Fraud cases are among the most complex criminal matters in North Carolina. The statutes are complicated, and there are numerous actions that fall under the umbrella of fraudulent conduct. Plus, the punishment for a conviction is quite harsh, since fraud is charged as a felony in virtually all cases. If you’ve been arrested or are under investigation, time is of the essence to retain the help of our skilled Charlotte fraud lawyers at Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys.
We understand that your situation may appear bleak, but you should always remember that an arrest isn’t a conviction. Our white-collar crime attorneys are dedicated to fighting the prosecution’s allegations at every opportunity, and presenting the best defenses available in your case.
NC Fraud Laws
North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS) Article 20 outlines a wide range of fraud offenses. Though the specifics vary based upon the type of conduct, the foundation of fraud crimes is using deception, lies, statements of false pretenses, or other misrepresentations to obtain something of value. The elements of a fraud case are:
- Misrepresentation of an important fact
- Knowledge that you were purposefully misrepresenting the fact
- Intent to fool the victim by communicating the false information
- Reliance by the victim on the misrepresentation
- Damages to the victim from relying on the false statement
Unlike crimes that can lead to your arrest on the spot, law enforcement and prosecutors often work to develop fraud charges over a period of time. Still, even if you haven’t been charged, you do have rights during the investigation and pre-arrest stages. The help of a Charlotte fraud lawyer can play a critical role in protecting them and ensuring police don’t overstep their bounds.
Types of Fraud Offenses
Fraud is commonly associated with theft offenses such as obtaining property by false pretenses, financial card fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, forgery, embezzlement, or related crimes. It does share a key characteristic with these crimes: unlawfully taking something of value from its rightful owner. However, fraud centers on obtaining property by false pretenses. Legal representation is essential if you’re charged with:
- Credit card fraud and using someone else’s credit card without permission
- Inducing someone to make investment decisions based upon misrepresentations, in which case you may need a securities fraud lawyer
- Bank fraud and using false statements to obtain money held by a financial institution
- Submitting false information to receive compensation on an insurance claim, an area that an insurance fraud lawyer may focus on
- Check fraud and check “kiting,” which is taking advantage of the processing delay to take money from non-existent funds
- Identity theft or using someone else’s information to gain access to funds
- Mail and wire fraud
Penalties for Fraud in North Carolina
Fraud is classified as a felony offense in North Carolina, so a conviction means the court will apply a complicated set of rules when sentencing. Factors considered during sentencing in a fraud case include:
- The type of fraud
- The value of the misappropriated property
- The identity of the victim
- Whether the defendant was in a position of trust during the commission of the offense
- The number of individuals participating in the scheme
- The extent of the fraud
Considering the wide range of factors, the sentence for a fraud conviction is very case-specific. For example, first offense credit card fraud can be classified as a class I felony, which is punishable by a prison sentence of anywhere between three and 12 months in prison.
Due to the complicated nature of fraud sentencing, it’s important to retain the help of a skilled Charlotte fraud attorney who will explain your possible sentence in-detail.
Defenses to Fraud Crimes in North Carolina
Though the punishment for a fraud conviction is harsh, defenses may be available to fight the charges in your case. The prosecution must present evidence with respect to each of the elements described above, and the burden is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Fraud lawyers are adept in identifying and exploiting weaknesses in the allegations against you.
Additional defenses to the charges may include:
- Lack of intent to defraud
- Consent by the alleged victim
- Lack of knowledge regarding the falsity of the statements
- Your misrepresentation wasn’t intended to induce action by the victim
- Entrapment by government officials
Plus, you’ll recall that a fraud case may involve extensive pre-arrest investigations. When you have a fraud attorney represent you during this stage, you’re in a better position to prevent police from obtaining evidence in violation of your rights. Without key information, a prosecutor may not have sufficient evidence to convict.