Fraud Defense Lawyer in Miami
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Fraud takes many forms, but the criminal offense always relies on an intentional deception meant to enrich the deceiver. Many federal agencies investigate fraud and invite the public to report suspected fraud to identify new suspects. This type of crime can range from an individual hiding assets during a bankruptcy to a large criminal organization defrauding thousands of people with a telemarketing scam. Prosecution for fraud charges at the federal level could mean high fines and long prison terms. Due to the seriousness of fraud allegations, anyone under investigation or indictment should contact a federal fraud attorney in Miami, immediately. Joffe Law, P.A. – who has handled more than 1,200 such cases – provides confidential case evaluations and thorough legal representation during an investigation, trial or appeal.
5 legal elements of fraud
Conviction for any criminal offense requires evidence that satisfies all elements of the crime as defined by its corresponding statute. In cases of fraud, a federal prosecutor must prove these five elements:
- a false statement of a materially important fact took place
- the defendant knew that the statement was untrue
- the defendant intended to deceive
- the target of the fraud relied on the truth of the statement
- injury resulted
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Federal Agencies That Investigate Fraud
- Federal Bureau of Investigations
- Internal Revenue Service
- Federal Trade Commission
- U.S. Postal Inspection Service
- U.S. Secret Service
- U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
- SBA Office of Inspector General
Inquiries from agents from any of these or other federal agencies indicate that federal criminal charges are possible. The law grants law enforcement agencies substantial powers to collect evidence. Some activities may require a search warrant, but others may be conducted at will.
- interview people
- monitor internet activity
- wiretap telephones
- conduct physical surveillance
- place recording devices on people to listen to conversations
- review financial records and tax filings
- seek search warrants for property, computers, and smartphones
- subpoena documents for a grand jury
Overview of federal fraud crimes
All frauds masquerade as a legitimate business transaction. For this reason, people may unwittingly find themselves working at a business that engages in fraudulent activities. Sometimes individuals at a legitimate business commit fraud, which may expose their innocent colleagues to criminal accusations.
Because contact with fraudulent activities could occur easily, you should obtain legal advice if questioned about financial transactions. Your impulse to cooperate with investigators might not serve you well. The perspective of a federal defense lawyer could alert you to unexpected criminal liability. The following list of fraud crimes reveals how deeply fraud can be woven into everyday life.
Deceiving a Miami bank or other financial institution into giving money, credit, securities or other property amounts to bank fraud. Federal law authorizes high penalties for bank fraud. A prison term of 30 years is possible as well as a fine up to $1,000,000. Conviction relies on evidence that shows that a person knowingly tried to receive funds on the basis of false pretenses, promises or representations.
All individual and business bankruptcies operate under federal law, which makes fraud related to the avoidance of debt a federal crime. Criminal penalties upon conviction of bankruptcy fraud include up to 5 years in prison and fines up to $250,000.
Close to 70% of all bankruptcy fraud happens when people try to conceal assets. The desire to keep assets instead of liquidating them to pay debts is a strong motivational force.
Other types of bankruptcy crimes include:
- bribing a bankruptcy trustee
- intentionally filing false or incomplete forms
- filing multiple bankruptcies in multiple jurisdictions
Multiple filings do not necessarily add up to an illegal activity. However, they may be seen as a method for avoiding or delaying the liquidation of assets.
Credit Card Fraud
Because financial institutions issue credit cards, federal authorities could step in when credit card crimes occur. Organized criminal groups that operate in multiple states or frauds that produce losses above $150,000 could result in federal indictments.
Credit card fraud often intersects with identity theft. Perpetrators of credit card fraud want to use other people’s identifying information to obtain credit. This might be accomplished by stealing someone’s identity and filling out a credit card application. Someone could take over an existing account by changing the address on the account. The person at the new false address will then report the card stolen and get a new card to use.
The theft of credit cards also occurs on a large scale when employees or hackers steal credit card numbers stored in a business’s records. Skimming machines mounted on credit card readers, especially at gas station pumps, can collect numbers that can then be used to make purchases.
Federal penalties for credit card fraud include fines up to $10,000 and prison terms up to 10 years. Evidence of identity theft in conjunction with credit card crimes could increase penalties.
Also known as identity fraud and securities fraud, identity theft happens when an unauthorized party uses someone’s personally identifying information to open credit accounts, access bank accounts, or gain financially in some way. Fraudulent actors employ many methods to collect identities. A stolen wallet represents the simplest way that a name, address, driver’s license number, and perhaps a Social Security number could fall into another’s hands. People also use telephone calls, emails, social media messages, and the mail to contact others and trick them into revealing sensitive identifying information.
The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 introduced identity theft as a specific federal crime. Subsequent laws have only strengthened penalties for identity fraud. A federal defendant may face up to 15 years in prison on top of fines. Many aggravating factors that occur alongside identity theft will increase penalties. Examples of aggravating factors include theft of public money or stealing an identity to avoid immigration laws.
