Credit Card Fraud

Credit Card Fraud comes in many forms, from paying for goods (in person, over the internet, or via mail) with a stolen card, to opening a new account in a credit card holder’s name, to accessing money in a compromised account, among others.

Skimming and carding are two other more sophisticated forms of credit card fraud:

  • skimming is when devices at automated teller machines steal credit card information while cards are being used legitimately by cardholders;
  • carding is when a stolen card is used to buy a small item online to see whether or not the card has already been reported stolen before using the card to purchase more expensive items.

In Massachusetts, other criminal acts related to credit cards include:

  • Knowingly making false statements in order to obtain a credit card;
  • Stealing a credit card with the intent to use or sell the card;
  • Receiving a credit card that the defendant knows has been lost or stolen and keeping the credit card with the intent to sell or use the card;
  • Selling or buying a credit card without being authorized to do so;
  • Keeping and using a credit card that was mistakenly delivered to the wrong address or person;
  • Making a fake credit card;
  • Using someone else’s credit card without the owner’s permission;
  • Committing any of these acts in order to obtain money, goods or services with a value of more than $250 is a felony.

Identity Theft.

Another common type of credit card fraud crime is known as identity theft.  The fraud is accomplished by using the victim’s Social Security number and birthdate, for example, to apply for credit cards under their name.

Forgery, Uttering, Counterfeiting

Uttering is when a counterfeit item is knowingly sold or offered to someone else, but the person selling the item did not actually create the false item. Examples of this are forging university diplomas, or using a fake ID.

In Massachusetts Uttering is a very serious offense. In an uttering case, the prosecution needs to prove that the defendant intended to injure or defraud and utters a false or altered record or instrument. Usually these charges spawn from checks that don’t clear. The most common victims in these cases are banks.
Even though it may seem like a harmless and minor offense, the potential penalties are serious. If a defendant is convicted of uttering, the defendant can face up to 10 years in state prison or not more than 2 years in jail.
In many of uttering cases, the defendant never had the intent to defraud anyone. With the economy the way it is, many people have fell prey to scams. The potential penalties for uttering charges are serious so it is important that you have an experience defense attorney on your side. Attorney Bonavita has prosecuted and defended many uttering cases. Criminal Defense Attorney Bonavita will create an aggressive defensive strategy for your uttering case.

See Uttering Above.
Counterfeiting is when items such as coins, currency, postage, military papers, government securities, computer software, CDs and other items are produced and sold that are known to be worth less than those that are genuine. It is illegal to sell counterfeit items as the real thing. Counterfeiting is a felony and carries a punishment of up to 12 years in prison and/or a fine up to $250,000.
Intentionally falsifying, counterfeiting or altering a document in order to defraud or injure another party is considered forgery. Documents of legal significance that are often forged include checks, cashier’s checks, traveler’s checks, deeds, wills, promissory notes and credit cards. Ruled by Massachusetts law CHAPTER 267 a conviction for forgery has a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison.

Check fraud can take many forms, including:

Writing, passing and uttering bad checks
Check kiting
Counterfeiting or forgery
Fake check scams
In some cases, check fraud is associated with other crimes such as embezzlement and identity theft. Law enforcement may aggressively prosecute these crimes, seeking the maximum penalties if you are convicted. Under Section 31 the courts may also, upon conviction, order compensation to the prosecutor and to the officer who has secured and kept the evidence of the crime, not exceeding their actual expenses, with a reasonable allowance for their time and trouble.

Identity Theft

In Massachusetts, it is identity theft (also called identity fraud) to obtain or use other people’s personal identifying information without their permission to purchase goods or services or obtain credit.
Identity theft involves stealing a person’s identifying information and using the information to access the victim’s financial accounts or establish new credit accounts. In the process of impersonating the victim, the thief can ruin the victim’s credit and run up huge bills. Identity thieves obtain personal information online, from public records, and by stealing mail, trash, and wallets.

For general information on the crime of identity theft, see The Crime of Identity Theft.

