For a nonviolent crime, bank fraud can do some truly serious damage to those who are affected by it. Perhaps that’s why the consequences for bank fraud – both in Florida and at the federal level – are so severe, and why we tend to want to know why people did it when big cases are publicized.
What drove them to do it? Or, if they’re claiming innocence, what’s their defense? Unfortunately, while there are plenty of strong defense strategies that a knowledgeable Florida white collar crimes lawyer may be able to use to help their clients, there is such a thing as a bad bank fraud defense. Below, you’ll learn about four of the worst that have been used in the past few years.
Bad Defenses against Bank Fraud Charges That You Should Avoid
Fame. Did you ever watch the Lifetime show Dance Moms? It propelled notoriously nasty dance studio owner Abby Lee Miller to fame. A fame that she used as a defense when she was accused of bank fraud in 2015.
All told, Miller was accused of 20 counts of fraud. In her defense, she claimed that when Dance Moms aired in 2011, she was thrust into fame and wasn’t able to handle her stardom.
“Fame,” however, is a hard defense to take seriously when you have enough money to hire someone to handle your finances legally. She is currently awaiting sentencing and faces up to 30 months in prison.
“We didn’t mean to.” You probably know about the subprime mortgage crisis that led to the housing crisis in the late 2000s. So, what happened to the banks and mortgage lenders that caused this crisis in the first place?
In Bank of America’s case, nothing too serious.
In 2016, a federal appeals court overturned a $1.3 billion ruling against Bank of America from 2013 for their participation in the subprime mortgage crisis. During the case, evidence was presented showing that employees helped clients get mortgages that they wouldn’t be able to afford by changing their information (including income) and kept mortgage companies in the dark about their new, lower standards for applying for mortgages.
So how did Bank of America get the court to overturn the previous decision against them? By saying, “we didn’t mean it.”
Now, in many criminal cases, a lack of intention is a fair defense strategy. If someone did not understand that their actions were violating the law and acted with good intentions, they have a fair chance at getting their charges dropped.
However, extensive bank fraud performed by professionals who knew the consequences of changing data and helping clients apply for mortgages they couldn’t afford – that’s a hard sell. Somehow, in this case it worked. However, in 2013 the court didn’t buy it, and it’s a bit of a mystery as to why the federal appeals court reversed the decision against Bank of America in 2016.
Bottom line, most of the time it’s just not a smart defense against bank fraud. At best, it’s something that should only be attempted in specific cases.
Our employees did it, not us. Bank of America isn’t the only big bank that’s been in the courtroom recently. Wells Fargo was recently accused of stealing millions of dollars from clients, mainly by opening phony account in the clients’ names without their permission.
When questioned about the fraud, CEO John Stumpf said that the employees who opened those accounts – his employees – had no reason or incentive to open the accounts or commit fraud. Basically, he blamed them for acting on their own.
Turns out, that wasn’t exactly true.
Regardless, blaming the people who work under your direction typically isn’t the best way to distance yourself from a crime. John Stumpf discovered this the hard way when he had to resign a month after casting that blame backfired.
Jesus. Yes, that’s right. Someone blamed Jesus in a story that comes from right here in Florida. What’s the story?
A Lakeland man was caught setting up wire transfers from large banks in an attempt to steal over $7 billion. Why? He told police that Jesus created wealth for all, and the money he was stealing belonged to him.
He pleaded guilty earlier this year, and it’ll be a miracle if he isn’t sentenced to jail for bank fraud. It is highly suggest that you do not use Jesus as a defense strategy if you are facing bank fraud charges.
So what are good defenses for bank fraud? There are a number that can work well, but it all depends on your individual case. Common successful defense strategies include absence of intent, entrapment, and insufficient evidence. For more information on how best to fight your charges, reach out to a Florida bank fraud attorney today.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.