White Collar Crimes: Understanding Federal Fraud Charges

Federal fraud charges are commonly referred to as white collar crimes. “Fraud” itself is ill-defined under federal law.

White Collar CrimesTypically, white collar crimes are motivated by financial gain. Additionally, fraud crimes involve some sort of deceit to achieve the financial gain. Of course, there are many schemes which can constitute fraud, however, fraud cases involve certain common threads.

White Collar Crimes: Basic Elements of Fraud

Misrepresentation of Material Facts

First, fraud includes a misrepresentation of a material fact. A “material fact” is one that matters to the transaction. For example, imagine someone says, “My name is Jimmy Johnson, Sr. I bought this property on Tuesday, and I’d like to sell it to you today.” Imagine further that Jimmy Johnson, Sr. actually bought the property on Monday. It is difficult to imagine a set of circumstances wherein whether the property was bought on Monday versus Tuesday would be a material fact. On the other hand, imagine someone makes the same representation, “My name is Jimmy Johnson, Sr.  I bought this property on Tuesday, and I’d like to sell it to you today.” Imagine further they were really Jimmy Johnson, Jr. – not the owner of the property.  his would be considered a material fact, because only Jimmy Johnson, Sr., the true owner of the property, can sell the property.

Misrepresentation by One Who Knows it is False

Second, to meet the elements of fraud, the government must establish not only that there was a misrepresentation of a material fact, but also that the person who made the misrepresentation either knew it was false, or had reason to believe it was false.

Justifiable Reliance

Third, victims of fraud must rely on the misrepresentation in deciding to engage in the transaction. In our hypothetical above, the purchaser of the property relies on the representation “My name is Jimmy Johnson, Sr.” In essence, it is the misrepresentation which induces the victim to engage in the transaction.

Actual Damages

Finally, the victim must sustain an actual injury or loss because of their reliance on the misrepresentation.

Common Types of Fraud

The many ways one might commit fraud are limited only by one’s imagination. Common types of fraud include the following:

  • Banking fraud
  • Bankruptcy fraud
  • Cell phone fraud
  • Credit card fraud
  • Debit card fraud
  • Forgery
  • Health care fraud
  • Identity theft
  • Insurance fraud
  • Investment fraud
  • Mail fraud
  • Securities fraud
  • Tax evasion
  • Tax fraud
  • Telemarketing fraud
  • Wire fraud

Penalties for Fraud

Fraud is a white collar crime, punishable with criminal penalties such as jail or prison time and fines. Additionally, fraud can have civil penalties, which includes substantial fines. In both civil and criminal fraud cases, courts order restitution. Of course, the severity of punishment depends on several things, including:

  • the type of fraud
  • the scope of the fraud
  • the severity of the action
  • how long the fraud was ongoing
  • whether it was committed by an individual, a corporation, or a business

If You are Charged with a White Collar Crime

White collar crimes can have very serious consequences.  No one should face criminal charges or civil penalties alone. You need an attorney well-versed in white collar crimes to guide you and protect your interests.  At Hardesty Tyde Green & Ashton P.A., we have extensive experience representing parties charged with white collar crimes both in criminal and civil court. Contact us at 904-949-9030 to discuss your case.

Additional Reading

How White Collar Crimes are not Just for the Wealthy

What are White Collar Crimes?