Any conviction for fraud – under federal law or by California statute – can have a tremendous impact on your life. A conviction for bank fraud, however, could have lifelong implications on your life, your career, and your freedom. The formal penalties of a bank fraud conviction, like jail time or fines, are serious on their own. In addition, you could also face collateral consequences with maintaining employment or housing. Your reputation will suffer, which could damage your personal relationships.
If you have been charged with bank fraud in Los Angeles, it is crucial that you seek experienced legal counsel immediately. Not just any attorney will do, as you could face charges in both state and federal court. To ensure that your case gets the attention it deserves, contact Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Vitaly Sigal today.
What is Bank Fraud?
Bank fraud is a form of white collar crime that relates to defrauding a financial institution. Any effort to fraudulently deprive a bank or someone with assets deposited with a bank of their property could be found guilty of bank fraud.
Bank fraud is a serious offense. In most cases, it is prosecuted as a federal crime. However, while these charges are typically in federal court, there are California fraud charges that could be brought in state court as well.
Bank Fraud Under Federal Law
Bank fraud is outlawed by Title 18, Section 34 of the U.S. Code. The statute sets out two different elements of the crime, but a prosecutor needs only to establish one of them to obtain a conviction. The statute defines bank fraud as a scheme:
- to defraud a financial institution; or
- to obtain any of the monies, funds, credits, assets, securities, or other property owned by, or under the custody or control of, a financial institution, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises.
It is important to draw a distinction between bank fraud and bank robbery, as robbery involves a physical taking using threats of violence. In the alternative, bank fraud can occur without the accused ever entering a bank at all.
The penalty for a federal bank fraud conviction is severe. If convicted, you could face up to 30 years in federal prison, a maximum fine of up to $1,000,000, or a combination of the two. Additionally, restitution could be required by the court if a bank's customer was damaged financially.
Federal prosecutors take these charges seriously and are not shy about bringing the weight of the federal government onto a person accused of bank fraud. Federal investigators will carefully review the paper trail related to the alleged fraud. This investigation could reach into the lives of the accused's friends, family members or business partners.
Bank Fraud under State Law
There is no single statute under California law that targets bank fraud. However, the state offers many different statutes that cover a broad array of fraud. Some of the crimes that could relate to bank fraud include:
- Stolen checks
- Counterfeit bank documents
- Falsified real estate records
- Wire fraud
These are only a few of the possibilities. While many fraud charges under state law are felonies, others are wobblers. Regardless, the penalties these convictions carry are severe. In addition to the traditional penalties, fraud is also considered a “crime of moral turpitude,” which could impact your ability to make financial transactions in the future.
While the prosecutor in a bank fraud case will likely have plenty of evidence at their disposal, not every case results in a conviction. That is due in large part to the availability of defenses in a bank fraud trial. Every case is different, and not every defense will be available in a specific bank fraud case. That said, a thorough investigation of your situation could lead a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer to identify a viable defense claim in your case. Common defenses to bank fraud include:
There Was No Fraud
The ultimate defense to a case of bank fraud is simply proving no fraud occurred. This can happen in a number of ways. For example, bank fraud is a crime that requires a defendant to know they are committing a crime. In the case of a mistake or an error, a charge of bank fraud may not be appropriate.
In other cases, a charge of bank fraud could be built on a simple misunderstanding. Bank transactions are complex, financial institutions process thousands of them every day. It is possible your lawyer could demonstrate to a jury that a valid bank transaction appears fraudulent when taken out of context.
The Police Broke the Law
No matter what charge you are accused of, you have rights protected by the United States Constitution. If the police violate those rights while investigating you, their conduct could result in the dismissal of your case. Proving a case of bank fraud takes a large volume of your bank records. If law enforcement obtained your financial records or other evidence in violation of the law, your legal counsel can move to suppress the use of that evidence at your trial. If successful, this suppression could result in the dismissal of your case.
Lacking Mental Capacity
Mistake is not the only grounds under which a defendant could avoid a conviction for not understanding the consequences. If a defendant lacked the mental capacity at the time to understand that what they were doing was a crime, they could have a valid defense.
Contact a Los Angeles Bank Fraud Defense Lawyer Today
When it comes to bank fraud charges, there is no time to waste. The moment the file hits their desk, the prosecutor will begin building a case against you. The only way to ensure that your rights are protected is by hiring an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to stand by your side.
Attorney Vitaly Sigal has an extensive record for fighting for the rights of the accused in L.A. to discuss your case with the Sigal Law Group, call today to set up a free consultation.