PROTECTING YOURSELF

Identity thieves target millions of Americans every year. The Federal Trade Commission’s website (www.ftc.gov) has information on how to protect yourself from identity theft (see Protecting Your Identity) and what to do if you are victimized (see Repairing Identity Theft).
Under Massachusetts’s laws, a defendant commits the crime of identity fraud by:

posing as another person and using the person’s personal identifying information to obtain goods, services, credit, or anything else of value, or
obtaining a person’s personal identifying information for the purpose of posing as another person or helping someone else pose as another person.
Personal identifying information includes a person’s name, address, social security number, bank account number, driver’s license number, or credit card number.

In order to be convicted of identity theft, the defendant must act with the intent to defraud (to obtain money or anything else of value by deception) and without the victim’s permission. The crime is committed as soon as the personal identifying information is taken or obtained with an intention to use it without permission. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 266, § 37E.)

For example, a child who uses a parent’s credit card number to buy something with permission has not committed identity fraud. However, a sales clerk who copies a customer’s credit card number intending to use it later has committed identity fraud, even if the clerk never used the number.

Punishment

In Massachusetts, identity theft is punishable by up to two years and six months in county jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. The court may also order the defendant to pay restitution to the victim for any costs incurred by the victim as a result of the crime, including the cost of repairing the victim’s credit. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 266, § 37E.)

Insurance Fraud

Insurance Fraud Laws & Charges
Insurance fraud is making a false claim on an insurance policy of some kind for financial gain. One type is where consumers may misrepresent information to collect money and benefits to which they are not entitled from the insurer, such as in auto insurance or health insurance. Another type is where insurers defraud their customers by denying the benefits to which they are entitled.

There are many types of insurance fraud, but all types may be divided into hard or soft fraud.

Hard Fraud

This is where someone takes a specific action to defraud. For example, some people may fake a car accident to collect insurance benefits. Or the person might fake a break in to their home so that they can collect on their homeowner’s policy. Or, someone may send false bills to Medicare to receive money from the insurance company. This sort of fraud gets a lot of media attention, as it is quite easy to see and detect. Hard fraud will often involve criminal acts and the intent to steal millions of dollars from insurance firms.

Soft Fraud

Soft fraud is more ambiguous and harder to see. It often occurs when a person tells small ‘white lies,’ such as adding to an insurance claim by saying they are too sick to work. This allows them to receive worker’s comp.

Worker’s comp is the most common type of soft fraud, and it costs insurance firms a lot of money. This is one of the reasons that health insurance premiums continue to rise.

About Insurance Fraud Laws in Massachusetts

To be convicted in this state, the prosecutor must show that you presented a statement of claim or loss to an insurance company; the statement was false in its content; you knew the statement was not true; and that you intended to deceive the insurer.

Sentences for Insurance Fraud in Massachusetts

According to Massachusetts state law, submitting a fraudulent insurance claim can be punished by up to to five years in state prison, or up to 2.5 years in a house of corrections

Statistics for Insurance Fraud

More than $345 million was ordered in restitution by fraud bureaus in the US in 2010.

Almost 5000 convictions were obtained for insurance fraud in 2010.

Motor Vehicle Insurance Fraud
Presenting or submitting a fraudulent insurance claim to a motor vehicle insurance company is a crime punishable with imprisonment for up to 5 years in State Prison, or to the House of Corrections for not less than 6 months and up to 2.5 years.

In order to be convicted of the crime of Fraudulent Claims for Motor Vehicle Insurance Policies, the prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt:

That the defendant either presented or aided in presenting to an insurance company a notice, statement, or proof of loss in connection with a support of a claim under a motor vehicle insurance policy;
That the false statement was significant to the claim;
That the defendant knew that the statement was false; and
That the defendant intended to injure, defraud or deceive the motor vehicle insurance company.
Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 266, Section 111B, which proscribes the criminal offense of Fraudulent Claims for Motor Vehicle Insurance Policies, covers misrepresentations made in connection with claims under a motor vehicle, theft, or comprehensive insurance policy; whereas the Massachusetts criminal statute for Fraudulent Insurance Claims, General Laws Chapter 266, Section 111A, covers fraudulent claims for all types of insurance.