Insurance companies actively evaluate their operations for signs of fraud. Computer analytics increasingly play a role in flagging suspicious activity. When insurers suspect fraud, they could deny a claim or involve local or federal law enforcement, who aggressively pursue criminal charges involving insurance fraud in Miami.
People have three main routes to insurance fraud. An act of destruction against an insured property for the purpose of collecting on a policy represents hard insurance fraud. The classic example is an attempt to burn down a failing business. The second type of fraud comes from misrepresenting damages to inflate what could have been a legitimate claim. The third form involves intentionally misrepresenting circumstances on an insurance application to get a lower premium.
All types of insurance are targets for fraud, including:
- unemployment insurance
- homeowners’ insurance
- renters’ insurance
- health insurance
- automobile insurance
- life insurance
- workers’ compensation
Criminal charges could result from largescale schemes involving many claims or an individual filing a single false claim.
Healthcare & Medicare Fraud
Frauds committed against public and private health insurers form a large subcategory of insurance fraud. Entities that routinely bill insurance companies for health-related services are in a position to commit health insurance fraud. Doctors, dentists, pharmacists, physical therapists, chiropractors, clinics, and hospitals may attempt to mask fraudulent claims by mixing them with legitimate claims.
According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the top approaches to health insurance fraud are:
- billing for services not performed
- labeling non-covered services as covered services
- changing dates of service
- misrepresenting locations of service
- misrepresenting who provided service
- waiving co-payments and deductibles
- altering reports about diagnoses and procedures
- using services more than necessary
- paying bribes or kickbacks
- issuing fake or unneeded medications
Some Miami health care fraud cases may be prosecuted at the state level. However, many insurance companies run policies in multiple states. Fraudulent activities that cross state lines will make criminal activities subject to federal prosecution.
Medicare, as the federal government’s public health insurance for seniors, serves as the primary target for many fraud schemes. The vast, nationwide size and scale of Medicare make people believe that their fraudulent billings will go undetected.
The responsibility of investigating alleged Medicare frauds falls to federal investigators. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that administers Medicare works to detect frauds and coordinates investigations with the FBI.
Although some Medicare fraud schemes are mostly billing operations run by one or more people within a medical-related business, other frauds involve unwitting members of the public. People might trick individuals into providing their Medicare account information and other details about their identity. Medicare numbers obtained from seniors could be used to prepare fake bills for real people.
Criminal organizations often leverage people’s medical fears to collect their Medicare information. A recent Miami Herald article detailed some fraud methods related to the demand for coronavirus vaccines. People get unsolicited calls that propose that they can get a vaccine shot at home and Medicare will pay for it. This pitch convinces some people to share their Medicare information, but no one ever shows up to deliver a shot. Sometimes callers use the lure of vaccine appointments to commit identity theft by collecting Social Security and Medicare numbers and other identifying credentials. Some frauds are quite straightforward. They ask people to pay cash for a vaccine appointment that never happens.
Sometimes real estate or finance professionals use their knowledge and positions to obtain property or mortgage loans illegitimately. Professionals who could become exposed to such activities include:
- mortgage brokers
- bank officers
Typically, mortgage fraud charges in Miami stem from misrepresenting the value of a property or the credit worthiness of a buyer. Some frauds go by the term air loan, which describes an attempt to collect fees on a loan for a fictitious buyer of a fictitious property.
Mail and wire fraud
Deceptions used to commit fraud generally require communication. With mail fraud, the misleading communications that deprive people of money or property take place through the U.S. Postal Service or other interstate couriers. A letter that convinces someone to pay for a product that is never sent would represent an example of mail fraud. Conviction could expose someone to a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for a single charge.
As the term wire fraud suggests, electronic communications by telephone, text message, email, social media messages, or radio and television were involved in the alleged offenses. Spam emails that try to trick people into giving up identifying information or log into a bank account are a common type of wire fraud. Prison sentences of 30 years are possible for a wire fraud conviction.
The overwhelming number of spam calls hitting people’s phones indicates how common telemarketing fraud has become. This is a form of wire fraud. Federal investigators will seek the responsible parties for telemarketing frauds that cause high losses to victims or involve multi-state or international activities. Call centers outside the United States might perform the calls that initiate the fraud. That situation automatically falls under the purview of federal investigators.
Qualified federal defense attorneys serving Miami
You can never speak with an attorney too soon if you have captured the attention of federal investigators. In fact, legal representation at the outset of a federal inquiry could deflect further investigation before the matter escalates to an indictment and arrest. Once someone has been charged with a federal fraud crime, a lawyer who possesses extensive knowledge of federal rules of evidence could explore opportunities to challenge the validity of evidence or the lawfulness of its collection. A vigorous defense could counteract prosecution or open the door to a lenient plea deal. Contact our office in Miami right away to learn about your rights and plan your next steps with the support of a lawyer.