Federal Fraud Charges
The crime of “fraud” takes many forms. Yet, at bottom, fraud involves an accusation of lying or deception of some kind. As with virtually all crimes, charges in federal court are typically far more serious than charges in state court. Accordingly, if you have been charged with a federal fraud charge, you are likely facing much higher penalties and longer jail time than a similar fraud charge in state court.
That means that you need to be represented by an experienced attorney who practices in, and fully understands, the workings of federal court. That attorney is Jeremy Gordon, Attorney at Law. Jeremy has extensive experience successfully representing people against serious fraud charges in federal court. Let us fight for you. If you or a loved one have been charged with a federal fraud crime, then we welcome you to contact us. Schedule a free phone consultation today.
Types of Fraud
To begin any discussion of a fraud-related federal crime, it is helpful to understand the different types of federal fraud crimes out there. Federal fraud crimes generally fall into the following types:
- Mail Theft or Receipt of Stolen Mail
- Insurance Fraud
- Mortgage Fraud
- Securities Fraud
We will discuss the elements and defenses for each type of fraud in some detail. This information can be invaluable in determining whether you may have any defenses available to you in your own case. This discussion should also provide a good foundation as you discuss your case with an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer, like those at the Law Office of Jeremy Gordon.
You have likely heard the term embezzlement before. It is normally characterized by people improperly using their position of trust, and access to information, in their job to enrich themselves at the expense of their employer.
The elements of the crime of embezzlement exist when a person:
- Has the specific intent,
- To knowingly steal,
- An employer’s property.
As you can see from the elements, a federal prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had the specific intent to knowingly steal property that was entrusted to them by virtue of your job.
At first blush, you may think that “specific intent” and “knowingly” are saying the same thing. They are not. “Knowingly” stealing something refers to the notion that a person knew, i.e., was aware of, the fact that he or she was taking something. The notion of “specific intent,” however, refers to the need to prove that the accused had the “subjective desire” to commit an illegal act.
In other words, the federal prosecutor needs to prove that you were aware that you were taking something that was not yours, and that you knew it was illegal to do so to prove embezzlement.
Please note that there is no distinction between a public or private employer for purposes of embezzlement. Regardless of whether a person takes money from a government employer or a private company employer, it is still considered embezzlement.
The defenses that you can raise in response to an embezzlement charge are as follows:
- Entrapment. It is possible to argue that until a government actor – such as a confidential informant used in a criminal investigation – “entrapped” you into committing embezzlement. That means that you did not intend to steal anything until the government actor put the idea into your head.
- Lack of Knowledge. As noted above, “knowingly” is one of the elements that the government must prove in an embezzlement case. Thus, if you can show that you did not know the nature or source of the funds relevant to your case, then that will undermine the entire “knowingly” element.
- Insanity. Also as noted, the government must prove “specific intent.” If your mental state is such that you could not have formed the requisite intent to know that you were committing a crime, then the government would be unable to prove embezzlement against you.
Theft of Mail, or Receipt of Stolen Mail
Messing around with U.S. mail is a federal crime because the U.S. Postal Service has the responsibility to deliver, and protect, items sent through the mail. Thus, the crime of mail theft actually encompasses hiding or destroying mail, in addition to stealing it.
The elements of the crime of mail theft exist when:
- A person steals, takes, or by fraud or deception obtains a piece of mail;
- The mail, when stolen, was under the U.S. Postal Service’s control; and
- The person acting knowingly with the intent to take the piece of mail.
The defenses to mail theft are as follows:
- Mis-labelled Mail. If mail is sent to the wrong place, and then subsequently stolen, it is possible to argue that the piece of mail was no longer in the U.S. Postal Service’s control, thereby removing the second element listed above.
- Mistake. Similarly, a mail theft defendant may claim that he or she did not have the requisite “knowledge” or “intent” to steal anything because the mail was taken due to carelessness or mistake.
As you can expect, insurance fraud involves fraud or deception with regard to insurance information or proceeds. The classic case is a doctor claiming that he or she performed a particular medical procedure to obtain the patient’s insurance proceeds for that procedure, when he or she never actually performed the procedure.
There are, actually, a number of different statutes covering various types of insurance fraud. Typically, insurance fraud cases involve some form of electronic/wire fraud as well.
Accordingly, the elements of insurance fraud generally exist when a person:
- Uses either the mail or wire communications to further,
- A scheme to defraud,
- Involving material deception,
- With the intent to deprive another of,
- Either property or honest services.