Healthcare Fraud

Healthcare & Medicare Fraud Laws & Charges

Making fraudulent claims for medical care and services is a growing problem nationwide in the Healthcare industry. This white collar crime is very common and it is not victimless. People everywhere end up paying more for healthcare products and services because of Healthcare & Medicare Fraud. When this type of fraud occurs, the companies that lose money to fraudulent claims merely raise their rates to their subscribers to recover their losses.

Healthcare & Medicare Fraud

When someone files a fake claim for services or products that were never delivered and they expect to receive compensation for those claims, it constitutes fraud according to state and federal law. Unfortunately, this is a growing problem nationwide, to the tune of up to $250 billion yearly. The people involved in this type of fraud are not just health care providers; individual consumers who file false claims to obtain payments also participate in this criminal activity.

The incidences of Healthcare & Medicare Fraud are skyrocketing, despite a strong effort to curtail this problem. During 2012, two agencies, the Department of Justice and the FBI, were able to recover $4.2 billion of fraudulent Medicare payments that were made. To achieve this, they had to open 1,311 new investigations that involved 2,148 defendants.

Part of the problem that allows widespread fraudulent activity to capture so much money is time. Congressional legislation requires payment within 30 days for legitimate health care insurance claims. Several agencies are entrusted with making investigations into healthcare fraud. Although the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Postal Service, and the Office of the Inspector General are excellent at tracking down fraud perpetrators, this 30 day rule usually does not give them sufficient time to perform an investigation before those claims must be paid.

Healthcare Fraud Costs

As mentioned earlier, healthcare fraud costs are generally passed along to consumers, which means everyone covered by health insurance plans or Medicare are going to pay higher premiums for healthcare products and services. It is estimated that 3 to 10 percent of the annual $2.5 trillion that is spent on health care annually is attributed to fraud.

According to a May 2012 report from the FBI, the costs related to healthcare fraud range from $75 billion to $250 billion. This means people are paying about ten percent more than they should have to pay for their medical care. Since most people who are on Medicare are older, the costs of this type of fraud are even more financially painful.

Healthcare Fraud Offenses

Fraud is a criminal offense. The states and Federal government have strong laws and penalties for insurance fraud. However, with so many people involved in trying to bilk money out of healthcare insurance companies and Medicare, it is very difficult to find and charge all who are guilty of this crime.

The basic concept of healthcare fraud is that people file dishonest claims for health care services and/or products with the intent to obtain financial gain. There are many reasons why people do this, and how they accomplish their mission to defraud.

Consumer Schemes

People file false claims to obtain payments from their health insurance plan. They may design their claim in order to obtain unneeded prescriptions that they can sell on the black market and get money from that activity.

Health Practitioners

  • More common than individual fraud, with many schemes:
  • Billing insurance companies for care that was never provided
  • Filing multiple claims for the same service
  • Altering dates or descriptions of services rendered
  • Reporting incorrect diagnoses to increase reimbursement amounts
  • Using unlicensed staff
  • Giving kickbacks for referrals
  • Prescribing unneeded treatment to increase reimbursements

Insurance Fraud Laws – Criminal Charges

Many states and the federal government have Insurance Fraud Laws that classify offenses as several different types: false claims, self-referral and anti-kickback. The basic laws state that it is illegal to knowingly and willfully attempt to or succeed at executing any scheme to defraud a health care benefit program or to obtain money from that program under false claims.

