Orange County Fraud Defense Lawyer
Fraud has received a lot of media attention lately. High-profile cases are splashed across the front pages of newspapers and are closely followed by broadcast and cable news shows. Unfortunately, very few people fully understand what these charges mean and how easily someone can violate state or federal fraud laws. California courts take these accusations very seriously and can thoroughly investigate your personal life and business to find evidence of fraud. If you find yourself facing state or federal fraud charges, you need the services of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Having a legal representative can make all the difference in securing an acquittal or making a deal with prosecutors.
At Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, our Orange County fraud defense attorneys have years of experience defending clients against charges of fraud and other crimes in courtrooms in Orange County and across Southern California. They are dedicated to obtaining the best possible outcome for their clients and have the skill you will need when building an aggressive defense against your charges.
Call us today at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 to discuss your case and talk about your options.
Call us today to discuss your case in a free case evaluation!
For an Orange County District Attorney to charge you with fraud, they must prove that you used deceit, deception, or manipulation in order to receive property that you do not own. Fraud can involve the manipulation, concealment, or misrepresentation of certain facts, such as lying about your identity, falsifying documents, or not providing certain facts on a grant or application for benefits.
Fraud is most simply defined as the use of misrepresentation or subterfuge for personal gain and is considered a white-collar crime. For the most part, fraud cases that go to trial are monetary in nature, but they can also involve the transfer of property, authority, or official favors. Depending on the nature of the case, fraud can be a matter of state or federal law, so it is of primary importance to make sure that you have an attorney experienced with both.
Among the types of fraud charges frequently filed are the following:
- Insurance fraud
- Forgery / counterfeiting
- Tax fraud
- Medi-Cal / Medicare fraud
- Extortion / blackmail
- Identity theft
- Computer crimes
- Wire and mail fraud
Embezzlement is a rather complex form of fraud that involves the theft of property that is entrusted to a person by someone else, typically an employer. While the term is often used to refer to stealing money or similar financial resources, any property that is stolen through this method constitutes embezzlement. What sets this type of theft apart from many other forms, and makes it fraudulent, is that the property is often trusted with the person who takes it. Fraud is usually viewed as a type of theft, while theft does not necessarily have to involve fraud.
California Penal Code 503 defines it quite simply as “the fraudulent appropriation of property by a person to whom it has been entrusted." Within this definition, there are two important elements: "fraudulent," which defines the action as a form of fraud, and "property," which establishes it as theft. That is why there is some overlap regarding how embezzlement is handled and how it is viewed regarding fraud and theft. Trust is also a key element, which is why embezzlement is a very different form of theft from something like robbery.
In order to be charged with embezzlement, the prosecution must establish that:
- You were entrusted with someone else’s property;
- The owner trusted you;
- You used that property for your own benefit; and
- You intended to deprive the owner of the property.
In general, according to Penal Code 514, when a person is convicted of embezzlement, the sentence is the same as a theft conviction for the same property. This can lead to either a grand theft or petty theft conviction depending on the value of the stolen property, resulting in either misdemeanor or felony punishments.
However, depending on the nature of your charges, you may face additional punishments, such as:
- If you held a public office, then you can lose the right to hold public office in California in the future.
- If the embezzled property or funds were publicly owned by any level of government, then the punishment is served in state prison.
- If you committed embezzlement against an elderly person, then you can face additional enhancements under California Penal Code 515, as it is an aggravated charge.
Although fraud sentences are not as lengthy as the prison sentences for violent crimes, people charged with fraud are often charged with multiple counts that, if they are convicted, can lead to a long time spent in prison or on probation. Other punishments include heavy fines, house arrest, and loss of professional licenses. Businesses charged with fraud can face steep fines and restitution if found guilty.
The punishments you face will vary depending on the specific charge and the circumstances of your case. Fraud can be either a misdemeanor or felony, and it can also be charged on a state and federal level. Federal charges are typically filed in cases involving public entities, such as government agencies and public banks. If you are facing federal charges in addition to state charges, your sentence can be dramatically increased.
A conviction for fraud is extremely damaging—it can shatter a reputation that took a lifetime to build, branding you as a thief and a liar. Like other white-collar crimes, having a fraud conviction on your record makes you a less attractive prospect to lenders and employers in the future, severely limiting the opportunities you will need to rebuild your life and your reputation.
