trying to defraud the California workers' compensation system.
Real Estate Fraud
Another major class of California fraud crimes are those involving real estate and mortgages, where one party seeks to defraud another out of all or part of the value of the real estate via all kinds of "tricks" and by providing false information upon which they get the victim to rely in deciding on how to dispose of his/her real estate.
Some of the most common types of real estate fraud are:
- Foreclosure Fraud: This scheme involves the taking of compensation by a so-called real estate consultant who pretends he can delay or prevent a foreclosure, but has no intention of doing so. He may or may not also attempt to take possession of the property at the scheme's end.
- Predatory Lending: When banks and lenders violate California laws designed to protect borrowers, and entrap unsuspecting borrowers in loans with exorbitant interest that they have no ability to repay, it is considered a form a fraud.
- Property Flipping: Not all "property flipping" is illegal and fraudulent, but some of it is. Specifically, when the selling price is boosted based on fake appraisals, the buyer has been defrauded.
- Rent Skimming: "Rent skimming" involves renting out property that you don't really own and keeping the proceeds or part of them for yourself, or collecting rent without paying on the rental property's mortgage.
- "Straw Buyer" Schemes: This occurs when a realtor or someone posing as a realtor convinces someone with good credit to co-sign for a fictitious buyer to help him get approved on a home loan. The agent then takes the loan money and leaves the co-signer responsible for repaying the loan.
Fraud schemes listed under this heading are considered so closely aligned with the basic idea of fraud as defined by California law as to be referred to as "generic." Examples include:
- Check Fraud: Creating, making use of, or even merely possessing a fraudulent check, while presenting that check as genuine and intending to use it to defraud another person is check fraud. Another form of check fraud is using a genuine check to obtain an amount of money you know is not in your account, and yet another, is signing and attempting cash someone else's check without permission. The later instance is also false personation.
- Credit Card Fraud: Any transaction or attempted transaction wherein a person has the design to wrongfully benefit financially, while using a credit card, a debit card, or the account information of a credit/debit card is "credit card fraud." This may mean stealing or finding a lost credit card and then trying to use it, making/selling a counterfeit credit card, or even trying to use your own credit card that you know is no longer valid or no longer has sufficient funds in its available credit line for the desired purchase.
- Forgery/Identity Theft: Forgery and identity theft are closely linked since stolen personal information is often incorporated into forged documents that are then used to fraudulently obtain financial gain. Forging check signatures, driver's licenses which are then sold, state ID cards, and California public seals are all examples of commonly forged documents that are intricately connected with identity theft.
When acts of fraud are perpetrated upon our nation's seniors (65 years old or older), it is deemed particularly reprehensible since the fraudster is taking advantage of their age, and possibly senility, to defraud them of monies they have worked all their lives to save up.
Oftentimes, scammers target the elderly because they are easy targets and because they often have a good deal of money in comparison with others. Common schemes involve telemarketing, household repairs and improvements, real estate scams, predatory lending, and funerary or cemetery related fraud.
Unfortunately, many times elder fraud occurs in our nation's nursing homes. Workers there may harm residents physically, manipulate them emotionally, or take advantage of them financially. They may get an elder to agree to give up his/her property to them, forge the elder's name on a check, or simply overcharge them for services and keep the excess for personal use.
Other Forms of Fraud
There are some forms of fraud that do not fit neatly into any of the categories mentioned above but that are common forms of fraud nonetheless. These include:
- Mail Fraud: When any act of fraud makes use of the U.S. postal system to carry out the scheme, it is mail fraud (a federal offense). This means that mail fraud will be charged in addition to many other types of fraud and serve to increase the total sentence upon a conviction.
- Handicap Parking Fraud: Those who make illegal use of a handicap parking "placard" in order to assure themselves of always having a good parking space are guilty of this crime. It can involve buying a placard, forging one, or simply parking in a handicap space while the handicapped person who owns the placard is not present in the vehicle.
- Vehicle Registration Fraud: It is considered a form of fraud in California to forge or alter a license plate or vehicle registration sticker in order to avoid paying the relevant fees or in order to sell the illegal plates/stickers to another person for a profit.
- Gambling Fraud: When one cheats at card games, uses confidence games like "Three Card Monte," or engages in fraud fortune-telling to deprive people of their money, it is "gambling fraud." This crime is a misdemeanor if the amount of money taken was $950 or less but can become a felony for greater amounts, depending on the details of the case.
Possible Penalties for California Fraud Crimes
Crimes involving fraud are generally considered "white collar" in nature, which leads to the imposition of heavy fines and long incarceration periods as possible punishments. Some fraud crimes are handled as separate offenses, while others are dealt with under state theft, forgery, or perjury laws.
Most commonly, fraud crimes in California are "wobblers," meaning they can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances involved and on the defendant's prior criminal record.
Additionally, some fraud crimes are also federal offenses, meaning you could be prosecuted in both state and federal court for the same offense. And those fraud crimes considered acts of "moral turpitude" can lead to deportation of illegal aliens and other immigration consequences.
And those with certain types of professional licenses can lose them if convicted of a fraud crime.
Defending Against the Charge of Fraud
Given the complexity of California statutes dealing with fraud crimes and the severe penalties that can apply upon a conviction, it is crucial that your defense strategy be a proven approach that is in the hands of an experienced defense attorney.
At the Criminal Law Office of Leah Legal, we use many defenses to win fraud cases, each class of fraud and the details of each case and of each client's background guiding us as to which defense to utilize.
Lack of fraudulent intent, false accusations, mistaken identity, and police entrapment are a few of the main defenses we employ in fraud cases. Lack of relevance in affecting a claim is another defense used in insurance fraud cases. We always employ the most appropriate defense that will maximize your chances of a favorable outcome.
Contact Us Today For Help
At Leah Legal, we stand ready to come to your aid with top-tier legal advice and representation and to fight tirelessly in your best interests from the moment we take on your case.
We have a history of attaining the best possible outcomes in fraud defense cases. We always fight first of all for an acquittal or a dismissal, but if that is not possible, we have well seasoned negotiation skills that we can use to secure you a favorable plea,
To learn more or for a free consultation on the details of your case, do not hesitate to contact us anytime 24/7/365 at 818-484-1100.