Fraud crimes in Florida are often complicated legal matters. Many fraud offenses are actually relatively easy to commit, to the point that a person may not be aware that he or she is committing fraud, or that the activity he or she is involved in is a part of a fraud scheme. Additionally, several types of fraud that are crimes at the state level in Florida are also crimes at the federal level, meaning you could potentially face the same charges twice without double jeopardy occurring.
In most fraud cases, you will be up against an eager Economic Crimes Division (ECD) who has put together a great amount of evidence for the grand jury trial. These crimes involve intricate legal issues and complex financial matters that the prosecution will be primed and ready to use against you. An experienced defense attorney in Palm Beach County can provide you a sophisticated legal defense that works to protect your rights and for a favorable outcome, such as trading restitution for dropped charges, in your West Palm Beach area fraud case.
West Palm Beach Fraud Defense Lawyer
Both state-level and federal-level fraud convictions come with serious penalties as well as consequences that will affect you the rest of your life. If you have been arrested for any kind of fraud offense in Palm Beach County, including West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Greenacres, Jupiter, Lake Worth, Palm Beach Gardens, Riviera Beach, Royal Palm Beach, and Wellington, Andrew D. Stine, P.A. can defend you in your Florida case and any federal case arising from the same actions. When considering a criminal defense lawyer as part of your strategy, it is best to contact him as soon as possible after your arrest.
Andrew Stine is a qualified West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney with 10 years of experience, including a stint as public defender. He is passionate about defending the rights of alleged offenders, and as a former army medic, has a militant attention to detail that can be beneficial in Florida fraud cases. For more information on what Andrew D. Stine, P.A. can do for your fraud charges in the Palm Beach County area, call 561-832-1170 today and schedule your free initial case consultation.
Florida Fraud Crime Information Center
- Types of Fraud in Florida Defined
- Florida Penalties for Fraud in Palm Beach County
- Resources for Palm Beach County Fraud
The simplest definition of a fraud crime is one that involves an element of deceit, trickery, or breach of confidence that is committed in order to gain an unfair or dishonest advantage, usually in circumstances involving money. In Florida, this translates into a great many crimes, some of which have federal counterparts, and all of which come with serious penalties on conviction. Specifically, some of the fraud offenses seen in Palm Beach County and the surrounding areas include:
- Theft by Fraud: Fla. Stat. § 812.014, 817.02 – Theft by fraud can mean one of two offenses. The first is simply committing theft as governed in § 812.014, as the definition of the involved legal terms includes obtaining property by fraud, willful misrepresentation of a future act, or false promise. The second is when an offender falsely impersonates or represents another person in order to defraud that person of property with the intent to reassign such property to the offender's own use. This is known in the statutes as obtaining property by false impersonation. Both offenses are punishable as larceny offenses classed from third-degree felonies to first-degree felonies based on the amount of money or value of property involved.
- Real Estate/Mortgage Fraud: Fla. Stat. §§ 817.54-817.545 – In Florida there are two main types of real estate and mortgage fraud. These are obtaining a mortgage through false representation with the intent to defraud and committing mortgage fraud by knowingly and with the intent to defraud make, use, or facilitate the use of any material misstatement, misrepresentation, or omission during the mortgage lending process when that misstatement, misrepresentation, or omission will be relied on by a mortgage lender, borrower, or any other party involved in the process.
These laws also make it an offense to make a profit off of mortgage fraud. In Palm Beach County, mortgage and real estate fraud offenses commonly include straw buyer/nominee loans and inflated appraisals. These crimes are punishable as a third-degree felony or second-degree felony, depending on the case.
- Money Laundering: Fla. Stat. § 896.101 – Also commonly known as smurfing, money laundering is when a person knowingly conducts transactions with funds, attempts to conduct transactions with funds, transports funds, or attempts to transport funds when such funds or other monetary instruments (such as bonds, traveler's checks, personal checks, etc.) were earned through illegal enterprise are, and when his or her intent is to foster the continuation of that illegal activity.
It is also money laundering to knowingly conduct transactions with or transport funds (as well as attempt to do either) involved in illegal enterprise when you are aware that such transportation or transaction is meant to conceal or disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, or control of such funds, or to avoid any reporting or registration requirements assigned by state law. Money laundering can be anything from a third-degree felony offense to a first-degree felony offense, depending on the amount laundered.