Criminal charges are stiff, and depend on the details of the offense. A recent worst case, in the eyes of Federal authorizes, occurred in Michigan. This involved a famous cancer doctor who lied to patients, telling them they had cancer when they did not. He benefited from claims for medical treatments that were unnecessary, prescriptions for unnecessary chemo and drugs, and more. Some of the patients suffered, including a man who lost his legs because unnecessary drugs suppressed his immune system. Another patient died from her unnecessary chemo. The doctor got away with this for years until finally caught, bilking Medicare out of $91 billion. He recently pleaded guilty to 16 counts, and faces serious jail time in addition to high fines for insurance fraud. Federal authorities want a life-in-prison sentence; the doctor still faces many additional civil lawsuits.

Healthcare Fraud Conviction & Penalties

Federal law (18 U.S. Code § 1347) allows for fines and prison time of up to 10 years upon a conviction. If the violation results in any serious bodily harm, that prison time could be extended to 20 years. If a death is the result of this type of fraud, the prison time could be a life sentence. Not knowing the law or not intending to violate the law about this offense is not an excuse.

Individual states have specific penalties for those convicted of Healthcare Fraud. For example, in Massachusetts, the penalties depend on whether the fraud is classified as a civil or criminal violation. The civil conviction demands the perpetrator pays full restitution, but fines and jail time are unlikely. A criminal healthcare fraud charge will mean serious time in prison. Medicare fraud in this state may result in a five year prison sentence, but federal penalties are longer. A conviction of defrauding Medicare or Medicaid can bring a fine of $250,000 per offense.

Criminal Defense against Fraud Charges

If you have been accused of healthcare fraud at either the state or federal level, it is important to immediately seek help from an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney who has a strong record of success handling Fraud cases. Your freedom, financial well-being and your future depend on having an attorney on your side who understands this area of law thoroughly.

Embezzlement

Embezzlement

An embezzlement arrest and charge is a type of larceny charge. It involves the taking of items from the real owner. This is usually considered a “white collar” crime because it rarely involves any sort of violence. In order to be charged with embezzlement, it must be proven that a person has violated the three necessary elements of an embezzlement charge.

Charged with Embezzlement? Here’s What to Do

First, the person must have been given possession of the property while in a position of trust and confidence. Next, the property needs to have been converted in some fashion, to where it is no longer in the possession of the original owner, and is being used by the person being charged for some purpose. The last element is that it must be shown that the person has done these things with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of his property.

Embezzlement vs Larceny: Is There a Difference?

In a general sense, embezzlement and larceny are similar crimes since both involve talking items that are not yours. Each of the crimes contain three essential elements that must be satisfactorily proven for a person to be convicted. These elements are as follows:Embezzlement

  • The accused must have been in a position of trust and confidence and trusted with possession of someone else’s property
  • That person must then have converted that property for their own use, by taking it or hiding it or any other means
  • The intent of the accused must have been to permanently deprive the ownership of that property from the owner

Larceny

  • The accused must have wrongfully taken an item belonging to someone else without the permission to do so
  • It is necessary that the property was then moved out of the possession of the owner and relocated to another place for the accused to have use of it.
  • The intent of the accused must be that they intended to take the property in order to take the ownership of it away from the rightful owner permanently.

In determining the differences between the two crimes, the main contrast can be found by looking at element number one in each. For embezzlement, the accused is in a position of trust and confidence with possession of the property in question. This is not the case with larceny. Larceny is committed by a person with no involvement or authority to any aspect of the property. It is a completely unlawful access and removal of the items.

Both embezzlement and larceny can be forms of theft, since both contain illegal takings.   With larceny, it is required that the property be physically moved and relocated to be possessed by the accused. This is another difference from embezzlement, because that often involves bookkeeping deception, which only involves the movement of money through the ledger book, not physically moving anything.

Examples

Some examples of these crimes can make the difference even more apparent. If you consider an employee of a grocery store, perhaps the meat department manager, we can see these contrasts sharply.

The meat department manager would be assumed to be responsible for the meat in freezer and in the freezer cases in the store. If he were to walk out of the store with two steaks in his pockets, he would have been attempting to remove those items that he was in a trusted position to oversee. That is embezzlement.

