According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, fraud is defined as:
“Deceit, trickery; specifically: intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right.”
Most people tend to think of credit card fraud or tax fraud when they hear the word “fraud,” but under this definition, fraud can cover a wide range of crimes. Let’s take a closer look at some of these crimes and then see what elements are needed to prove fraud in Florida.
How “Fraudulent Practices” Work in Florida
Chapter 817 of the Florida Statutes details multiple fraudulent practices that are against the law. Here are just a few of the many fraudulent crimes you should know about:
Obtaining property by false personation. If you falsely impersonate or represent another person in order to personally receive and use property intended for that person, or damage the credit history or rating of that person, you can be charged with this crime.
The punishment for obtaining property by false personation is the same as a theft offense. The more valuable the property in question, the more severe the punishment.
Making false statement to obtain property or credit. Any person who makes a false statement relating to his or her financial condition or assets or liabilities with the fraudulent intent of obtaining credit, goods, money, or other property, is guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.
Florida Communications Fraud Act. This legislation was designed to prevent the use of communications technology in furtherance of schemes to defraud under federal mail and wire fraud statutes.
Anyone who participates in a scheme to defraud and, in furtherance of that scheme, communicates with any person with the intent to receive property from that person is guilty, for each act of communication, of communications fraud.
If the value of the property obtained exceeds $300, you will be charged with a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. If the value of the property obtained is less than $300, you will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor.
Misleading advertisements prohibited. It is illegal to falsely advertise goods or services with the intent to induce the public in any manner to enter into any sort of obligation. This is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail.
False entries in books of business entity. If you take care of the books for any business entity and you make a false entry with the intent to defraud, you are committing a third-degree felony.
False and fraudulent insurance claims. Committing insurance fraud involves making false, misleading, or incomplete statements that are intended to injure, defraud, or deceive an insurer. Depending on the circumstances of the fraud, you can be charged with a felony offense.
Credit card fraud. It is illegal for anyone to knowingly obtain or attempt to obtain credit or to purchase or attempt to purchase any goods, property, or service, by the use of any false, fake, counterfeit, or expired credit card or by using someone else’s credit card without their permission.
If the value of the goods obtained is over $300, you will be charged with grand larceny. If the value of the goods obtained is under $300, you will be charged with petit larceny.
Proving Fraud in Florida
If you are accused of one of the many fraud crimes in our state, the prosecution will need to be able to prove five elements in order to have you convicted:
- The defendant knew that his or her statement was untrue;
- The defendant intended to defraud or deceive the victim;
- The defendant gave a false statement or misrepresentation of a material fact;
- The alleged victim believed and relied upon the false statements made; and
- That reliance caused the victim to suffer an injury or loss.
In order for a defendant to be found guilty of fraud, each element needs to be proven individually. This means that if even one element can’t be proven, then the defendant can’t be convicted of the fraudulent crime.
For example, if the defendant was under the impression that the statements he or she was making were true, which would imply he or she didn’t know they were false, then the defendant can’t be guilty of the crime.
Fraud cases are often complicated and involve a great deal of knowledge about the nuances of Florida’s fraud law. If you are currently facing charges for any kind of fraud offense, it’s imperative to reach out to an experienced Florida fraud attorney as soon as possible to get the best possible outcome for your case.
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.