Fraud charges can be filed against anyone in Florida if state or federal prosecutors decide their conduct includes these four elements:
- Someone made a false statement about a material fact,
- they knew or should have known the representation was false,
- they had the intent induce another person to act on the false representation, and
- the other person suffered damages by relying on the representation.
Chapter 817 of the Florida Statutes sets out in detail the many ways in which criminal fraud can be committed. The circumstances are so varied that the range of penalties runs from 30 years of imprisonment for serious, first-degree felonies all the way down to as little as 60 days in jail for a second-degree misdemeanor.
Common Ways Fraud is Committed
The list of possible ways to commit criminal fraud would be too long for this article. But some of the most common methods being used these days include these:
- scheme of fraud
- knowingly writing a bad check(s)
- forging a signature
- falsifying information on a credit or loan application
- lying to receive unemployment compensation
- lying to receive workers compensation
- falsifying a loss claim to an insurance company
- identity theft (acting in another’s name without their consent)
- credit card fraud
- mail fraud
- wire fraud
- phishing (emailing victims to trick them into revealing personal, financial, or password info)
- home improvement contractor fraud
- charity fraud
- securities fraud
- obtaining money or property under false pretenses
- presenting falsified documents to public official or government agency
- tax fraud
- and the potential allegations continue…
At Stechschulte Nell Law Office our board-certified criminal defense team has extensive experience successfully defending those charged with fraud. Florida’s fraud laws require the prosecutor to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt on every single element of the crime.
Attorneys Ben Stechschulte and Amy Nell are will work diligently to find grounds to doubt the government’s case by challenging the reliability and sufficiency of the evidence. We proudly bring our knowledge of law and procedure to every client’s defense, using our professional skill to deliver the most zealous representation available.
Effective Defenses to Fraud Charges
Our defense lawyers know that every allegation of criminal fraud requires the government not only to prove the criminal acts occurred but also that the defendant possessed the criminal intent at the time of the alleged crime.
Without evidence of criminal intent, what lawyers call “mens rea,” there is no criminal fraud.
Lack of Intent to Defraud — Our criminal defense lawyers will investigate each client’s case thoroughly, retracing every step in the government’s evidence to examine whether the facts are what the prosecutor alleges.
In many cases, charges are filed against innocent Tampa residents who acted with the best of intentions but were mistaken about material facts that resulted in unfortunate consequences for someone else.
Example: If you think you have sufficient funds in your checking account and you write a $6,000 check to purchase a used car, the fact that the check bounced does not make you a criminal. It’s only a fraud if you knew you had insufficient funds when you wrote the check and you intended to dupe the seller.
Fraud is a “specific intent” crime requiring a guilty mind at the time of the offense. Without it, there is no crime.
Mistake of Material Fact — Similarly, a defendant charged with fraud may have acted under a genuine, reasonable, but mistaken belief about an important fact central to a transaction. This defense also focuses on a defendant intent.
While the defense has no obligation to prove it, a conviction can only result if the prosecutor disproves there was an honest mistake.
Statute of Limitation — In Florida, the statute of limitation requires the prosecution to bring a charge of fraud within five years of the offense.
The statute’s time limit may be extended for up to one additional year if the defendant is continuously absent from the state or is without a reasonably ascertainable place of abode or work within the state.
Overlapping Indictments — While no one can be convicted twice for the same offense in America, government prosecutors will often “overcharge” defendants by alleging “scheme of fraud” charges and “grand theft” charges for the same course of conduct.
Experienced criminal defense lawyers can identify these illegal overlaps in indictments and criminal information and move to dismiss any duplicative charges.
Reduction of Charges — First degree felony fraud charges can carry severe sanctions in Florida including up to thirty years in prison. In our work as Tampa criminal defense attorneys, part of our job includes persuading prosecutors that the evidence is too weak to support the greater charges and to reduce the charge from a high-severity fraud to a moderate or lower-grade theft.
We work hard for our clients; we strive to minimize the negative impact of the criminal prosecution for each client and their family.
Lack of Reliable Evidence — As with all criminal defense cases Attorneys Stechschulte and Nell handle, every bit of physical evidence, every document, every hard drive, every location or crime scene, and every witness statement is deconstructed to test whether it is what it purports to be. Every witness statement is analyzed for inconsistencies and contradictions and then compared with the statements of other witnesses.
Protecting Your Rights
If you or your family member is facing criminal fraud or identity theft charges, let Stechschulte Nell Law Office fight to protect you from prosecutorial overreach. We are committed to your defense, and are dedicated to reducing your risk at trial. Call 813-820-1244 for your case review.