Now, suppose that same person were to walk into the next grocery store he passed. They proceed to take two steaks from the meat case, put them in their pockets, and walk out the door. He would be charged with larceny in that case.

In both cases, the same person is walking out the door of a grocery store with two steaks in his pockets. In the second store, however, he has no duties or responsibilities for those steaks. That is what separates the two crimes.

Punishment

In the state of Massachusetts, the sentencing guidelines followed for a person convicted of embezzling are the ones used for larceny. This indicates that as far as the state law is concerned, the punishments would be decided on the same grid. For values involving under $250, this would qualify as a misdemeanor, and maximum sentencing would be jail time of up to one year and a fine of up to $300.

For stolen property with a value of over $250, this becomes a felony. As with all felonies, the fines are higher and the sentences are longer. The maximum sentencing for this level is five years in a state prison and/or a fine of up to $25,000.

When federal level charges are brought against someone for these charges, they become even more sever than the state charges. These then incorporate the USSC Guidelines for sentencing, and use variables from all aspects of the case to determine the sentencing range they are to be considered against.

Defenses

In defending these cases, there would not be a significant difference in how they would be defended either. Both charges involve essential elements, and there would be effort put forth to look for ways that those elements could not be satisfied. Sometimes it is intent that can be argued, and other times the permanency component is challenged.

In addition, there would be the monitoring of evidence and testimony looking for pieces that contradict, do not match, or were obtained in an unlawful manner. This can lead to evidence being cleared from the record, as well as occasional dropping of charges.

Another effective defense, when other avenues do not produce desired outcomes, is to enter into plea bargaining negotiations. These can lead to lesser crimes and smaller punishments, in terms of sentencing and fines.

Sources:

Due to the initial change of possession as part of the original agreement, these kinds of crimes are usually committed in an employer/employee situation or in a relationship involving some sort of fiduciary duty to faithfully supervise someone else’s property. It normally involves the funneling of money into or out of certain accounts, but can also involve products or goods.

In contrasting the difference between state and federal charges, it is completely dependent on the crime committed. For crimes that only violate state statutes or laws, then the charges would only be brought on the state level. They would be evaluated and sentenced based on the laws established for the state of Massachusetts. For a case to involve federal charges, there must be a part of the crime that broke laws on a federal level. These are tried in federal courts and sentence with federal guidelines. Examples of these crimes will make this more clear.

Examples of Embezzlement Charges

State violations of embezzlement would be a case where one person is babysitting for a neighbor and each week they take some money from their house. It would not have to be money. It could be DVDs or clothes or any other items. While they were babysitting, they were put in an authority position over the home, and by permanently taking items from it, they have violated all three elements of an embezzlement charge. Similarly a person working at a store or restaurant taking money from the cash register and putting into their pocket is another case of embezzlement. A waitress that takes orders and serves food but never turns in the receipt or the money is also guilty.

Violations of federal laws would involve aspects of the federal laws that are designed to oversee interstate commerce-types of activities. Any business-related crimes that involves locations in more than one state can involve this kind of interstate commerce. An accountant may be employed by a company in Vermont, and if his crime involves creating fictitious employees on the company payroll that he cashes personally, and that payroll company is in Massachusetts, he has violated these laws.

Other forms of federal violations involve anything dealing with securities, such as stocks or bonds or other investment tools. By embezzling anything involved in the stocks or investments of others, a person will absolutely be in violation of federal laws.

Punishments

The punishments given for being convicted of embezzlement do vary between state and federal charges. For state charges in Massachusetts, the sentencing follows what has been established for all larceny convictions.

It is considered a felony for values under $250 that are not a firearm. For violations above $250 or that involve a firearm, the punishments can be up to five years in a state prison or up to 2 years in a jail, and a fine of up to $25,000.

Federal charges are figured using the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) Guidelines designed to normalize sentencing across crimes and locations. They use a point based system to determine the range of possible sentences a person has to be considered for given a certain crime. There are many variables involved in determining the sentence on this sentencing table, but the sentences and fines are much steeper for federal convictions.