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White Collar Crime Information Center

Fraud

Black's Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004) defines fraud as "a knowing misrepresentation of the truth or concealment of a material fact to induce another to act to his or her detriment." The injury in fraud is usually depriving a person of money or other property that rightfully belongs to that person. Fraud crimes are classified according to the type of transaction in which the deception occurred. Fraud is a serious and broadly defined criminal offense. Criminal fraud is a charge that can be brought against a business, as well as against an individual (a business cannot be put in prison, but can be hit with substantial fines). A charge of fraud let alone a conviction can ruin the reputation of a person or company charged. Zealous legal representation is critical in fraud cases, as in all criminal cases. It is critical for an accused to seek help from an experienced white collar criminal defense attorney at Muller & Sommerville, P.A. in Winter Park.

Mail Fraud

The federal mail fraud statute (18 U.S.C. 1341) can be used against a wide variety of crimes. Mail fraud requires proof of four elements: a scheme devised or intending to defraud or for obtaining money or property by fraudulent means; intent; materiality; and use of or causing to use the mails in furtherance of the fraudulent scheme. The actual mailing does not have to be fraudulent, it just needs to be in furtherance of a scheme to defraud. Use of the mails does not need to be an essential element of the scheme; it is sufficient if the mailings are incident to an essential part of the scheme. The scheme to defraud element covers a wide variety of frauds including insurance fraud, medical fraud, credit card fraud and securities fraud.

Wire Fraud

The federal wire fraud statute (18 U.S.C. 1343) functions parallel to the mail fraud statute. The elements of wire fraud are essentially the same as mail fraud, except wire fraud requires a transmittal in interstate or foreign commerce by means of wire, radio or television communication of writings, signs, signals, pictures or sounds, instead of use of the mails. There is no requirement that the defendant knew or foresaw that the transmission would go interstate, only that it did.

Bank Fraud

The federal bank fraud statute (18 U.S.C. 1344) was passed in response to the increase in financial fraud in the early 1980s. The bank fraud statute makes it a crime to "knowingly execute, or attempt to execute, a scheme or artifice to defraud a financial institution, or to obtain . . . property owned by, or under the custody or control of, a financial institution, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises."

Securities Fraud

Securities fraud is the intentional deception of investors, resulting in financial gain. Anyone who offers, buys or sells securities such as stocks, notes and bonds is subject to securities laws. A corporation can be liable for securities fraud if it submits false information about its financial status to the public. Analysts, who must act in good faith and put their clients' interests first, can be liable for securities fraud if they have a conflict of interest. Analysts can also be liable if they engage in a "pump and dump" scheme (a scheme in which they make sales calls pitching a stock in an effort to increase demand for it and drive the price up so that shares can then be sold for a quick profit).

Insider trading is one of the more common types of securities fraud. The markets for publicly traded securities operate on the notion that no one trader is supposed to have an advantage over another trader. All trading is supposed to be based on information available equally to all participants. Insider trading is when a person who has information not available to the general public that could affect the price of a company's stock an "insider" uses that inside information to make trades in securities. The inside information may be about a company the insider works for, or owns stock in, or it may be about a related company. Inside information could also be something you learn about a company you have no connection with, but that you learned from someone else a "hot tip" from an insider. The essential thing about inside information is that it is something the public at large does not know.

Insider trading cases often involve traders who are employees, officers or directors of a company. They also may involve professionals who work closely with a company, and who are in a position to know confidential details about a company, such as accountants, attorneys, brokers or investment bankers. Charges also may be brought against traders who are not insiders, but who receive advice or information from insiders. Examples of this type of trader include other clients, customers or even the family members of an insider.

Other Types of Fraud

There are several other fraud crimes including:

  • Bankruptcy fraud
  • Credit card fraud
  • Tax fraud
  • Telemarketing fraud
  • Computer fraud
  • Health care fraud
  • Insurance fraud
  • Welfare fraud

Conclusion

A charge of fraud carries not only the threat of severe punishment, but even mere accusations of fraud can have harsh reverberating effects throughout the defendant's personal life. Fraud charges can taint the reputation of a person or a business for a long time after the formal criminal charges have been dealt with. If you or someone you know has been accused of criminal fraud, now is the time to consult with an experienced white collar criminal defense attorney at Muller & Sommerville, P.A. in Winter Park.

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