Fraud is a very broad term but has a very specific meaning. Many potential criminal offenses fall under the umbrella of fraud. No matter what type of alleged fraud is involved, it is a very serious offense that can have severe consequences for both your freedom and your future. You should always get a criminal fraud attorney for legal help when you learn of a fraud investigation.
McCall Law has a local white collar crime lawyer ready to vigorously defend you from an investigation or charges. Get in touch with us to learn about your legal options.
Types of Fraud Cases That We Handle at McCall Law
There are many types of fraud. Both South Carolina and the federal government have very statutes regarding fraud crimes.
South Carolina has specific statutes that prohibit certain types of fraud, including:
- Check fraud: Knowingly writing a check with insufficient funds in the account to cover it
- Insurance fraud: The use of deception to receive more money from the insurance company, whether it is inflating the value of a claim or submitting a fictitious claim
- Mortgage fraud: Obtaining a mortgage through the use of false representations or by concealing information
- Credit card fraud: Obtaining a credit card through false representations or improperly using one that belongs to someone else
- Wire fraud: Uses any form of electronic communication to send messages to or from South Carolina in furtherance of a scheme to defraud.
- Mail fraud: Uses the mail to send communications to or from South Carolina in furtherance of a scheme to defraud
Federal Fraud Laws
There are also federal laws that prohibit certain types of fraud. For example, there are federal laws prohibiting credit card and insurance fraud. Penalties under federal law can be even tougher than the already-strict South Carolina laws.
Federal prosecutors will almost always charge a defendant with mail or wire fraud with any type of fraud case. These are very broad statutes that apply to almost any type of fraud. Prosecutors will always allege that a defendant used either the mail or some type of electronic communication in furtherance of their scheme. There are very few federal fraud charges that do not involve an allegation of mail or wire fraud.
Conspiracy to Commit Fraud
The prosecutor may even charge some form of fraud, even if someone did not succeed in an alleged scheme. Federal prosecutors like to charge conspiracies among two or more people when they take an overt act in furtherance of the scheme. A conviction for conspiracy can lead to as harsh of a sentence as the defendant would have received if they followed through on the scheme and it succeeded.
When Cases Are Tried in Federal Court vs. State Court
Most fraud cases are charged by a United States Attorney under federal law. Here is when crimes may be charged federally:
- When there is interstate commerce involved
- When the alleged fraud targets a government agency or benefits
- When a referral is made to the Department of Justice
Penalties for Fraud Convictions
Federal mail and wire fraud are the most common fraud charges. If convicted of either of these crimes, a defendant could face up to 20 years in prison. Other federal laws have specific maximums for jail time to which the defendant could be sentenced. The judge would likely apply the advisory Federal Sentencing Guidelines to learn the potential range of the sentence. The judge has a wide degree of discretion in determining a defendant’s sentence.
In South Carolina, the sentence often depends on the amount that is involved in the fraud. Schemes that involve a lower amount of money could be charged as a misdemeanor, which means one year or less in prison. Other offenses may be charged as a felony, which would usually result in a jail sentence greater than one year.
It Is Not Always Easy to Prove Fraud
The prosecutor is the one who has the burden of proof in a fraud case, and it is often a high bar. One of the most crucial elements in a fraud case is that the prosecutor must show that you had fraudulent intent. According to federal case law, the prosecutor can prove fraudulent intent when they can show that a representation was made with reckless indifference to its truth or falsity.
Accordingly, fraud is not always the easiest charge for a prosecutor to prove in court. You have a number of defenses to fraud charges. Namely, your lawyer could question the prosecutor’s ability to prove any one of the elements listed above. If they cannot prove all elements, you would not be convicted.
Here are some of the defenses that you can use in a fraud case:
- The defendant lacked the intent to defraud someone else (there is no such thing as accidental fraud)
- The injured party did not reasonably rely on the statement
- The false statement was not material to any transaction
- What the defendant said was not actually false
Why You Need an Attorney in a Fraud Case
Being the target of a fraud investigation can be a lengthy and difficult process. Once the investigation begins, there is a range of outcomes. There is a chance that the investigation could even be closed without charges. On the other hand, something could happen during the investigation that could mean additional charges (such as false statements). Your legal strategy begins well in advance of any charging decision. Fraud defenses require a multidisciplinary strategy that could involve expert witnesses and reviewing large amounts of evidence. You need an attorney who is up to that task and has a strong track in fraud cases.
Contact a Fraud Attorney in Florence, SC
You need experienced legal help at the very early stages of the fraud investigation process. You can speak with an attorney at McCall Law by messaging us through our website or by calling us today at 843-279-8148. You cannot trust any attorney to handle such a sensitive and complex case. We have a track record of successful legal representation in white collar defense cases. Call us today to learn how we can help you.