Being charged with a crime in Philadelphia can make even the strongest of people feel as if their world is collapsing. Wimmer Criminal Defense, the preeminent criminal defense law firm in Philadelphia, has put together the below guide to help you become acquainted with some of the terms you may hear as you navigate the…
Police and prosecutors in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania have been cracking down on charges related to fraud and all types of theft through deception in recent years. Depending on the severity and nature of the fraud, a prison sentence may be a possibility. For professionals and others who rely on their reputation, fraud charges are often especially damaging. It is important to mount an aggressive fraud defense to limit not only the charges you may face but the associated consequences as well.
Pennsylvania’s Definition of “Fraud”
While fraud is a type of theft, it involves a very specific type of behavior and intent. Whereas one might be charged with a theft or larceny offense for merely taking the property of another person, fraud involves a taking of another person’s or organization’s property without consent through misrepresentation or untrue statements. That is, fraud requires the accused to have used deception or a trick to steal. Thus, fraud is sometimes referred to as theft by deception. Under Pennsylvania law, common fraud scenarios can include:
- Any misrepresentation used to obtain payment for goods or services.
- Concealing a material fact to obtain goods or services.
- Falsifying records or documents to obtain a material benefit.
- Creating and selling forgeries of rare works or antiques.
- Passing bad checks.
- Using a credit card or line of credit that one is not authorized to use.
- Mislabeling products.
- Making false statements regarding one’s financial status to creditors.
- Making misrepresentations to obtain insurance or government benefits.
- Embezzling company funds to pay luxury expenses.
Fraud charges can arise through a broad array of conduct. However, the common element in all fraud-related charges is that a person used some misrepresentation or another form of deceit to obtain the property or money of another person. There are many specific types of fraud and numerous anti-fraud laws in Pennsylvania that carry harsh penalties upon conviction. This is why it is important to contact an experienced and aggressive Philadelphia fraud defense attorney at Wimmer Criminal Defense or call 215-712-1212 for a free consultation today.
Credit Card and Credit Access Device Fraud Defense
Credit card fraud is an increasingly commonly charged crime. Despite credit card companies’ attempts to make fraud more difficult, credit card fraud is still extremely common. However, there are many ways to commit credit card fraud, including “skimming” legitimate credit card information and generating duplicate cards. In some cases, police may allege that a person bought stolen credit card information from other individuals, Internet forums, or the “dark web.”
Engaging in credit card fraud can result in significant penalties, including prison time. When credit card fraud involves goods or services valued at $500 or more, it is a third-degree felony. A third-degree felony can be punished by a state prison sentence of up to seven years. Due to the nature of credit card fraud, a person may face multiple counts with each count carrying a lengthy prison term. On top of this, the federal government may press additional charges under its own laws, which often run parallel to Pennsylvania’s laws.
Insurance & Welfare Fraud Defense
Since governments and companies watch their balance sheets more closely than ever, insurance fraud and government services fraud are charged more frequently than ever. Generally, government services fraud involves making false or misleading statements regarding one’s finances and other circumstances to obtain Medicaid, Social Security, or other government benefits.
Alleged insurance fraud activities can concern a broader range of conduct. For instance, someone may make fraudulent representations about his or her financial status and ability to pay in the event of a claim. In other circumstances, a business owner may misrepresent the number of employees at his or her company to obtain insurance at a lower rate. In still other scenarios, a homeowner may be accused of lying to get an insurance claim paid. Due to the amount of money involved in insurance, healthcare, and welfare fraud a conviction will often result in a prison sentence.
Additional Consequences of a Fraud Conviction for Professionals
While all people can face fines, restitution, and a state prison sentence for fraudulent behaviors and acts, professionals like accountants, lawyers, and any person in a position of trust can face additional consequences. To start, most licensed professionals are subject to character and fitness requirements as set forth by their professional organizations. In most cases, the conviction of a crime involving dishonesty can lead to professional discipline or expulsion. Therefore, if you are a professional or work in the financial industry, it is essential to consider the additional consequences of a fraud conviction or guilty plea.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Protect You from Fraud Charges
When the loss of your freedom and reputation is a possibility, it is essential to work with a strategic and aggressive litigator. When considering a criminal defense attorney, it is important to recognize that fraud is an intent-based crime with a very specific legal definition. A good defense attorney looks at whether your conduct even fits the legal definition. Furthermore, an attorney can identify every element the government must prove and cast doubt upon whether your conduct satisfies these elements.
Depending on the circumstances you face, your lawyer may also raise affirmative defenses. It is important to have an attorney who knows what affirmative defenses are available, since you lose the chance to use the defense if you fail to raise it.
If You’ve Been Arrested for Fraud, WE Can Help
If you’ve been accused of fraud in Pennsylvania, you need to work with a criminal defense lawyer who will fight for you aggressively. To schedule a free, confidential initial consultation, call today.