Fraud and embezzlement, while often thought of as large-scale white-collar crimes, are terms that cover a wide range of offenses. Everything from insurance fraud to forgery and identity theft count as fraud offenses, and they carry a wide range of penalties and sentences.

If you are facing fraud or embezzlement charges in the San Diego area, contact a qualified criminal defense lawyer right away. An experienced legal representative like Peter Blair will listen to you, give you honest answers, and help develop a sound strategy for your defense. Call (619) 357-4977 or contact The Law Office of Peter Blair online to schedule your free and confidential consultation today.

Legal Definitions

Fraud constitutes a large number of offenses under California law. Under California Civil Code 3294, fraud is defined as “an intentional misrepresentation, deceit, or concealment of a material fact known to the defendant with the intention on the part of the defendant of thereby depriving a person of property or legal rights or otherwise causing injury.”

Under California law, the various types of fraud offenses include the following:

  • Insurance fraud is when you try to obtain money from an insurance carrier, be it health insurance, car insurance, or home insurance. This includes inflating the price of your car insurance claim, staging an accident, charging for medical services that were not actually provided, double billing, and obtaining prescriptions unlawfully. Insurance fraud also extends to unemployment fraud, such as collecting unemployment benefits in two different states or pretending to be searching for work when not actually doing so (in order to keep collecting unemployment benefits).
  • Real estate and mortgage fraud is when someone falsely represents themselves during a real estate transaction of any sort. This includes forging a deed, pretending to be a foreclosure consultant to make money, facilitating predatory loans, renting out a property you do not actually own, or making fraudulent claims in order to sell a property.
  • Financial fraud is when someone makes a profit through dishonest or fraudulent means. This includes making purchases with someone else’s credit or debit cards, selling fraudulent bank cards, stealing from investors, counterfeiting, and attempting to make or use fraudulent checks.
  • Forgery is when someone falsifies an official document, such as a driver’s license, passport, currency, public seal, or state ID card.
  • Senior fraud and nursing home fraud is when someone takes advantage of an older adult for financial gain. This includes running any sort of financial scheme, such as a telemarketing scheme, credit repair scheme, or home repair scheme. Elder fraud also includes forging his or her signature on a document, convincing an elder who is not in the right mental state to sign over his or her property, and over billing for medical care.
  • Mail fraud includes a large number of mail-related offenses, such as intentionally withholding mail and using the mail to advertise something fraudulent.

According to California law, embezzlement is defined as “the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted.” Essentially, embezzlement comes down to using an item in a way the owner did not intend when he or she entrusted it to your care.

Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

Under California law, embezzlement can be treated as either petty theft or grand theft, depending on the circumstances of the case. If the goods or services embezzled are worth $949 or less, it counts as petty theft under California Penal Code 484. Petty theft is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment in county jail for up to six months.

If the goods or services embezzles are worth $950 or more or if the property was a car or firearm then it is treated as grand theft. Grand theft is a wobbler, which can qualify as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. Felony grand theft is punishable by up to three years in jail, and misdemeanor grand theft is punishable by up to one year in county jail.

The various types of fraud and the various levels of law enforcement involved make it difficult to list all penalties and sentences for fraud-related offenses. Some, like forgery or healthcare fraud, can be handled on a state or even federal level. Others can be handled on the municipal or county level, depending on how the fraud was reported and which law enforcement agency has spearheaded the investigation. For more information about penalties and sentencing for fraud in California, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

Legal Defenses

The legal defense for every situation depends on the circumstances of the case. However, there are some common defenses that are effective against fraud and embezzlement charges, including:

  • Lack of intent: In order to be guilty of fraud, California law states that the defendant must have intended to do so. If you did not intend to defraud someone, you cannot be found guilty of fraud.
  • Incorrect identification: Investigating a crime is a complex process, and everyone makes mistakes. If you were incorrectly identified by the police or the victim of a mistaken identity, you could escape conviction on fraud charges.
  • Entrapment: If you can prove that you only engaged in fraud because police lured or coerced you into doing so, you are not guilty of fraud. (However, that is not to say that undercover police cannot be involved in the investigation. To prove entrapment, you must prove that a œnormally law abiding person was induced to act in a way that he or she otherwise would not have.)

Keep in mind that this is far from a comprehensive list of legal defenses against fraud and embezzlement charges. The best way to develop a sound defense strategy is to consult an experienced defense attorney like Peter Blair.

Contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney

When facing serious criminal charges, it is in your best interest to be proactive. The sooner you act, the better your chance of minimizing jail time or avoiding a conviction altogether. Criminal defense attorney Peter Blair can help develop a sound defense strategy that gives you the best chance at a favorable outcome. You are more than the charges facing you, and Mr. Blair will do everything in his power to fight for you and your freedom.

Dont let these charges define you. If you are facing charges of fraud or embezzlement, contact The Law Office of Peter Blair. Call (619) 357-4977 or contact us online to schedule your free and confidential consultation.