- Identity Theft: Fla. Stat. § 817.568 – Identity theft in Florida is when any person willfully and without authorization fraudulently uses, or possesses with the intent to fraudulently use, personal identification information of another without that person's consent. Identity theft or identity fraud can occur between two people, by one person on many people, by a parent or legal guardian on his or her child or legal ward, by a person on a deceased person, or through the complete falsification of identity. Identity theft is a felony offense, classed according factors like the number of people affected or the amount of funds/property involved. Personal identification information can include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Name, address, or telephone number
- Social security number, passport number, or driver's license number
- Date of birth
- Mother's maiden name
- Bank account number, credit or debit card number
- PIN (personal identification number)
- Medical records or unique biometric data like fingerprints or voice print
- Check Fraud: Fla. Stat. § 832.05 – Check fraud in Florida occurs under one of two circumstances. The first is when a person, firm, corporation, or other entity draws, makes, utters, issues, or delivers to another any check, draft, or other written order connected to a bank or depository when that person or entity knows there is insufficient funds at the time of the transaction. This includes when the offender is trying to obtain money, goods, services, wares, or other things of value.
The exception is when the payee or holder knows, has reason to believe, or has been expressly notified that there are insufficient funds in the account, or when the check is postdated. This type of check fraud is a first-degree misdemeanor or third-degree felony depending on the amount involved. The second type of check fraud is when a person by act or common scheme cashes or deposits any item in a bank or depository with the intent to defraud, which is a third-degree felony.
- Credit Card/Debit Card Fraud: Fla. Stat. §§ 817.57-817.685, 832.05 – While debit card fraud is mostly covered under the same statute as check fraud, credit card fraud is a separate offense in Florida. In some circumstances, debit card fraud may be covered under the laws governing credit card fraud. The general definition for credit card fraud is when a person who has the intent of defrauding an issuer, person, or organization providing money, goods, services, or anything else of value uses knowingly using a credit card that is forged, stolen, or otherwise fraudulent.
Other instances of credit card fraud include credit card theft, obtaining credit cards through fraud, trafficking in counterfeit credit cards, offense involving expired or revoked credit cards, credit card fraud by person authorized to provide goods or services, using a credit card scanning device or re-encoder to defraud, the possession and transfer of credit card-making equipment, the receipt of money or other things of value obtained by fraudulent credit card use, and the alteration of credit card invoices. Credit card fraud is a first-degree misdemeanor, third-degree felony, or second-degree felony, depending on the offense.
- Insurance Fraud: Fla. Stat. §§ 817.22-817.2361 – In Florida, insurance fraud can be anything from making a false invoice or affidavit to defraud an insurer, to burning property to defraud an insurer, to false and fraudulent insurance claims, to a false and fraudulent motor vehicle insurance application or proof of insurance. Generally, insurance fraud is when any person knowingly presents a false claim for payment, prepares any false, incomplete, or misleading to an insurer in connection with a claim, presents a false application to an insurer for an insurance policy, or conceals information concerning an insurance application. An attorney or doctor who knowingly assists a person in committing insurance fraud and benefits from such help is also guilty of insurance fraud. A provider who knowingly and/or intentionally incorrectly bills the insurer may also be guilty of insurance fraud. Insurance fraud is a felony offense in all circumstances.
- Bankruptcy Fraud: Fla. Stat. §§ 726.101-726.201, 817.57-817.685, 817.568 – Florida bankruptcy fraud comes in many different forms. The most common form of bankruptcy fraud is the intentional hiding or concealment of assets. This includes giving family and friends property or assets to hold or hide them so that they won't be considered as your assets. Credit card fraud can be another version of bankruptcy fraud if you fill up a credit card immediately prior to or after filing bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy fraud also occurs when you intentionally file incomplete or incorrect forms, or when you file bankruptcy with false or real information in multiple states (a form of identity fraud/theft). What penalties you will face depend on the fraud offense you committed. It is also important to remember that bankruptcy fraud can be a federal offense punishable at the federal level.
