Before learning more about the possible defenses available that a defendant can potentially use against a charge for criminal fraud, it is helpful to know what exactly criminal fraud is first.
Criminal fraud is a type of white collar crime that involves a scheme to deceive or to cheat another person or entity, so that the defendant can receive some sort of financial windfall or other similar reward.
In order to support a criminal conviction for charges involving criminal fraud, the prosecution must be able to prove that the defendant purposely misrepresented an important fact to another person or business, with the intent to defraud them, and caused them harm for relying on the defendant’s misrepresentation.
What are Some Examples of Criminal Fraud?
Some common examples of criminal fraud include:
- Romance scams;
- Welfare fraud;
- Mail fraud;
- Pigeon drop scams;
- Ponzi schemes;
- Gambling fraud;
- Securities fraud;
- Wire fraud;
- Forgery; and
- Insurance fraud.
Depending on the laws of the state and the circumstances of the case, a charge for criminal fraud can be categorized as either a misdemeanor crime or a felony offense. A conviction for a felony offense carries much more serious consequences than those associated with misdemeanors.
Regardless, committing any type of fraud is still a crime and thus can be added to your criminal record where it will most likely remain for the rest of your life.
What are Some Potential Defenses Against an Accusation of Fraud?
There are several possible defenses that may be available to a defendant involved in a case for criminal fraud. Some common defenses to a charge of criminal fraud may include the following:
- Insufficient evidence: The person bringing a case for criminal fraud (usually the prosecutor or the government) has the burden of proving that the defendant did in fact commit fraud. Once they have established this burden, it is very difficult for the defendant to use insufficient evidence as a defense.
- Insufficient evidence simply means that there is not enough to show that either the defendant was not the person responsible for the fraud or that their actions did not amount to the definition of fraud provided in the criminal statute. So long as the judge believes that a jury will be able to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, this defense will not work.
- Absence of intent to commit a crime: As discussed above, fraud includes any action or event intended to deceive another person or entity. As a result, a fraud conviction requires the intent to deceive to be proven as an element of criminal fraud. For example, if the defendant accidentally uses a friend’s medical insurance card, this may not amount to fraud, whereas intentionally use of their friend’s insurance card would be considered fraud.
- Another example is if the defendant is raising money for charity purposes, but the charity goes out of business before the donations are ever given to them and the defendant keeps that money, then it could be fraud. However, if they did not intend to keep the money and the government cannot prove intent, the fraud charges may be dismissed.
- Non-fraudulent statements: Not all deceitful or false statements are considered to be fraudulent. In order to constitute fraud, the misleading statement needs to be related to an existing fact, and not based on a promise to do something in the future. For example, in a “grandparent scheme”, the defendant will call the victim’s grandparents and pretend to be the victim, claiming they are in debt or need bail money, and to send it immediately.
- In addition, mere expressions of opinion also will not be considered to rise to the level of criminal fraud. Thus, if the statement is non-fraudulent, then it can serve as a defense if proven.
- Entrapment: Entrapment occurs when the government or law enforcement compels an innocent person to commit a crime that they normally would not have otherwise committed. However, this defense is also hard to prove because simply being presented the opportunity to commit a crime is not considered entrapment. A qualified attorney will be able to determine whether entrapment has occurred.
- Also, when asserting the defense of entrapment, the government will most likely argue and be able to find a reason for why the defendant was inclined to commit the offense anyway. Again, a skillful attorney may be able to find a reason to support a defense for entrapment.
Should I Hire an Attorney for Help with Criminal Fraud Defenses?
An attorney is a great resource and beneficial person to have access to if you are facing charges for criminal fraud. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you to prepare your case, explain the laws that apply to your situation and potentially predict the punishment you may receive. They can also determine whether or not you are eligible for any of the above or alternative defenses.
Additionally, you should hire an attorney who is located in your area. This way they will know the proper local court procedures, the laws that apply in your state, and you will have easier access to them (and vice versa) as your case proceeds.