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Criminal Law: Fraud

Criminal Fraud Defense Lawyers in New Jersey

You have been arrested and charged with fraud. What now? For many people, fraud charges come as a surprise. Unlike other activities that most people know are illegal (such as selling cocaine or assaulting a police officer), “fraud” is a general concept that is often not well understood.

In broad terms, “fraud” refers to any practice that results in obtaining something of value through deceptive means or the use of false pretenses. Falsifying financial information on a mortgage application is one example. But, there are numerous other examples as well; and, under the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice (and various other state and federal statutes), many types of fraud have the potential to lead to criminal prosecution and life-altering criminal penalties.

If you are facing fraud charges in New Jersey, it is imperative that you seek experienced legal representation right away. Many fraud charges carry the potential for substantial fines and long-term imprisonment, and avoiding the life-changing consequences of a conviction requires the advice and representation of a skilled criminal defense attorney. At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., many of our attorneys have decades of experience representing criminal defendants in New Jersey, and together our defense team offers centuries of proven results in high-stakes criminal matters.

New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys for All Fraud-Related Offenses

Our fraud defense practice includes representing individuals and organizations charged with all types of fraud-related offenses. Contact us today for a confidential assessment of your case involving allegations of:

  • Bank fraud – Including submitting false financial information and using bank accounts to commit other fraudulent acts
  • Bankruptcy fraud – Including concealing assets in a Chapter 7 liquidation or omitting sources of income during a Chapter 13 reorganization
  • Credit card fraud – Including credit card theft, use of a credit card in a fraudulent transaction and obtaining credit under false pretenses
  • Embezzlement – Including theft or misappropriation of cash or property entrusted to your possession
  • Forgery, counterfeiting and criminal simulation – Including check forgery and counterfeiting, currency counterfeiting, and forgery of other bank or credit documents
  • Insurance fraud – Including filing a fraudulent insurance claim and producing or selling fraudulent auto insurance cards
  • Internet fraud – Including use of the Internet to make fraudulent purchases, to apply for a loan or credit, or to commit any other form of fraud
  • Mail or wire fraud – Including sending letters or packages via USPS or private carrier and using the phone or Internet to commit a fraudulent offense
  • Medicaid fraud – Including submitting false information on an application for Medicaid benefits and submitting false claims for Medicaid reimbursement
  • Odometer fraud – Including “rolling back” or replacing an odometer and misrepresenting motor vehicle mileage
  • Tax fraud – Including underreporting taxable income, falsely claiming credits or deductions, and submitting other false information to the New Jersey Division of Taxation or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Experienced New Jersey Fraud Attorneys

We have three lawyers who are Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as Criminal Trial Attorneys. Call us for our extraordinary level of experience and recognized legal skill.

Many types of thefts, usually involving forgery, lying, and/ or cheating, constitute fraud. The consequences of a fraud conviction can be severe and may include the following:

  • Loss of job;
  • Jail or prison time; and
  • Steep fines.

With over 120 years of experience, our experienced team of fraud defense lawyers will fight to uphold your rights. Call us at 877-HELMER1 for an appointment. Initial consultations are free.

Defending Against Fraud Charges: Challenging the Prosecution’s Evidence of Intent

In most, if not all cases, proving criminal culpability for fraud requires proof of “intent.” In other words, if you did not intend to defraud a person, company, bank, government agency or other institution, then simply committing acts that would otherwise constitute fraud does not amount to a criminal offense.

As with all elements of criminal charges in New Jersey, in fraud cases, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s intent “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that the government’s attorneys must convince the jurors that you intended to commit fraud with 99 percent certainty. As a result, if you can raise any questions about your subjective intent at the time of the alleged offense, this can be enough to protect you against a conviction at trial.

However, preventing the prosecutor’s office from proving intent beyond a reasonable doubt is not necessarily as straightforward as it may initially seem. There are a number of ways that prosecutors can prove intent to defraud, and a confession or “smoking gun” email or text message is not necessarily required. Our attorneys are highly-skilled at challenging the government’s evidence of intent; and, if this is a potential defense in your case, we will pursue every available strategy for preventing the government from meeting its burden of proof.

Select Case (names omitted to protect client's privacy):

Travel Agent Sentenced in Fraud Case

By JUDITH THOMAS LUCAS Courier-Post Staff

WOODBURY - A former East Greenwich travel agent who embezzled thousands of dollars from her clients last year was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to make full restitution.

Superior Court Judge Joseph F. Lisa issued the sentence Friday in accordance with a plea bargain agreement reached last October. It allowed [the woman], 63, to plead guilty to one count of theft and provided for the dismissal of the remaining five charges.

[The woman], now of Ocean City, also was sentenced to 149 days in jail, all which she has already served.

She has been ordered to repay $22,937 within five years. Payments of $100 per month have to be made beginning Feb. 15. And $10,419.82, proceeds from the sale of her Mickleton home, will immediately be paid to the victims.

"This offense consists of multiple thefts over a 16-month period," said Lisa to [the travel agent]. "This is beyond a simple theft charge."

