The word "fraud" covers a litany of actions. People often use it too liberally when it comes to the actions of otherwise law-abiding citizens here in Ohio and elsewhere. Due to their non-violent nature, people often envision white-collar crimes as crimes committed by con men in expensive suits with slicked back hair and a flair for the dramatic. This Hollywood vision of someone accused of fraud grossly misrepresents the people who end up facing charges for some type of fraud.
In reality, allegations of fraud could arise out of otherwise innocent miscommunications, lapses in judgment or some other mistake. If you fall into one of these categories, you could be facing criminal charges for fraud, and you may want to know why.
The legal definition of fraud
When officials accuse you of fraud, they are alleging that you intentionally misled someone else for your own personal gain (usually monetary gain). Nearly every allegation of fraud includes one or all of the following:
- Deceitful conduct
- A false statement
The criminal courts focus on the intent of the person accused. A conviction could result in fines, restitution and incarceration. The civil courts focus on the element of bad faith, which is a more broad definition. Losing a civil claim could result in a monetary judgment against you.
Specific instances of fraud
As pointed out above, the crime of fraud encompasses many actions. Some of the most often seen include the following:
- Telemarketing fraud
- Bankruptcy fraud
- Wire fraud
- Tax fraud, also called tax evasion
- Securities fraud
- Identity theft
- Credit or debit card fraud
- Insurance fraud
- Mail fraud
Fraud can occur using many different mediums, such as the internet, wire, mail or phone.
The elements of fraud
In many cases, the prosecution's case against you for fraud boils down the proving the following elements:
- A factual misrepresentation
- Knowledge of its falsehood
- Reliance on the falsehood
- Actual loss or injury
Prosecutors must prove each of these elements on its own. For instance, even if you passed on false information, you may not have known that it was false when you did. This is why intent is an important element of fraud. You may have ended up being the victim of someone else's fraud as well, but you ended up in trouble for it.
A conviction resulting from fraud allegations could cost you much more than dollars or your freedom. Your reputation, social circle and even your home life could suffer. A civil lawsuit could end up costing you as well. You could have a problem finding gainful employment in the future since fraud allegations put your integrity, honesty and trustworthiness into question. Fortunately, you can challenge the charges against you, and you don't have to do it alone.