Updated on November 29th, 2023 at 10:16 pm
A person commits criminal fraud when they obtain a benefit through dishonesty. A conviction for fraud can carry harsh consequences. Some fraud convictions can carry up to ten years in prison.
A fraud conviction can also have severe consequences outside of the courtroom. When a person is convicted of fraud, members of the public often assume that this means the person is untrustworthy.
This assumption often hurts an individual’s future opportunities for employment, housing, professional licenses, security clearances, immigration status, and much more. A fraud conviction can also be used in future court proceedings to show that the person is making a false statement because they have a history of dishonesty.
If you or someone you know has been accused of fraud in the District of Columbia, you should contact Bruckheim & Patel – Washington DC, to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who is an expert in the nuances of the DC fraud laws and defenses.
What is fraud?
Fraud (white-collar crime) is when a person takes systematic action to defraud or acquire another’s property by false promise, pretense, or representation and either succeeds in acquiring the property or causes them to lose the property.
You can either be charged with first-degree or second-degree fraud, depending on the circumstances surrounding the fraudulent activity.
What is the difference between first and second-degree fraud in Washington, DC?
The difference between first and second-degree is that in the first-degree fraud, the individual succeeded in causing loss of property of obtaining the property. However, in second-degree fraud, the individual attempted but may have failed.
But according to DC Code § 22-3221(a), the two charges are similar in the elements that the prosecution should prove, including:
- False representation
- Knowledge of falsity
- Intent to deceive
- Reliance on the false representation
- Resulting harm or loss
Note: The law doesn’t require the prosecution to prove the individual intended to deceive the specific person. It’s enough for them to prove they intended to deceive anyone with their deceitful scheme. However, the prosecution has to prove the individual knew their promise was untrue when making it, and that it contained a fact that the recipient would use to make their decision on the matter.
Is fraud a misdemeanor or a felony in Washington DC?
When the value of the property acquired or lost is $1,000 and above, you can be charged with a felony. But if the value is under $1,000, you’ll be charged with a misdemeanor.
What are the penalties for fraud in DC?
According to DC Code § 22-3221(a), a person convicted of first-degree fraud for property valued at $999 or less can be sentenced up to 180 days and/or fined $2,500. If the property is valued at $1,000 or more, the person can be sentenced up to 10 years in prison and/or fined up to $25,000.
The criminal consequences of a conviction for DC second-degree fraud are 180 days and/or a fine of $2,500 if the property’s value is $999 or less. If the property is valued at more than $1,000, the judge can impose a sentence of up to 3 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $12,500 or twice the value of the property, whichever is greater. DC § 22-3222(b).
The “value” of the property is determined by the amount of money, credit, or services that have been or can be obtained through its use. DC Code § 22-3221(b).
Are plea deals common in fraud cases?
Often, people brought up on fraud charges have to answer to multiple counts of one or multiple related crimes. It is possible to obtain a plea deal in fraud cases.
The deal may be to plead guilty to one or several charges in exchange for downgrading the charge or reducing the penalty. The severity of the plea deal depends on the amount, attributes, and number of fraud victims.
For instance, fraud against a banking institution for $5,000 may be dealt with more leniently than fraud against 20 senior citizens for $100,000.
Note: Aside from punishing the offense, the government is interested in ensuring the victim is whole. As such, you are more likely to get a plea deal if you can repay the victim in full for their loss.
What is the difference between fraud and theft?
The main difference between fraud and theft is that fraud revolves around intentional misrepresentation of the facts, deception, and manipulation. In contrast, theft involves forcefully or stealthily taking away someone else’s property. Generally, theft is easier to detect since it involves visible signs of property loss.
Common types of fraud charges
Some of the common fraud charges in DC include:
- Wire fraud
- Insurance fraud
- Mail fraud
- Passing bad checks
- Identity theft
- Tax theft
- Mortgage fraud
- Credit card fraud
What is credit card fraud in Washington, DC?
A person can be convicted of credit card fraud when they use a credit card that either belongs to another person without their consent, has been canceled, is fake or modified, or is an employer’s credit card that an employee used for personal purposes. DC § 22-3223(b).
Credit card fraud can be either a misdemeanor or a felony in DC, depending on the amount of money or credit used. For the purposes of the statute, the term “credit card” includes debit cards, credit card plates, and anything else issued to a cardholder that allows them to pay for goods or services.
The punishment for a conviction for credit card fraud is up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $25,000 if the amount of money the person took was $1,000 or more. If the amount was less than $1,000, the punishment for credit card fraud is up to 180 days and/or a fine of $1,000. DC § 22-3223(d).
What’s the difference between criminal and civil fraud?
Generally, a criminal fraud case conviction results in fines and jail time, while a conviction in criminal fraud often results in repayment of damages without additional penalties.
Criminal cases are often offenses against the federal or state government. For criminal fraud cases, this doesn’t mean stealing tax money only but breaking state and federal laws. On the other hand, civil fraud cases are between two parties where the plaintiff has to show they incurred losses following the fraudulent action of the defendant.
For criminal charges, the burden of proof is on the prosecutor, who has to convince the jury beyond reasonable doubt that you committed the crime. In the case of first-degree fraud, crime means you:
- Took part in the scheme
- Had the intention to take another’s property through dishonest promises and statements
- Obtained the property which caused loss to the owner
If the prosecutor fails to do this, you cannot be found guilty. Civil fraud cases are more lenient, and the plaintiff needs to prove harm following the fraudulent action, but it doesn’t have to be beyond reasonable doubt.
Because of their differences, you can win the case in criminal court and have a civil lawsuit filed against you immediately by the plaintiff. So, you might escape jail term but not the exorbitant repayment.
You should have our experienced and aggressive fraud attorneys in your corner to help protect you from losses.
Defense strategies for fraud charges
A robust defense is essential when facing fraud charges. Some effective strategies include:
- Proving a lack of intent: Establishing that you did not have the requisite intent to deceive is critical in fraud cases. If you didn’t have the intention, ill-will, or knowledge of the crime, your action cannot be viewed as fraudulent.
- Claiming coercion or entrapment: Arguing that the accused was compelled to commit the fraudulent act due to entrapment by law enforcement or coercion by another party.
- Highlighting insufficient evidence: Pointing out the lack of adequate evidence on the part of the prosecution to substantiate the fraud charges. If the prosecution cannot prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, you cannot be found guilty.
Contact fraud defense lawyers Bruckheim & Patel – Washington DC
Both the criminal and collateral consequences of a fraud conviction can follow a person for the rest of his or her life. If you have been arrested for fraud in the District of Columbia, contact Bruckheim & Patel for a free consultation with our experienced DC fraud attorneys. Call 202-930-3464.