Los Angeles Fraud Attorney
Fraud includes a broad category of crimes under the California Penal Code. Among them are check fraud, insurance fraud, mail fraud, identity theft, RICO, and insurance fraud, as well as others. If you have been charged with any type of fraud, CBS Law has the experience to analyze your case and present any viable defenses. We will investigate the situation, and, depending upon the facts of your case, attempt to downgrade the charges, or to seek a dismissal or a not guilty verdict. Contact us for a free consultation.
What is Fraud in California?
It would be confusing to attempt to provide a simple definition of fraud that would include include all possible variations of the offense. In the most general terms, fraud involves intentionally deceptive conduct which results in an unfair gain or a loss to the other party. Although considered a “white collar” crime, because it does not involve violence, but rather deception, the penalties for fraudulent acts can be significant. Some fraud crimes are always charged as felonies, while others may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor.
In any event, fraud is a serious offense in California, with potentially severe consequences if you are convicted.
Types of Fraud
As noted above, there are many different fraud crimes. While they all include deception as a part of the offense, the circumstances under which fraud can be charged vary greatly from one area to another. Here are some of the more common areas under the general heading of fraud crimes:
- Auto Insurance Fraud. Auto insurance fraud consists basically of attempting to obtain the proceeds of an insurance policy to which you are not entitled. Filing false claims concerning an accident and resulting damage and/or injuries are typical examples.
- Check Fraud. The issuance of a check while knowing that there are insufficient funds to cover it is a form of fraud. In California, knowingly issuing a bad check is a misdemeanor, unless the amount exceeds $950 (or if you have one or more prior convictions for certain specified offenses), in which case is it a wobbler.
- Credit Card Fraud. PC 484g provides that if you obtain goods, money, services or anything of value, using a credit card that has been altered, retained without the consent of the owner, or which you know is not valid (forged, revoked or expired), or that the owner has not given consent for you to use, you are guilty of grand theft. In most cases, grand theft can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
- Conspiracy and RICO. Where two or more people conspire to commit a fraudulent act, or engage in a fraudulent scheme, including obtaining money or property by false pretenses, the charge is larceny (PC 484g), and, depending upon the amount involved, it may be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony. Additional penalties and charges may apply if the actions of those involved allegedly constitute racketeering activity. In that case, you could be prosecuted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq. Federal law provides for a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
- False Impersonation. Anyone who, with knowledge and without consent, impersonates another person to obtain goods or services, obtain a driver’s license or auto registration, and many other acts, either in person or via the internet, can be charged with misdemeanor or a felony, depending upon the circumstances of the case.
- Welfare Fraud. Welfare fraud generally consists of obtaining welfare benefits unlawfully. The act could involve identity theft, EBT skimming, misstating income in an application for food stamps, underreporting income to obtain welfare benefits, or otherwise using false information to obtain those benefits.
- Mail Fraud and Mail Theft. Mail theft, in and of itself, is a misdemeanor under California law. Mail fraud, on the other hand, is a federal crime set forth in 18 U.S.C. 1341. The federal statute is lengthy and can be confusing. To be charged with mail fraud, the government must allege that you have devised (or that you intend to devise) a scheme to commit specific fraudulent acts, and that you use the mail in order to execute that scheme. The penalty if you are convicted in federal court, can be up to 20 years in prison. Mail theft is a separate offense under California law (PC 530.5(e)).
- Securities Fraud. Securities fraud can occur as a violation of federal law or state law. The relevant securities laws are the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 (federal) and the Corporate Securities Law of 1968 (California). State securities laws are generally referred to as “Blue Sky” laws. Violations of the California law are wobblers. On the federal level, the failure to follow qualification rules under FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) could lead to several years in prison and a hefty fine. More serious violations of the securities laws, such as providing false information in a prospectus, could lead to even more prison time and as much as $10 million in fines.
- Identity Theft. The crime of identity theft is addressed in PC 530.5. It includes not only impersonating a person without their consent, but also obtaining identifying information in order to commit the act of impersonation or transferring the information to another person. Depending upon the circumstances, identity theft can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
- Healthcare/Insurance Fraud. Fraud relating to health insurance is also covered under both state and federal laws. In California, PC 550 makes it a crime, for example, to present a false claim to obtain a health care benefit. Depending upon the circumstances and the specific nature of the alleged fraud, there are also related offenses that are felonies. Under federal law, specifically 18 U.S.C. 1347, defrauding any health care program can lead to a sentence of up to 20 years.
- Workers’ Compensation Fraud. Workers’ compensation is designed to protect workers injured on the job, by eliminating the necessity for the employee to prove that their injury was the result of the negligence of another person. In other words, you need not demonstrate who was at fault. Fraud charges related to workers’ comp may involve faking or exaggerating an injury, obtaining unnecessary medical treatment, and more. Fraud charges could be brought not only against an employee, but also against medical professionals treating a person who was injured on the job. Under section 1871.4 of the California Insurance Code, the charge could be a misdemeanor or a felony, and repeat offenders risk a sentencing enhancement.
Obviously, there are many potential charges involving allegations of fraud of one sort or another. The above examples cover many of those potential charges. They also provide information about how broad the topic of fraud is, and how it can be charged in a wide variety of circumstances. It is important to remember, however, that these are criminal charges that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Moreover, there are defenses that can and should be raised in many of these cases.
Defending Fraud Charges
While there are many distinct types of fraud and fraud-related offenses, they all have one thing in common: each requires the specific intent to deceive. A simple example will demonstrate how this element of fraud can be presented and defended against. Assume you are charged with credit card fraud. You are accused of using a card owned by another person for a purchase. Typical questions include whether you had the permission of that person to use the card, whether you reasonably thought you had permission, and whether it was in fact you who used the credit card in question. Other issues may also exist, any one of which may lead to the charge being dismissed, or, if the matter goes to trial, to a not guilty verdict.
Fraud Defense Lawyer in Los Angeles
Many fraud cases tend to be complex and require an experienced fraud lawyer to successfully challenge the charges. At CBS Law, we understand fraud cases, and we have the experience to provide you with an effective defense. Contact us for a free consultation (213) 800-8005.
“What Chris did for me was a masterclass in lawyering.” – David M.
“When you’re accused of something you didn’t do, the thought of losing everything can be overwhelming. My job isn’t to walk you through the process, my job is to get your life back.”
Christopher J. Bou Saeed Founding Attorney of CBS Law