Defending Against A Fraud Charge In Texas: What You Need To Know
Fraud charges are something nobody wants to face, due to the severe consequences involved. What is a fraud charge in Texas, exactly? The term “fraud” is often used as a catch-all to include a number of criminal financial acts. This can include everything from using someone else’s credit card to make a small purchase, to a complex million-dollar securities fraud scheme, and everything in between.
Examples of fraud that can be charged as crimes in Texas can include:
- Money Laundering
- Credit Card Fraud
- Identity Theft
- Check Fraud
- Ponzi Schemes
- Securities Fraud
- Insurance Fraud
- Medicaid Fraud
- Tax Fraud
Each of these crimes involves a different set of circumstances, but all involve at least one individual misusing sensitive information to gain money in a wrongful manner. They also involve a range of potential penalties that include prison time and heavy fines.
The penalties for a fraud conviction in Texas will vary depending on the nature of the acts involved and the amount of money and/or property taken. Fraud involving a taking of less than $100, for example, may be a Class C Misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500. Fraudulent taking of more than $300,000, however, can be charged as a First Degree Felony with fines up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of 5 to 99 years.
Charges can also vary depending on the age and individual circumstances of the financial victims. Fraud against children, the elderly, or disabled individuals in Texas can be charged as a Third Degree Felony, even if only a small amount was taken.
In addition to statutory fines and jail time, a conviction may also include other court-associated costs and years of probation. In addition, there are the personal and professional costs of a fraud crime conviction. Being convicted and sentenced for fraud can bar a person from certain types of employment, housing, and loans. For these reasons, even a seemingly minor offense can haunt somebody for years to come. A person charged with any type of financial fraud must aggressively assert their rights in court from day one, preferably with the assistance of an experienced Texas fraud defense attorney.
What Prosecutors must prove in a Texas Fraud Case
Generally, a claim of financial fraud must have two distinct elements under Chapter 32 of the Texas Penal Code:
- A willful misrepresentation (or omission) or fact; and
- Intent to use this misrepresentation for personal financial gain.
Thus, the State must prove that a defendant made some kind of misrepresentation (usually regarding personal information or financial data), and also did so with the intent to enrich themselves at another’s expense.
Defenses to a fraud charge in Texas can include:
- Lack of intent to commit fraud. There must be some type of deliberate deception for fraud to exist. If the alleged perpetrator did not know they were using false information, or believed it was accurate at the time they used it, they may not have committed fraud.
- Lack of evidence. The prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant intended to take money, property, or something of value, and used misrepresentation to do so.
- If the defendant was placed under some kind of unlawful pressure to engage in fraudulent activity, this may serve as a defense to the charge. For example, if a boss or other individual threatened you with some type of harm for not changing numbers on a financial form, you might have committed a fraudulent act while under duress as far as the law is concerned.
- Constitutional violations. If law enforcement obtained evidence against you in a manner not consistent with your Fourth Amendment rights, that evidence might be subject to dismissal in your case.
A Skilled Texas Fraud Defense Attorney Can Help You Protect Your Rights When Accused with Fraud
Attorney Keith B. French, Jr., is a former Assistant United States Attorney practicing in the Pearland, Texas area. Because of his experience as a prosecutor, he knows the steps involved in a criminal fraud case, and what evidence is necessary. He also knows how to attack flaws in the prosecution’s case and help you fight vigorously against any and all charges in a financial-crimes case. Our law firm will go through the details of your case step by step and build the best defense possible. Contact our Pearland criminal defense lawyers today for help.