Fraud is a criminal act during which someone uses lies, misrepresentations, and other deception to obtain an unlawful personal gain. In most fraud cases, the perpetrator obtains money, property, or some other economic benefit. It could be that a fraudulent scheme is used to avoid debt.
Fraud is known as a type of white-collar crime. It does not usually involve violence, though it can be connected to other violent federal crimes. If you are accused of committing fraud in connection with other offenses, you may face multiple federal charges, which could result in consecutive prison sentences.
Have you been arrested and accused of a fraud crime? You may face federal charges, which are often harshly punished. You should contact a Houston federal fraud attorney for help. At The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we have experienced in defending clients against federal offenses. We will carefully review your case, analyze each piece of evidence, and determine the strongest defense strategy. Our goal will be to resolve your case without a conviction against you.
What is Federal Fraud?
There are many fraud crimes outlined under Texas law and federal law. In fact, there is a great deal of overlap. An action that may constitute fraud under Texas law may also be charged under a federal statute. Federal fraud means that you will face federal charges for your actions instead of state-level charges.
You can be charged with a federal fraud crime when the alleged criminal conduct:
- Violates a federal statute
- Took place on federal property
- Crossed state lines or national borders
- Was investigated by a federal agency
- Was discovered through an informant
Whether or not you face charges for a Texas or federal fraud offense has a lot to do with the prosecutor’s discretion. Federal and state prosecutors often communicate regarding offenses that could be charged at either level. They may have an agreement that certain conduct will be charged at the federal level, where it is often more harshly punished upon conviction.
When facing federal fraud charges, your case will be dealt with by an assistant U.S. attorney. Your case will go before a federal judge. If you are convicted, you will be sentenced based on the federal sentencing guidelines. When your sentence includes imprisonment, you will be incarcerated in federal prison.
You will need a Houston federal fraud attorney who is not only qualified to represent clients before a federal court, but also experienced in doing so. Attorney Ned Barnett is admitted to the bar for the U.S. District Courts of the Southern and Eastern Districts of Texas, and the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and he is prepared to help you with your case.
Types of Federal Fraud
There are several fraud offenses prohibited under federal law, including:
Conducting fraud through the U.S. Postal Service is illegal. Under 18 U.S. Code (U.S.C) §1341, you can be fined and sentenced to prison for up to 20 years for using the mail to engage in any fraudulent act that has or would lead to you receiving money or property.
Under 18 U.S.C. §1343, it is illegal to commit fraud through the use of wire, radio, or television communication. If convicted of wire fraud, you can be sentenced to prison for up to 20 years and fined.
You can be convicted of bank fraud if you knowingly execute or attempt a fraudulent scheme against a financial institution. Based on 18 U.S.C. §1344, you can be fined up to $1 million and imprisoned for up to 30 years.
Health Care Fraud
If you defraud, or try to defraud, a federal health care benefit program, such as Medicare, Medicaid, or TRICARE, then under 18 U.S.C. §1347, you can be imprisoned up to 10 years. However, if the fraud leads to serious bodily injury, then you may be fined and sentenced to up to 20 years.
A fraudulent scheme involving a commodity or security registered under the Securities Exchange Act can lead to imprisonment up to 25 years and a fine, per 18 U.S.C. §1348.
There are many specific types of tax fraud, prohibited in 26 U.S.C. §7201-7207, including attempting to evade your taxes, filing fraudulent tax returns, or willfully failing to pay your taxes. The penalties for these offenses vary based on the details of your case, so contact a Houston federal fraud attorney right away if you’ve been accused of committing this offense.
Social Security Fraud
Under 42 U.S.C. §408 and several other federal laws, you can be fined and imprisoned for committing fraud relating to Social Security. You can face up to five years’ imprisonment.
You can be imprisoned for up to two years for each count of customs fraud based on 18 U.S.C. §542.
Credit Card Fraud
Under 15 U.S.C. §1644, you can be convicted of credit card fraud that impacts interstate commerce, which is another way of saying your crime crossed state lines. You can be fined up to $10,000 and imprisoned for up to 10 years.
If you are convicted of money laundering, then under 18 U.S.C. §1956, you can be incarcerated up to 20 years and fined up to $500,000, or twice the value of the money or property involved.
Major Fraud Against the U.S.
Under 18 U.S.C. §1031, if you knowingly defraud the U.S. government, whether it is through a loan, a contract, subcontract, grant, disaster relief, or other method of at least $1 million, you can be sentenced to prison for up to 10 years.
Under 18 U.S.C. §1349, it is illegal to try or conspire to commit any offense under Chapter 63 of the U.S. Code. You can also face conspiracy charges under 18 U.S.C. §371, which makes it illegal to conspire to commit a crime against or defraud the U.S. You can be charged with a crime equal to your intended federal fraud crime, and if convicted, you may face the maximum punishment available for the intended offense.
These are only a handful of the federal fraud charges you could face. If you are charged with any of these offenses or another type of federal crime, call Houston federal fraud attorney Ned Barnett immediately.
Penalties for Federal Fraud
If you are convicted of a federal fraud crime, you face several possible punishments, including:
- Fines – Fraud crimes are often heavily fined. You may have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for every violation of federal law. Fines for certain fraud crimes can reach the millions.
- Restitution – In addition to fines, you may be required to compensate the victims of your crime for their economic losses.
- Imprisonment – You can be imprisoned for years or decades if you are convicted of fraud. If you are convicted of multiple counts of fraud, your sentences may run concurrently (at the same time) or consecutively (back-to-back).
- Probation – After you are released from prison, you may still have to live under the rules of probation. If you violate a rule of probation or you are charged with another crime during this time, you will face harsh penalties, including additional incarceration.
Time Limits on Fraud Charges
The federal fraud statute of limitations is typically five years. Under 18 U.S.C. §3282, no one can be prosecuted, tried, or punished for any non-capital offense, unless an indictment is found against them, or the information is instituted within five years of the offense being committed. This gives federal prosecutors up to five years from the time the crime was committed to obtain an indictment from a grand jury for the fraudulent offense.
An exception to this statute of limitations is if a specific statute regarding a crime allows for a longer period. Many fraud crimes have longer statutes of limitations. Various forms of tax fraud have a statute of limitations of six years. Major fraud against the U.S. has a statute of limitations of seven years. For certain bank, financial institution, and immigration fraud offenses, that statute of limitations can be as long as 10 years.
A Houston federal fraud attorney from our firm can help if you are wondering how long federal prosecutors have to convene a grand jury and seek an indictment against you.
Contact a Houston Federal Fraud Attorney for Help Today
When you have been charged with a federal fraud offense, it is essential you hire an experienced attorney. You are going to need to present a thorough and aggressive defense in order to avoid a conviction. There are many potential federal fraud defenses, including lack of necessary intent, lack of knowledge of the offense, and insufficient evidence to prove you committed the crime. The best defense for you will depend heavily on the circumstances of your case.
To discuss the charges against you and how to best defend yourself against them, call a Houston federal fraud attorney from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767. You can also reach us online to schedule a free initial case consultation.