The unemployment rate in St. Petersburg is 4.10%, with a job growth of 1.63%. Its average household income is $67,283. People in a variety of financial circumstances may be tempted to commit fraud, which covers many different crimes. Fraud includes making false statements to get a credit card, but it also includes large-scale Ponzi schemes and making false insurance reports to get money. At Hanlon Law, we take seriously the rights of the accused and work hard to provide a strong defense to our clients. It can be intimidating to be charged with a crime, particularly if it is your first time being involved with the system. St. Petersburg fraud defense lawyer Will Hanlon provides tenacious but compassionate representation.Understand the Basis for Fraud Charges
Fraud can be considered a catchall category for white collar crimes involving deceit. Each fraud charge may require proof of different elements, of which each must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Large-scale fraud often involves a scheme to defraud others for monetary gain. Florida Statute section 817.034 requires prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were involved with an ongoing and systematic course of conduct, in which you were intending to get property or defraud one or more people through false or fraudulent promises, misrepresentations, representations, or pretenses related to a future act.
When you actually do obtain property based on a scheme, it is punished more severely. You need not have used email, telephone, or mail communications in order to be punished for organized fraud. Instead, the penalty turns on the value of the property that you actually got. Penalties are tiered such that organized fraud can be charged for less than $20,000, for $20,000-$50,000, or for $50,000 or more. When there is $50,000 or more, the fraud is charged as a first-degree felony, and you may face a maximum of 30 years in prison, 30 years’ probation, and $10,000 in fines. The severity of the penalties makes it important to promptly consult a fraud defense attorney in St. Petersburg.
If you engage in a scheme to defraud and in doing so communicate via email, telephone, mail, or other means so that you can fraudulently obtain property, communications fraud can be charged. When there is communications fraud involving $300 or more, it is charged as a third-degree felony, and the judge can sentence you to a maximum of five years’ imprisonment, five years’ probation, and $5,000 in fines.
The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you actually intended to defraud someone else. It may be possible to raise doubt in the minds of jurors or convince the prosecution that it cannot make this case. What looks like a scheme to defraud could be a misunderstanding. In some cases, a scheme to defraud is also charged as theft, and both charges are based on how much was allegedly stolen or sought after. Prosecutors often rely on the alleged victim's assessment of value, but it may be possible for a St. Petersburg fraud defense attorney to show through accounting documents that much less is missing in order to get the charges and potential prison term reduced.
Sometimes the fraud that is charged occurred on a much smaller and less organized scale, such as public assistance or credit card fraud. Under Florida law, you cannot use a credit card that was issued to someone else. Credit card fraud through purchasing or selling a stolen credit card, stealing a credit card, forging a credit card, signing someone else's credit card, unlawfully possessing a stolen credit card, or counterfeiting a credit card is also a crime. The prosecution will need to show that you knew that the card was illegally obtained, stolen, or forged, but you represented yourself as the cardholder.
Defenses to credit card fraud depend on the situation. It may be possible to argue that you were authorized by the credit card holder or that you had no intent to commit fraud. Intent can be hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, and we may be able to negotiate with the prosecution on your behalf to obtain a lighter charge or a dismissal.Retain a Skillful Fraud Defense Lawyer in St. Petersburg
If you are charged with fraud or another type of white collar crime, you should consult us. Our founder, Will Hanlon, has been providing criminal defense representation since 1994. You can call Hanlon Law at 727-897-5413 or use our online form to set up an appointment.