The defenses of insurance fraud include the following:
- Good Faith. One defense to insurance fraud is to argue that your insurance claim was genuine, with no intent to defraud.
- Statute of Limitations. The federal government generally has 5 years within which to bring an insurance fraud charge. If the federal government waited too long to charge you, then that is a complete defense to an insurance fraud crime.
- Abandonment. Many insurance fraud matters are charged as a conspiracy, in which you might be accused of working with others in connection with an insurance fraud scheme. However, if you clearly withdrew yourself from the conspiracy, then that may be a defense to any charges against you associated with the actions attributed to the conspiracy.
Mortgage fraud involves crimes typically associated with real estate documents. Some of the criminal charges you will see with mortgage fraud include bank fraud, loan fraud, mail and wire fraud, false statements, and money laundering charges. Recently, we have seen a prevalence of two examples of mortgage fraud-related crimes:
- Housing Fraud. Lying on a mortgage application about your income in order to obtain a mortgage loan.
- Fraud for Profit. Any number of mortgage assistance schemes – like foreclosure rescue claims, and reverse mortgage schemes – can be considered fraud for profit.
The common defenses to mortgage fraud crimes include:
- Lack of Intent. Most mortgage fraud requires proof of “willful” conduct. Thus, you can claim that the documents demonstrate genuine business conduct, and thus any mistake was not done willfully or intentionally.
- Internal Procedures Followed. A strong defense to a mortgage fraud charge is that a company’s common internal investigation processes and procedures were followed. Thus, you can rely on the fraud-prevention processes in place to again show that your conduct was not criminal, but at best an unintentional mistake.
Securities fraud covers a lot of different types of criminal activity related to the purchase and sale of investments like stocks and bonds.
Some examples of securities fraud scenarios of which you have likely heard include:
- Insider Trading. Someone uses confidential information not publicly available to enrich themselves or manipulate stock price.
- Churning. Advising or encouraging investors to engage in excessive trading to create more fees for the broker.
- Ponzi Schemes. Claim to have an investment fund, but in actuality, you are taking money from one investor and giving to another as if they were dividends from the investment.
- Accounting Fraud. Falsifying records to show that a business is doing better financially than it actually is.
The defenses to securities fraud crimes include:
- No Fraud in Statements. You can try to show that the government is wrong to argue that the relevant documentation contains false information.
- Entrapment. As with embezzlement, you can claim that the government coerced you into participating in fraud.
- No Intent. You can argue that the government cannot show that you had any intention to defraud investors. Sometimes market changes are beyond a person’s control.
Conclusion: Federal Fraud Crimes are Serious
Any type of fraud, from embezzlement to mortgage fraud, and securities fraud to tax fraud, are white-collar crimes that are viewed to be as serious as violent crimes like murder. The penalties can be years in prison, thousands of dollars in financial fines, and loss of job opportunities in the future.
You need a seasoned federal criminal defense attorney to help you if you have been charged with any type of federal fraud-related crime.
Let the Law Office of Jeremy Gordon Help You with Your Federal Fraud Case
The Law Firm of Jeremy Gordon has the background and resources to help you through the ordeal of a federal criminal prosecution. We will vigorously fight for your rights in court, and we will give you sound advice on what options to take as your case progresses. Schedule a free phone consultation with our office today. Let us help you get the best possible outcome.
Federal Target Letters
You may envision a criminal investigation as something that happens in secret, without the knowledge of the person being investigated. That is often the case. Target letters in federal investigations are a different avenue that may be used.
However, there are times when detectives and prosecutors go right out and tell a person that they are
the target of a criminal investigation. It happens frequently in white-collar criminal investigations. The authorities do this through a target letter.
If you or a loved one have received a target letter from a U.S. Attorney’s Office, or some
other federal investigative agency, then you need to make sure that you obtain the
services of an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you. Receiving a target
letter is not something to take lightly.
While there are opportunities to avoid a criminal indictment even after you have been
told that you are the target of a federal investigation, the likelihood that you could be the subject of a federal indictment are high. That is why you need a lawyer in your corner to defend you as soon as possible.
Accordingly, we welcome you to contact the Law Office of Jeremy Gordon. Schedule a free phone consultation today.
Here we will discuss some of the most pressing questions you likely have upon
receiving a target letter. Remember, there are a number of options you have upon
receipt of a target letter, so be sure to consult with an experienced attorney in order to make decisions based on sound legal advice.
What Is a Target Letter?
