Fraud Crime and Criminal Charges
Fraud is commonly understood as dishonesty calculated for advantage. A person who is dishonest may be called a fraud. In the U.S. legal system, fraud is a specific offense with certain features.
Fraud is most common in the buying or selling of property, including real estate, Personal Property, and intangible property, such as stocks, bonds, and copyrights. State and federal statutes criminalize fraud, but not all cases rise to the level of criminality. Prosecutors have discretion in determining which cases to pursue. Victims may also seek redress in civil court.
Fraud must be proved by showing that the defendant’s actions involved five separate elements: (1) a false statement of a material fact,(2) knowledge on the part of the defendant that the statement is untrue, (3) intent on the part of the defendant to deceive the alleged victim, (4) justifiable reliance by the alleged victim on the statement, and (5) injury to the alleged victim as a result.
These elements contain nuances that are not all easily proved.
First, not all false statements are fraudulent. To be fraudulent, a false statement must relate to a material fact. It should also substantially affect a person’s decision to enter into a contract or pursue a certain course of action. A false statement of fact that does not bear on the disputed transaction will not be considered fraudulent.
Second, the defendant must know that the statement is untrue. A statement of fact that is simply mistaken is not fraudulent. To be fraudulent, a false statement must be made with intent to deceive the victim. This is perhaps the easiest element to prove, once falsity and materiality are proved, because most material false statements are designed to mislead.
Third, the false statement must be made with the intent to deprive the victim of some legal right.
Fourth, the victim’s reliance on the false statement must be reasonable. Reliance on a patently absurd false statement generally will not give rise to fraud; however, people who are especially gullible, superstitious, or ignorant or who are illiterate may recover damages for fraud if the defendant knew and took advantage of their condition.
Finally, the false statement must cause the victim some injury that leaves her or him in a worse position than she or he was in before the fraud.
Fraud is an independent criminal offense, but it also appears in different contexts as the means used to gain a legal advantage or accomplish a specific crime. For example, it is fraud for a person to make a false statement on a license application in order to engage in the regulated activity. A person who did so would not be convicted of fraud. Rather, fraud would simply describe the method used to break the law or regulation requiring the license.
Federal and state criminal statutes provide for the punishment of persons convicted of fraudulent activity. Interstate fraud and fraud on the federal government are singled out for federal prosecution. The most common federal fraud charges are for mail and wire fraud. Mail and wire fraud statutes criminalize the use of the mails or interstate wires to create or further a scheme to defraud (18 U.S.C.A. §§ 1341, 1342).
Chairman of the Riviera Beach Housing Authority Under Investigation
The Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics found probable cause Aug. 2 to put Taylor on trial on five counts of violating the county’s 2-year-old ethics law. Taylor would be the second public official to face such a trial.
If found guilty, Taylor could be fined a maximum $500 per count and receive a letter of reprimand. The ethics commission is not referring the case to the state attorney for criminal charges, but it will send a letter to federal officials, who oversee the housing authority.
Housing authority board members supervise housing for low- and moderate-income families. They are unpaid and control a budget of about $120,000 a year, mostly federal money. Members are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council.
Taylor also was arrested twice in the 1980s on charges of issuing worthless checks, arrests that Taylor points out were decades ago and aren’t relevant to the ethics complaint.
The complaint accuses Taylor of violating the county’s ethics ordinance, a major part of the package of ethics reforms enacted in 2009 after several public officials went to prison on corruption charges. The housing authority came under the ethics commission when voters extended its reach to cities in November 2010.
Ethics commission Vice Chairwoman Robin Fiore asked at the probable-cause hearing whether the complaint surrounding Taylor was caused by “sloppy paperwork” or something more.
“It could be both,” said Theron Hardee Bass, the prosecutor for the case. “I don’t know that even correct paperwork could have prevented that.”
“I made a mistake on doing the paperwork,” Taylor said. “But I didn’t make a mistake in lending the money.”
West Palm Beach Fraud Defense Attorney
At the law firm of Andrew D. Stine, P.A., in West Palm Beach, we have extensive experience representing people charged with fraud crimes, including mortgage fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, securities fraud, tax evasion, insider trading, theft by fraudulent means, writing bad checks, and organized schemes to defraud.
In Florida, most fraud changes involve the Economic Crimes Division (ECD) putting together a great amount of evidence for presentation before a grand jury. The best way to resolve these cases is for your lawyer to have a good working relationship with the prosecutor and to try to avoid any serious consequences by paying restitution. In Florida, restitution outweighs incarceration, so if your lawyer can persuade the victim to drop charges in favor of receiving their money back, you can usually avoid a conviction.
If you did not commit the fraud crime, we can prepare an aggressive defense and force the state to prove its case. In many cases, that can be a difficult thing for the state to do.
Free consultation 24/7: Call West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer Andrew D. Stine, P.A. at 561.880.4300. Se habla español.