West Palm Beach Fraud Lawyer
Federal criminal defense attorney
with decades of experience
Many fraud crimes invite aggressive prosecution from federal law enforcement agencies, especially when deceptive financial offers target vulnerable senior populations. Any individual in West Palm Beach, Florida charged with a federal fraud offense should understand that prison sentences, fines, and restitution orders are all on the table if convicted. A fraud investigation or arrest also inflicts reputational damage on suspects. For people in positions of financial responsibility, fraud allegations can derail careers. These high stakes warrant retaining a West Palm Beach fraud defense lawyer capable of defending a criminal case.
How does fraud differ from theft?
Essentially, fraud is tricking, and theft is taking. Criminal law defines fraud as a scheme that relies on misinformation, omission of information, or outright lies used to convince people to give up something of value. Intent is at the heart of a fraud crime because whoever is committing the fraud knowingly misuses information to acquire financial gain.
As a result, the scheme itself is central to proving the crime of fraud.
For example, a fraud tricks:
- Medicare into paying an illegitimate medical bill
- a bank into issuing a loan
- a person to pay for a service that is never provided
Even the attempt to conduct a fraudulent scheme can result in criminal charges. The defendant does not actually have to collect payment to be convicted if evidence points to the execution of an intentional deception for financial gain. Fraud charges are tricky, and you need an experienced West Palm Beach federal defense attorney by your side to ensure your rights are protected from the start.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Types of federal fraud
Manipulating information for illegitimate financial gain can occur in many ways. For this reason, the law groups federal fraud crimes into numerous subcategories.
Federal regulations govern many aspects of the financial system, including banking. Frauds against banks include using false information to obtain a loan or luring people into revealing their online account credentials for the purpose of withdrawing their money. Depositing fake or altered checks is another example.
The U.S. judicial system operates the bankruptcy courts nationwide. Frauds during a bankruptcy case normally involve a debtor hiding assets while still trying to get debts discharged. Acts of bankruptcy fraud are sometimes committed by people who want to delay collection actions or hide other financial misdeeds.
This form of fraud is very widespread due to the ubiquity of credit card usage in daily life. Offenders buys goods and services with stolen credit cards, or they manufacturer cards with legitimate numbers collected by electronic skimmers or computer hacking. At times, people try to return goods for cash after buying them with bad credit cards.
Fraud becomes possible when someone can get a hold of another person’s identifying information or financial account numbers. As a result, a large illegal trade in people’s identifiers, especially Social Security numbers and login information for online accounts, feeds the demand for thieves who want to commit identity fraud. Through the use of other people’s identities, offenders buy goods and services, get loans, or acquire property.
Public and private insurers disburse vast sums of money. These organizations are watchful for false insurance claims that either request payment for fake losses or services or inflate the value of otherwise legitimate claims. The national Medicare system is frequently exploited by people who use Medicare numbers acquired through schemes that target the elderly.
Deceptive schemes that trick people and organizations out of their money often rely on communication systems to spread their dishonest messages. Any use of the U.S. Postal Service, commercial shipping services, or electronic communication systems, like telephones or email, can result in federal mail or wire fraud charges.
False information on an application for a home loan is mortgage fraud. A borrower might do this by forging income documentation, inflating an appraisal, or lying about the intention to occupy the home. Equity skimming or straw buying schemes are also deceptions that break the law.
Securities are financial assets like stocks or bonds. People who manipulate a stock’s value and then cash out before the value collapses could be found guilty of pump-and-dump schemes. As for insider trading, this is a form of securities fraud when people make trades on the basis of information that the public does not have access to. They either profit from these trades or avoid losses experienced by those who did not know that the stock price would falter.
Telemarketing has become so common in recent decades that it has its own name despite being a form of wire fraud because it uses electronic communications. This type of fraud may convince people to buy a product that is never delivered or donate to a fake charity. Other illegal telemarketing calls try to trick people into revealing their bank account or credit card numbers.
Federal fraud penalties
Accusations of fraud are especially perilous for defendants because every fraudulent transaction has the potential to become a criminal charge. Because frauds often have multiple victims, a defendant could face numerous fraud charges, and each one can contribute to the length of a prison sentence.
Additionally, federal fraud crimes can call for prison terms anywhere from six months to 20 years. When these sentences are multiplied by numerous charges, a defendant could spend a long time behind bars.
On top of potential prison time, fraud convictions can result in:
- fines: Depending on the extent of the fraud and the type, penalties could impose five to seven figure fines on people.
- restitution orders: The requirement to return money lost by fraud victims is a very common penalty.
- probation: These court-imposed restrictions force people to undergo monitoring by the correctional system and limit other legal rights.
A real-world example of fraud penalties appeared recently in the Palm Beach Post. A U.S. district judge sentenced a local man to 6.5 years in prison along with a restitution order of $2.8 million payable to Medicare and another $1.5 million payable to other victims. According to federal prosecutors, the man, who was the owner of Boca Toxicology Lab, admitted to paying kickbacks and bribes to physicians willing to order unnecessary medical tests. The various schemes also convinced elderly Medicare recipients to bundle expensive but unneeded cancer and diabetes tests with their coronavirus tests.
