Fraud, at its simple definition, is deception. It is a lie, a misrepresentation, or a trick. Although fraud can be defined in one word, the types of criminal fraud are virtually endless. In Title 21 of the Oklahoma statutes, the title dealing with Crimes and Punishments, the word "fraud" appears in chapter titles no less than 36 times. Fraud is often prosecuted as a white collar crime, as it is frequently perpetrated with the intent of financial gain. However, fraud is not always a financial crime. It is any deception that deprives another of his or her right or property or that in some way harms another person.
What Constitutes Fraud?
Fraud can be as minor as a little white lie that misrepresents assets on a loan application or bankruptcy filing. It can be as extreme as full identity theft in which a person completely assumes the personal information of another in order to secure loans and obtain credit cards. Writing bogus checks and false invoicing are common types of fraud, and the financial gains from these offenses can range from a few dollars to millions.
Common types of fraud include:
- Heath care fraud, Medicaid fraud, or Medicare fraud
- Investment fraud
- Insurance fraud
- Mortgage fraud
- Bankruptcy fraud
- Tax fraud
- Bank fraud
- Wire fraud or mail fraud
- Credit card fraud
- Identity theft
Each of these types of fraud uses misrepresentation or deception for the financial profit of the scammer. In health care fraud, a medical provider falsely bills Medicare or an insurance provider for services not rendered or equipment not provided. In bankruptcy fraud, an individual conceals assets in order to file for bankruptcy and dissolve debt. Tax fraud conceals income or overstates deductions in an effort to avoid paying income tax or to generate a refund. Insurance fraud makes false claims about an accident or the value of property losses in an attempt to receive payment from an insurer. The common theme in financial fraud is personal financial gain at the expense of another person or entity.
How is Fraud Prosecuted?
Fraud may be prosecuted as either a state offense or a federal offense. If the victim of fraud is the federal government or an agency that uses federal funding, United States attorneys will typically prosecute the case. If the fraud occurs only within the borders of Oklahoma and does not involve federal funds, the state generally takes jurisdiction.
Fraud, like other financial crimes, is often penalized in correlation with the value of property taken as a result of the deception or misrepresentation. If the amount obtained through fraud is $500 or less, the crime is typically charged as a misdemeanor with a possible maximum sentence of one year in county jail. If the fraud value is $1,000 or more, the crime is generally charged as a felony which carries a much longer sentence in the state penitentiary or federal prison, depending on who takes jurisdiction over the case.
While some people set out to find easy money and create elaborate fraud schemes bilking individuals or organizations out of millions of dollars, other acts of fraud are so minor they hardly seem criminal to those who commit them. However, if you are charged with fraud, you face serious consequences regardless of the severity of your offense. You must get competent legal counsel as quickly as possible. Click here to find an experienced fraud defense lawyer or to submit a confidential form for a free case review.