- Tax Fraud/Tax Evasion: Fla. Stat. §§ 198.37-198.40, 212.07, 212.085, 212.10, 212.12-212.15, 212.18, 212.197, 213.235, 213.29, 220.901-220.903, 220.905 – Depending on whether the taxes involved are state or federal taxes, tax evasion or fraud can be a state or federal offense. A federal tax evasion or tax fraud offense is generally a violation of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). State tax evasion or tax fraud involves estate taxes, sales tax, and/or income tax. Generally, tax evasion is when a taxpayer willfully fails to collect taxes, account for taxes, keep required books and records, pay taxes, or otherwise willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax imposed by the state.
Tax fraud can include fraudulent claim filing, a fraudulent exemption claim, a failure to produce records, a failure to make a tax return, and the failure of an agent to pay a person's taxes upon being hired for and receiving money for that purpose. Tax fraud and tax evasion can be any class of misdemeanor or felony offense and usually come with civil liability, civil penalties, and financial repercussions.
- Telemarketing Fraud: Fla. Stat. § 817.034 – Telemarketing fraud is defined under the Florida Communications Fraud Act, which also governs fraud schemes. Under this law, it is illegal to engage in a scheme to defraud and obtain property by that means. Property under this law means anything of value and includes real property, rights, privileges, interests, claims, and services. To scheme to defraud means to engage in a systematic, ongoing course of conduct with the intent to defraud one or more persons, or with the intent to obtain property from one or more other persons through false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises, or willful misrepresentations of a future act. Depending on the amount and value of property involved, telemarketing fraud can be anything from a first-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree felony.
All fraud convictions in the state of Florida are punishable by the presumptive penalties for the class of misdemeanor or felony the offense falls under. These penalties are governed by Fla. Stat. §§ 775.082-775.084, with the degree determining the severity. The maximum penalties for instances of fraud in Florida include the following:
Second-Degree Misdemeanor Fraud
- 60 days in jail
- $500 fine
First-Degree Misdemeanor Fraud
- 1 year in jail
- $1,000 fine
Third-Degree Felony Fraud
- 5 years in prison
- $5,000 fine
Second-Degree Felony Fraud
- 15 years in prison
- $10,000 fine
First-Degree Felony Fraud
- 30 years in prison
- $10,000 fine
All felonies in Florida also come with additional sanctions like the loss of certain civil rights (i.e. the right to vote, the right to bear arms), the inability to pursue certain educational or professional opportunities, and ineligibility for specific government aid. Many fraud charges also come with civil penalties in the form of hefty additional fines, and civil liability for the damage done.
It is important to note that if your offense is both a state and federal crime, you can be charged separately at both levels. Federal charges have a different set of rules, laws, and guidelines than Florida’s state charges. No matter the circumstances of your case, when defending against fraud in Palm Beach County it can be critical to your success to have an experienced and detail-oriented West Palm Beach fraud defense attorney by your side to fight to protect your rights and work for a favorable outcome.
Secure Florida - Avoiding Identity Theft – A Florida-based organization, Secure Florida was created to assist in protecting Florida citizens from cyber-related crimes, including identity theft. Follow this link to the page on their website that contains information about avoiding identity theft, steps to follow after becoming a victim of identity theft, and other resources involving Florida cyber-related identity theft.
Florida Attorney General, Consumer Protection Resources – Visit this link to find various resources on consumer protection, including information on identity theft and other fraud crimes, provided by Florida’s Attorney General. Here you can navigate to information about protecting yourself as a consumer as well as what protections Florida law provide.
FBI, White Collar Crime Division – The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has a division dedicated to the federal level of white collar crime, including several types of fraud. Click this link to learn go to the White Collar Crime Division’s webpage on the FBI’s website and learn more about scams, prevention tactics, available programs, and the most wanted list.
Andrew D. Stine, P.A. | Fraud Defense Attorney in Palm Beach County
If you have been arrested and charged with a fraud offense in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Greenacres, Jupiter, Lake Park, Lantana, North Palm Beach, Pahokee, Palm Beach, Palm Springs, Tequesta, or the surrounding areas, take the important first step in your defense and call Andrew D. Stine, P.A. today.
Andrew Stine is a skilled and knowledgeable Palm Beach County criminal defense attorney with 10 years of experience and a militant attention to detail to put behind the defense of your fraud case. Your first consultation with Andrew D. Stine, P.A. is free, so call 561-832-1170 today and schedule yours.