California lawmakers have adopted numerous measures to combat fraud. The efforts prove why Bakersfield's district attorney, prosecutors, and judge aggressively prosecute fraudulent claims. You should contact a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately after you learn you are under investigation. Most fraud crimes cases are complicated and can result in severe and life-altering penalties since they transcend in significant theft and losses.
The legal team at Koenig Law Firm has the investigative and analytical skills required to handle high-level fraud cases and offer favorable case outcomes. When necessary, we work with information technology professionals and forensic accountants, among other professionals who can challenge the prosecutor’s assertions and offer alternative explanations for specific transactions. Read this article to learn some of the fraud crimes cases we represent.
Insurance fraud is a broad category of illegal acts that can cause the prosecutor to rely on numerous state or federal criminal statutes. However, all insurance fraud charges include the following elements of the crime:
- An intent to defraud —The prosecutor must prove that you knowingly engaged in the crime commission to defraud the insurer.
- A completed act — The prosecution should prove that you completed the act in furtherance of the fraud. It goes beyond planning or making false statements.
Discussed below are different types of California insurance fraud.
Health Insurance Fraud
You violate healthcare fraud when you engage in a fraud scheme against a health insurance plan/program or healthcare system. In other words, doctors, patients, or medical facilities violate this statute when they deliberately submit or cause another person to submit a fraudulent claim to an insurance company or government agency.
Examples can be:
- A physician billing for unnecessary health service
- A patient submitting several insurance claims for a single procedure
The crime can be a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the value of the fraudulent claim the accused submitted to the insurance provider.
Unemployment Insurance Fraud
According to California Unemployment Insurance Code 2101, insurance fraud occurs when an individual makes willful false representations, knowing concealment or false identification to increase, reduce, or obtain benefits under federal or state programs.
Applicants can commit this crime when they submit incomplete or false information to acquire or seek unemployment benefits to which they are not lawfully entitled. On the other hand, an employer violates this statute when presenting information so a former or current employee is denied benefits to which they are entitled.
Workers’ Compensation Fraud
Workers’ compensation is an insurance system that offers medical attention and compensation for damages like lost income to employers who sustained workplace injuries. A person commits workers’ compensation fraud when they provide misleading or false details to acquire benefits to which they are not lawfully entitled.
The offense is a wobbler. It can be prosecuted as either a felony or a misdemeanor, attracting a maximum criminal penalty of five years of incarceration.
Behaviors considered California workers’ compensation fraud include the following:
- Intentionally presenting or making false material statements to either deny or obtain workers’ compensation benefits
- Knowing participating in a conspiracy to engage in or aiding and abetting workers’ compensation fraud
- Making fraudulent or false statements about qualification for benefits to discourage an injured employee from claiming their benefits
- Submitting a health care benefit claim covered by workers’ compensation that the injured employee did not use
- Referring, accepting, or soliciting a business from an individual, knowing they intend to violate this law
There are two types of welfare fraud: internal fraud and receipt fraud.
Recipient fraud happens when a person provides incomplete or false information to acquire food stamps and Medi-Cal benefits, among other benefits they are not legitimately entitled.
Common examples of receipt fraud occur when a person obtains illegal benefits by:
- Claiming that they are a single parent while they live with the child’s other parent
- Failing to report additional income
- Submitting claims for ineligible or fictitious children
- Submitting claims for children who do not live in the home
On the other hand, internal welfare fraud happens when a worker of a government authority that issues welfare benefits distributes or collects illegitimate benefits from the agency. Generally, the crime happens when the employee falsified applications of otherwise unqualified people and shares the proceeds. The employee can create a fictitious child, make false income claims or fail to give facts that would disqualify their loved ones from receiving legitimate benefits.
Real Estate Fraud
You commit real estate fraud when you commit fraud concerning financing, renting, selling, or purchasing real property. Some of the laws that prosecute defendants for this offense include the following:
A professional commits foreclosure fraud when they:
- Charge a homeowner for services before providing them
- Collect or charge excessive fees for services
- Receive money from a third party for their services and fail to tell a homeowner
- Take a power of attorney from a homeowner
- Take an interest in a property subject to foreclosure
Foreclosure fraud is a wobbler. A felony is punishable by three years in jail, while a misdemeanor carries a one-year county jail sentence.
Illegal Property Flipping
Illegal property flipping happens when:
- The worth of a property is wrongfully inflated due to a fraudulent appraisal, and
- An unsuspecting person buys the asset at an inflated cost, or
- A financial institution lends money on the property for more than its actual value.