When a federal prosecutor believes that you have committed a crime, he or she can send you a target letter. As the name suggests, the target letter is a form letter
essentially notifying you that you are the main focus of a criminal investigation. It is
possible that you may already be aware of an investigation against you because federal
agents may have tried to question you, or the letter may come as a surprise. Either
way, it is something to be taken seriously.
The term “target” has a specific definition in this context. A “target” is considered a potential criminal defendant because there exists substantial evidence indicating that he
or she committed a crime. Target letters are most often used in white collar criminal
Target Letter Components
A target letter normally notifies you of certain things, including:
- The fact that you are the focus of a federal grand jury investigation;
- The crime or crimes for which you may be accused;
- Your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent; and
- Information about getting the assistance of court-appointed counsel.
- The target letter may also inform you about your obligation not to destroy any evidence,
such as financial documents or other relevant information, because such destruction
could be viewed as obstruction of justice.
- The letter may also suggest that you reach out to the prosecutor to discuss the case.
If I Receive a Target Letter, What Should I Do?
In order to get the best outcome after receiving a target letter, you need to hire a good, experienced federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The earlier you obtain sound legal advice in response to a target letter, the better your chances are that you can minimize your criminal exposure.
First and foremost, an attorney may be able to help you convince the prosecutor
involved that he or she should drop the investigation against you. However, even if the
government is going to move forward with a criminal indictment, a defense attorney will be able to obtain information and perhaps negotiated a pre-indictment agreement to resolve the case.
It is always better to engage with a prosecutor early in a case, when he or she has not spent significant time on the matter, because there is typically more room for negotiations.
Should I Talk to Federal Investigators?
No. You should not speak with investigating agents until you have spoken to an attorney first. If you decide to speak to the investigators, you should only do so with your lawyer present.
Without question, you will be tempted to reach out to the prosecutor, or investigators
upon receiving the target letter in the hopes of explaining why any criminal accusation is simply a mistake or misunderstanding. Do not give in to that temptation. Federal investigators, like virtually all law enforcement officers, have ways of getting people to give up information, and all of your statements can be used against you.
Of course, after you have consulted with your attorney, you both might come to the
conclusion that speaking with investigators will be advantageous. Perhaps you can negotiate for immunity. Perhaps you can provide additional information that is helpful to further the investigation. You should only make that determination, however, after determining that such an approach would be beneficial for you.
Do I Have to Cooperate If I Receive a Target Letter?
You are no necessarily required to cooperate with an investigation. However, you might benefit from providing cooperation. A seasoned criminal defense attorney will be able to guide you as to what options you have with regard to cooperation. Normally, you will want to assess your chances of success at trial before deciding that cooperation is the best route for you.
Are Prosecutors Required to Send Target Letters?
Federal prosecutors are not required to send target letters to those who are the main
focus of a criminal investigation. Typically, target letters are not used because investigators do not want to provide an incentive for those suspected of criminal conduct to obstruct the investigation or try to flee the country.
However, sometimes a letter is used if a prosecutor wants to explore pre-indictment or pre-trial options to resolve the
Does a Target Letter Mean That I Will Be Indicted?
Not necessarily. While getting a target letter means that there is a high likelihood that you may be indicted, there is still a chance that you will not be indicted.
Indeed, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help you respond to the letter and negotiate a resolution with the prosecutor that does not involve an indictment.
Can I Make a Motion to Remove or Dismiss a Target Letter?
No. Because a target letter is something that comes directly from a prosecutor and is
not filed in court, a federal judge has no authority to take any action with regard to a
target letter. Therefore, making a motion in court will have no impact on a target letter.
Further, a target letter is simply giving notice, so the idea of trying to dismiss one is not consistent with the intent of the letter in the first place.
The key here is not the letter itself but having an attorney help get you removed as a target of the government’s investigation.
Is There a Chance, After Further Investigation, That I Could No
Longer Be a Target?
Yes. If you and your attorney are able to negotiate with the prosecutor such that it
becomes clear that you should not be the target of an investigation, then a prosecutor may decide to remove you as a target. That said, a prosecutor has no obligation to notify you that you are no longer a target, so you could have your attorney inquire as to your status in an investigation. Yet, when it comes to a federal investigation, the less you interact with the prosecutor the better. Unless you have chosen to have direct
negotiations with the prosecutor in which you would resolve the matter against you directly.
What Should I Look for In an Attorney When I Receive a Target
If you received a target letter from a federal prosecutor, then you need to hire an attorney who is experienced in federal criminal cases. Let the
help you with your federal fraud case.