"I am very sorry and I would like to make restitution, as soon as possible." [the travel agent] told Lisa.

Her attorney, Yaron Helmer, said [his client] has been "shunned by almost her entire family. She is embarrassed about this situation and wants it over as quickly as possible."

But the sentence was not enough for some of the victims present in the court.

"I worked two jobs to save for the cruise to the Bahamas," said Patricia McGinn of Philadelphia. She and 25 others had planned the cruise for more than a year she said. "I gave her $999 for four days and three nights on Royal Caribbean. Four days before the trip we heard she had never paid for the cruise. Because of her I could not go. I am 62 years old, I do not think I will ever go on one now."

Her son, Dennis, who almost lost his honeymoon trip, said the sentence is the best he could have hoped for. He was able to go on the cruise but had to pay an additional $600.

[The woman], fluent in four languages other than English - Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Italian - said she will not seek employment as a travel agent. She might consider a job as a translator. She is working at a Wawa convenience store in Ocean City.

Travel agent Mary Hricik, who has followed the case, said a case such as this is the reason she wants travel agents to be regulated.

"The industry has gotten to the point where anybody who operates out of their kitchen and sets up a phone line can operate a travel agency," she said. "There is no policing of the industry."

Criminal Penalties for Fraud in New Jersey

Most fraud offenses are classified as either disorderly persons offenses, fourth-degree indictable offenses or third-degree indictable offenses under New Jersey law. If you have been charged with a fraud-related offense, it is critical to determine the specific allegations against you and the specific penalties that are on the table. This will not only help you understand the severity of your case, but it will also help to clarify the most-effective defense strategy for your case.

Potential penalties for disorderly persons offenses, fourth-degree indictable offenses or third-degree indictable offenses under New Jersey law include:

  • Disorderly Persons Offenses – Up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine
  • Fourth-Degree Indictable Offenses – Up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine
  • Third-Degree Indictable Offenses – Three to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine

New Jersey Criminal Fraud Defense FAQs

Q: In addition to lack of intent, what are some other potential defenses to criminal fraud charges in New Jersey?

While challenging the prosecution’s evidence of intent is one way to defend against criminal fraud allegations, it is by no means the only potential defense to fraud. Even if you are confident that you did not intend to commit fraud, it will still be important to identify and assert any other defenses that you may have available. Depending on the circumstances of your case, these could include:

  • Lack of Evidence – If the evidence of any element of the alleged offense is lacking (not just intent), then the prosecution will not be able to meet its burden of proof.
  • No Illegality – Many fraud laws are extraordinarily complicated, and it is entirely possible that you were mistakenly arrested for fraud.
  • Violations of Your Constitutional Rights – Potential Constitutional violations include lawful searches and seizures and failure to read your Miranda rights prior to a custodial interrogation.

Q: What is the definition of “forgery” under New Jersey law?

Forgery is considered a type of fraud defense in New Jersey; and, in most cases, it is prosecuted as a third-degree indictable offense. Under Section 2C:21-1 of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice:

“A person is guilty of forgery if, with purpose to defraud or injure anyone, or with knowledge that he is facilitating a fraud or injury to be perpetrated by anyone, the actor:

“(1) Alters or changes any writing of another without his authorization;

“(2) Makes, completes, executes, authenticates, issues or transfers any writing so that it purports to be the act of another who did not authorize that act or of a fictitious person, or to have been executed at a time or place or in a numbered sequence other than was in fact the case, or to be a copy of an original when no such original existed; or

“(3) Utters any writing which he knows to be forged in a manner specified in paragraph (1) or (2).

“’Writing’ includes printing or any other method of recording information, money, coins, . . . credit cards, . . . access devices, and other symbols of value . . . or identification. . . . This section shall apply without limitation to forged, copied or imitated checks.”

Q: What should I do if I have been arrested for fraud?

If you have been arrested with fraud or charged with a fraud-related crime in New Jersey, the single most important thing you can do is to engage legal counsel immediately. You need to protect yourself, and the best way to do this is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to advise you and speak with the police and prosecutors on your behalf. While much of what you see on television and in movies is fictionalized, it is true that anything you say can be used against you, and you need to avoid mistakes that could jeopardize your defense.

Q: Am I really guilty of criminal fraud?

Maybe, but at this point it is too early to tell. An arrest is not a conviction, and right now you need to avoid making any assumptions about your guilt or innocence. When you engage our defense team to represent you, we will thoroughly evaluate your case and provide you with a straightforward assessment of the defenses you have available. Once you know what you are up against, then you can start thinking about the types of outcomes you can expect at trial.

Request a Confidential Criminal Defense Consultation

For more information about how the New Jersey criminal defense lawyers at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. can defend you against charges of fraud, please contact us now to schedule a confidential case assessment. You can call 1-877-HELMER1 to request an appointment at any of our 16 convenient office locations, or send us your contact information and a member of our defense team will be in touch with you as soon as possible.

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