Fraud generally involves deception to achieve financial or personal gain. Fraud can be charged under a number of California laws, depending on the type of fraud, amount involved, and the specific victim of the crime. Fraud can be treated as a serious offense and could result in felony charges leading to fines and jail time. Some common fraud charges include:
- Insurance Fraud
- Credit Card
- Identity Theft
- Wire Fraud
- Check Fraud
- Securities Fraud
- Mail Fraud
- Medi-Cal Fraud
- Welfare Fraud
- Workers' Comp Fraud
- Tax Fraud
- Mortgage Fraud
Insurance fraud covers a wide variety of fraud. There is the potential for fraud in any type of insurance, including automobile insurance, life insurance, property insurance, workers' compensation, and health insurance. Insurance fraud generally involves making false or fraudulent claims to the insurance company or government for compensation or other gains. This could include fraud by the individual covered by insurance or by a service provider.
Automobile insurance fraud may involve intentionally causing an accident in order to claim benefits for damage to the vehicle and for medical treatment. The individuals who caused the accident may also involve a motor vehicle shop or a doctor who is in on the fraud, who then diagnoses the individuals with injuries they did not suffer and bill for treatment that was never provided.
Property insurance fraud may involve something like intentionally setting fire to a building in order to claim damages from the insurance company. However, in addition to facing possible fraud charges, the individuals involved may face additional criminal charges if other property is damaged or if another person is injured as a result.
Workers' compensation fraud may involve a worker falsely claiming an injury in order to file a compensation claim and receive benefit payments without any real injury. It may also involve trying to claim an injury occurred in the workplace when it really took place in the individual's personal time. Employers may also be charged with workers' compensation fraud if they do not have workers' compensation insurance as required by California law.
Health insurance or Medi-Cal fraud may involve doctors or medical professionals filing claims for work that was never performed or over-charging for care. Over time, billing for unperformed care can amount to millions of dollars.
Insurance Fraud Penalties
Penalties for insurance fraud depend on the individual's criminal history, the amount of fraud involved, and the fraud victim. First-time convictions involving lower-value fraud may be charged as a misdemeanor, with up to a year in jail. More extensive fraud may result in a felony criminal charge, including years in jail and heavy fines.
As an example, under California Penal Code 550, presenting a false or fraudulent claim for payment of a loss or injury under an insurance contract is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, and a fine of up to $50,000, or double the amount of the fraud, whichever is greater.
In addition to jail time and fines, judges can add a number of other penalties and restrictions as part of probation. This may include community service, restitution, and charges for the cost of the investigation and probation. Additionally, in some cases, such as workers' compensation fraud, the State of California also publishes a monthly list of individuals convicted of workers' comp fraud.
Insurance fraud can be difficult to detect; however, insurance companies take fraud very seriously and may actively investigate suspicious claims. This may involve multiple claims by the same policyholder, or claims filed shortly after coverage begins. Some fraud is discovered through public reporting of individuals involved.
Identity theft is another common type of fraud. Identity theft generally involves using another person's identifying information to gain access to their financial resources. With the increased use of computers and the internet to conduct financial transactions, online identity theft has been increasing in recent years. Identity theft can be used to commit credit card fraud, check fraud, immigration fraud, and benefits fraud.
In identity fraud, individuals may gain access to another person's financial and personal information in a number of ways. This could include phone calls pretending to be the bank to ask for a password, online phishing scams to trick someone into providing personal information, or even looking through someone's trash to find financial information. Using this information, an individual may attempt to open up a credit card in someone else's name or even fraudulently apply for a loan.
Penalties for identity theft may depend on the extent of the fraud involved, the defendant's criminal history, and the victims involved. Under California Penal Code 530.5, misdemeanor identity theft is punishable by a fine and up to a year in a county jail. However, felony charges may result in higher fines and years in prison. Many cases of identity theft that include the use of the internet, credit cards, or banks may result in federal criminal charges.
Credit Card and Check Fraud
Credit card fraud may involve using a fraudulent credit card to obtain cash or purchase goods. It may also involve using someone's credit card without their permission. Check fraud may involve using a fraudulent check, changing the payment amount on a check, or trying to cash a check made out to another person. Credit card and check fraud may also be charged as a federal crime. Penalties generally depend on the extent of the fraud but may lead to felony charges and years in prison.
There are a number of possible defenses to fraud charges, depending on the circumstances involved. A case of mistaken identity may have resulted in charges against an innocent person. Others who face charges may have been victims of others using them to commit fraud without their knowledge. Your experienced East Bay criminal defense attorney will be able to identify the best defenses in your case to give you the best chance of success.
Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience and understands the penalties involved with criminal fraud charges. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success, keeping her clients out of jail and maintaining a clean record. If you are facing criminal fraud charges anywhere in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, contact Lynn Gorelick, who understands you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.