Have You Been Charged with Fraud or a Financial Crime?
Human nature being what it is, there should be no surprise that disputes about money make up the vast majority of cases in the American legal system. Sometimes, these disputes spill over to the criminal arena in the form of financial crimes, money laundering, and frauds of all sorts including:
- Consumer Fraud
- Insurance Fraud
- Mail Fraud
- Wire Fraud
The facts in these cases can be complex and the penalties imposed after a conviction can be harsh. That’s why it is essential to have a good attorney if you or a loved one ever faces charges of fraud or financial crimes.
What is a financial crime?
At the most basic level, a financial crime is a non-violent crime involving money or property. Most of the time, these crimes involve charges of theft in some form or fashion. Under both federal and Louisiana law, there are many, many crimes that could be categorized as financial crimes. As a general rule, federal cases involve larger sums of money or financial institutions that conduct business across state lines, such as banks, while state authorities pursue more local cases. But that is only a general rule, and there are plenty of state fraud cases involving large sums of money and complex allegations. Some examples of federal and Louisiana financial crimes include:
Mail and Wire Fraud
Probably the broadest federal statutes targeting fraud are the mail and wire fraud statutes, found at 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341 and 1346. Together, these statutes criminalize using the mail or any telecommunications device (e.g., telephones, the internet, etc.) to carry out a “scheme or artifices to defraud.” Given how interconnected the modern world is, it is almost impossible in this day and age to conduct business without using the mails or, especially, interstate wires. Indeed, simply transferring money from one bank account to another usually involves interstate wire communications, even when both accounts belong to people located in the same state. The same thing applies to telephone calls and emails, which can bounce from one server to another across interstate lines before reaching their destination.
Because of how broadly they are written, these two statutes are among the most commonly seen financial crime charges brought in federal court. They can be applied to everything from insurance fraud to health care fraud to securities fraud.
Charges under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341 or 1346 carry a possible penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
There has been increased attention in recent years to fraud occurring in the healthcare field. These cases often involve alleged schemes to defraud Medicare or Medicaid, for example, a healthcare company like a doctor’s office charging for unnecessary services or services that were not in fact delivered to the patient. But they can also involve allegations of illegal kickbacks to doctors or other types of illegal conduct Most of the time, such cases are brought in federal court, and they can involve complex conspiracy charges in which everyone from doctors to nurses to office managers are indicted. Of course, any time a healthcare provider is charged with a crime, his or her professional license to practice is also in jeopardy of being suspended or revoked.
Insurance fraud often involves allegations of faked injuries or purposefully damaged property— an owner accused of burning down a failing business to collect insurance proceeds is a good example. There have even been cases involving intentionally caused or staged car accidents. Often, these types of cases are prosecuted in federal court under the mail or wire fraud statutes, but they are also not uncommon in Louisiana state court.
The term “money laundering” refers to the practice of attempting hide profits from an illegal enterprise by making it appear as if the money comes from a legitimate source. People are endlessly creative in these efforts, and so the fact patterns that arise in these types of cases are varied. Although money laundering is often prosecuted in federal court, Louisiana also has laws against the practice.
RICO (Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organization) Laws
The original RICO law was passed by the federal government in 1970, and it targeted the influence of organized crime on legitimate organizations like labor unions. Since then, the RICO laws have been deployed against a wide variety of targets that have nothing to do with organized crime in its traditional form. RICO is a type of complicated “meta-crime” that makes it a separate crime to commit two or more other crimes (called “predicate acts”) as part of a pattern of criminal activity directed towards or involving other entities, like legitimate businesses. Because they can involve allegations of violence, RICO violations are not limited to financial crimes, but they can be alleged in financial cases depending on the facts.
Interestingly, RICO contains a civil provision that permits civil plaintiffs to sue defendants for alleged RICO violations. Because the plaintiff can obtain triple their damages and attorney’s fees if they prevail on a RICO claim, there can be an incentive to bring such claims. However, whether they are civil or criminal, RICO cases are always complex and can be difficult to prove.
Theft and Embezzlement
Theft charges can take many forms, from straight up purse snatching or shoplifting to contractor fraud to complicated embezzlement charges involving allegations that the defendant has stolen from their employer. Most of the time, such charges are brought in Louisiana state court. In recent years, people have received significant prison terms based on theft charges in and around the New Orleans area. A good defense lawyer is a must if you or a loved one are facing theft or embezzlement charges.
Mr. Haedicke is dedicated to personally guiding his clients through what can be the most difficult periods in their lives. If you are facing a legal problem or have been injured or wronged through the fault of others, please call the firm for a consultation at 504-291-6990.
If you have been arrested for drug charges learn more about hiring a drug crime lawyer.