Legal representation for fraud defendants
The primary role of a lawyer is to defend the rights of someone within the criminal justice system. Although federal investigators and prosecutors generally act in a law-abiding manner, they are not overly focused on honoring a defendant’s rights completely. They want to build a record of convictions by convincing suspects to admit guilt.
A lawyer hired by a defendant will be completely focused on shielding the person from unlawful searches or pressure to make statements. Legal representation prior to an arrest has the potential to prevent the filing of criminal charges altogether. In some situations, investigations are resolved without criminal prosecution. For example, due to the complexities of insurance billing, a hypothetical medical company accused of insurance fraud might have actually made honest billing errors. This scenario could happen without any intent to violate the law. Such a case could result in a settlement that requires the return of overpayments but no filing of charges.
Should an individual already be under arrest when contacting a lawyer, the lawyer will advise the person to plead not guilty at the arraignment. A guilty plea should not be entered until someone has a qualified legal opinion about the nature of the charges, the strength of the evidence, and options for defense.
Speak with a federal fraud defense lawyer
Multiple large government agencies are tasked with safeguarding the financial and communications systems of this country. Federal fraud charges are never insignificant, and people under suspicion of these offenses must proceed with care when interacting with federal investigators and prosecutors. At Joffe Law, P.A., we are prepared to manage complex cases related to fraud or other white collar crimes. If you are worried about a fraud investigation in West Palm Beach or have already been arrested, contact us immediately.
Frequently Asked Fraud Defense Questions
When does a fraud charge become federal?
Florida has state laws that prohibit fraud, but a defendant may be charged at the federal level for a variety of reasons. Federal charges are nearly automatic when an alleged offense crosses federal statutes. For example, bankruptcy law is federal, which makes any wrongdoing connected to a bankruptcy filing a federal issues.
Next, a fraud that sought compensation from a federal benefits program qualifies as a federal offense. Fraud against Medicare is the primary example. Additionally, the financial system operates under many federal statutes, which makes frauds involving securities, bank accounts, credit or debit cards, and loans subject to federal prosecution. Similarly, federal oversight of shipping and communications brings prosecution for frauds using the mail and telecommunications, including the internet.
Finally, criminal activity that crosses state lines or international borders comes under the jurisdiction of federal investigators.
Why do I need a “federal” defense lawyer?
Federal criminal charges result in a case going before a federal court. This is a different judicial system than the state courts. Not every lawyer is automatically admitted to practice within a federal court. Federal defense is a specialty that a lawyer pursues by obtaining permission to represent defendants within one or more federal court districts.
A federal defense lawyer must learn the rules and procedures unique to the federal system. The federal court rules apply to almost every aspect of a case, including investigations, discovery, and motions. Without the knowledge of how to do these things properly in a federal setting, a lawyer may struggle to protect a defendant’s rights effectively and in a timely manner.
For example, at the outset of a criminal case, a federal defendant may need assistance obtaining pretrial release. Although federal courts release some people on their personal recognizance, posting a substantial amount of money is also commonly necessary. The release order may include special conditions, such as court supervision and frequent check-ins with the court. A good federal defense attorney will strive to work out a release order that imposes the lowest cost and least conditions.
The attention that a federal prosecutor gives a case is usually much more hands-on than a state-level prosecutor who manages a larger workload. Assistant U.S. Attorneys oversee lengthy investigations and prepare their cases thoroughly before filing criminal charges against somebody. As a result, a defendant needs a legal representative capable of scrutinizing evidence and exploiting every angle possible to reduce the impact of prosecution.
In conclusion, although a defense lawyer can seek permission to practice in federal court, a defendant would likely prefer representation from an individual who has done it before. The learning curve can be steep for someone, particularly if they have limited experience or lack a knowledgeable mentor.
Should I hire a lawyer or use a public defender?
Financial pressures sometimes accompany the shock of being charged by federal authorities. That situation may prompt a person to work with a public defender instead of hiring a defense lawyer. Although federal public defenders have the advantage of being trained within the system, these professionals must contend with substantial case numbers. Their workloads make it difficult to apply much attention to any individual defendant. People might only get to meet with their public defenders briefly. Additionally, they have limited resources in regards to investigating cases or finding experts who can provide testimony about complex financial records.
Contrast this reality to privately hired defense attorneys. A private lawyer does not have to take on an excessive caseload. As a for-profit enterprise, such a law firm is literally in the business of providing a thorough defense for each client that includes careful assessment of all evidentiary details and legal defense options.
Private law firms also possess a much greater capacity to look at how investigators behaved during evidence collection. The investigative resources that a private lawyer can call upon could uncover violations of a defendant’s rights or call into question whether federal authorities interpreted the evidence correctly to begin with. Overall, hiring a defense lawyer provides a person with more one-on-one time with legal guidance.