Please note that the crime does not involve a person buying a property and renovating it before reselling it at a higher cost.
You violate the rent skimming law when:
- You collect income without first paying your debt (using your rent proceeds from a residential rental asset during your initial year after obtaining it without making your mortgage payments), or
- Renting an asset that you do not own or are authorized to rent and collect its rent for your use
Engaging in one rent-skimming act subjects a defendant to civil penalties, while multiple rent-skimming acts attract criminal and civil penalties. Engaging in multiple rent skimming acts means you willfully and knowingly rent skim for every five (5) assets obtained within two years.
If convicted of rent skimming as an offense, you face a wobbler. A felony carries up to three years in state prison and a $10,000 fine. A misdemeanor conviction attracts a $10,000 fine and a year in county jail.
Predatory Lending Schemes
The law makes predatory lending an offense when a lender, like a bank, manages loan transactions to extract the maximum value for itself without regard to the borrower’s ability to repay the loan.
Two common features of illegal predatory lending schemes include:
- Target marketing to households based on discriminatory practices like age, gender, ethnicity, and race that are unrelated to creditworthiness, and
- Unreasonable and unjustifiable loan terms that maximize the lender’s earning capacity at the borrower’s expense
Fraud Involving Senior Citizens
Discussed below are crimes that involve financial elder abuse.
If you mismanage property, money, or any asset belonging to someone at least 65, the prosecutor could charge you with senior fraud under PC 368(d) and 368(e).
Everyday examples of senior fraud include the following:
- Telemarketing/internet/mail senior fraud — It involves soliciting elderly persons to donate to fraudulent charities, pay funds to claim illegal sweepstakes prizes, or offer the victim’s personal details in an attempt to use the information illegally.
- Credit repair elder fraud/ credit card insurance—You will face senior fraud charges if you call a senior citizen and either make a fraudulent promise to repair their credit or provide fraudulent insurance to protect their credit card against criminal charges.
- Funeral and cemetery senior fraud— You can be convicted of senior fraud for attempting to defraud an aged person into paying exorbitant costs for funeral and cemetery arrangements you will not offer.
- Real estate predatory lending elder abuse happens when a defendant offers senior citizens loans, knowing there is no way the elderly can repay them or lock them into loans with balloon payments that are hard to pay to increase their commission.
- Home repair senior fraud happens when a defendant knocks on an elderly’s door, offers to make home improvements, takes the money without completing the task, fails to perform the task, or does a shoddy job.
Nursing Home Fraud
An individual can face nursing home fraud charges if they engage in financial abuse acts like:
- Being a worker of a nursing home facility and persuading an elderly resident to sign over their assets to the employee
- Forging a senior citizen’s name on a check
- Overbilling for care
Financial elder abuse by a caretaker in an assisted living facility is a California misdemeanor, provided the property's value or money taken does not exceed $950. It is punishable by a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
However, the crime becomes a wobbler when the value of the property or money taken is more than nine hundred and fifty dollars. A felony carries a $10,000 fine and up to four years in jail.
Generic Financial Fraud
Discussed below are the most common generic fraud crimes involving unmerited financial gain.
A defendant violates PC 476 when they make, utter, publish, or pass a fraudulent or fake check to obtain something valuable.
An individual who violates PC 476 is guilty of forgery. It is a wobbler. A misdemeanor carries a year in county jail and a $1,000 fine, while a felony attracts the following maximum penalties:
- A fine of $10,000
- Three years in jail
Credit Card Fraud
Typically, credit card fraud involves a fraudulent transaction attempted or made regarding a debit or credit card or user account details related to the debit or credit card.
Perfect examples of credit card fraud include:
- Using a stolen debit card to buy goods or services
- Using personal credit cards knowing that they are linked to accounts without funds
- Using another person’s debit or credit card without their consent
Commonly referred to as investment fraud or stock fraud, securities fraud involves an act encouraging an investor to decide based on wrong information. The crime can include misstating a firm’s value, altering or faking a corporation’s financial statement, or stealing from investors.
Common defendants in this crime are stock traders, traders, accountants, and promoters.
The crime carries state and federal criminal penalties. Federal penalties are more severe than those under California law. Willful violation of the federal securities fraud law can result in serving twenty years in federal prison.
Identity Fraud and Forgery
Forging documents is a fraudulent crime. And since most forged documents involve a person’s identification, these crimes violate California's identity theft, fraud, and forgery laws. Fraud crimes classified under these types include the following:
Forging, Counterfeiting, or Possessing a Fraudulent Public Seal
PC 472 makes it an offense to forge a public seal. It involves forging, possessing, or counterfeiting a fake public seal or emblem to make a counterfeit document that appears official or endorsed by a government authority.
