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What is Fraud?

On Behalf of | Jan 5, 2015 | Uncategorized

Under federal law, there are dozens of ways a person can be charged with “fraud.” From statutes prohibiting fraud in general to statutes covering specific acts of fraud, such as wire fraud, the United States Code is filled with fraud provisions that criminalize and penalize various forms acts of deception or misrepresentation. In general, federal law defines “fraud” in 18 U.S. Code § 1001 as “knowingly and wilfully”committing any of the following acts:

  • falsifying, concealing, or covering up a material fact;
  • making any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
  • making or using any false writing or document knowing that it contains any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry

Although the United States Code has a general fraud statute, certain offenses are prosecuted according to the statutes which expressly prohibit them or according to statutes that explicitly prohibit the acts used to carry out the offense. For example, many types of fraud, including mortgage fraud, bank fraud, and credit card fraud, may be conducted via the internet or through sending documents through the United States Postal Service. These crimes may be prosecuted as wire fraud or mail fraud. Common types of fraud cases prosecuted in federal court include the following:

  • Bank Fraud – Using false pretenses to unlawfully obtain money from a federally-insured financial institution; up to 30 years in prison (18 U.S. Code § 1344)
  • Bankruptcy Fraud – Concealing assets, making false claims, or bribing officials in connection with a bankruptcy filing; up to 5 years in prison (18 U.S. Code § 152)
  • Credit Card Fraud – Any act of fraud committed in connection with the use of a credit card, including using stolen credit cards, making false statements in credit card applications, identity theft, credit card skimming and phishing, and more. Credit card fraud may be prosecuted as wire fraud, counterfeiting, bank fraud, identity theft, or fraud in connection with an access device (18 U.S. Code § 1029)
  • Disaster Fraud – Making false statements or attempting to defraud FEMA or another agency in connection with a federally-declared disaster. Falsely claiming damaged property following a tornado in order to secure FEMA benefits is an example of disaster fraud.
  • Health Care Fraud – Attempting to defraud a health care benefits program, such as Medicare or Medicaid, or obtaining the money or property of a health care benefits program through any fraud or deception; up to 10 years in prison; up to 20 years in prison if serious bodily injury results; up to life in prison if a death results (18 U.S. Code § 1347)
  • Identity Theft – Possessing or using another person’s personally identifying information, including identification documents, Social Security number, credit card numbers, address, name, bank information, and more; up to 2 years in prison to run consecutively to any other convictions for the underlying crime in which the stolen information was used (18 U.S. Code § 1028A)
  • Mortgage Fraud – Making false statements or misrepresentation in an attempt to secure a loan for a home or other property. Mortgage fraud may “fraud for housing” committed by home buyers or “fraud for profit” committed by industry professionals. Mortgage fraud may be prosecuted as bank fraud and/or mail/wire fraud.
  • Securities Fraud – Making false statements or representations in connection with the sale of securities, stocks, commodities, or investments. Securities fraud includes insider trading, investment fraud, Ponzi schemes, and high-yield investment fraud; up to 25 years in prison (18 U.S. Code § 1348)
  • Tax Fraud – Making any attempt to avoid paying federal income taxes or any attempt to obtain a greater income tax refund than is actually due. This typically occurs through underreporting income, failing to report income, failing to file a federal tax return, overstating deductions, or claiming false deductions; up to 5 years in prison (26 U.S. Code § 7201)


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