"One afternoon several cops raid my office’s files threatening to take me to jail. Attorney Michael L. Guisti worked very quickly to show the court that never at anytime did I or my office commit any fraud. Thank you so much Michael L. Guisti for all your hard work and protecting our reputation. Other businesses I know that get into trouble I give them Law Office of Michael L. Guisti’s phone number, because he knows what needs to be done to protect your business and reputation."
A charge of fraud can be intimidating for anyone, especially if you work for a large corporation or serve in public office. The prosecution may pursue harsh penalties to punish you and will use any and all evidence they can acquire. The earlier you contact a skilled lawyer at Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, the faster we can begin working on your defense.
Given that the burden of proof is on the prosecution, there are several strategies we can use to protect your reputation and future:
Lack of intent: Fraud is an intent crime, meaning you can only be convicted if the prosecution proves that you intended to misrepresent certain facts or to deprive an owner of their property. Simple mistakes cannot be used to convict you, such as if you failed to update certain personal information with an insurance company or filled out a form incorrectly.
Mistaken identity: Different employees and groups can be involved in the internal workings of a company, especially when it comes to sales and accounting. It is possible for another employee to accuse you of fraud based on hearsay, a misinterpretation of facts, or to cover up their own fraudulent actions. In any case, your attorney can argue that you were incapable of committing fraud based on your position and that another person is actually guilty.
Lack of evidence: A fraud investigation requires a thorough review of a company’s inventory, financial records, and other documentation. If the prosecution cannot develop a clear paper trail connecting you to an act of fraud, the case may be dismissed.
Good faith belief: A good-faith defense is an argument that a defendant honestly believed that their actions were legitimate and legal. Similar to a lack of intent argument, this defense can effectively show that you did not intend to commit fraud.
Duress or threats: Nefarious parties often use threats of violence or harm to manipulate another person into committing fraud. If you were threatened into committing fraud, then your attorney can argue that you did not do so willingly and should not be convicted.
Depending on your case, your defense attorney can use one or several strategies to have your charges reduced or dropped. In addition, we may even be able to have your charges expunged down the line.
A conviction for fraud can follow you well after you have completed your sentence, paid court fines, and served out your probation, especially when it comes to starting a new job. Employers can legally ask you if you have been convicted of a crime and can run background checks to verify the details of your case. With this information, it is easy for them to dismiss your application, which can impact your livelihood.
By expunging your criminal record, you can honestly state that you were never convicted of a crime. However, to expunge a fraud conviction, you must meet certain criteria:
- You must not have served time in a state prison, which is sometimes mandatory with felony fraud cases.
- You must have completed your sentence if you served time in a county jail.
- If you were placed on probation, you must have completed the terms of probation without any violations.
- If you served time in state prison, you may be able to have your record expunged if the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor after Prop 47, such as with forgery charges.
Typically, if you were charged with a misdemeanor and completed probation, you can begin the process to have a fraud conviction expunged from your criminal record. Once complete, the charge cannot be used against you for any future situations in which a pre-existing conviction is required for a certain charge against you. If you have a felony conviction expunged, it may still come up if you apply for certain licenses or try to obtain work with a law enforcement agency or other government organization. Otherwise, however, expunging a fraud conviction allows you to tell future prospective employers that you do not have a felony conviction.
It is not just your freedom or your money that is on the line when you are facing fraud charges—it is your reputation and your future. That's why you need the best possible legal defense. Remember that in our legal system, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. When you hire Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, you are hiring a lawyer who can help you understand the law and build a strategy for your defense.
They can offer the benefit of the skills and knowledge they have acquired in their years of courtroom experience, as well as a dedicated support staff to keep them up to date with the latest developments in recent case law that might affect your case. Our Orange County defense attorneys are available to answer any questions that you might have and advise you on every step of the investigation and trial. We are dedicated to helping our clients through a difficult time and make their peace of mind our top priority.
If you have been charged with state or federal fraud charges, do not hesitate to contact our firm. At Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, every case receives personal attention, so call our office at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 for a free consult.
Whether you're facing a felony or a misdemeanor, don't risk a conviction. Act quickly to redeem your reputation and protect your record by consulting with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer. Call today to schedule your free consultation.