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Fraud encompasses many distinct crimes. While each of these crimes has unique elements, each crime of fraud includes the intent to deceive another person either to cause a loss of something of value (for example, money, goods, or services) or to cause damage to a legal, financial, property right.

A crime of fraud does not require that actual loss or damage occur, only that by the act, the intention was to cause that loss or damage. For example, if someone attempts to purchase an item with a fraudulently produced credit card, and even if no purchase is actually made on the card because the purchase is denied at the point of sale, the crime of credit card fraud has already been committed by the use of the fraudulent card.

Crimes of fraud include:

  •    Forgery (Penal Code §470)
  •    Counterfeiting (Penal Code §472)
  •    Possession of forged or counterfeited documents with intent to defraud (Penal Code §475)
  •    Check fraud (Penal Code §476)
  •    Filing false documents (Penal Code §115)
  •    Credit card fraud (Penal Code §484)
  •    Check fraud (Penal Code §476)
  •    Insurance fraud (Penal Code §550)
  •    Making, obtaining, or making use of false financial statements (Penal Code §532)
  •    Identity theft (Penal Code §530.5)

Because there are so many different types of fraud, the penalties may vary significantly, based not only on the nature of the crime, the magnitude of the fraud, and the defendant’s criminal background, but also on whether the crime is prosecuted as a misdemeanor, an automatic felony, or a federal crime. In general, penalties for fraud can include significant jail time and steep fines. The state of California may also confiscate any property or assets gained through the fraud.

A fraud conviction, even if convicted as a misdemeanor and even when the act is seemingly a minor one, can have serious consequences. For example, many employment opportunities that involve any degree of trust will be closed forever to someone convicted of fraud. It is essential that a person accused of any fraudulent act consult an experience criminal defense attorney right away. Depending upon the circumstances of the alleged crime, an experienced attorney can often get the charges dismissed or a conviction on a lesser crime.

Insurance and medical billing fraud are generally considered white collar crimes. These types of fraud can be punished with high fines and significant jail time depending on the extent of the fraud and the defendant’s criminal history. In order to perpetrate a fraud, individuals often commit forgery or perjury, and the result of the fraud may be considered a theft. Separate sentences will apply for all of the crimes related to the fraud and can significantly increase the penalties.