You violate PC 472 when you:
- Forge a California State seal on an identification card or driver’s license
- Forge a public seal while making a counterfeit credit card
- Counterfeit a corporate seal on business cards
The crime is a California wobbler. A misdemeanor carries a year in jail, while a felony is punishable by three years in California state prison.
Forging or Counterfeiting a Driver’s License (PC 470a)
Violation of PC 470a involves altering, falsifying, reproducing, counterfeiting, or duplicating a government-issued identification card or driver’s license intending to commit forgery.
Examples of PC 470a violations include the following:
- Creating a counterfeit driver’s license
- Changing an individual’s name that appears on an identification card or driver’s license
- Changing the physical description or altering the photo that appears on an ID card
Commonly referred to as cybercrime, internet fraud is a blanket term that describes different fraud offenses that involve using computers and the internet. Some of these crimes can be charged under California laws, while others are federal offenses.
Most internet fraud crimes fall into three categories, namely:
- Scams or fraudulent schemes executed through the internet or email
- Accessing a computer or its data without consent
- Phishing (using the internet or an email to acquire sensitive information like credit card details or social security numbers)
False impersonation under PC 529 involves using another individual’s identity or name to cause harm to the person or gain improper benefits. In other words, PC 529 applies when a defendant pretends to be another person and either:
- Engage in conduct that exposes an individual to either criminal or civil liability, or
- Engage in an act that causes somebody else to pay money, or
- Gain benefits from the impersonation
Typical examples of PC 529 violations include the following acts:
- Giving a law enforcer another person’s name and the individual is subsequently charged with income tax evasion
- Using somebody else’s name to enter a golf club and then playing golf for free
- Opening credit cards in other people’s names and purchasing things on them
Miscellaneous Fraud Crimes
Other miscellaneous fraud crimes worth discussing include the following:
The authorities can charge you with mail fraud if they believe you used a U.S. post office or a private mail carrier to receive or send materials linked to a scheme to commit fraud.
The crime carries heavy fines and twenty years in prison. If the fraud involves a financial institution like a national bank or a federal disaster, the maximum sentence is enhanced to thirty years in prison.
Business and Professions Code 17511.9 makes telemarketing fraud a crime. Telemarketing fraud involves using a fraudulent or deceitful business scheme to sell services or goods by phone.
A violation of Business and Professions Code 17511.9 is a California wobbler. A misdemeanor carries a year in county jail and a $10,000 fine for every illegal transaction. On the other hand, a felony carries the following potential penalties:
- A ten-thousand-dollar fine for every illegal transaction
- Maximum three years in county jail
California PC 322 makes it an offense to fraudulently obtain another person’s property by card games, pretensions to fortune-telling, gambling or betting, or tricks.
Please note that the law does not ban bookmarking or gambling. Instead, it prohibits using schemes, card tricks, or stacked decks tailored to trick people into betting on a “sure thing.’’
The penalties you face depend on the value of the asset you obtained from your victim. If you defraud an individual on a property whose value exceeds $950, it becomes a wobbler. If the value is less than $950, you will face a misdemeanor punishable by a year in county jail. A felony attracts three years in state prison.
Handicapped Parking Fraud
A defendant violates Vehicle Code 4461 when they misuse a handicapped disability parking placard or license plate.
There are three forms of handicapped parking fraud, namely:
- Using an invalid placard or another person’s placard
- Allowing a person to use disabled plates or placards
- Wrongfully parking in a handicap-accessible parking space
Vehicle Registration Fraud
You violate VC 4463 when you interfere with a car registration card, license plate, or registration sticker to obtain financial gain or avoid paying the Department of Motor Vehicles fees or taxes.
The prosecutor can charge you with either a felony or a misdemeanor. Sentencing is a maximum of three years in prison or jail.
Find Skilled Legal Representation Near Me
Fraud involves intentionally misrepresenting or concealing material facts to defraud a person, government agency, or organization. It exists in several forms. Some charges are misdemeanors, while others are felonies, all with detrimental consequences. Typically, fraud cases are complicated, making it easy to get lost in the procedural requirements of your criminal charges, making it essential to consult a seasoned Bakersfield defense attorney. At Koenig Law Office, we can listen to you, discuss legal defense options and strategies, and advise you on the appropriate steps.
Please contact us at 661-793-7222 to schedule your initial, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced fraud defense attorneys.