Fraud crimes in Tampa, Florida, are punished harshly with lengthy prison terms and significant fines. Fraud defendants also face substantial collateral consequences when convicted of a fraud charge. Because of the high stakes involved in every fraud case, defendants need an experienced Tampa fraud defense lawyer.
What Is Fraud?
Fraud in Florida is a category of criminal activity that encompasses a variety of white-collar charges. Regardless of the specific type of fraud, all crimes of fraud contain the same elements, which include:
- Knowing that a statement is false
- Presenting a false statement as fact
- Injury to another party
- Justifiable confidence that the statement is true
- An intention to defraud or dupe the victim on the part of the defendant
The prosecutor must prove each of these elements in Florida in order for a fraud charge to stick.
When the charge is federal, defendants need to know that the punishments are often more severe than those handed down at the state level. The Department of Justice aggressively prosecutes all forms of federal fraud, including:
- Securities fraud
- Mail fraud
- Wire fraud
Defendants facing federal charges need a fraud defense attorney who knows how to navigate federal rules and procedures and put up an effective defense for their clients.
Common Fraud Charges in Florida
As mentioned, fraud encompasses more than one type of crime. But what they all typically have in common is an element of financial exploitation of a victim or victims. For this reason, prosecutors seek extensive jail time and fines for those convicted of any type of fraud at both the state and federal levels.
You might be facing one or more of the following fraud charges:
Bankruptcy fraud is a serious federal crime that involves the intentional misrepresentation of facts and circumstances during a bankruptcy procedure. Various acts qualify as bankruptcy fraud, including:
- Knowingly concealing assets
- Making false statements relating to assets and their value
- Transferring money to hide it from the bankruptcy process
- Filing multiple petitions for unsuspecting businesses (petition mills)
- Bustouts, which involve acquiring inventory or racking up credit card balances and then filing for bankruptcy
Because bankruptcy is a tool to help people and organizations get out from distressing financial circumstances, federal prosecutors typically fight for substantial punishments against those convicted of bankruptcy fraud.
Tax fraud may be prosecuted at the state and federal levels. Charges are typically filed against activities such as tax evasion, concealment of income, misrepresentation, and other similar acts.
Identity theft involves the illegal use of another’s identity for financial or other reasons. Identity theft is rampant, largely due to the availability of personal information on the internet, so these charges are prosecuted heavily. Defendants need a robust defense against identity theft charges or else they face significant prison time and fines.
Auto, medical, and other types of insurance fraud can have damaging effects on the public, so federal and state law enforcement commonly targets these crimes. Defendants need effective defenses to insurance fraud charges, especially when overzealous prosecutors are involved.
Mail fraud involves using the postal service for fraudulent purposes, such as sending fake invoices through U.S. mail. This crime is prosecuted at the federal level and can result in up to 20 years behind bars and steep fines.
Credit/Debit Card Fraud
Today’s technology makes it easier for many to commit credit and debit card fraud. For example, skim devices are being found in many places where consumers insert their credit and debit cards. Prosecutors typically seek extended sentences for crimes of this nature.
Securities fraud encompasses actions that are designed to defraud others within the context of securities investments. Ponzi schemes, high-yield investment fraud schemes, and advance-fee schemes are all common types of securities fraud.
Wire fraud can be charged in cases of fraudulent activity where a victim is defrauded of property or money through the use of television, radio, or wire communication across state or international lines.
What Are the Penalties for Fraud?
The penalties for fraud at the state and federal level are significant. Since most fraud crimes are charged as felonies, defendants face prison time and fines. For example, many fraud defendants face third-degree felony charges, which can lead to five years in prison and fines totaling $5,000.
Prison time and fines are not the only consequences that defendants face after a conviction. They also face significant collateral consequences that are likely to substantially impact their lives, including:
- Employment consequences for having a felony criminal record
- Loss of rights, such as the right to bear firearms and to vote
- Professional license consequences
- Housing consequences
- Immigration repercussions, which may lead to deportation
These consequences, in turn, lead to strained relationships with friends and family, especially if they were damaged in any way by an alleged fraud.
Defending Against Florida Fraud Charges
The stakes are high in fraud cases. Defendants need a quality defense to gain a favorable result. Common defenses put forth by fraud defense lawyers include:
- Lack of evidence
- Lack of intent to defraud
- Mistaken identity
- The statements in question were true
Based on your circumstances, your fraud defense lawyer will choose the most appropriate defenses.
How Does the Federal Court Process Work?
Generally speaking, the United States Attorney files criminal cases in federal court based on the findings of grand juries. Once a case is filed, the defendant will have an arraignment where they will plead to the charges.
The defendant will also have a pretrial hearing, where a judge will review the evidence for probable cause and decide on issues such as the dismissal of charges and bail.
Most cases are settled during these early stages through a plea deal. Defendants plead guilty in exchange for lesser charges or more lenient sentences. According to the U.S. Courts, over 90% of criminal cases are settled in this fashion.
However, some cases go to trial, where if they are found not guilty, the defendant is released free of charges. If they are found guilty, they will be sentenced by the judge based on sentencing guidelines and pre-trial reports. Sentencing may include prison time, fines, restitution, and probation,
What Should I Do After I’m Arrested for Fraud?
After an arrest for fraud, it is important to remain silent and cooperative. Once in a position to do so, you should contact an attorney immediately. Once an attorney is on the case, they will immediately get to work on your defense.
How Can an Attorney Help Me?
An attorney will attempt to shield you from the best efforts of the state to imprison and fine you. Your lawyer will investigate the case against you, collect evidence, and attack the prosecution’s every weakness.
Throughout the entire process, they will be fighting to get your charges dismissed or reduced, which may occur by way of a plea deal, verdict, or ruling from a judge.
Contact a Tampa Fraud Defense Lawyer Today
If you have been charged with any type of fraud at the state or federal level, you may be facing significant punishments, including extensive prison time and fines. Damaging collateral consequences are also on the table. It is advisable to reach out to an experienced Tampa fraud defense lawyer as soon as possible to defend you and potentially help get your charges reduced or dismissed.