If you or someone you know has been charged with scheme to defraud in Tampa, FL, it is imperative that you immediately contact a qualified criminal defense attorney who can represent your case. This involves allegations of ongoing fraud. Scheme to defraud, or organized fraud, is a white-collar crime with serious penalties. At Stechschulte Nell, we have represented business owners and long-term employees who have been charged with organized fraud resulting in more favorable outcomes. Let’s take a closer look at this charge and how a conviction could impact your future.
What is Scheme to Defraud?
The Scheme to Defraud statute in Florida (817.034) is a general law that encompasses many possible courses of conduct. It is considered a “crime of dishonesty” and is treated very seriously under Florida law – even as a misdemeanor offense.
Organized Fraud is committed when a person:
- Has intent to defraud or obtain property from one or more persons
- Engages in an ongoing course of conduct
- Falsely presents fraudulent pretenses, promises, or willful misrepresentations of a future act
If under investigation for Scheme to Defraud, call the experienced Tampa criminal defense lawyers of Stechschulte Nell Law a call to discuss the specifics of your case.
What is the potential punishment for scheme to defraud?
Penalties for scheme to defraud are based on the amount of loss, including:
- Loss of $20,000 or less: a third-degree felony, level 3 offense, up to five years in Florida State prison/ probation, up to $5,000 in fines
- Loss of $20,000 to $50,000: a second-degree felony, level 5 offense, up to 15 years in Florida State prison/ probation, up to $10,000 in fines
- Loss of $50,000 or more: a first-degree felony, level 7 offense, up to 30 years in Florida State prison/probation, up to $10,000 in fines
Even if no money or property was exchanged, the accused can still be punished based on the amount the defendant intended to take, including:
- $300 or more: a third-degree felony, up to five years in Florida State prison/ probation, up to $5,000 in fines
- Less than $300 is a first-degree misdemeanor, up to 12 months in county jail/ probation, up to $500 in fines
In 2019, the threshold for being charged with theft in Florida was raised from $300 to $750, after nearly 30 years. Our defense law firm hoped this threshold would have been raised to at least $1,000, but the progress is appreciated on behalf of our clients.
Defending Scheme to Defraud Cases
There are many defenses to a scheme to defraud or organized fraud charge. The most common strategy is that there was no intent to defraud.
Intent to Defraud-Many times in Florida, these charges involve a person contracting with many people to perform a service (ex. A kitchen remodel). When that service is not provided or a dispute is made to a contract, the State may consider this fraud.
However, the prosecution must show proof that there was actual intent to defraud another person. In this case, that you never intended to do the remodel. A criminal defense attorney will challenge this evidence and argue that you intended to provide the service when the contact was signed, but outside forces prevented you from completing the job. We work in the pre-trial phase to have your charges reduced and litigated in civil – not criminal court.
Other defense strategies include:
Statute of Limitations – The State of Florida must bring the case to prosecution within 5 years of the act. However, if you move or are out of the state for a prolonged time, that period can be extended for an additional year. After this time, your attorney can file a motion to dismiss your organized fraud charges based on the statute of limitations.
Lesser Charges – Depending on the specifics of your case, a theft charge may be preferred. The accused cannot be charged of scheme to defraud for multiple thefts unless it can be proved that some falsehood was committed. We’ll work to get the charges reduced to a lesser offense such as petit or grand theft.
There are several options to help defend these charges. An experienced criminal defense attorney knows how to strategically defend organized fraud cases. Our lawyer will answer for the allegations at both the pretrial and trial phases.
Free Case Review
Our Tampa, FL criminal law firm is experienced in handling scheme to defraud cases. If you would like to schedule a free case review, please call Stechschulte Nell Law 24/7 at 813-280-1244. We’re here to discuss possible defenses to your case.