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What is "Fraud"?

In criminal law, the term “fraud” is used to describe the use of intentional deception for the purpose of securing unfair or unlawful financial or personal gain, usually to the detriment of another person, organization or entity. Fraud is technically a type of theft crime, but there are two important differences between theft and fraud: Theft involves the act of directly obtaining money or property from another person by stealing it or using a threat of force. Fraud involves a “scheme or artifice” designed to convince someone to hand over something of value based on the use of misrepresentation. There are many different kinds of fraud offenses that can result in criminal charges, from relatively simple fraud scams, such as credit card fraud and mail fraud, to more sophisticated fraud schemes, such as health care fraud and PPP loan fraud.

What are the Penalties for Fraud Offenses?

Fraud offenses are taken extremely seriously by federal authorities and the government, and the criminal penalties associated with a federal fraud conviction can have devastating consequences for defendants and their loved ones. Anyone suspected of committing fraud against the government, against a financial institution or in direct violation of federal law will be subject to aggressive investigation by the FBI and other federal agencies. If you are convicted of fraud in federal court, you will likely face harsh criminal penalties possibly including a lengthy prison sentence, hefty fines, forfeiture of assets and other potential adverse consequences. Because fraud offenses typically involve some sort of deceit, misrepresentation or trickery, these types of crimes often have multiple victims and can result in significant financial loss to others, which increases the points used to calculate a sentencing range under the federal sentencing guidelines.

What are Possible Defense Strategies for Fraud Offenses?

Depending on the type of fraud you are being accused of, your criminal defense attorney may use one or more defense strategies to eliminate your charges or reduce the severity of your penalties. The various types of fraud offenses have their own unique elements that must be present in order for the prosecution to get a conviction, but the essential components of a fraud offense are generally the same from case to case.  For example, your attorney may challenge the prosecution by arguing a lack of criminal intent, meaning the defendant acted without the intention of committing a crime. A similar strategy is to show that the defendant truly believed he or she was acting in good faith and was under the impression that their actions were completely legal.

Another possibility for a defense strategy is the lack of sufficient evidence. Your federal criminal defense attorney may try to have your case thrown out by claiming the prosecution did not present sufficient evidence to support their accusation.

An attorney can also argue that the defendant was forced to commit the fraudulent act due to duress or coercion and would not have committed the crime otherwise.

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Fraud is one of the most commonly charged federal crimes in the United States and because fraudulent schemes are, by design, meant to dishonestly cheat someone out of money, property, or something else of value, fraud offenses are punished harshly under federal law.

If you are accused of a fraud offense, it is imperative to have a knowledgeable and experienced federal criminal defense attorney like Ann Fitz.   Contact the Law Office of Ann Fitz today to find out how we can help you defend against federal fraud charges.

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The Law Office of Ann Fitz is committed to answering your questions about Criminal Defense law issues in Florida. We offer a Free Consultation and we'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.